Article | The Patriot Ledger

Weymouth pilots new middle school science curriculm

Read the article in the Patriot Ledger about Weymouth’s Chapman Middle School piloting OpenSciEd.

Weymouth pilots new middle school science curriculm

By Jessica Trufant
The Patriot Ledger

Posted Jan 16, 2020 at 3:16 PM
WEYMOUTH — Eighth graders in Tina Conte’s science classroom looked at a chart tracking the weight of a 13-year-old girl named M’Kenna from Texas who is suffering from an undetermined illness.

After analyzing the data and tracking M’Kenna’s weight loss, students rattled off the questions they’d need to consider to help solve the medical dilemma: Did M’Kenna change her diet? Does she have any allergies? Had she started exercising more?

Conte is one of five science teachers at Chapman Middle School piloting a new curriculum called OpenSciEd that relies on investigation, collaboration and discovery — rather than traditional lecture and memorization — to teach science. National and local experts developed the curriculum guided by a steering committee of 10 states, including Massachusetts. Weymouth is one of seven districts participating in the three-year pilot, which proponents say has the potential to revolutionize science education. Five of the school’s 10 seventh and eighth grade science teachers are part of the pilot.

Massachusetts Secretary of Education James Peyser, Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley and other education officials visited several classrooms at Chapman on Wednesday and met with educators to hear about OpenSciEd and how it’s playing out in the classroom.

Weymouth Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Director Terri Fleming said the “biggest win” of the curriculum is that it gets students talking to other students about science and building on knowledge to solve problems.

“When you look at it as a philosophy for student learning, it’s a no-brainer,” she said, adding that it encourages 21st-century problem solving. “It’s what colleges are asking for. It’s what corporations are looking for,” she said.

The One8 Foundation helped support the pilot, which requires training for teachers because it involves a new approach to learning.

Conte said students use trial-and-error learning and build on concepts they already know to discover new information.

Students are engaged in the curriculum because they can relate to it, he said. The unit on solving M’Kenna’s illness started with students listening to an audio recording of the fictional student describing her symptoms and explaining that she can’t play sports.

“They can internalize it a lot more than if they were just reading a book and following a curriculum. They like to feel like they could be talking about themselves, and that helps them understand it better,” she said. “It allows for the opportunity to be thoughtful and to think outside the box.”

Eighth grade teacher Amanda Thompson said OpenSciEd is a big shift in how teachers teach. Traditionally, she said she would have stood up at the front of the classroom and lectured, including introducing definitions and concepts and giving the history of the scientists who discovered them. With the new curriculum, Thompson said teaching means asking questions and encouraging students to answer them using problem solving and investigation.

“It’s not about turning the page, but understanding through doing,” she said.

Jessica Trufant can be reached by email at

You might also be interested in