The New York City Department of Education’s scope and sequence for science in prekindergarten through grade 5 has been overhauled for the 2018–19 school year, thanks to the efforts of New York City science teachers. Educators in grades 6 through 8 will also begin using the new scope and sequence to plan and deliver instruction beginning in the 2019–20 school year.
A team of 24 science teachers from across the city spent nearly a year working collaboratively on weekends to update the scope and sequence to align with the New York State P–12 Science Learning Standards, which were adopted by the state Board of Regents at the end of 2016.
“I truly believe that our efforts and hard work will really change science education in New York City,” says Lydia Pierides, a science teacher at PS 41 in Bayside, Queens, who served on the New York City Science Leadership Team.
New York State’s standards, which are based on the national Next Generation Science Standards, are constructed around three dimensions of science learning:
- Disciplinary core ideas, content areas and topics like properties of matter or ecosystems;
- Science and engineering practices, the activities scientists do as they investigate, like planning investigations and analyzing data; and
- Crosscutting concepts, which link together topics across all domains of science, like patterns or cause and effect.
“If you think of it as making a meal, the disciplinary ideas are your ingredients, the science and engineering practices are the tools you’re going to use to cook with and the crosscutting concepts are the seasoning,” says Travis Sloane, a science teacher at PS 267 on the Upper East Side.
The updated scope and sequence emphasizes the importance of hands-on investigations, which were previously recommended but not required.
“The idea of three-dimensional learning is that students are engaged in science and engineering practices while they’re learning about content. It’s no longer enough to read a textbook,” says Jeanne Salchli, a science teacher at PS 376 in Bushwick, Brooklyn. “The hope is that it will make students function like scientists so they can see the way science works in the real world.”
To reflect this change, language in the scope and sequence now refers to “performance expectations” rather than “standards.”
Teachers on the New York City Science Leadership Team also updated the scope and sequence to help students make connections across content areas in science.
“In the past, themes in science have been sporadic; we might teach simple machines for a month, and then we’re done,” says Pierides. “With the new scope and sequence, instead of teaching a little bit of everything, we go further in depth and there’s continuity.”
As a complement to the new scope and sequence, the science leadership team recommended a curriculum, Amplify, which has been adopted by more than 500 schools citywide. Teams of teachers in schools that will use Amplify in the fall have been invited to take part in training sessions in early July, where members of the science leadership team will be on hand to answer questions.
“The new scope and sequence is going to bring a different perspective to teaching science,” says Pierides. “We understand that our learners need to be engaged and interested, and if they love it, they’ll really learn it.”
Teachers can download the new scope and sequence online at WeTeachNYC.