5 Ways for Science Centers to Engage Teachers in an Era of NGSS

by Cristina Trecha, Director of the San Diego Science Project at UC San Diego

1. Ask teachers to PLAY and BUILD

Invite teachers into your indoor and outdoor spaces to explore, as learners.

Teachers build with found materials at the outdoor learning space of EarthLab in Southeastern San Diego. After building they reflected on their experience to prepare for their students' participation in the activity the next week.

Teachers build with found materials at the outdoor learning space of EarthLab in Southeastern San Diego. After building they reflected on their experience to prepare for their students' participation in the activity the next week.

2. Work BACKWARDS!

Don't "ALIGN" your existing curriculum to the NGSS, work from your own exhibits and resources to create new experiences for teachers and kids.

Provide teachers with opportunities to make sense of the phenomena at the heart of Disciplinary Core Ideas by engaging in the Scientific & Engineering practices using the language of the Crosscutting Concepts. 

Middle school teachers engage in open exploration of the exhibit floor at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center after spending the morning reading about and discussing the Crosscutting Concepts of NGSS. They then used the language of the Crosscutting Concepts to make sense of different phenomena on the floor. The final task was to post online using the language of the Crosscutting Concepts and share ideas with each other.

Middle school teachers engage in open exploration of the exhibit floor at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center after spending the morning reading about and discussing the Crosscutting Concepts of NGSS. They then used the language of the Crosscutting Concepts to make sense of different phenomena on the floor. The final task was to post online using the language of the Crosscutting Concepts and share ideas with each other.

3. Step up to the plate

Bring in teacher professional developers to lead collaborative discussions between local science teachers and your staff to develop shared language to talk about "doing" and "learning" science.

Classroom and science center staff contribute to a discussion about what needs to happen in the classroom for students to engage in the four strands of science proficiency as outlined in the National Research Council Framework. The NRC Framework is the guiding document for the NGSS.

4. Do what you do best

Science centers are in a position to define what engineering could look in the classroom. Invite your teachers to meet the exhibit engineers and find out how they approach designing exhibits.

Natural History Museums are in a position to showcase the nature and process of science. Invite teachers behind the scenes to talk to researchers in collections or libraries.

Margi Dykens at the San Diego Natural History Museum showcases four hundred years of botanical illustration from the museum's special collections as part of the Arts Integration into Math and Science series of the Fleet Inquiry Institute for teacher professional development. The teachers then explored 100 years of specimens in the botanical collections before heading out to a botanical garden to study the structure and function of flowers by engaging in a scientific illustration course.

Margi Dykens at the San Diego Natural History Museum showcases four hundred years of botanical illustration from the museum's special collections as part of the Arts Integration into Math and Science series of the Fleet Inquiry Institute for teacher professional development. The teachers then explored 100 years of specimens in the botanical collections before heading out to a botanical garden to study the structure and function of flowers by engaging in a scientific illustration course.

5. Establish your institution as THE local resource for teacher learning about NGSS

How do teachers currently perceive your institution?

How can you work with your marketing and exhibits department to use the language of NGSS in all public communication?

How can the NGSS inform your plans for professional and social events for teachers?

What do teachers want and need as learners in an era of new science standards?

You'll only find out if you take the time to ask!

Fifth grade teachers explore a skulls exhibit to compare and contrast the structure and function of systems and the stability and change of adaptations across the animal kingdom through time.

Fifth grade teachers explore a skulls exhibit to compare and contrast the structure and function of systems and the stability and change of adaptations across the animal kingdom through time.