In education for 28 years, Kirsten is an elementary grade teacher and teacher on special assignment coordinating Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards implementation for the Petaluma State Schools in Petaluma State, California.
Kirsten did not come into teaching as a science specialist but took an opportunity to develop her skills in this area and she realised the importance of providing a high-quality science education to students, beginning at the earliest grades.
I really got hooked on science as a vehicle to provide meaningful and engaging learning for students that can be emigrated across the curriculum.
Eventually, Kirsten took up a role full-time, supporting teachers. She now loves working with adult learners and providing trainings for teachers.
What are the main aims of the role?
Kirsten does whatever she can to support teachers in providing quality science instruction to their students, based on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). She does a lot of networking and searching for resources which she shares with teachers. This is essential so they can make the shifts in their practice that the NGSS requires.
Kirsten puts on workshops, writes a column in the district newsletter and works with individual teachers by request. She helps them to design lessons or even comes in and delivers model lessons.
Professional Learning Networks
This is a group of elementary teachers who are working on how to embed discourse in their science instruction. Kirsten has been developing this area as well.
Stages of development
Kirsten says that they spent the first 2 years in the Development Stage. This involved making teachers to understand the background and the rationale behind the NGSS as well as the architecture of the document. The colour coding and the columns can be really intimidating and overwhelming. Having worked with it, however, Kirsten sees it as a very useful blueprint for planning lessons and units.
NGSS is not a curriculum, it simply contains guidelines for what students should be able to do after instruction and all the learning experiences teachers provide for them.
The district is now in a Transition Stage. They are now working mostly on the delivery of instruction and what the ‘three dimensions’ look like:
- Disciplinary core ideas – content
- Cross-cutting concepts – thematic concepts which help student think like scientists and to make sense of what they are learning
- Science and engineering practices – 8 different ways that students should be doing science
So Kirsten is working on what these look like in a classroom and how to adapt existing lessons to embed these. The assessment which is coming will be focussing on assessing students on all the three dimensions which have to be happening at the same time.
Kirsten on Twitter: