Teaching With Your ecoSTEM Kit and the QuickStart Guide

Credit: NGSS
Credit: NGSS

The supplies in this kit are available for teachers and informal educators to use or adapt in any way that fits their situation and teaching approach. Many states have adopted Next Generation Science Standards, and even more have embraced the pedagogy on which NGSS is based (called “three-dimensional learning”) while creating their own standards. Therefore, we have arranged the QuickStart Guide to support a 3-D learning approach that can be used in ANY state. If you’d like to know more, download the free Framework for K-12 Science Education or email us to request access to our free online course.

The three dimensions in 3-D Learning are core ideas, science and engineering practices, and crosscutting concepts. The icon of a braided rope is often used to represent this model and symbolize how the components are inextricably combined throughout the learning process. This differs significantly from an “inquiry” approach, which incorporates student exploration into some lessons, but not all.

In order to support 3-D Learning, ecoSTEM Kits provide an observable phenomenon to launch each learning experience. The phenomenon illustrates a mystery that students seek to figure out in the process of their investigations. No background reading, lecture or vocabulary is needed, up front. This approach emphasizes discovery and exploration before explanation, with vocabulary postponed until it appears in context. After observing a phenomenon, students talk about what they noticed and what they wondered, ask additional questions, craft tentative explanations, and conduct their own research or investigations, in small teams.

NGSS braid

The supplies in the ecoSTEM Kit are designed to actively engage students in science and engineering practices. Each EcoSTEM Kit accommodates a class of 32 working in groups of 4. While investigating, students look for crosscutting concepts such as patterns or cause and effect, to help them make sense of core ideas. After each learning activity, students return to their initial explanations and revise them in light of new knowledge and understanding. Teachers facilitate the learning experience by guiding students in science and engineering practices, providing guardrails, conducting formative assessments, and helping clear up misconceptions.

We hope the arrangement of this QuickStart Guide will help you implement 3-Dimensional Learning, it that is your intent. You are also welcome to use the supplies for direct instruction.