Innovative tools help teachers integrate science education standards

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (Dec. 10, 2015)—As science education standards change across the country, Van Andel Education Institute (VAEI) continues to stay ahead of the curve with a research-based instructional model and a powerful online instructional platform focused on bringing science to life for students.

“The instructional shifts envisioned in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and recently adopted state standards based on the NGSS demand a new way of teaching,” said Jim Nicolette, associate director of VAEI’s Science Academy. “This shift requires teachers to build content and concept understanding by engaging students in scientific practices. Students need to ‘do’ science rather than just learn about science.”

For over a decade, VAEI has been immersing teachers and students in a research-based instructional model called the Community of Scientific Practice, which was developed by Science Academy staff and based on the same research that is the foundation of the new science standards. In August, VAEI launched an innovative online platform, NexGen Inquiry™, to help teachers and administrators answer the question, “How do we get started on our journey of transforming science education?”

Built by teachers for teachers, NexGen Inquiry™ offers a unique set of Web-based tools to support the implementation of rigorous science education standards. The platform includes an online science investigation organizer for teachers and students, professional development, resources and a teacher community. Since launch, more than 1,200 teachers from all 50 states and seven countries have begun using the platform to chart a course for their journey.

“Recent updates to science standards in the U.S. introduce changes in education that are critical to students’ future academic and professional success,” said Nicolette. “NexGen Inquiry™ supports teachers in their efforts to utilize existing curricula and classroom resources to create learning environments that support a culture driven by practice-based scientific learning.”

Sammi Kempf, a science teacher at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Community School in Grand Rapids, Michigan, uses the Community of Practice model and NexGen Inquiry™ every day in class with her sixth through eighth-grade students.

“This approach has changed the way my students learn science in so many positive ways,” she said. “It creates opportunities for rich critical thinking and discussion. Students no longer want to be scientists, they actually ARE scientists.”

As a nonprofit institute, VAEI is able to offer NexGen Inquiry™ at an affordable cost to support school-wide and district-wide adoption or purchase by individual teachers. Click here for more information and to begin a free, 90-day trial.


Established by Jay and Betty Van Andel in 1996, Van Andel Institute (VAI) is an independent, research and educational organization based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, dedicated to preserving, enhancing and expanding the frontiers of medical science, and to achieving excellence in education by probing fundamental issues of education and the learning process. Through programs that provide hands-on, inquiry-based learning opportunities across the entire educational spectrum – from elementary through graduate school to the professional development level – Van Andel Education Institute (VAEI), VAI’s non-profit education arm, is dedicated to strengthening science education and preparing and motivating individuals to pursue science-related professions. 100% to Research, Discovery & Hope®

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