KINGMAN - An eighth-grade science teacher at Kingman Academy of Learning Middle School has been chosen as one of 29 educators statewide - the only one in Mohave County - to help test a framework for building new science standards for the next generation of students.
Celeste Lucier, who has been teaching science for three years at KAOL but has racked up 15 years as an educator, was named in July to a year-long Developing Leaders Program. It is run by the Arizona Science Teachers Association, the Arizona Department of Education and the Salt River Project, the third-largest public power utility in the country.
Called "A Framework for K-12 Science Education" Science and Engineering Practices, Crosscutting Concepts and Disciplinary Core Ideas," it was created by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences. The framework was released in July 2011 as a book-sized report and will be used as the foundation for the Next Generation Science Standards.
"The idea is for us to get an understanding of the new framework before the standards are put in place," said Lucier, who applied for the program. "There's going to be a shift is how science is taught and I want to be in the know of how that's going to happen. It is exciting, and a little overwhelming, but I'm hoping there will be more continuity and communication in science education."
According to the framework, it provides an evidence-based foundation for the standards by drawing on current scientific research, including how students learn effectively, and identifies what all students should know. Currently, K-12 science education in the U.S. is not organized systematically across multiple years of school, focuses on breadth over depth, and doesn't provide students with engaging opportunities to experience science.
"This framework will provide the rigor to help our students be prepared for college and careers," said Sara Torres, executive director of the Arizona Science Teachers Association. "Science is constantly changing, and this program will make our teachers aware of how science is evolving and how the students best learn it. And when they're done, the teachers can train their colleagues."
The framework is broken down into three areas where changes should occur, beginning with scientific and engineering practices. Lucier said students will go beyond reading books and ingesting facts to participating in hands-on learning, such as developing and using models, planning and carrying out investigations or engaging in argument from evidence.
The second area of change in teaching science involves crosscutting concepts, or those that apply in all areas instead of being isolated and compartmentalized. The concepts include cause and effect, scale and proportion, structure and function, and stability and change. Lucier said the goal is to unify the concepts to help students see the bigger picture around them.
Disciplinary core ideas is the third area of change, and involves creating basic tenants in four disciplinary areas. They are the physical sciences, such as matter and energy; life sciences, or molecules and ecosystems; earth and space sciences, such as earth's place in the universe and its systems; and engineering, technology and applications of science, or engineering design and its links to society.
"We're hearing a lot that the scientific method is one way of teaching, but students need to learn about other ways," said Lucier. "We need to broaden their horizons so they can see there is more than just one aspect of science. As teachers, we're very excited about the changes that are coming because of this framework."