It's that time of year again, when teachers are wrapping up the teaching year... and good teachers are looking ahead to next year. It's one of the most rewarding parts of teaching: Being able to make a fresh start each year. Time to reinforce what worked best, and replace or improve what didn't go so well. Or try something completely different.

As we look ahead to implementing NGSS, and Common Core standards, keep in mind that the latest Framework for K-12 Science Education (2012) emphasized the importance to explicitly teach the nature of science (pp 78-79). The NGSS followed through with a dedicated section (Appendix H) that lays out the many Learning Outcomes expected for the nature of science (NOS). For middle school, there are 26 NOS Learning Outcomes; for high school, 32. In addition, the Common Core standards call for your students to engage in much more critical and analytical thinking, talking and writing.

In addition to making NOS one of the key themes for your course, it would be very helpful to dedicate an intensive introduction to NOS to start your year. All of this background can help immensely when you address the socio-political aspects of climate change, vaccinations, evolution, etc. later in the course. As you know, most science textbooks devote very little attention to engaging students in such issues, or even in the elements of NOS or critical/analytical thinking.

But there is a program that does both. It uses several of the freely available NOS lessons on the ENSI website, and offers a student text supplement in e-book format. The text is written at 8th grade reading level, but can be used (with scaffolding, as necessary) for any secondary science class, grades 6-12. In effect, it replaces Chapter One of most textbooks. A major goal of the unit is to repair the many misconceptions about science held by most students. The e-text supplement is called Science Surprises: Exploring the Nature of Science.

I encourage you to take a look at the text. If you like it, get the teaching guide (TEACH) that is designed to help you present the unit most effectively. It suggests how to integrate the interactive, student-centered lessons with the text. It describes strategies that have been shown in recent studies to be most effective in student learning and replacing misconceptions with accurate understandings. It also provides additional materials that supplement those in the student book, and will help you in assessing your students.

Many teachers have already requested copies of the student text and the teaching guide, so they can prepare this Summer for teaching this unit in the Fall. Click here for more information, and to preview these materials. If you have some flex time in your classes before school ends, try one or more of the NOS lessons from the ENSI site, and maybe have your students work with one of the chapters in the student booklet. Just be sure to take some time this Summer to relax a bit, and recharge you batteries.

Have a great closing, and an even better opening in the Fall.