Science curriculum will change in several Scottsbluff Public Schools elementary classrooms for the 2020-2021 academic year after the Board of Education approved PhD Science as a new elementary science program at its Feb. 10 board meeting.

PhD Science is a new elementary science program from Great Minds, the publisher of Wit and Wisdom ELA that the district currently uses for English and language arts curriculum. The focus of the curriculum helps teachers incorporate three-dimensional teaching and learning in the classroom. Thus, it provides students with a hands-on learning environment around science.

Mike Mason, the executive director of curriculum and instruction, informed the board how the curriculum allows students to build their knowledge through observation, questioning, modeling, investigation and evidence-based argumentation. One of the frameworks within the program addresses the three dimensions of science learning: practices, core ideas and crosscutting. The disciplinary core ideas include subjects within physical science, life science, earth science and engineer, technology and application of science.

While progressing through the curriculum, students will connect to their other subjects, which will further enhance their academic experience, Mason said. One of the benefits to the curriculum for the students will be the instructional routines used in Wit and Wisdom are also used in PhD Science.

“PhD Science utilizes an activity before concept approach,” Mason said. “This means students engage in activities to develop a basic understanding before a concept is presented and investigate the concept more until formal names or terminology is introduced.”

Aside from learning science, Mason shared how the textbooks will allow students to practice their literary skills.

After discussion, the board moved to approve the implementation of the PhD Science curriculum for grades 3-5 beginning in the Fall 2020. The cost for textbooks and other student and teacher materials totaled $64,649.79. To hire additional elementary staff, the district has budgeted approximately $400,000.

The PhD Science for grades K-2 remains in the pilot phase, so staff will pilot the materials in second grade during the fall semester. Following the implementation, the board will explore adopting the curriculum for K-1 and 6-8 as it becomes available.

As part of adopting a new curriculum, the district is also exploring new hires for elementary science. Rick Myles, Scottsbluff Public Schools superintendent, said the district will look to hire five new full-time science teachers.

“We want to make elementary teachers jobs easier,” Myles said. “We also want to ensure the curriculum is delivered and students have access to labs to further their learning.”

Lincoln Heights Elementary teachers said they were excited about the news.

“I was very happy because the curriculum for ELA (English-Language Arts) and math are demanding,” third grade teacher Nanette Kissler said.

Second grade teacher Michele Howard also thought hiring science teachers were a positive for students.

“I think their (students) enjoyment for science will increase,” Howard said. “They’ll learn more because of the time they can spend on the material.”

Students were also looking forward to hands-on science lessons, especially lessons where they can create chemical reactions.

“Having more science classes I would like it better,” third grader Jared Turnidge said. “I would like to use safety goggles and mix stuff together to make something new.”

Bentley Gilbert said, “I like to mix things together to get a chemical reaction. One time we used baking soda to make a volcano, which was fun. I want to do more of that.”

The board also voted to adopt the Quaver Music curriculum for grades K-5. Quaver Music is an online curriculum that uses technology to engage students in learning musical concepts and skills. With a comprehensive song library and customization options, music teachers can create engaging lessons in vocal and instrumental music for a variety of skill levels and interests. The district piloted the curriculum at Longfellow Elementary this school year and after a successful pilot, the board voted to implement Quaver Music at all elementary schools for the 2020-2021 school year.

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