School Curriculum Subcommittee works towards “Anchor Phenomena” in science curriculum



The School Curriculum Subcommittee talked about various topics such as connecting the science curriculum across other subjects and improving materials for history classes.

The School Curriculum Subcommittee convened virtually via Zoom on Dec. 21st at 4 p.m. to discuss new plans for adapting the school curriculums to be more representative, collaborative and engaging.

Emily Speck, K-8 Science Curriculum Coordinator, said the science curriculum needed to adopt a series of new standards focused on science engagement and integration into other school subjects.

“Previous standards focused on a content-based curriculum and knowing specific things in science. The old standards took ideas and put them into different places but disregarded the development of the ideas. The new standards ensure that there are cross-cutting ideas that have connections to other fields of study like history, English and math,” Speck said.

Speck also said it is important to use ‘Anchor Phenomena’ in the science curriculum as a way for students to see the world around them through a scientific lens and relate their own life experiences with the current science topic being taught.

“The goal is to not teach students things so that they know them, but so that students can make sense of the things around them in the world. Anchoring phenomena promote student-driven inquiry-based learning and a culture in which students are excited to be figuring things out. We are excited to teach not only the new content but also the spirit of the new standards,” Speck said.

Ed Wiser, Science Curriculum Coordinator at the high school, said teachers have been dealing with moving into the new STEM wing and making the most of in-person engagement. Wiser said this year the physics curriculum is focusing on what he calls ‘Experimental Physics’ in which students engage in project-based learning with their classmates and explore concepts discussed in class.

“We are able to have students work together and participate in collaborative learning with each other. Students are able to connect their own lives to the curriculum through projects which increases student engagement and investment into learning,” Wiser said.

The subcommittee also discussed the committee’s ambitions to improve the social studies curriculum, which was made possible by METCO funding. Social studies has not had a comprehensive review and often is surrounded by issues related to cultural biases, especially in its curricular materials.

Lesley Ryan Miller, Deputy Superintendent of Teaching & Learning at the high school and board member for this project, said she intends to have the materials, such as textbooks, present a more accurate version of history.

“We’re really hoping that we’ll get a reputable organization that will come and support us with this work,” Miller said. “One of our texts in 10th grade US history made some claims around a slave owner being paternal and giving slaves a level of autonomy, and that’s not accurate. Those are the types of indubious references and biases that we want to rid our curriculum of. One of the things I’m super excited about is that we’ve had a couple of organizations already bid on the project, and one proposal looks really promising.”

Gabe McCormick, Director of Professional Development at the high school, said the committee wanted this to be a collaborative project with educators.

“We know that there are educators who have made adjustments to their instructions to balance out materials that are harder to change,” McCormick said. “We want to make sure that educators have a lot of participation so that if there are things that an individual or a couple of teachers have done to make adjustments, we can make sure that gets known district-wide or program-wide.”