knowledge and use it across content
areas without prompting. Students regularly employ greater perseverance in
complex problem solving, application
of scientific concepts, and critical
thinking and can generate more creative solutions in the face of problem-based scenarios. These skills show
on state testing, too. Our students
score double to triple that of the state
averages for equivalent demographics.
We’re committed to maintaining
a balance between rigorous content
knowledge and the application of
that knowledge. In today’s fast-paced
world, you aren’t valued solely for
what you know, but for what you can
do with what you know, regardless
of your age. High-value intellectual
assets include the ability to effectively
and efficiently collaborate and communicate, and to combine knowledge
and skills in new and innovative
ways to tackle challenging and novel
problems. We aren’t proposing a new
curriculum. We’re proposing a new
approach to curriculum.
Consider the Next Generation
Science Standards. These standards
aren’t curriculum, and they don’t
pretend to be. Instead,
they provide a framework
for uniting cross-cutting
concepts, core disciplinary
ideas, and performance
expectations that describe
what students should be able
to do with what they have
learned (NGSS Lead States,
2013). These performance
expectations are built on
the eight science and engineering practices (fig. 2).
According to Schwarz,
Passmore, & Reiser (2017),
students make sense of the
natural and designed world
by engaging in practices
that are central to science
and engineering. In other
words, it is impossible to truly under-
stand science and engineering content
without engaging that content using
the practices of science and engi-
neering. It’s like trying to understand
and experience a peach without using
your mouth or hands. One without the
other will always be incomplete.
In essence, design thinking follows
this same logic. It is a distillation of
science and engineering practices;
it transcends science and engineering.
Students are isolated from access to
higher levels of rigor and relevance
when we don’t allow them to experience content through collaborative,
problem-based learning opportunities
that design-thinking models can
How do we design learning opportunities so that students remain actively
engaged even when they may struggle?
We should consider how content standards translate into opportunities that
are big enough for and relatable
enough to kids to matter, but small
enough for kids to tackle. To help students meet rigorous standards while
also developing 21st-century compe-tencies, we need to present them with
rigorous challenges that require them
to work together to apply content
knowledge and skills and that
empower them to influence the
Boss, S. (2012). Bringing innovation to
school: Empowering students to thrive
in a changing world. Bloomington, IN:
Solution Tree Press.
NGSS Lead States. (2013). Next generation
science standards: For states, by states.
Washington, DC: The National
Schwarz, C. V., Passmore, C.,
& Reiser, B. J. (2017). Helping
students make sense of the
world using next generation
science and engineering prac-
tices. Arlington, VA: NSTA
Jaunine Fouché (fouchej@
mhs-pa.org) is director of
STEAM and agricultural and
environmental education and
Joel Crowley (crowleyj@
mhs-pa.org) is the elementary
Innovation Lab specialist at
Milton Hershey School in
Follow Jaunine on Twitter
@kickkrowley, and the school
FIGURE 2. Eight Science and Engineering Practices
1. Ask questions (for science) and define
2. Develop and use models.
3. Plan and carry out investigations.
4. Analyze and interpret data.
5. Use mathematics and computational thinking.
6. Construct explanations (for science) and design
solutions (for engineering).
7. Engage in argument from evidence.
8. Obtain, evaluate, and communicate information.
Source: NGSS Lead States. (2013). Next generation science standards:
For states, by states. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press.
We want to give
the opportunity to
explore what they
can do with what
they know as early
as possible through