August 26, 2015
(Photo: Bria Stephens/Center for Inspired Teaching)
At last week’s professional development days for DC Public Schools (DCPS) teachers, Inspired Teacher Leaders in BLISS: Building Literacy in the Social Studies and SCALE: Science Curriculum Advancement through Literacy Enhancement introduced their colleagues to Cornerstone lessons, created by the Teacher Leaders, which will be taught in every DCPS school this year.
These Cornerstone lessons are part of a new DCPS initiative to elevate instruction and improve equity citywide by creating shared, world-class learning experiences for all students in the District. In school year 2015-16, all teachers will teach four Cornerstones in each grade level and subject. With the support and guidance of Inspired Teaching, BLISS and SCALE Teacher Leaders have written the majority of the Cornerstones that will be taught in social studies and science this year. By the end of this school year, over 75% of DCPS students will have learned from a lesson created by SCALE Teacher Leaders; by the end of school year 2016-17, 100% will have.
As described in the Washington Post, Cornerstones are “designed to be memorable or inspiring learning experiences that help students make connections to the real world or encourage breakthroughs in their thinking.” SCALE Teacher Leaders met this challenge by designing units such as a fourth grade lesson on renewable and nonrenewable energy that inspires students to design their own windmills after reading a book about weather. In another SCALE unit, seventh grade teachers will introduce DNA through an analysis of superheroes and the genetic versus environmental factors that influenced the growth of their defining characteristics.
At the August 19th and 20th back-to-school professional development, SCALE Teacher Leaders and DCPS leadership shared strategies for successful Cornerstone implementation with over 300 DC science teachers. Modeling inquiry-based instruction for their peers, SCALE Teacher Leaders got teachers actively moving and engaging with the material. Teachers created human sculptures to represent the earth, sun, and moon in the solar system; another session led by SCALE Teacher Leaders challenged participants to create a machine to transport a ball from one side of a table to the other without rolling it off the edge.
SCALE Teacher Leaders also demonstrated the power of starting a lesson with a question and guiding students as they experiment, find answers, and generate new questions. They linked all content to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), standards designed to ensure that students grasp core content while simultaneously building their skills as scientists and engineers, experimenters and explorers, critical thinkers, and inventive problem solvers.
James Rountree, Director of Science for DCPS, said that he was “very pleased with the enthusiasm of our participants and their positive feedback” regarding the sessions. He acknowledged the day’s SCALE Teacher Leaders and facilitators for doing “a remarkable job.” He also thanked their principals for supporting their work as SCALE Teacher Leaders, both over the summer and throughout the coming school year.
BLISS and SCALE are Inspired Teaching programs and partnerships with DCPS to transform instruction in social studies and science district-wide by training cohorts of Teacher Leaders to become Instigators of Thought; write inquiry-based, standards-aligned curricula; and lead professional development for their peers across DCPS. Inspired Teaching’s work elevating instruction recently extended to principals and school leaders through a citywide STEM Leadership Academy, run in partnership with the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE).