California’s adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards (CA NGSS) represents an ambitious new approach to teaching and learning science. "The new standards go much deeper than a checklist of content to be taught and mastered. A central goal is to give students the chance to experience what actual scientists and engineers do on a daily basis, by engaging in specific practices and techniques," explains Jessica Parker, Director of Teaching and Learning.
This new approach is not only different for students; it is also a significant challenge for the teachers tasked with bringing the new standards into their classrooms. For the past two years, the Exploratorium has worked closely with the California State Department of Education, investors like the Stupski Foundation, and additional anonymous supporters to leverage our expertise in educating and exciting visitors about the natural world and to train educators to implement the new approach.
The Exploratorium Teacher Institute and Institute for Inquiry are leading this effort by creating and supporting a network of K–12 educators across California who serve as local advocates for science. Through workshops and online communities, they rediscover the joy of learning as they practice experiments from a student’s perspective, as well as develop the leadership competence and confidence to inspire and support teachers back home. Not only that, but they also have access to online tools and resources, and additional high-quality professional learning opportunities created by Exploratorium experts.
This focus on leaders has exponential impact: each leader empowers their own network of teachers, creating a multiplier effect that, by the end of the 2017–2018 school year, had already radiated across 47 of California’s 58 counties to reach an estimated 8,500 teachers.