Back in the beginnings of the year, a conversation started among a design team. We really wanted to get the conversation ball rolling among our district middle school science folks, especially with the Next Generation Science Standards getting rolled out. Our team knew that it would serve our students if we could get our staff talking, sharing and analyzing ideas together instead of in isolation. So the idea was born to have a summer conference.

It started with an email asking how many would be interested. Our first guess was that about 30 would want to take part. This was after school was out, in June, when we should be on vacation. To say we were stunned by the response would be an understatement. After the first day we had crossed the 30 mark. By the time we were getting ready, a whopping 72 out of 84 had signed up! That is remarkable!!

Our team sent out a quick survey and from there got started on building an effective PD opportunity for our teachers. We had sessions on Engineering Design and how to interpret the NGSS notebook to work with some of the Practices (we only focused on the top 3 the teachers ID’d). The last session was a brainstorming session where we sat down in grade level groups to begin to hash our first topic using the NGSS as our starting point.

Everything was running smoothly until that last session. It was a true, difficult, professional conversation based on a whole new thought process. Some teachers found it refreshing, others were extremely unsure of what to do. This is a foreign way of thinking and will take time to seep into our planning. Hopefully working together instead of in isolation, we can help each other move forward.

With this summer session out of the way, our hopes are two fold:
1) conversations will happen across the district more often and not just within buildings
2) our teachers will continue to come to the followup planning sessions we have planned throughout the school year.

I was impressed with the desire of that many of my fellow district science folks to come and better their professional job. This is a side that the public does not see and I wish they could. Our folks are going to stumble and fail during the initial implementation of the NGSS but we will figure it out together. I am sure of that part.
The NGSS represent a chance for us to move Science Education forward, to help our students really understand science instead of memorizing random facts.

That is what my district has done so far with Next Generation Science Standards training. What has your district done? I would love to share information with other folks about their planning or topics they are developing.