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Stephanie Snyder

City releases more detailed curriculum guide for elementary science

City officials have released new science curriculum guidelines for what elementary school students should be learning in class.

The new outline aims to streamline the multiple sets of standards, including the Common Core, that science teachers must juggle. Chancellor Carmen Fariña said Monday that educators will have access to resources over the summer to ensure that they understand the new outline, and that principals will be held accountable for following it.

“We’re trying to get as many documents in the teacher’s’ hands to help with lesson planning,” said Denise McNamara, the education department’s director of science. “This is a more fleshed-out version for teachers to follow.”

The 92-page outline, updated for the first time since 2008, incorporates state science standards with benchmarks from Common Core, national Next Generation Science Standards, and Excellence in Environmental Education guidelines. Officials said a similar framework for grades 6-12 will be released later this summer.

This is the last of the four core subjects to get a new guideline including Common Core standards. The state adopted Common Core standards in math and English in 2010 and worked on incorporating it into the classroom in the following years. Last year, the city and state also retooled its social studies curriculum to include the benchmarks.

Teachers are being asked to use the course map as a tool for engaging students in more critical thinking and analysis. The goal is to build students’ skills through hands-on learning that fosters curiosity.

In the outline, the main topics for each grade level remain the same, but are now broken down more specifically so that teachers know what they should be instructing and how long these units should take.

For example, science teachers will still have to teach kindergarteners a unit on trees through the seasons. The new framework still includes the same central question of, “What are some changes we see in trees during the year?” But the difference comes in as the new guideline includes all the benchmarks teachers should meet, not just state standards.

The new framework even gives a recommended time for each unit. In the case of kindergarten, the outline says teachers should dedicate 10 weeks on trees through the seasons, 10 weeks on properties of matter, and 14 weeks on animals.

“With all the standards in one place, teachers can see all the standards that they need to consider when they produce a lesson plan for a unit,” McNamara said.

Various trainings will be held this summer to discuss the themes and how to incorporate the standards in the classroom. Science teachers will also have ongoing training during the 80 minutes schools now devote to professional development on Mondays.

“We will have workshops for teachers in social studies and science that stem around these Scope and Sequence, but the expectations will be very, very clear,” Fariña said.