Washington HS field testing science curriculum

Union photo of the Washington High School building

Washington High School has announced that it is field testing high-quality, standards-aligned units made by OpenSciEd.

What you can expect from a class using OpenSciEd

OpenSciEd exists to change the status quo and remove the predictability about who succeeds and shows affection for the STEM fields, so all students are prepared for college and a career. In the OpenSciEd units, students engage in investigations to make sense of relevant, real-world scenarios and problems that develop their abilities to use science and engineering practices. This instructional model helps students build a deep understanding of central science concepts and make local, personal connections to science.

Structure of the science courses and what you may see at home

The high school units to be field tested in this project provide a 3-year pathway through the Iowa Science Standards, which utilizes traditional course titles (Biology, Chemistry, Physics.) Earth and Space Science standards are integrated into each of these courses, and ensure that all of our students have access to all of our State Science Standards.

It is important to note that standards indicate required learning, not required courses. Therefore, some topics traditionally taught in chemistry and physics before the NGSS may not be included. Our district continues to offer additional elective and advanced courses for interested students that wish to further expand their science interests.

Key elements you will notice:

With each unit, students will create a notebook to track their understanding of the science concepts and the progression of their science skills. This shifts the focus from keeping a notebook for just note taking to keeping a notebook because it is valuable in helping students make sense of the science.

While there will be some home learning, there will be very few worksheets to complete and a focus on communicating understanding in a variety of ways, not just quizzes and tests.

Because the program is designed to leverage ideas students already have, and those ideas are initially incomplete or not yet scientifically-aligned, students may come home discussing ideas that are not accurate at first. You’ll notice these ideas shift over time to become more accurate as they encounter additional information and evidence.

You can support students’ science learning by:

  • Not worrying about knowing the answer — be supportive in the wondering.
  • Asking questions about their learning. What phenomenon is your class trying to explain? What have you figured out so far? How do you think it applies to our lives?
  • Sharing in the excitement of better understanding for the world we live in.
  • Encouraging persistence and patience.
  • Understanding that the focus of this type of learning is developing conceptual understanding, rather than memorization of facts.

To find out more about the OpenSciEd learning experiences our students will have, check out the OpenSciEd Teacher Handbook at

Leave a Comment