Litchfield High School entrance

Litchfield High School

After nearly two decades, Litchfield High School’s science curriculum will receive an update next school year.

That information was shared with Litchfield School Board members during their meeting last week by Litchfield Middle School Principal Chelsea Brown.

Official adoption is July 1, and it includes eight-year plans for both middle school and high school science classrooms.

Amplify Science, the new middle school curriculum, includes hands-on investigations and interactive digital tools designed to get students to “think, read, write and argue like real scientists and engineers,” Brown wrote in a memo to the board.

At the high school, students will learn from McGraw Hill Science, a curriculum designed to encourage their curiosity through real-world science examples. “Students investigate, problem-solve, argue, and discuss scientific phenomena to make sense of the world from their perspective,” Brown wrote, adding that the curriculum is organized around the 5Es of instruction — engage, explore, explain, elaborate and evaluate.

Litchfield’s curriculum change comes as the state of Minnesota moves to Next Generation Science Standards science curriculum, a “huge adoption” that will affect what is taught at each grade level, according to Brown.

The Litchfield change is huge in its own right, because high school teachers report they are using a science curriculum that is 18 years old.

“It’s so exciting to be moving to a new curriculum next year,” Brown said.

Moving to the new curriculum included a needs assessment, looking at the new state standards and contacting other school districts in the state to see what they were using. Brown said a visit with Edina Middle School teachers was especially meaningful for the Litchfield curriculum team.

Another element of the switch will be implementation of Project Lead the Way in Litchfield Middle School S.T.E.A.M. classrooms beginning with the 2021-2022 school year.

Through Project Lead the Way instructional modules in computer science, engineering and biomedical science, “students not only learn technical skills, but also learn to solve problems, think critically and creatively, communicate, and elaborate,” Brown wrote.

Darin Swenson, who will move from a high school social studies teaching position to teaching S.T.E.A.M. at the middle school, and Darin Pankratz, an industrial tech teacher at the middle school, will be trained this summer to begin teaching modules in “design and modeling” and “magic of electrons” beginning in the fall. Swenson also is creating a “video production/computer graphics/marketing” class for seventh-graders, Brown said, while eighth-graders will participate in a “robotics and coding” class.

Board member Michelle Falling congratulated Brown and the curriculum team for updating the curriculum.

“I think it’s really important,” said Falling, who works in human resources at Doosan Bobcat in Litchfield. “I applaud you for doing the work.”

Brown said that as she and others look to the future they see an opportunity to bring community members into the classroom to talk about real-world uses of science and technology in their jobs.

Board member Greg Mathews, a former LHS history teacher, asked whether an 18-year gap between curriculum updates was longer than it should be.

Brown agreed that it was, adding that teachers have done what they can, “pulling in different resources, buying materials” to keep their instruction current, “but there has not been a set curriculum to teach out of.”

“It’s exciting, because 18 years is way too long,” Brown said of the curriculum change. She added that it’s a goal to now review curriculum in all different areas every six years.