K-12 coordinator earns national science-based accreditation

Tuesday, April 12, 2022 | Written by Greg Tammen


OLATHE — Martha Nowak, K-12 coordinator at Kansas State University's Olathe campus, recently received an OpenSciEd micro-certification through BloomBoard.

OpenSciEd is a collaboration among science educators, curriculum developers, teachers and philanthropic foundations to improve science education through the development and use of high-quality, freely available, science instructional materials for K-12 classrooms.

The materials, which align to the Next Generation of Science Standards, emphasize hands-on discovery about a scientific topic or problem rather than textbook memorization of definitions, causes and effects. This lets students make sense of the material, imparts a deeper understanding about the subject and helps them build skills scientists and engineers rely on.

OpenSciEd members, such as Nowak, work with teachers, science curriculum developers, school districts and the science education community to develop, test and refine these robust, research-based instructional materials.

"This approach enables all students, no matter what their previous science experiences are, to join the conversation," said Nowak said. "In phenomenon-based learning, everyone experiences the same phenomenon, all students have a voice, all explain their view of what causes the phenomenon and equity becomes a reality in the learning environment.

"'Talk Moves' by teachers motivate students to be responsible for finding out the answers to everyday language," Nowak continued. "Teaching has evolved to a higher level of sophistication. We're not just the source of answers anymore. We provide an environment where all students are motivated to develop skills to solve real world problems."

In order to receive OpenSciEd certification, Nowak completed an 18-month development process that included external reviews and rigorous field tests and revisions of a prototype instructional module she developed with colleagues.

She graduated from the program in December 2021.

Nowak, a former 7th-12th grade science teacher, has been with K-State Olathe since 2010, meeting with the numerous Greater Kansas City and metro area school districts and supporting them with materials and activities that align with the Next Generation of Science Standards. Some of the annual activities she is involved in include the Willie and the Salad Bonanza leafy greens growing contest, Microsoft DigiGirlz, Veterinary Medicine Lecture Series, STEM summer camps for middle school students, and One Health Summer Online Course for high school juniors and seniors.

She also hosts a quarterly Science Facilitators Luncheon and Roundtable for Greater Kansas City area science coordinators and has given presentations about OpenSciEd standards to the Shawnee Mission School District and Piper High School in Kansas City, Kansas.

On April 23, Nowak will host KATS Kamp at K-State Olathe. The event will focus on problem-based learning, or PBL, and the OpenSciEd platform. It will include a panel discussion with campus researchers about their interdisciplinary approach to phenomenon work and observations. Graduate credit will be available to attendees.

OpenSciEd is backed by funders that include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Learn more about Nowak and K-State Olathe's efforts in K-12 at olathe.k-state.edu/academics/programs-k12/activities/.