Friday, April 18, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

New guidelines call for broad changes in science education

By Justin Gillis

Educators unveiled new guidelines on Tuesday that call for sweeping changes in the way science is taught in the United States — including, for the first time, a recommendation that climate change be taught as early as middle school.

The guidelines also take a firm stand that children must learn about evolution, the central organizing idea in the biological sciences for more than a century, but one that still provokes a backlash among some religious conservatives.

The guidelines, known as the Next Generation Science Standards, are the first broad national recommendations for science instruction since 1996. They were developed by a consortium of 26 state governments and several groups representing scientists and teachers.

States are not required to adopt them, but 26 states have committed to seriously considering the guidelines. They include California, Arizona, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas and New York. Other states also could adopt the standards.

Educators involved in drawing them up said the guidelines were intended to combat widespread scientific ignorance, to standardize teaching among states, and to raise the number of high school graduates who choose scientific and technical majors in college, a critical issue for the country’s economic future.

The focus would be helping students become more intelligent science consumers by learning how scientific work is done: how ideas are developed and tested, what counts as strong or weak evidence, and how insights from many disciplines fit together into a coherent picture of the world.

Leaders of the effort said that teachers may well wind up covering fewer subjects, but digging more deeply into the ones they do cover. In some cases, traditional classes like biology and chemistry may disappear entirely from high schools, replaced by courses that use a case-study method to teach science in a more holistic way.

In many respects, the standards are meant to do for science what a separate set of guidelines known as the Common Core is supposed to do for English and mathematics: impose and raise standards, with a focus on critical thinking and primary investigation. To date, 45 states and Washington have adopted the Common Core standards.

“This is a huge deal,” said David L. Evans, the executive director of the National Science Teachers Association. “We depend on science in so many aspects of our lives. There’s a strong feeling that we need to help people understand the nature of science itself, as an intellectual pursuit.”

The climate and evolution standards are just two aspects of a set of guidelines containing hundreds of new ideas on how to teach science. But they have already drawn hostile commentary from conservative groups critical of mainstream scientific thinking.

For instance, as the standards were being drafted, a group called Citizens for Objective Public Education, which lists officers in Florida and Kansas, distributed a nine-page letter attacking them. It warned that the standards ignored evidence against evolution, promoted “secular humanism,” and threatened to “take away the right of parents to direct the religious education of their children.”

In many states, extensive scientific instruction does not begin until high school. The guidelines call for injecting far more science into the middle grades, with climate change being one among many topics. In high school, students would learn in more detail about the human role in generating emissions that are altering the planetary climate.

While thousands of schools in the United States already teach climate change to some degree, they are usually doing it voluntarily, and often in environmental studies classes. In many more schools, the subject does not come up because students are not offered those specialized courses, and state guidelines typically do not require that the issue be raised in traditional biology or chemistry classes.

Advocates of climate literacy hailed the new standards, saying they could fill a critical gap in public awareness.

“Quite simply, students have a right to know about climate science and solutions,” said Sarah Shanley Hope, the executive director of the Alliance for Climate Education, which offers one-day programs in schools.

Many states are expected to adopt the guidelines over the next year or two, but it could be several years before the guidelines are translated into detailed curriculum documents, teachers are trained in the material and standardized tests are revised.

And all of this has to happen at a time when state education departments and many local schools are under severe financial strain. Inevitably, educators said, some states will do it better than others.

The other states that helped draw up the guidelines were Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia.

The organizations included the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Research Council and Achieve, a nonprofit education group that helped develop the earlier common standards in mathematics and English. Financing was provided by private foundations, including the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Noyce Foundation and the Cisco Foundation, as well as DuPont.

Outlining how the standards might change science classrooms, educators said they foresaw more use of real-world examples, like taking students to a farm or fish hatchery — perhaps repeatedly, over the course of years — to help them learn principles from biology, chemistry and physics.

Educators want to introduce students to topics that can be made comprehensible only by drawing on the ideas and methods of many scientific disciplines, one of the reasons climate change and other large-scale environmental problems are seen as holding so much potential in the classroom.

Some teachers are already ahead of the curve.

Judith Luber-Narod, a high-school science teacher at the Abby Kelley Foster Charter Public School in Worcester, Mass., has incorporated climate change into her environmental studies classes, even though she teaches in a somewhat conservative area.

“I hesitated a little bit talking about something controversial,” she said. “But then I thought, how can you teach the environment without talking about it?”

Her students, on the other hand, love topics some deem controversial, she said. She devised an experiment in which she set up two terrariums with thermometers and then increased the level of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, in one of them.

The students watched as that terrarium got several degrees hotter than the other.

“I say to them, ‘I’m here to show you the evidence,’ ” she said. “ ‘If you want to believe the evidence when we’re done, that’s up to you.’ ”

New York Times News Service

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Davis Enterprise does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

News

 
Chuck Rairdan joins school board race

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1, 3 Comments

Going green at church, school, everywhere

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Former caretaker convicted of murder, elder abuse

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1, 4 Comments | Gallery

Old friend helps Brad and others find kidneys

By Dave Jones | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Ukraine insurgents reject call to quit buildings

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2, 6 Comments

 
For the record

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

UCD to host Global Health Day event

By Cory Golden | From Page: A2

 
‘Hitchhiking’ dog looking for new home

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Need a new best friend?

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Online K-12 school holds info night

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Volkssporting Club plans North Davis walks

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Schwenger lawn signs available

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A4

Volunteers needed for Grad Night

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Davis grad makes rain collection a business

By Jason McAlister | From Page: A4 | Gallery

A few spots left on history tour

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Chipotle fundraiser boosts Emerson tech upgrade

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Event to provide nature scholarship

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Students have new options on leasing front

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5 | Gallery

Groups join for a day of service

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

 
NAMI backers walk in Sacramento

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

 
Food for the hungry

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

.

Forum

Dad makes mom look bad

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5

 
Early help is a great investment

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

More tax money? Answer the question

By Rich Rifkin | From Page: A6, 4 Comments

 
UCD IS responsible for students

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6, 4 Comments

 
Tom Meyer cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

In search of great ideas

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

 
Please keep the nursery open

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

.

Sports

Sharks double up Kings in Game 1

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Aggies lose a slugfest in opener at Riverside

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

Fox coming to UCD; Riffle heads to Florida

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

 
DHS’ Golston goes full-bore on the diamond

By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Devils show more life in loss to Mitty

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

 
DYSA roundup: Intensity has big week; 10U games dominate schedule

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Sports briefs: Aggies set the academic bar high

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B8 | Gallery

 
Pro baseball roundup: Susac sends Sacramento to a rare loss

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

.

Features

.

Arts

‘Transcendence’: A whole new level of tedium

By Derrick Bang | From Page: A11 | Gallery

 
‘The Bloom’ paves way for Whole Earth Festival

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

DHS tribute to Tony Fields slated for April 25-26

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
UCD, city team up for Music on the Green

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

.

Business

Ford turns its Focus to domestic market

By Ali Arsham | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Comics: Friday, April 18, 2014

By Creator | From Page: A9

 
.

Real Estate Review

Featured Listing

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER1

Professional Services Directory

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER2

Lyon Real Estate

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER3

Yolo FCU

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER4

Acacia at Huntington Square

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER4

Jamie Madison

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER4

Travis Credit Union

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER5

Kim Eichorn

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER6

Suzanne Kimmel

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER6

Lynne Wegner

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER7

Kim Merrel Lamb

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER7

Patricia Echevarria

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER8

Chris Snow

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER8

Andrew Dowling

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER9

Sheryl Patterson

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER9

Don Guthrie

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER9

Coldwell Banker

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER10

Coldwell Banker

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER11

Julie Partain & Dick Partain

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER12

Heather Barnes

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER12

Malek Baroody

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER13

Willowbank Park

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER14

Karen Waggoner

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER14

Team Traverso

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER15

Julie Leonard

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER15

Tim Harrison

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER15

Tracy Harris

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER16

Lori Prizmich

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER16

Raul Zamora

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER17

Joe Kaplan

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER17

Coldwell Banker

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER18

Open House Map

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER19

F1rst Street Real Estate

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER20