STANYS President's Letter: Matt Christiansen
Bringing Students Back Into The Learning
Welcome Back to the Conference!
After a restful and relaxing summer, I hope this letter finds you back in the classroom, making the huge impacts that you do everyday on the lives of our students. We can all attest that it has been a challenging couple of years, navigating the uncertainties related to the global pandemic. However, with your passion and dedication to science teaching, you have persevered to ensure that students still received the support that they needed inside and outside of the classroom.
It was necessary for the implementation timeline of the New York State P-12 Science Learning Standards (NYSSLS) to be adjusted in order for teachers and students to overcome the obstacles and challenges of a pandemic classroom; however, in the past spring, we have seen the advancement of the new standards from our partners at NYSED. Field tests were administered, sample questions were released, and working groups are busy preparing for the administration of the Elementary Level Science and Intermediate Level Science assessments in 2024. The newly formatted Regents exams will soon follow in each of the following two school years. It is imperative that we reignite and sustain our efforts in ensuring that our students are receiving the high-quality, three-dimensional learning environments that the standards call for.
One aspect from the Framework for K-12 Science Education has continued to serve as inspiration for this year’s conference theme. We must ensure that every student has access and opportunities as we shift toward students uncovering science through three-dimensional teaching. With that being said, we are looking forward to the upcoming conference in Syracuse whose theme will be Empowering Every Student in Science. When students ask questions, carry out investigations, and create arguments around interesting phenomena or real-world problems, every student has the capability to be cognitively engaged in the science sensemaking that we all want our students to do. Through the shifts in instruction to align to the standards, every student can participate in authentic science experiences, and we must be ready to provide the necessary support as students assume more ownership of their own learning during this transition.
To help support educators in continuing their storyline implementation and widening their repertoire of best practices to meet the needs of every student, STANYS has partnered with Trevor Muir in order to provide several professional learning experiences to science educators from around the state. We have developed a Friday pre-conference session where participants will experience how project-based learning can provide concrete methods, practices, and resources to design and lead standards-based, skills and content-rich learning experiences in their science classrooms. Trevor will also provide two sessions on Saturday to deepen the conversation about how we can elevate learning for all students. In the morning, he will focus on sharing strategies to help students become better communicators, collaborators, problem solvers, and scientifically literate citizens. Finally, Trevor will conclude our day on Saturday as our keynote speaker, where he will discuss how by using the power of storytelling, brain science, and purposeful learning, teachers achieve greater student engagement and unforgettable learning.
On Friday, we will also be providing a pre-conference session focused on helping supervisors in the shift toward the standards. Administrators are key stakeholders in the successful implementation of the NYSSLS, as they will be planning important professional learning experiences and providing critical feedback and support to their teachers. Representatives from New Visions for Public Schools will provide a full-day workshop to give educational leaders with direct or indirect supervisory responsibilities of science the tools needed in the implementation of the NYSSLS.
We have several additional speakers that we hope will inspire you in ways to empower every student in your classroom. On Saturday morning, we are honored to have Dr. Ronald Gonzalez, current Superintendent of the Elmsford Union Free School District. His invited speaker session will focus on demystifying equity as a separate initiative in our schools and classrooms and understand how it is woven into the fabric of our work. We are pleased to have several additional speakers on Sunday throughout the day with two invited speakers and our amazing Fellows speaker in the evening. In the morning, esteemed NYS teacher Jamie Kubiak will discuss how LGBTQIA+ identities are often marginalized in science classrooms and discuss ways to celebrate the diversity of our students and make our learning spaces safe for all students. Additionally, we will have a second invited speaker from NASA in the afternoon. Dr. Alex Young will focus on the Sun’s corona, as we will be experiencing some amazing solar events in the coming years. Lastly, we are honored to have Zoe Weil, founder and president of the Institute for Humane Education, as our Fellows speaker on Sunday evening. Her keynote will provide a vision and practical steps for empowering students to solve problems in their communities and engaging them in making a positive difference in the world.
As always, we will have so many amazing sessions for you all to attend, including many subject-specific learning institutes led by our talented and dedicated Directors at Large. I encourage you to visit the website for more information about all of the amazing opportunities that await you at our new location in Syracuse at the OnCenter and Marriott Syracuse Downtown! We hope that you will dive deep into learning different strategies to empower your students in the science classroom and then continue the conversation and their implementation throughout the rest of the school year with your students and your colleagues.
In closing, I bid you a productive and rewarding 2022-2023 school year.
Matt Christiansen, Ed.D.