K-12 SENCER Model Lesson Sequences

Author name(s), titles, and contact information:

Missy Holzer, High School Teacher, Chatham High School, mholzer@monmouth.com

Jessica Monaghan, K-12 Science Supervisor, New Brunswick School District,  docmonaghan@gmail.com

Sandra Lavigne, Director of Water Quality, sandral@greatswamp.org, (973) 538-3500; P.O. Box 300, New Vernon, NJ 07976

Jeff Hoagland, Education Director, jhoagland@thewatershed.org, 609-737-7592; The Watershed Center, 31 Titus Mill Road, Pennington, NJ 08534

Kathy Browne, Associate Professor, Rider University, Department of Geological, Environmental and Marine Sciences, 2083 Lawrenceville Rd, Lawrenceville, NJ 08648, browne@rider.edu, 609-895-5408

This submission is a combination of middle and high school lesson sequences rather than the typical college “course”. Teacher authors created the lessons using a problem- based learning strategy. The result is roughly equivalent to what is considered a “unit” in K-12 education although likely small for typical K-12 curriculum organization. Thus we’ve been calling each of the two the plans and materials “lesson sequences”. The titles of the “units” or lesson sequences are:

High School: Swamped!

Middle School: Human Impact-School Redesign

Materials. Included in each of  these models is a completed lesson template and related handouts from middle and high school teachers (J. Monaghan & M. Holzer) who each partnered with an informal science educator (J. Hoagland and S. Lavigne). The authors modified Moulding et al.’s (2015) lesson planning template, a tool with various formats that is commonly used in K-12 work, to develop a coherent curricular plan for individual lessons for entire units. The materials in each packet vary for each teacher but include:

  • steps used to guide students’ learning,
  • alignment to NGSS standards,
  • student learning objectives,
  • assessment strategies,
  • lesson descriptions,
  • handouts for students.

While this format is a bit different from most SENCER model courses, these materials are typically produced and provided for K-12 teachers and the authors concluded that to help other teachers see the value of leveraging engineering design to infuse civic engagement, supplying them with sufficient documentation would be needed. Funding to create, test and revise the lesson sequences was supplied by a SENCER-ISE Partnership Champions eMentorship Project grant. Informal science educators were essential in implementing the two lesson sequences and the authors see their involvement as examples other teachers can learn from to begin working with informal science educators in their area.

How the program exemplifies SENCER Ideals for the K-12 Educational System. SENCER has historically focused its efforts on higher education but recent developments in K-12 science education have provided a window for some efforts to focus in this arena. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) have been adopted or adapted by numerous states. The expectations for student learning through implementation of the NGSS will require what is seen as significant shifts in instruction. These “conceptual shifts”, as summarized in Appendix A in the NGSS, align very closely with the SENCER Ideals as illustrated in the chart below with red and underlined text highlighted to show similarities. In particular, the inclusion of engineering design in the NGSS science and engineering practices and in the disciplinary core ideas build in an expectation of developing students problem solving and design competencies. The proposers of this model “course” assert that the engineering expectations can be leveraged to infuse civic issues in the K-12 curriculum to motivate students to learn and apply science concepts, and consider non-science factors when possible.

The curricula proposed here are the products of experiments by the proposers to use the SENCER Ideals as a lens to leverage the NGSS engineering design practices and core ideas to infuse civic engagement in K-12 instructions. Highlighted in this summary and in the SENCER Ideals that follow are the elements of the proposed curricula that we think align with the Ideals.

Two lesson sequences were designed, one for a high school curriculum and another for middle school. In both cases, the creators of the materials developed lessons and projects to directly meet school and state expectations by leveraging engineering design process and the SENCER ideals, as well as the expertise of local informal science educators. From the curricula, students learned relevant basic science tied to learning expectations for energy, energy consumption, watershed dynamics and water conservation. Using simulations and lab investigations, HS students learned about the impact on different land uses on surface runoff and about chemical parameters that reveal problems with surface and ground water. The students then investigated possible problems in their local environment (surrounding community for HS, and school buildings for MS) and asked to apply their science learning to propose solutions to various components of the larger issues (non-point source pollutants in HS and building energy water, and resource consumption efficiencies in MS). The students had to consider the complexities of land use behaviors for the HS curriculum, and old construction and routines for the MS curriculum. They designed investigations to collect data about suspected problems from their field and building sites. (The scientific processes and methods are addressed directly though the integration of NGSS’ science and engineering practices.) The investigations were varied for the MS students ranging from measuring trash production, water consumption, and electricity use; some projects required mathematical calculations to project overall consumption or production. The HS investigations included a class project to trace the impact of non-point source pollutants (NPS) in their local watershed, and determine the capability of the Great Swamp Watershed in “cleaning” pollutants from ground and surface waters. Students identified possible sources of NPS and researched what is known of the issues. The students then proposed solutions considering the science, constraints around abilities to change land use and old construction, and communicated through presentations, community-focused pamphlets and/or small models, their proposed solutions using their research as evidence to justify the need for, and appropriateness of their solutions. Presentations were made to local stakeholders, some of whom reported that some of the designed solutions could be implemented. The design of the lesson sequences involved robust and well-functioning partnerships with an informal science educator, and with an NGSS professional development provider.

SENCER robustly connects science and civic engagement by teaching “through” complex, contested, capacious, current, and unresolved public issues “to” basic science.

SENCER invites students to put scientific knowledge and the scientific method to immediate use on matters of immediate interest to students.

SENCER helps reveal the limits of science by identifying the elements of public issues where science does not offer a clear resolution.

SENCER shows the power of science by identifying the dimensions of a public issue that can be better understood with certain mathematical and scientific ways of knowing.

SENCER conceives the intellectual project as practical and engaged from the start, as opposed to science education models that view the mind as a kind of “storage shed” where abstract knowledge may be secreted for vague potential uses.

SENCER seeks to extract from the immediate issues the larger, common lessons about scientific processes and methods.

SENCER locates the responsibilities (the burdens and the pleasures) of discovery as the work of the student.

SENCER, by focusing on contested issues, encourages student engagement with “multidisciplinary trouble” and with civic questions that require attention now. By doing so, SENCER hopes to help students overcome both unfounded fears and unquestioning awe of science.

Moulding , B., Bybee , R. & Paulson, N., 2015, A Vision and Plan for Science Teaching and Learning, Essential Teaching and Learning PD, LLC, 180pp.

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