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Implementation of the Colorado Academic Standards

12 Apr 2021 6:40 PM | Doug Eccher (Administrator)

Hello fellow science teachers and educators. My name is Doug Eccher, and I am completing my 22nd year teaching science in Colorado. I also serve as the STEM/PBL Coordinator for Peak Academy in Montrose. Education is my second career. In the late 90’s after twenty plus years chasing fish, I decided working with youth might be a good fit. I was looking for a significant and rewarding career, especially since I wanted to raise my own children in the community I taught.

The standards movement has been part of my teaching career since the beginning. As with everything else in education they have continued to evolve. With the State of Colorado recently adopting their version of the NGSS (CAS), the last few years have been challenging as to what that means for my classroom and my students. This was especially true for me when trying to figure out how the engineering processes “fit” into the science content and processes. I did not want to create a standalone “Engineering” unit. How do those processes weave into every unit? I am a fishery biologist, not an engineer. Fortunately for me, four years ago the Montrose County School District chose to place significant emphasis towards the STEM and Problem Based Learning (PBL) models. A major focus of these models is identifying problems within our local community and having students, along with their teacher and community partners, find potential solutions. This was the connection I needed to bridge my classroom to CAS.

Early in my career I found myself in more of what I call a “Traditional” science classroom. The curriculum is established prior to the start of the school year and is for the most part inflexible. The scope and sequence are tightly scripted and driven by sequential units culminating with a summative final exam. Even though aspects of the course are differentiated based on student need, the course is based on a fixed based mindset. Because the course follows a script, the teacher knows all of the answers before each unit begins.

In order to transition my classroom from this traditional approach and reflect the vision of NGSS and CAS, I reached out to local engineers to get their input. I still meet with two of them biweekly to review what is going on in my classroom as well as the community. Based on their coaching I have added AGILE engineering as part of Peak’s science curriculum. AGILE is an iterative mind-set, rather than a process. We use tools like user story maps and kanban boards to meet goals and solve problems. The AGILE mindset allows for collaboration, inclusivity, creativity, and most importantly continual iteration. The scientific and engineering processes have been blended while using math, science, computer science, robotics, language arts, geography, and other content in meaningful ways. And this happens on a daily basis. What follows is a brief summary of my AGILE Science Classroom:

  • Curriculum is established prior to the start of the school year but the focus is on the utilization/implementation of content rather than memorization.

  • Scope and Sequence are not tightly scripted but instead remain flexible and can be changed as needed.

    • Scope is guided by the teacher and constrained by available student time and initiative.

    • Sequence is iterative and reinforces scientific method (process). Frequent repetition of scientific method (process), through iteration, ingrains learning in students.

  • STEM/PBL initiatives run parallel to the course curriculum; - they do not replace it.

  • The teacher facilitates the learning process throughout. Because the course does not follow an exact script the teacher does not have all of the answers before each unit begins. The teacher DOES have a solid understanding of the scientific method (process) and how the iterative sequence reinforces it.

  • The course is based on a growth-based mindset with iterative scientific method (process) as a scaffold to build on.

Our state of the art science program directly supports our district wide goal and success. As my class has moved from a more traditional setting to that of the AGILE mindset, indicators point toward improved student growth and achievement as reflected in our record setting SPF (School Performance Framework) scores posted the last two years. I’d love to hear how you are implementing CAS in your classroom for 2021 and beyond.


Doug Eccher

CAST Region III Secondary Director


 

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