Teacher Voice: How Polk County District Created Their Science FlexBooks

February 23, 2015 | admin

miltDr. Milton Huling, Curriculum Specialist for Elementary Science at Polk County Schools. As a classroom teacher, Milt has taught physics and earth  science at the high school level. He has also taught physics and middle school comprehensive science in a virtual school setting. Milt has been a  Curriculum Specialist for Secondary Science and is currently the Curriculum Specialist for Elementary Science in a district serving over 100,000  students. Milt has presented at regional and national conferences.

I am proud to announce the creation of our own standards-aligned digital textbook. The switch to the Polk County’s Elementary Science Textbook using the CK-12 platform is a game changer for Polk County.  At present, every Polk County student in grades 4th and 5th now has access to a science textbook 24/7 without the need to carry a bulky book. Furthermore, Elementary Science in Polk County is no longer dependent on costly textbooks that may not align to our instructional sequence.

This journey began when I started making inquiries to CK-12 about elementary science material. It seemed like a natural progression to have elementary science, given CK-12’s vast array of secondary material for both science and math. As CK-12 did not have a large library of elementary science textbooks available or in progress, I took that as a challenge to do my part and build my own.

With encouragement and support from the CK-12 staff, I began to develop elementary materials. Fortunately, I had a great basis already at my fingertips with CK-12’s Middle School Flexbooks:

I only needed to modify some content and adjust the readability to make it suitable for younger students. While it should still be considered a work in progress, the fourth and fifth grade textbooks are now available. Check them out!

Having a textbook aligned to not only our State standards, but our own local curriculum sequence, is very powerful. For example, a few weeks ago, one of our science coaches needed additional text to support an inquiry lesson on weather tools she was constructing. The current version of our CK-12 book did not fully support what she envisioned. After an hour of writing, our textbook now completely accommodates her new lesson. This lesson, with the inclusion of the new section of CK-12 text, is now part of our essential lesson sequence for the district. Being able to make immediate changes to meet the needs of the learner is the true power of a CK-12 Flexbook.

Within our district, some schools have decided to print the textbook and provide a copy to every child. Using our in-house print shop, the price was less than $1.50 per student!  The students now own this textbook. They are able to write in it to answer included questions or jot notes in the margin. This is something new for teachers used to having to use textbooks for six years or more. Other schools have students access it electronically through our student science site. More recently, our fourth and fifth grade CK-12 Flexbook was used in the construction of online grade recovery courses.

Our plans are to continue this effort by improving our fourth and fifth grade textbooks and also to create a third grade textbook. I would encourage other districts to collaborate in the development of more elementary resources.  As we are all walking this same path to improve the academic achievement of our students with fewer and fewer dollars, it makes sense to work together and become part of the solution. After seeing the benefits of Flexbooks, I am committed to move forward in helping to develop more resources for elementary science. I am proud to be a partner with CK-12.