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New science curriculum meets changing standards, emphasizes engineering and technology

Students at Sunnycrest Elementary School discussing water molecules, water vapor and condensation

As part of the new Amplify Science curriculum, elementary students are learning about topics like the Phases of Water. Here, students in Tanya Reed’s class at Sunnycrest Elementary School discuss water molecules, water vapor and condensation.

The Washington Science and Learning Standards (WSSLS), formerly known as the Next Generation Science Standards, were approved by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2013. The new standards were designed to help students become literate in science, while also strengthening their skills in reading, writing and math. The standards provide consistent science education through all grades, with an emphasis on engineering and technology.

The adoption of the new statewide standards meant it was also time to refresh the district’s science curriculum to ensure alignment. After a comprehensive curriculum review and piloting process, the Board of Directors approved the adoption of the district’s new K-12 science curriculum at its June 12, 2019 meeting.

Elementary Science Curriculum

Students in kindergarten through fifth-grade are learning science using the Amplify Science curriculum. An Elementary Science Curriculum Review Team (ESCRT), comprised of K-5 classroom teachers, a special education teacher, librarian, instructional coaches, a principal, the Director of Professional Learning, and the Executive Director of Teaching & Learning/Assessment piloted two science curricula before recommending Amplify Science to the Curriculum Commission. Amplify Science blends hands-on investigations, literacy-rich activities, and interactive digital tools to empower students to think, read, write, and argue like real scientists and engineers.

“This is the first curriculum I’ve seen to meet the WSSLS standards,” said Sara Seiber, a teacher at Skyline Elementary School. “Kids are engaged, and the curriculum integrates reading and writing in powerful ways. I’m really excited to see our scientific thinkers when they’ve had the same curriculum from kindergarten through eighth-grade!”

Units are grade-level specific and range from “Sunlight and Weather” in kindergarten to “Ecosystem Restoration” in fifth-grade. Students learn through the use of science kits, print materials, digital tools and specialized assessments.

Secondary Science Curriculum

Grades 6-8
Middle school students in grades six through eight are learning science using Integrated Amplify Science. The curriculum consists of scholarly articles, digital learning tools, hands-on investigations and activities, and investigative notebooks for students.

In order to best meet the needs of all students—and to meet the WSSLS—a variety of science curriculums are used in grades 9-12 based on the course type.

“The secondary science team spent four years understanding the shift to the new standards and preparing for the task of recognizing the very best available resources for our learners,” said Holly Urness, Instructional Coach for Secondary Science. “Having K-8 align and build through Amplify Science will lay a solid foundation for students and prepare them for high school and opportunities beyond. The high school program will equip students who want to be career-ready as well as those who seek opportunities in elite college-level programs.”

Grade 9: Physical Science
The ninth-grade curriculum is still being developed, and will be reviewed by the Curriculum Commission this winter.

Grade 10: Conceptual Chemistry and Physics
Tenth-graders are using the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt curriculum.

Grade 11: Biology
Eleventh-graders are using the Pearson curriculum.

Advanced Placement and Science Electives
Marine Biology: McGraw Hill
AP Environmental Science: Cengage
AP Biology: Pearson
AP Physics: Bedford, Freeman and Worth

A Secondary Science Leadership Team, comprised of 6-12 classroom teachers, special education teachers, a bilingual educator, instructional coaches, and the Executive Director of Secondary Teaching and Learning met for more than a year to review and pilot curriculum, and to make a recommendation to the Curriculum Commission.