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Santa Fe Public School District Adopts ISEC as Official Science Curriculum

Santa Fe Public Schools (SFPS) officially adopted Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) Foundation’s Inquiry Science Education Consortium (ISEC) program as its core science curriculum for grades K‒5. The district has been using ISEC in classrooms since the program began in 2010, expanding to all of its elementary schools over time.

The ISEC program, funded by the LANL Foundation, serves 47 elementary schools in Northern New Mexico. ISEC trains teachers in an inquiry-based science curriculum that allows students to take the lead in working through explorations with emphasis on collaboration, creative problem solving, data collection, journal writing and academic discourse.

“It is exciting to see the partnership between Santa Fe Public Schools and the LANL Foundation flourish to support science teachers and the use of ISEC kits across Northern New Mexico. The ISEC kits support teachers guiding science activities that embrace New Mexico STEM Ready! Science Standards. We are fortunate to have regional collaborative efforts in elevating science education in Northern New Mexico,” said Peter McWain, SFPS Director of Curriculum and Instruction.

The program was aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in 2016, prior to new standards adoption by the state. In the 2019–2020 school year, a total of about 600 ISEC teachers will serve 12,000 students across eight districts and in four Pueblos. Grade-specific experiential learning materials are delivered directly to each classroom free of charge. SFPS also collaborated with the LANL Foundation to offer an ISEC teacher make-up training this fall to any participating school. More than 30 teachers from districts around Northern New Mexico attended. SFPS offered the Sept. 7 training for new teachers and those changing grade level from the prior year who were unable to attend one of two four-day sessions at Northern New Mexico College in Española or El Camino Real Academy in Santa Fe provided by the LANL Foundation during summer break.

“I love it because the students have to learn how to think,” said Thomas “Bart” Ramey, a second-grade teacher at Atalaya Elementary School. “There’s no substantive learning without a substantive student relationship, and the ISEC program allows you to build those relationships.”

Catalina Crestinger, a first-year fifth-grade teacher at Amy Biehl Community School, said the training was more helpful than others she had received in college.
“This allows me to work with the materials,” she said. “I usually don’t like working with a lot of curriculum and want to create my own.  But I feel comfortable with the ISEC program, it gives you enough time to teach the content.”

Photo: 4th grade ISEC teachers from Northern New Mexico receive training on an inquiry science lesson on topography that they are teaching their students this year.