Ladue updates science curriculum to the Next Generation Science Standard

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During the 2017-2018 school year, the Ladue school district began implementing its updated science curriculums that were rewritten to align with the NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards).

The NGSS are a set of standards created by states which acted as national research backed guidelines for different science curriculums across the country. The new standards have been and are being put in place across all grade levels, not just at the high school, to ensure that students science knowledge builds as they continue learning. The NGSS have placed more emphasis on self directed learning and seeing how students are able to apply their science knowledge.

Last year, the biology and chemistry departments began making changes in their curriculums for non-advanced courses. Some changes have been adopted this year and will be fully in place by 2021.

 “The standards really don’t change what we are teaching all that much, it’s really just a few things here and there that we have to add in or a few things we’ve been teaching that are not part of those standards,” chemistry teacher Sarah Barton, said.”

In chemistry the largest change has been adding a nuclear chemistry unit in the regular class, as well as adding more labs where students can perform their own experiments. Similar changes are being made in the biology curriculum.

 “[There are] a lot more activities and labs compared to just note taking,” science teacher Molly Mannix said.” “We are trying to put some interesting stories and activities in so students have more interest in it because if you don’t have an interest in biology then it can be really boring.”  

Like with chemistry, some of the main biology curriculum will change as well, with the addition of new labs and the reordering of some units. For example, students will learn ecology before covering cells.

The decision to switch to the NGSS came from the committee science teachers throughout the district across all grade levels, and the Ladue school district science teachers that were tasked with making sure their curriculums aligned with the new standards set.

“It takes time, and it will take time over the years to get it right,” Barton said. “So we are starting it this year although it does not really truly go into effect until next year just to see how long things take and how long we need to spend on certain subjects.” 

Biology teachers have also been hard at work updating the curriculum, but they have been given time where they can sit and work together to plan lessons and activities.

“We work with the head of science curriculum at the central office but all of the teachers have really good input on what we want to do,” Mannix said.

Overall, the goal of the new curriculum is to be aligned with NGSS and make content more engaging and accessible for students. While they may take time to work out, teachers seem to be enjoying getting a chance to update their curriculums for students.

I think sometimes we get stuck in our ways and we do things because we’ve always done them, but it’s nice to take time and reevaluate what you’re doing and what’s best for students,” Mannix said. “Plus, it’s nice that the district gives us time.”