The newly released Next Generation Science Standards require K-12 science teachers to teach ecology, evolution, and climate change topics where misconceptions are common among teachers and the general public despite their strong links with human health and societal well-being. The solutions to this problem are to (a) develop vertically aligned curriculum materials (b) increase teacher content and pedagogical content knowledge through meaningful professional development. PAGES (Progressing through the Ages: Global climate change, Evolution, and Societal well-being) is an ambitious teacher education program that will empower K-12 science teachers to use high quality NGSS aligned units that integrate these concepts across the grade-bands so their students learn critical concepts throughout their schooling and meet the performance expectations established in the NGSS.
Progressing through the Ages: Global change, Evolution, and Societal well-being is an ambitious curriculum development and teacher education program that will increase teachers’ and students’ knowledge of the processes of climate change and evolution that shape ecosystems. This effort is aligned to the newly released Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), which place heavy emphasis on ecology, evolution, and climate change. Knowledge of these biological processes is crucial to addressing many modern health challenges and societal problems. While almost two-thirds of the U.S. public (63%) believe that the earth is warming, but only 48% believe this is due to human activities (Leiserowitz, Maibach, Roser-Renouf, et al., 2015). Similarly, many Americans (33%) reject the idea humans share an evolutionary history with other animals (Pew Research Center, 2013). Teachers themselves often lack content knowledge in these areas. However, the NGSS sets numerous rigorous performance expectations in these areas at all grade levels across K-12 education. The NGSS performance expectations build on one another over time. Hence, K-12 teachers are tasked with developing new, in-depth curriculum materials that integrate across grade levels in areas of science where they may face skeptical parents/students and where they themselves may lack critical content knowledge. PAGES proposes to merge (a) a curriculum development program that spans K-12, centered on the NGSS and research being done at the University of Illinois, with (b) a rigorous professional development plan integrating the NGSX platform to teach critical content and pedagogical knowledge to teams of teachers spanning K-12. PAGES’ long-term goal is to empower K-12 teachers to use high quality curriculum units that are integrated across grade-levels so that students continue learning critical concepts over time in order to meet the performance expectations established in the NGSS. PAGES will create a series of eight 2-4-week coherent units that will enable school districts to readily align their curriculum with the NGSS. Additionally, PAGES will increase teacher content knowledge in evolution and climate change, empowering teachers to teach these subjects with confidence. A key innovation of PAGES is to highlight links between ecology/evolution/climate change and human health/societal well-being. These include the links between (a) insects, vector-borne disease, and ecological interactions and (b) phenotypic variation and evolution as a function of differing environments. PAGES will help create a new generation of students that understands the biology underlying many problems facing our society and will motivate them to help solve these problems.