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Thursday, 24 May 2012 11:29

Climate Change finds a place in Next Generation Science Standards

Written by  Kristen Poppleton, Director of Education
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Last week the first public draft of the Next Generation Science Standards became available on-line.  The new standards lean heavily on the Framework for K-12 Science Education, released a few months ago by the National Academies Press.  The standards were written for a number of reasons including, the fact that the last science standards were released in 1996 and understanding around learning and science has changed substantially since then.  There was also a recognition that the last national standards included too many disconnected topics, not treated in enough depth. Instead the Next Generation Standards pull out a smaller number of core ideas structured in four strands; Earth Space, Physical Science, Life Science and Engineering  
The core ideas were chosen because they:

  • have broad importance across multiple science or engineering disciplines or are a key organizing concept of a single discipline
  • provide a key tool for understanding to investigating more complex ideas and solving problems
  • relate to the interests and life experiences of students or can be connected to societal or personal concerns that require scientific or technical knowledge
  • is teachable and learnable over multiple grades at increasing levels of depth and sophistication

In addition the Standards highlight 7 crosscutting concepts and 8 science and engineering practices that are intertwined throughout the core ideas.  The idea being that over multiple years of education in the sciences and engineering, students will actively engage in scientific and engineering practices and apply crosscutting concepts to deepen their understanding of the core ideas in these fields.  (Framework for K-12 Science Education, 2012)

The standards themselves are broken out into performance expectations by topic.  They are expectations are what students are expected to do, but are not necessarily meant to inform instruction.  This short video gives an overview of how to read the standards:


Those of us in the climate change education field were happy to see the inclusion of climate change as a core idea and the importance of students understanding humans as a contributing factor.  Public feedback on the first public draft of the standards is encouraged and welcome, but review can be daunting if you decide to tackle them all.  A few suggested approaches to review from the climate change education angle:

  • The hope of these standards is that learning about core ideas happens across the four strands.  Look at how climate change is covered across just across the high school standards.
  • The standards are also based on the idea of learning progression across multiple years.  Look at how climate change is covered K-12.  This could mean (but is definitely not limited to)looking at K.WEA Weather, 3.WCI Weather, Climate, and Impacts, MS.ESS-WC Weather and Climate, MS.ESS-HI Human Impacts and HS.ESS-CC Climate Change.

View and review the Next Generation Science Standards.

Previously developed materials that may be helpful in review of the standards and their coverage of climate change include:
The Climate Literacy Principles
These principles highlight the the key scientific principles and concepts important to understanding climate change.

NAAEE/NWF Educator Guidelines for K-12 Global Climate Change Education
This document highlights the developmental stages of students and their capacity to understand the more complex science of climate change.

NSTA's Next Generation Science Standards Resources

Other commentary on the standards and climate change include:
New national standards ask schools to teach climate change

New Classroom Science Standards Up for Review

Last modified on Tuesday, 03 July 2012 08:20