Illinois could implement new science curriculum

Published 08/26 2013 01:02PM

Updated 08/26 2013 01:06PM

MCLEAN COUNTY -- Big changes could be on the way to science classrooms around the state. The Board of Education is set to consider a new set of standards focusing on "doing" science instead of memorizing facts. WCIA-3's Ashley Michels takes us to one classroom where the new curriculum is already in full swing.

Ms. Mohr's high school science classroom is a little different than most.

"I would hate to just stand in front of a classroom and lecture. It's boring. I think it's really boring. If all I do is tell them, they're not going to remember anything."

So, she's ditching the flash cards and putting to practice a method called Next Generation Science Standards. It centers around one basic principle.

"When you start connecting very abstract ideas to one another, you're making bridges between the cells in your brain."

It's something Mohr says isn't happening in too many classrooms anymore.

"We haven't really, for a long time, taught students how to think. There are so many disconnected ideas in the current science standards that it's kind of like preparing students to play Jeopardy; that whole idea of teaching for the test. It's not beneficial for kids."

That's where Next Generation comes in. The idea is to get your hands dirty instead of just learning from a textbook.

For example, this class' big project is to raise tilapia. The students had to think up the whole system, even though none of them will likely end up as tilapia farmers.

"It's a process. It's not about what you create as going through the process of how to solve problems, which are the skills they're going to need when they go out into the real world."

So far, it seems to be a big hit.

"It definitely helps you learn more when you're thinking about things, thinking things through and moving around and getting to do real stuff."

"It's much more discussion-oriented and it's more about what you can learn as opposed to finding the answer."

A concept supporters are hoping students will take with them when they leave the classroom. But, not everyone is on-board.

"I've had teachers flat out tell me there's no way we're going to do this."

Critics worry a one-size-fits-all mandate isn't the best option for every classroom, but Mohr says it's all built to be flexible.

"The new standards are not really changing what we teach in the classroom, but how we teach it."

Mohr says the way her generation was taught, doesn't really work anymore since technology is changing how and why students learn.

"If we quit worrying about the details, because in the information age, they can pull their phones out and look up whatever they want to, but it's a question of what can they do with that information?"

Illinois is just one of 26 states involved in setting the Next Generation Science Standards. So far, five states have adopted them including Kentucky and Kansas.

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