The Practices Circus is an introductory activity that builds familiarity with the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs) of the NGSS. Participants will visit stations with sample activities and try to identify the main practice highlighted in each one. The stations are fairly simple, so this is just a surface level look at the practices, but it’s an excellent starting point to build a foundation for deeper exploration later on.
There are a few key points that should come out of this experience and discussion. Participants start to recognize the interconnection of the practices. As they try to identify the main practice at each station, they see that there are often other practices present that support or lead into each other. Practices never really exist in isolation.
Another message is the importance of intentionality. For example, when we ask students to graph their data, we should have a clear intention as to why they are doing this. Is the purpose of the graph to analyze and interpret the data? Or is the purpose to communicate something about the data to someone else? Don’t just make graphs out of habit; think about why we’re doing it and what students are learning from it. Intentionality is key to many aspects of the NGSS.
Some of the stations in this activity are fairly clear as to which practice is targeted, but others are deliberately ambiguous to spark discussion. During the group discussion, don’t be afraid to let teachers disagree about their answers. If they can’t decide between two practices, ask how they could shift the activity to intentionally target one or the other.
Note that if this activity is the first time participants are encountering the practices, it can be a bit overwhelming. Participants will be most successful if they have at least been introduced to the practices beforehand.