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Springfield district science educators receive award

Science educators in the Springfield District recently received an award for their collaboration to implement the Next Generation Science Standards, or NGSS, at the high school level.

The educators recognized for their work make up a team of about eight biology teachers throughout the district who have spent the last several months working to implement the new science standards, adopted by the state of Oregon in 2014. The team was recognized at the 58th annual Oregon Science Teachers Association conference held at Lane Community College in mid-October.

The process of implementing new standards is a difficult one, according to Dara Brennan, a science TOSA for the Springfield district. TOSA stands for teacher on special assignment. As the science TOSA, Brennan works to support K-12 teachers on changes in science instruction and science materials.

“It’s really, really hard to align practices and instruction,” Brennan said. “It’s taken years to dig into the standards, learn them and agree on how to implement them. Change is hard for everyone, but this group of teachers worked really hard to accomplish this.”

The NGSS identify scientific and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and core ideas in science that all K-12 students should master to prepare for success in college and 21st-century careers. The standards had not been updated in more than 17 years.

Teaching based on the NGSS calls for more student-centered learning that enables students to think on their own, problem-solve, communicate, and collaborate—in addition to learning important scientific concepts.

The standards are in the process of being implemented in ninth-grade science and in biology courses. The next big task will be modifying chemistry and physics courses.

The standards also better prepare students for their next step after graduation, as more jobs now require skills in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) than in the past. The NGSS provide a strong science education that equips students with the ability to think critically, analyze information, and solve complex problems — the skills needed to pursue opportunities within and beyond STEM fields.

Brennan said the award presented to Springfield district educators was the first of its kind, and that the trophy presented to the group will be shared by districts across the state.

“I’m proud of their perseverance and working through the struggle of making change,” Brennan said. “I’m excited for them and want to help them collaborate and continue to keep going. I’m proud of our district.”

Brennan, the science TOSA for the Springfield District also received an award for her work as the board president of the Oregon Science Teachers Association conference. Brennan has been president for the last three years and worked to organize the last statewide OSTA conference od 270 science teachers.