Class Notes: Making science come alive for district’s students

JOE LANDON

We like to say that our science department makes science come alive for our students. That’s truer than ever because of the sharp focus on science instruction this year both here and across the state. If you are a parent of one of our students, or an interested community member, I’m guessing you’d like to know more about what’s going on with science instruction today.

Curt Witthoff, our district’s coordinator of K-12 Science & Environmental Education, tells us what’s happening in his own words:

“Science instruction is being enhanced by the implementation of our newly adopted instructional materials. They are creating a buzz about science education. Our new materials are aligned with the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards for the first time ever.

“The other cause for excitement is in the materials we adopted. Also for the first time ever, we have both a print and digital resource for our kindergarten through eighth grade classrooms. National Geographic is available in print at the elementary level and a print version of Holt Science Fusion is in use in middle school. From the digital world, we use the Discovery Education: Science Techbook. This Web-based tool includes hands-on labs, reading passages, electronic books, video segments, virtual labs, and an animated vocabulary.

“This is a year of change for science assessment as well. The Florida Department of Education is implementing three new assessments. These include the Science FCAT 2.0 in both the fifth and eighth grades. These tests are the final piece in aligning state science benchmarks, science instructional materials, and state science assessments.

“The high school Biology End-of-Course (EOC) exam is new this year. It replaces the old 11th grade Science FCAT. Regardless of grade level, students taking Biology 1, Biology 1 Honors, or the Pre-Advanced International Certificate of Education Biology course, will sit for this exam in May. For this year’s ninth graders, the exam will count toward 30 percent (regardless of when they take the Biology exam) of their final grade. Beginning with next year’s ninth graders, a passing score must be earned on the Biology EOC to earn their required Biology credit.”

So there’s a lot that’s new with science instruction. For moms, dads and guardians, knowing what’s taking place will be helpful as you try to guide your child’s education. So it’s a “heads up” for you. And I share this, too, as a reminder that education — in science or any subject — doesn’t just happen. There’s a whole lot of thought, coordination and work involved in making it happen.

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Joe Landon is the executive director of the Communications Services department for the Collier County School District.

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