New Toolkit for Science Teachers

From figuring out how to reduce the amount of stormwater pouring off a roof to engineering a fix for erosion, The Watershed Institute has developed a toolkit of class materials that align with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Just in time for the start of the new school year, the Watershed’s newly minted programs let students become actual scientists who identify a problem, gather data and test out remedies collaboratively. The course materials, which were developed in partnership with the Hopewell Valley School District, assist science teachers as they prepare lessons that align with NGSS.

These courses were developed and piloted with students from area schools, giving a boost to teachers who face the time pressure of designing NGSS-aligned classes while teaching their existing, core material.

By embarking on scientific inquiry and discovery, the classes are designed so students work together on problems, such as flooding or dam removal to help migrating fish, and then create meaningful solutions together. In other classes, students learn how to take water samples from streams and the effect of pollution on species with varying degrees of tolerance.

Students engage in the materials and ideas as the teachers facilitate the interactive learning.

“Students come here and they get to learn about the natural world just like scientists do,” said Greg Hunter a teacher with the Hopewell school district who worked as the Watershed’s Teacher-in-Residence during the 2017-2018 school year. “And teachers come here and they get to see a framework for how to design a NGSS lesson and bring that back to the classroom.”

Christine Terranova, who teaches third-grade science at Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart, recently attended the Watershed’s science teacher academy this summer to learn strategies to incorporate NGSS in her classroom. One idea she developed was having her students assess the amount of stormwater runoff from the school’s roof, which ponds near an area of the school’s garden, and then asking them to figure out a solution for better managing the runoff.

“The NGSS projects presented by Greg were extremely helpful and really got my wheels spinning,” she said.

Lea Ryan, a kindergarten teacher at Lawrenceville Elementary School, said she experienced a “growth mindset” at the Watershed’s science teacher academy.

I’m thankful for the confidence I gained in terms of understanding the water cycle, as well as participating as an active learner in NGSS,” she said. “I will take the engineering process and will apply it to my classroom with my students.”

Thuy Le, a chemistry teacher at Trenton Central High School who also attended the science teacher training, said, “Teachers learned how to align NGSS with instructional goals by using hands-on activities and engineering designs. I found the most valuable aspects were the hands-on activities that applied to real-life problems.”

For more information, including a video that fully explains the Watershed’s new programming, please explore here.