EARTH AND SPACE SCIENCE IN THE NEXT GENERATION SCIENCE STANDARDS
The NGSS are based on a report by the National Research Council, “A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas.” Supervised by Achieve and co-written with 26 participating states, the NGSS flesh out the ideas of this Framework into the three areas of life science, physical science, and Earth and space science across K-12. At a high school level, Earth and space science has roughly as many performance expectations as biology and as physics and chemistry combined. The implication is that the content of both a middle school and high school science curriculum would consist of a year of biology, a year of combined physics/chemistry, and a year of Earth and space science. Moreover, the complexity and interconnectedness of Earth and space science demand that an optimal science curriculum would have most of the Earth and space taught after both the physical and life science, for both middle and high school.
The implications for geoscience education are enormous. Currently there does not exist a sufficient work force of high school geoscience teachers to meet the implied demand if states appropriately implement the NGSS. Systems are not in place in many states to certify Earth and space science teachers at this level. Curricula and professional development will need to reflect the greater emphasis on Earth-systems thinking and geoscience engineering. A greater emphasis on the practices of science, including working with actual data, will impact the outreach activities of professional geoscience organizations. University introductory classes will be impacted by a more geoscience-literate incoming class. The NGSS present many opportunities for geoscience education, but supporting systems will need to be developed by all geoscience education to take advantage of them.