Blinding Me with Science

Students presenting arctic plant prototype

Walk the halls of Hopkins School and you just might find yourself immersed in scientific discovery and engineering. From students actively engaged in designing water filters in the classroom to prototypes of plants designed to withstand the arctic sprouting up in the hallways, you will observe the young scientists at Hopkins hard at work. 

What force of nature is propelling their inquiry?

In 2016, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released new a Science and Technology/ Engineering Curriculum Framework based on the Next Generation Science Standards. The new framework, which views science learning as three-dimensional, integrates domain content knowledge, the big ideas that transcend science domains, and the practice of scientific and engineering processes.

MA Science Technology/Engineering Foundations

MA Science Technology/Engineering Foundations

This year, Hopkins rolled out the new framework with the adoption of STEMScopes NGSS curriculum. The STEMScopes digital platform allows students to engage in authentic problems and apply scientific principles to help them understand the natural world. In their study of matter and energy in plants, 5th-grade students were challenged to design a plant that could thrive in the arctic tundra.

Touted by STEMScopes as a one to two-hour activity, science teachers took the task to varying extremes — from a quick prototype design to a problem-based learning experience guided by an expert botanist. All iterations of the challenge showcased the new three-dimensional learning and then some. In addition to the physical prototypes, many students created digital artifacts to present their designs.

Ms. Kaufman’s students worked with an expert botanist to refine their designs and then presented using Google Slides.

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Ms. Tremblay’s students created videos of their plants while answering questions of essential needs.

Celebrating What Works

For teachers, experimenting with the new curriculum is a delicate balance and changing out all of their lessons would throw the system into chaos. To help maintain equilibrium, Hopkins science teachers integrated existing, tried and true inquiries alongside the new lessons. One such activity is the water filter design from the Boston Museum of Science Engineering is Elementary (EiE) Water, Water Everywhere unit. The environmental engineering challenge specifically addresses the Earth and Human Activity standard 5-ESS3-2(MA). Test a simple system designed to filter particulates out of water and propose one change to the design to improve it. This EiE activity embodies the spirit of the three dimensions while engaging its spirited scientists.

A team of scientists in Mrs. Wilkie’s class runs their first trial.

As the new Science Technology/Engineering Framework takes hold at Hopkins, budding scientists will continue to bloom. The district’s commitment to STEAM education and support of its outstanding science staff will ensure that all students have the nourishment they need to thrive.

By: Steph Doty
 Technology Integration Coordinator
 Hopkins School
 @BlendedTeaching / @HopkinsTechLib
 Cross-posted to

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