I began using an earlier edition of the Lab-Aids middle school science with two units at my school in 2008, with regular 7th and 8th grade classes, and decided it was almost better than chocolate. That year my students outperformed the other students at our school on the state standardized science tests. I explained the program to my principal and he found the funds for it to be used throughout our school. Other teachers at other schools in our district began to use it and this year we adopted the NGSS edition of Issues and Science for all of the middle schools in our district.
The best part of Issues and Science for my students is the relevance and the way they learn to think. Students are "on fire" when they are introduced to a phenomenon, and begin to ask questions and find answers for themselves through the sense-making embedded in the curriculum. There are so many "aha" moments with students of all levels and the satisfaction of learning something that they themselves discovered and have now made sense of that it makes science real, fun, and exciting for them!
The student work with Issues and Science is different from a traditional classroom in that it contains real and relevant data in many forms that are centered around the guiding question in each activity. They start each activity with a question and all the work they do actively centers around their search for the answer. The science notebooks my students keep are filled with observations, possible explanations, data tables, experiments they designed, analyses of the data, group collaborations, revisions of experiments and writing and reading in the context of science while trying to make sense of a phenomenon.
For me as a teacher, I love how excited the students are to learn with Issues and Science. They come in to my class curious and wanting to do the day's activities, ready to discuss, argue, design, test and learn to think (all of the requirements for NGSS). Additionally, the program is accurate, field-tested, and leads students through the content in a cohesive manner that allows them to do the activity before the content is introduced (ABC - Activity Before Content). I also really appreciate that I have ALL of the materials I need in the drawers, online portal access with teacher content and resources for me and the students, and great support. Lab-Aids/ SEPUP representatives answers questions that come up, help solve any problems there may be with implementation, and the PD training is from real teachers that use the program!
Issues and Science totally supports the NGSS. It sometimes seems that Issues in Science was written in conjunction with NGSS. In every unit there are references to the Disciplinary Core Ideas, links to the Cross Cutting Concepts and the Engineering and Design Practices are actually practiced. All of NGSS is embedded throughout the entire curriculum and it is pointed out explicitly in the Teacher's Edition what is covered where in the Student Book, each activity, Teacher's Edition, and even in the assessments for each unit.
The biggest shift in my teaching is that I no longer run the classroom, I am now the facilitator and organizer of my students learning. I help the students understand content based on the activities they do! It is fun and I have very few discipline problems because we are always learning and doing!
The biggest shift in my students learning when using Issues and Science is their ability to think and solve problems and understand that data is something that does not always give RIGHT answers! They have learned to collaborate in a group, realize that they are more capable than they sometimes think they are, and understand that there are trade offs in every decision that is made. Students also realize the importance and relevance of science in their daily lives. A bonus is it is really fun way to learn, for both the teacher and the students.