Friday, April 22, 2022
For Immediate Release
Fitchburg Public Schools Educators Dive Deep into the OpenSciEd model
with the Wade Institute for Science Education
Quincy, MA & Fitchburg, MA – Jessica Stodulski, Science Curriculum Director at Fitchburg Public Schools, gets great satisfaction from supporting Fitchburg educators. She listens to their needs, asks for their input, and then uses her science leadership networks to connect to professional learning opportunities that align with district, school, and individual classroom goals. When Jessica learned about the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s partnership with OpenSciEd to develop open-source middle school science instructional materials, she sought ways to get Fitchburg Public Schools involved. Fitchburg received grant support from the One8 Foundation and became one of the seven Massachusetts school districts evaluating OpenSciEd High Quality Instructional Materials through a three-year pilot project. Fitchburg’s field testing of the OpenSciEd curriculum began with Longsjo Middle School and has since expanded to the other two middle schools in the district.
Jessica believes that use of the OpenSciEd model will help to streamline curriculum being taught across the district and was especially thankful for the accompanying community when educators were wildly searching for resources to support their sudden shift to remote learning in 2020. She notes that “one big benefit of OpenSciEd” was their immediate sharing of remote learning resources in response to the pandemic. Since OpenSciEd has been developed by and for educators throughout the nation, resources were plentiful, diverse, applicable, and high-quality. Though, there was an ever-present challenge of choosing those resources that fit best with the current teaching needs of Fitchburg educators.
During a 2020 Massachusetts Science Education Leadership Association presentation, Jessica heard from the Wade Institute for Science Education about OpenSciEd phenomena-based learning materials for use in the remote classroom. She was so impressed by the resources shared that she scheduled Customized Professional Learning Services with the Wade Institute to support Fitchburg’s middle and high school educators in implementing interactive, inquiry-based, and phenomena-based investigations while teaching in remote settings. “The Wade Institute has been valuable to us in providing the PD [professional development] because there are so many resources out there,” says Jessica. “It helps to have a team narrow down the options.”
The Wade Institute’s Customized Professional Learning Services sessions for Fitchburg have been strategically designed to support teachers in implementation of OpenSciEd’s rigorous High Quality Instructional Materials in ways that explore specific elements of the OpenSciEd model. Since Fitchburg’s field testing of the OpenSciEd curriculum includes unit intensive support from the One8Foundation’s partner Boston College OpenSciEd Equitable Instruction Initiative, Jessica worked with the Wade Institute’s Education Specialists to tailor professional learning sessions to the needs of teachers who were not yet participating in the district’s OpenSciEd launch in order to introduce the curriculum and align their materials more strategically to the Massachusetts Science and Technology/Engineering Curriculum Frameworks. “We have been getting a significant amount of training in OpenSciEd units and routines. We needed something to support that during our district PD days,” Jessica says, “The Wade Institute added on to that work and helped us dig into the things that are meaningful for us and for our growth.” Teacher feedback was positive to the strategies and resources shared that both complemented OpenSciEd materials and that could be further explored through OpenSciEd unit deep dives, so professional learning sessions were expanded to dive deeper into the OpenSciEd phenomena-based instruction and discussion models. Jessica also used educator feedback to identify discourse and formative assessment as important topics to cover. “Teachers would occasionally focus on discussion but it’s more ingrained in OpenSciEd,” Jessica says.
What does an OpenSciEd classroom look like at Fitchburg Public Schools? The OpenSciEd model uses a storyline to teach grade-level specific content and encourages student involvement. Jessica says that “engaging with phenomena has been a real positive experience” that has been “equitable for students.” The storyline teaching model begins with students experiencing a phenomena, often through a video or other common experience. Students develop questions and related scenarios to explore their background knowledge and make sense of the phenomena. They develop an initial model and convene with the class to come to a consensus about what they are witnessing. Students then design their own investigation using driving questions to steer their learning and gathering of evidence. They continue asking questions and as they look back at their investigation results and can even apply their learning to unrelated topics.
Jessica has been pleasantly surprised by how effectively the OpenSciEd curriculum predicts the questions that students will ask in response to exploring a phenomena, and student learning outcomes, since student investigations are so varied. She has seen students investigate how light affects heat transfer in a container and then use their knowledge to design a cooler that maintains food freshness for a longer period of time. She says that it has been amazing to see students learn about thermal energy through an investigation with coffee cups and apply their knowledge of heat transfer to protect penguins impacts on climate change on their frozen environment. What really reinforced for Jessica that the OpenSciEd curriculum is designed to refine innovative thinking and expand perspective was when she witnessed students using the results of a forces investigation to create a safer helmet for sports.
Now Jessica is working to expand the use of OpenSciEd materials to more Fitchburg schools. Her goal is to transition the district to using a curriculum that is cohesive across classrooms so that learning is inclusive and equitable for students and learning outcomes are standardized in ways that make gained skills transferable to new topic challenges. By providing Fitchburg educators with time for professional learning and collaborative lesson planning and connecting them to a network of supportive OpenSciEd facilitators, Jessica is effectively transitioning Fitchburg Public Schools’ science classrooms to OpenSciEd classrooms.
About the Wade Institute’s OpenSciEd Professional Learning
The Wade Institute for Science Education is an OpenSciEd Certified Professional Learning Provider. Interactive professional learning helps schools prepare for an OpenSciEd launch or deep dive into units. It aligns school’s OpenSciEd units to the Massachusetts Scope and Sequence of Units Recommendation, explores Phenomena Based Learning and the Anchoring Phenomena Routine, and can be used to effectively launch OpenSciEd at a school or to adapt existing units to the OpenSciEd model. Sessions are designed to deep dive into individual units as well as to support both teachers and administration in the identification and implementation of OpenSciEd aligned formative and summative assessment. Schools and districts receive science and pedagogical support provided by Wade Institute for Science Education’s trained educators and science partners. Learn more about the Wade Institute for Science Education’s OpenSciEd Professional Learning at https://www.wadeinstitutema.org/openscied.