MI-STAR THEMES DEMONSTRATE GEOSCIENCE’S ROLE IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF NGSS INTEGRATED SCIENCE CURRICULUM
Mi-STAR (Michigan Science Teaching & Assessment Reform, http://mi-star.mtu.edu/) has begun developing an NGSS-aligned middle-school curriculum in which students explore performance-based challenges that integrate three-dimensional learning across traditional disciplinary boundaries and demonstrate how science and engineering are used to develop new knowledge and solutions to contemporary problems. To achieve this goal, Mi-STAR has developed a set of themes that are used to emphasize important societal concerns that naturally connect NGSS performance expectations (PEs), disciplinary core ideas, and crosscutting concepts to real-world questions. This approach also can be used to readily engage students in the study of topics that are relevant to their own lives and communities.
The Mi-STAR themes were defined based on review of topics identified by the National Research Council and several professional societies as being of particular importance to society in the 21st century. Overlap among the documents led to the identification of the seven themes used in development of the Mi-STAR integrated curriculum: earth and space systems, water resources, energy and earth resources, sustainable ecosystems, food and agriculture, human and public health, and the built environment.
All seven of the Mi-STAR themes are topics that are connected to the geosciences. This is unsurprising because the geosciences require integration of concepts from all science, mathematics, and engineering fields. The use of themes in development of the Mi-STAR curriculum highlights the relevance of geoscience to society at both local and global scales. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are providing an opportunity for the geosciences to take a leadership role in reforming science instruction at K-12 levels.