CVUSD’s NGSS Mentor Program Supports Science Curriculum Learning

Ashley Cooper and Rhonda Frohn are passionate about science, and collaboration. Both Thousand Oaks High School science teachers, they can now also be found on elementary school campuses across the Conejo Valley. The reason? The new CVUSD Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) Mentor Program, a program they spearheaded.

The NGSS Mentor Program is a teacher-driven and teacher-dependent collaboration of secondary science educators who are dedicated to sharing their knowledge and experiences with elementary colleagues in an effort to support science instruction across K-12 grade levels.

It’s essentially, science learning in action – which the duo recently demonstrated during a visit to an Aspen Elementary School first grade classroom where they modeled a lesson on space and robots. This lesson was as much for the students as it was for their elementary teacher colleague. The lesson not only explored science topics, it also showcased the pacing, and embedded strategies necessary to promote student inquiry-based questioning techniques which are critical to students successfully mastering the new NGSS.

As science teachers at the high school level, Ms. Cooper and Ms. Frohn felt confident in their scope of science understanding for the new NGSS because they teach science all day, every day. However, as they examined the NGSS performance expectations, which requires teachers to dive deeper into content than ever before in order to be successfully implemented, they realized that their elementary colleagues may need additional support since they teach all content areas – not just science, and the idea for the NGSS Mentor Program was born.

Ms. Cooper and Ms. Frohn formed a team with two elementary teachers, Jennifer Mutch and Julie Sutton, in an effort to provide support through vertical teaming of high school teachers with elementary teachers to implement NGSS. The high school teachers were content experts and could find the relevant science material and effective pedagogical strategies. Where the elementary teachers helped keep the content at a grade appropriate level.

“The collective knowledge and classroom experiences of the NGSS Mentor team spans life, earth space science, physical science and with many disciplines covered. This way we can lend our know-how to our colleagues in an easy to understand and easy to implement fashion,” said Ms. Cooper and Ms. Frohn. “Our goal is to have our Mentors reach all the elementary schools in the District and to keep working with the teachers until they feel confident, not with just implementation of curriculum, but also with designing their own curriculum.”

Mentors meet weekly to discuss goals and collaborative strategies to ease implementation of NGSS-based, student-centered inquiry lessons. The Mentors also meet with their selected schools in whole group, as well as grade-level teams or individually, to review the three dimensions of NGSS, share lessons to meet new student performance expectations, and collaborate in the elementary classroom to actively model science instruction through the lens of NGSS. 

“Our greatest objective is to build capacity with our elementary colleagues so they feel comfortable to contact us when they need anything to do with NGSS curriculum, lessons, or assessments,” said Ms. Cooper and Ms. Frohn.

This innovative Mentor Model utilizes classroom science specialists to support colleagues side-by-side in an effort to improve science education while building professional capital Districtwide to achieve collective efficacy.

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