RVCC Prepares K-12 Teachers for the Next Generation Science Standards

Seventy K-12 educators are spending July 27-31 at Raritan Valley Community College (RVCC) in
Branchburg to learn more about the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The educators
will be participating in workshops sponsored by the NJACE Science Education Institute at
Raritan Valley. Because the interest in the Summer Institute was so large, a second week was
scheduled for August 10-14, accommodating an additional 50 teachers.
These new standards, which are currently adopted in 14 states including New Jersey, present a
research-based approach to improving and transforming science education. New Jersey middle
and high school teachers are preparing for the implementation of these standards in the 2016-
2017 school year; elementary school teachers have an additional year to prepare.
The new standards focus on using and applying core scientific ideas rather than memorizing
large amounts of factual information. To prepare students for the increased demands of the
21st Century, the NGSS requires them to explore naturally occurring events or phenomena by
asking investigable questions, planning and carrying out investigations, analyzing and
interpreting the data, developing and using a variety of models to make sense of the data, and
constructing scientific explanations through argumentation. For the first time, these standards
also require that engineering—the ultimate application of science—be introduced and integrated
in every science classroom starting in kindergarten.
Because the NGSS represents a significant shift in K-12 science education, classroom teachers
need support to successfully implement these new standards. Summer Institute participants are
introduced to a number of natural phenomena and construct explanations for them. The
Institute also includes daily lesson-planning sessions, where participants review their own
classroom lessons and modify them to include what they are learning. The week concludes with
an engineering design challenge and planning lessons that integrate science and engineering.
Both Summer Institutes are being led by Dr. Wil van der Veen, director of RVCC’s NJACE
Science Education Institute. He is being supported by 10 Teacher Leaders from the NGSS
Teacher Leader program, a collaboration among Princeton University, Rider University, and
Raritan Valley Community College. These experienced classroom teachers facilitate group
discussions, model instructional strategies, and provide support and advice to their colleagues.
They will then take these experiences of working with colleagues back to their own school
districts and serve as resources for district-wide implementation.
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Both Summer Institutes are supported by a generous $20,000 grant from the Sanofi
Corporation in Bridgewater.
RVCC’s Science Education Institute offers high-quality customized professional development
programs for school districts, ranging from one-day workshops to long-term partnership
programs. Last year, the Science Education Institute provided more than 30 days of
professional development for over 900 educators. For more information, contact Dr. Wil van der
Veen at wvanderv@raritanval.edu or 908-526-1200, ext. 8566. For additional information, visit
www.raritanval.edu/njace.