WATERVILLE — More than 50 Maine science educators participated in a three-dimensional science and engineering workshop held last month by Thomas College‘s Center for Innovation in Education, Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance and the Next Generation Science Exemplar System, according to a Thomas College news release.

The program was designed to introduce teachers to the shifts in science teaching and learning, called for by the National Research Council’s “Framework for K-12 Science Education.”

This framework suggests a new set of standards — called the Next Generation Science Standards. Unlike the common core, Math and English Language Arts standards states may choose to adopt the science standards or not. Although Maine was one of the states involved in the original development of these science standards, they are in the Maine Legislature’s hands right now in the form of a bill.

“I have been working with teachers and administrators across the country to prepare them for the shifts called for by the National Research Council’s Framework for K-12 Science Education,” said Kate Cook Whitt, workshop facilitator and Thomas College assistant professor of education, according to the release. “It is thrilling to finally be doing this work in Maine and to begin to shift the face of science education in Maine. I am looking forward to what our state is capable of, with respect to science education and what this may mean for our next generation of scientists and engineers.”

At the workshop, teachers were able to get a head start on these standards and make sense of the shifts in science education, as both adult learners of science and as teachers of science. This involved a series of investigations/activities related to understanding how and why a tanker car spontaneously collapsed. Teachers also unpacked physical science standards, modeled the phenomenon of odor, participated in a soap bubble activity to learn about the air, and more.

Cook Whitt thinks that science education is critical for the future of Maine’s workforce.

“In the ever-changing workforce, STEM skills are required for continued success in the professional world. We need to prepare our K-12 students as scientists and engineers who are capable of critical thinking and making sense of the world around them,” she said, according to the release.

For more information, visit www.thomas.edu or contact MacKenzie Riley at rileym@thomas.edu or 859-1313.

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