MSU offers science curricula, professional learning to schools

June 29, 2021

Michigan State University researchers have developed a range of high-quality teaching materials shown to help improve science learning and engagement for K-12 students.

These materials are freely available to schools across the nation, and educators can participate in virtual or in-person professional learning to help them implement the curricula in their own classrooms.

Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) high school students piloting the the Interactions digital curriculum in 2016. Photo courtesy of LAUSD.

The CREATE for STEM Institute, which has successfully led professional learning for teacher groups in Detroit, Los Angeles and other locations, is offering new opportunities starting this summer through its Next Generation Project-Based Learning Team (NextGenPBL).

These fee-for-service programs will prepare teachers to teach the curricula—all free to download and adapt as Open Educational Resources (OERs). Educators can register for these 2021-2022 virtual programs:  

Through a partnership with the Michigan Education Association, members in good standing will receive State Continuing Education Clock Hours (SCECHS) for participating in the NextGenPBL programs.

Additional science curricula were also created by MSU teams, and have related professional learning opportunities being planned or in development:  

The instructional materials were developed by some of the leading educational researchers and curriculum designers in the world, such as Charles “Andy” Anderson, a pioneer in environmental literacy, and CREATE for STEM Director Joe Krajcik, an authority on project-based learning and a lead author of the Next Generation Science Standards. Funding was provided by the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health and the George Lucas Educational Foundation.

Students use the MSU-developed curricula in their classrooms in 2019. Photo courtesy of Michigan State University Communications.

“The Next-Generation PBL science materials allow learners from different backgrounds, races and reading levels to engage in building sophisticated knowledge of science they need to understand the world they live in,” said Krajcik, director of CREATE for STEM. “Students and teachers find the materials engaging because they experience first-hand events that occur in their world and then are challenged to explain what is going on. They do science and don’t just ‘learn about’ science facts.” 

Teaching for change

Each of the curricula prepare students to meet specific performance expectations described by the Michigan and Next Generation Science Standards. They have been piloted by dozens of teachers in real-world settings, and some have been rigorously tested for efficacy on large and diverse populations of students. 

The research shows that transitioning to the new model of science teaching is challenging, but also that it can be done successfully with robust professional learning and support for teachers during their first years of using NGSS-aligned, project-based curriculum.  

“I feel like I am a part of a change in science education, actually education as a whole,” said Monique Coulman, a teacher at Haas Elementary School in Genesee, Mich. who has been part of the ML-PBL project. “The professional development given cannot compare to anything else. I learn something new each time I am given the opportunity to work with the ML-PBL team. This is not a “one and done” PD. It is a progression of learning.” 

The programs draw on the expertise of scholars who were involved during research and design for each curriculum, as well as exceptional classroom teachers who have enacted the lessons in real-world classrooms—both in-person and virtually.

MSU alum Michael Lim, at the front of the classroom, utilized the Interactions digital curriculum in his LAUSD classroom in 2016. Photo courtesy of LAUSD.

Participating teachers will receive up to 60 hours of support over the course of one year. They will join cohorts of approximately 25 teachers, allowing teachers to establish learning networks across schools and districts. 

“To be ready to live and thrive in today’s world, students need to learn how to ask—and figure out— ‘why’ things work as they do in the natural and engineered world,” Krajcik said. “Few teachers learned science this way or were prepared to help students learn in this way.  

“Perhaps more than ever before, Michigan State has the research knowledge and team ready to help teachers across the nation bring this change to schools.” 

Learn more

Visit the NextGenPBL website for more details about professional learning support available to individual educators, schools or districts.