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S3 Ep1: Creating Science Excitement & Curiosity with OpenSciEd's Executive Director James Ryan

In this episode, James Ryan shares his journey to his current role as Executive Director of OpenSciEd, a free, open-source resource for high-quality, standards-aligned (Next Generation Science Standards) curriculum to support students and teachers. He discusses what OpenSciEd is, how it came about, and the development of the current resources available in middle school science. This includes a focus on why OpenSciEd made a strategic decision to start with middle school, and how the best materials are rooted in the standards.

We hear about how the OpenEdSci materials are created, reviewed, and approved by the science educator community; and field-tested to ensure their equity, efficacy, and usability. The materials carry a creative commons license, which helps foster equal access to excellent, flexible materials that teachers can customize and adapt to meet the needs of their students. James talks about the soon-to-be-released high school curriculum and about OpenSciEd's future development of the elementary curriculum. As part of the conversation, we hear about the support provided for teachers and leaders and customization of the curriculum to support equity for all students. If you are exploring resources and curriculum that support science, this is a must-listen-to episode!

Questions and topics explored in this episode:

  • What is OpenSciEd?

  • What are the Next Generation Science Standards and how pervasive is their adoption throughout the country?

  • The reasoning for why science funding/curriculum has been lacking in funding and resources for alignment to the NGSS.

  • Proof of concept to a product of high quality science curriculum.

  • What are Creative Commons License and Open Education Resources?

  • The advantages of being able to customize materials to fit the needs of a school/district.

  • What are the resources/materials available from OpenSciEd and in what formats can you access the materials?

  • Why is professional learning for teachers so important, and how is this supported via OpenSciEd?

  • What makes OpenSciEd so powerful for both teachers and students?

  • How do the NGSS prepare students for AP Science and how does the HS OpenEdSci curriculum that is soon to be released addressing this?

  • Do the lessons learned from the Mathematics Common Core State Standards inform the decisions about curriculum and support that OpenSciEd is developing for science?

  • What political topics impact science curriculum and NGSS adoption?

  • Is the instructional shift expected by the NGSS a factor in teacher’s adoption of the NGSS?

  • The importance of acknowledging the professionalism of educators and giving them the ability to adapt resources to fit their classrooms.

  • How did the detracking efforts in San Francisco Unified School District impact the work with OpenSciEd?

  • The importance of constant revision of curriculum using feedback from teachers using it.

  • Collaboration between educators to create that common vision and professionalism around improving learning and curriculum.

  • What is detracking? How does this impact student learning in math and science (based on SFUSD data)?

  • MS curriculum is out, HS is coming out soon - when will elementary school be on the horizon?

  • Why start with middle school science?

  • Who are the students who get access to science learning? (i.e. the state of science education in the U.S.)

Links to resources mentioned in the episode:


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