Home Minnesota Educator Science teachers prepare, develop PD for new standards

Science teachers prepare, develop PD for new standards

Share on

Minnesota science educators will have until 2024 to fully implement the newly approved state science standards, which include big changes for sixth-grade curriculum, but a group of educators is already working to make sure their colleagues are prepared.

“Earth science will be new for all sixth-grade teachers,” said Lee Schmitt, a Minnesota Science Teachers Association past president who now works on professional development courses. “Teachers almost have to start over with new earth science content and pedagogy. But hopefully teachers will get fired up about the new standards.”

Schmitt, along with Dana Smith, a sixth-grade science teacher in Bemidji, worked with the MnSTA and other educators to create the Earth Science Teacher Education Program. The program aims to bring professional development courses and cohorts to science educators across the state, as they work to implement the new earth science standards.

“It may feel really sort of discombobulated at first, but that’s why we’re offering the PD,” said Smith, who also sat on the committee who worked on the standards. “The doing and making sense and the asking questions and the modeling that are included in the new standards—are universal in science and what we want to put in front of teachers.”

MnSTA has given the planning group a grant to develop the courses and survey teachers.

Their tentative plans include a summer week-long bootcamp-style workshop for sixth-grade educators that incorporates earth and space science content, as well as how to develop three-dimensional units.

The group’s goal is to have at least one in-person workshop this summer, and then offering up to 11 more over the next three summers all across the state.

Also being planned are high school-level cohorts that include a two-week course blending content and pedagogy, as well as online coursework that prepare teachers to earn 9-12 earth science licensure.

The group’s goal is to offer three cohorts for high school educators starting in the summer of 2022.

Smith and Schmitt are both excited about how the cohorts and workshops will not only provide educators the tools they need, but the support they need to implement the new standards.

“We’re not going to hand you a book and say read this and you’ll be awesome at it,” said Smith. “But we’re all working on this and that’s what three-dimensional teaching comes down to.”

“These academic communities we will create will be important,” said Schmitt.

The MnSTA and ES-TEP group are working on securing legislative funding to support these trainings and make them accessible and affordable. Education Minnesota is also supporting this legislation.

MnSTA and Education Minnesota are also working to modify the language in statute on the standards to show that high school students need to take an earth science course. This change protects educators that teach earth science, and makes it clearer that the subject needs to be taught.

While a big change to her sixth-grade classroom, Smith is excited about the new standards.

“The new standards are based in NGSS (New Generation Science Standards) and are the gold standard for science education,” she said. “They are backed up by two decades of research and are where teaching and learning in science is headed. This is another place for Minnesota to lead on education.”

Learn more about the Earth Science Teacher Education Program plans and take an interest survey at www.mnsta.org/cgi/page.cgi/ES-TEP.html.

Similar Posts