Introducing OpenSciEd at PCMS!
We are excited to introduce you to our new grade 6-8 science program, OpenSciEd.
The OpenSciEd curriculum increases accessibility to scientific concepts and provides rigorous science learning journeys, so all students are prepared for college, career, and life in an increasingly STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) focused world.
• Students investigate to make sense of relevant, real-world events (phenomena). Units address questions such as: How can we heat food when we don’t have typical methods available? How can something act like a mirror and a window simultaneously?
• Students engage in science practices such as planning, carrying out investigations, and developing models.
• Students engage in essential science concepts while making relevant, personal connections to science learning in a manner that makes sense to them and prepares them for future learning. • Students collaborate and ask questions to explore our world and ultimately refine and communicate their explanations. Teachers support collaboration that celebrates student ownership of their scientific ideas.
• Teachers and students work together to figure things out as a community of learners, just as scientists do in the real world.
Investigation of phenomena is a significant shift in how students learn science, one that is well-researched and that better prepares them for STEM careers because it mirrors the way science professionals in the field do science. This fundamental shift will take time, and it can initially be challenging.
To support this shift, Pembroke teachers are participating in high-quality professional learning and a program that will support teachers and students over the next three years in grade 6 and two years in grades 7-8 until the OpenSciEd transition is complete.
As parents and guardians, you play a critical role in our curriculum change. We hope, above all else, that you see and enjoy your students’ excitement for science at home, just as we do at school. You will notice things are different in science class, and you may wonder how to support these changes.
Things you and your student may experience with OpenSciEd
OpenSciEd begins with the curiosities of students and aims to center their voices and choices as they build their science learning together. Because this approach is different from more traditional instruction, you may notice things that are different about your student’s science experience this year.
Your student may ask more questions about why different natural occurrences happen. One of the most critical questions that scientists ask is why something happens. This leads to investigations that help explain the world around us. Your student is participating in class discussions that are built upon this type of questioning. Throughout the units, students learn by asking questions, defining problems, and working together towards a solution.
Your student may say, “My science teacher won’t tell me the answer to my questions.” Science is often presented to students as a collection of facts. Research on science itself and how people learn science has revealed that students need rich opportunities in science class to grapple with ideas and construct their own understanding in an active manner. This means that teachers may intentionally withhold the answers, especially at the beginning. Teachers may also encourage other students to respond to your student’s question to emphasize the value in their learning.
Your student may not bring home traditional vocabulary lists or test study guides. Students are learning vocabulary or terminology in context instead of by memorizing definitions. As a result, their homework and classwork may look different - with more writing, drawing, and questioning opportunities, and less multiple choice or short answer worksheets.
Your student may talk about discussions he or she is having in class about a specific “phenomenon.”
In OpenSciEd, lessons are organized around some aspect of the world around us. Teachers use this “phenomenon” to inspire students to generate questions, create experiments, and find solutions within the classroom. Structuring learning in this manner makes science learning relevant and meaningful as well as more engaging. However, the science ideas they are learning about that specific phenomenon can be applied to many different events in the world.
Your student may come home expressing science ideas that are not accurate at first. OpenSciEd is designed to leverage ideas students already have; which means that those ideas are initially incomplete or not yet completely scientifically accurate. You'll notice these ideas shift over time to become more accurate as they encounter additional information and evidence.
How to support your student’s science learning at home
Follow these tips to support your student’s science learning at home, and to join in on the fun and rigor of OpenSciEd! With OpenSciEd, how we figure things out is as important as what we figure out.
Show interest in how their thinking changes (not just the end result).
● Ask your student to explain how their ideas about the phenomena (e.g., vibrating windows, insulated cups) have changed over the course of the unit. Scientists change their minds when they obtain new evidence; encourage your student to look at the evidence they are building and to change their minds if the evidence shows a different understanding or explanation is needed.
● With each unit, students create a notebook to track their understanding of the science concepts and the progression of their science skills. This shifts the focus from keeping a notebook for just note taking to keeping a notebook because it is valuable in helping students make sense of the science. Ask your student to show you their notebook and use it to explain the ideas they are developing.
● Ask your student to explain not just what they are learning but how they figured it out.
Support the process they are using to find the answers.
● Encourage persistence and patience (and demonstrate persistence and patience yourself). Talk to students about how they are trying to understand big ideas, and acknowledge that true understanding takes time.
● Look for the different ways students are able to show their understanding and get feedback as they move through the unit, such as modeling, discussion, and drawing. Students are supported in playing to their strengths while they are building complex new ideas. Ask your student about how they contributed their ideas to the class, or to see their ideas in their notebooks.
● Students may hold some ideas that are incorrect while they figure out new science ideas. Rather than “correcting” ideas, ask your student to explain what evidence they have to support those ideas or what questions they think the class should investigate next. By the end of each unit, you can expect them to have more scientifically correct explanations.
Resist directly answering your student’s question (whether you know the answer or not!). ● Encourage wondering and questioning: I wonder if it has something to do with… or How could that work? or Tell me more about that idea.
● Don’t worry about knowing the answer (or telling your student the answer) - be supportive in the wondering: That’s an excellent question, why do you think that? How could we find out? What would we need to know to answer this question?
● Ask questions about their learning: What phenomenon is your class trying to explain? What have you figured out so far? How do you think it applies to our lives? What is the next question you are going to investigate (and how will you do that)?
● Share in the excitement of better understanding the world we live in: Wait, could that be how __ works? Is there anything else that you know of that does something similar? Could it work the same way? Why or why not? Explain.