Observe, Hypothesize, and Experiment: Science Education at PS1
At PS1, science is about students learning to observe, record, hypothesize, examine, and experiment to develop their scientific problem-solving skills. We take a three-pronged approach to our science curriculum following the model of the Next Generation of Science Standards (NGSS). Our school addresses a broad scientific theme every year, and the themes rotate between Physical/Earth Science and Life Science. Within these broad themes, I work with teachers to choose the coordinating NGSS, and clusters follow the associated learning goals. Students maintain detailed science journals that they use to record their science learning and continue throughout their years at PS1.
In the 2018-2019 school year, we are focusing on Physical/Earth Science. This topic examines important questions such as, “How can we make new materials?” “Why do some things appear to keep going, but others stop?” and “How can information be shipped wirelessly.” A fundamental goal in our science program is for students to see that there are underlying cause-and-effect relationships that occur in all systems and processes. Because the physical science ideas explain many natural and human-made phenomena that occur each day, developing an integrated understanding of them is essential for all learners.
NGSS seems to have been tailor-made for PS1. One example of a standard is: Develop a model of waves to describe patterns in terms of amplitude and wavelength and that waves can cause objects to move. Within the standard, there are specific sub-goals. The NGSS divide each one of these sub-goals into three sections: Design and Engineering, Disciplinary Core Ideas, and Crosscutting Concepts. This three-pronged approach is ideally suited for PS1. The design and engineering work occurs in the Studio, teachers address the core science concepts in classroom lessons, and teachers use the cross-cutting concepts to help students make links between science and other subjects that they are learning. Chris works closely with all clusters and classrooms to support science learning in the classroom as well as with the amazing design and engineering work that he does in the Studio.
To expand on Chris’ work in the Studio, it’s important to elucidate the design thinking process. The heart of design thinking is Alvin Toffler’s quote (1970), “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn." This is the foundation of design thinking. Students are attempting to solve problems—real problems—with their brainpower. They are unlearning and relearning constantly and they understand that their level of success depends on their solution's practical application in the real world.
The principles of design thinking (https://dschool-old.stanford.edu) are:
1. FRAME A QUESTION:
Identify a driving question that inspires others to search for creative solutions.
2. GATHER INSPIRATION:
Inspire new thinking by discovering what people really need.
3. GENERATE IDEAS:
Push past obvious solutions to get to breakthrough ideas.
4. MAKE IDEAS TANGIBLE:
Build rough prototypes to learn how to make ideas better.
6. TEST TO LEARN:
Refine ideas by gathering feedback and experimenting forward.
7. SHARE THE STORY!
Design thinking supports PS1’s philosophy that engaging students to solve real-world problems empowers them to change the world. Want to see our STEAM Studio in action? Watch our video profiling ongoing design thinking projects with all Clusters at PS1 HERE.