Update from the School Committee: Michael Griffin and STEM Education in Bedford Schools

Science Venn

By Mitch Evans

Bedford residents are keenly interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and how these subjects are being taught in our schools. To show how Bedford is faring, Michael Griffin, Science program administrator at Bedford High school, presented a review recently to the School Committee. Griffin is currently serving as a Massachusetts Science Ambassador for the Department of Education and has also received teaching recognition awards from Harvard, MIT, and Stanford. As Griffin explained during his presentation “our goal is to keep ahead of the wave of changes, develop inquisitive students and provide them with the needed skills for success to be lifelong learners.”

In light of the many advances that have been made in the areas of science, technology and engineering (STE) since 2001, when the first full standards were developed, a review was overdue. The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education commissioned an analysis of the existing Massachusetts Curriculum Framework in 2009. As a result of this, a draft of the revised STE standards was released in 2013 for public comment and any final revisions are anticipated to be completed by the end of November 2015.The Board hopes that these new standards will better prepare our children for STEM-focused jobs and post-secondary opportunities and increase student expectations as well as reinforce math and literacy standards.

Science standardsThe great news is that Bedford is ahead of the curve. Through the hard work and foresight of our teachers, our STE curriculums have already been revised over the years to incorporate many of the new skills that these latest standards expect. For example, the need to incorporate methods into the curriculum which allow students to demonstrate their understanding of concepts, and the linking of these concepts to the real world. As the diagram below shows, there is an overlapping of skills and knowledge learned in STE between other disciplines such as math and ELA (English, Language Arts). The diagram was produced by the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA).

Griffin and his staff are long term advocates of what is called a spiral curriculum. Spiral curriculum contrasts with the layered (one subject per year) style curriculum commonly used to teach science in US schools.

The key features of the spiral curriculum are:

  1. The student revisits a topic, theme or subject several times throughout their school career.
  2. The complexity of the topic or theme increases with each revisit.
  3. New learning has a relationship with old learning and is put in context with the old information.

The benefits ascribed to the spiral curriculum by its advocates are:

  1. The information is reinforced and solidified each time the student revisits the subject matter.
  2. The spiral curriculum also allows a logical progression from simplistic ideas to complicated ideas.
  3. Students are encouraged to apply the early knowledge to later course objectives.

It is important to specify that state standards are outcomes, or goals, that reflect what a student should know and be able to do. While the standards have implications for curriculum and instruction, they do not specify the manner or methods by which the standards are taught. The standards are written in a way that expresses the concept and skills to be achieved and demonstrated by students as a result of instruction but leaves curricular and instructional decisions to districts, schools and teachers. The current standards remain in effect and the STE MCAS exam remains aligned to the current STE standards.

For more information visit https://www.nextgenscience.org

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Brenda Page Troup
Brenda Page Troup
6 years ago

It should be STEAM; the arts are important for kids and for society, and in many cases inspire kids to work better on other subject. Unlike sports, music and art can be continued throughout life, providing satisfaction and social opportunities for many decades.
I attended BHS when it had an active, vibrant program in vocal and instrumental music, and have never stopped participating as performer and audience.

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