September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Participate in Chemistry Education Research Study, Earn $500-800 Dollars!

Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

WestEd, a non-profit educational research agency, has been funded by the US Department of Education to test a new molecular modeling kit, Happy Atoms. Happy Atoms is an interactive chemistry learning experience that consists of a set of physical atoms that connect magnetically to form molecules, and an app that uses image recognition to identify the molecules that you create with the set. WestEd is conducting a study around the effectiveness of using Happy Atoms in the classroom, and we are looking for high school chemistry teachers in California to participate.

As part of the study, teachers will be randomly assigned to either the treatment group (who uses Happy Atoms) or the control group (who uses Happy Atoms at a later date). Teachers in the treatment group will be asked to use the Happy Atoms set in their classrooms for 5 lessons over the course of the fall 2017 semester. Students will complete pre- and post-assessments and surveys around their chemistry content knowledge and beliefs about learning chemistry. WestEd will provide access to all teacher materials, teacher training, and student materials needed to participate.

Participating teachers will receive a stipend of $500-800. You can read more information about the study here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HappyAtoms

Please contact Rosanne Luu at rluu@wested.org or 650.381.6432 if you are interested in participating in this opportunity, or if you have any questions!

2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption Reviewer Application – Deadline Is July 21!

Monday, May 8th, 2017

The California Department of Education and State Board of Education are now accepting applications for reviewers for the 2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption. The application deadline is 3:00 pm, July 21, 2017. The application is comprehensive, so don’t wait until the last minute to apply.

On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson forwarded this recruitment letter to county and district superintendents and charter school administrators.

Review panel members will evaluate instructional materials for use in kindergarten through grade eight, inclusive, that are aligned with the California Next Generation Science Content Standards for California Public Schools (CA NGSS). (more…)

Lessons Learned from the NGSS Early Implementer Districts

Monday, May 8th, 2017

On March 31, 2017, Achieve released two documents examining some lessons learned from the California K-8 Early Implementation Initiative. The initiative began in August 2014 and was developed by the K-12 Alliance at WestEd, with close collaborative input on its design and objectives from the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education, and Achieve.

Eight (8) traditional school districts and two (2) charter management organizations were selected to participate in the initiative, becoming the first districts in California to implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Those districts included Galt Joint Union Elementary, Kings Canyon Joint Unified, Lakeside Union, Oakland Unified, Palm Springs Unified, San Diego Unified, Tracy Joint Unified, Vista Unified, Aspire, and High Tech High.

To more closely examine some of the early successes and challenges experienced by the Early Implementer LEAs, Achieve interviewed nine of the ten participating districts and compiled that information into two resources, focusing primarily on professional learning and instructional materials. (more…)

Using Online Simulations to Support the NGSS in Middle School Classrooms

Monday, May 8th, 2017

by Lesley Gates, Loren Nikkel, and Kambria Eastham

Middle school teachers in Kings Canyon Unified School District (KCUSD), a CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative district, have been diligently working on transitioning to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) integrated model for middle school. This year, the teachers focused on building their own knowledge of the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs). They have been gathering and sharing ideas at monthly collaborative meetings as to how to make sure their students are not just learning about science but that they are actually doing science in their classrooms. Students should be planning and carrying out investigations to gather data for analysis in order to construct explanations. This is best done through hands-on lab experiments. Experimental work is such an important part of the learning of science and education research shows that students learn better and retain more when they are active through inquiry, investigation, and application. A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2011) notes, “…learning about science and engineering involves integration of the knowledge of scientific explanations (i.e., content knowledge) and the practices needed to engage in scientific inquiry and engineering design. Thus the framework seeks to illustrate how knowledge and practice must be intertwined in designing learning experiences in K-12 Science Education” (pg. 11).

Many middle school teachers in KCUSD are facing challenges as they begin implementing these student-driven, inquiry-based NGSS science experiences in their classrooms. First, many of the middle school classrooms at our K-8 school sites are not designed as science labs. (more…)

Celestial Highlights: May – July 2017

Monday, May 8th, 2017

May Through July 2017 with Web Resources for the Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graphs of planet rising and setting times by Jeffrey L. Hunt.

In spring and summer 2017, Jupiter is the most prominent “star” in the evening sky, and Venus, even brighter, rules the morning. By mid-June, Saturn rises at a convenient evening hour, allowing both giant planets to be viewed well in early evening until Jupiter sinks low in late September. The Moon is always a crescent in its monthly encounters with Venus, but is full whenever it appears near Jupiter or Saturn in the eastern evening sky opposite the Sun. (In 2017, Full Moon is near Jupiter in April, Saturn in June.) At intervals of 27-28 days thereafter, the Moon appears at a progressively earlier phase at each pairing with the outer planet until its final conjunction, with Moon a thin crescent, low in the west at dusk. You’ll see many beautiful events by just following the Moon’s wanderings at dusk and dawn in the three months leading up to the solar eclipse. (more…)

Being an NGSS Teacher: Living with Uncertainty

Friday, May 5th, 2017

by Joseph Calmer

“Teaching with NGSS;” this phrase is becoming colloquial in our profession. The actual meaning of it is probably more amorphous than anyone would care to admit. I am going to explain how I “teach with NGSS” in this article. This diatribe is not meant to be the pathway to follow, just a simple path and an elucidation of how one teacher in California does it.

First off, there is a big philosophical assumption about the NGSS that one ought to have before trying to figure them out or attempt to practice NGSS’s tenets. The philosophical stance is built from the three tenets of How People Learn. This book says that learning occurs metacognitively, through conceptual frameworks, and is based on prior knowledge (Bransford, Brown et al. 1999). Most of us have heard these things a lot during our teaching lives, but one needs to truly embrace them. The other thing about the NGSS, which stands for “Next Generation Science Standards” (which truly are standards for the next generation), is that the clause: “All Standards, All Students” is not just a platitude but the actual, true intention. The standards are designed for all students to take them in school, not just the ones who sign up for specific courses (like the previous standards).  (more…)

Let’s Get Them Outside!

Friday, May 5th, 2017

by Jacquelyn Johansen

As a science teacher, I am lucky enough to be able to take my students to several outdoor venues where students have the opportunity to learn in a natural environment. This has been an invaluable part of their education experience: students can multiply their knowledge of field methods, make strides in their environmental stewardship, and learn to use NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards). Based on my observations of student learning in outdoor environments, I set out to find answers about how inquiry and participatory education opportunities affect the attitudes of students towards nature.

I surveyed students on two field trips to a local zoo and found they showed statistically significant increases in their connectedness to nature using the Nisbet Nature Relatedness Survey (Nisbet, et al, 2009). This survey included nature “experience” questions such as, “I take notice of wildlife wherever I am,” and “perspectives” questions such as, “I think a lot about the suffering of animals” (Nisbet, et al, 2009). Students also showed increases in the category of “self,” which included statements related to the entitlement of humans to resources such as, “humans have the right to use natural resources any way we want” (Nisbet, et al, 2009). This category seeks to distinguish individuals who feel a strong sense of environmental stewardship from those who are willing to take what they want without considering the cost to the world around them. Based on the results of these surveys, it has become clear to me that outdoor learning can be an integral part of a student’s educational experience.  (more…)

Who Do You Know that Represents the Best in All of US?

Friday, May 5th, 2017

by Lisa Hegdahl

We all know that person. The person that epitomizes professionalism, innovation, excellence, and perseverance. There is just something about them that drives them to go the extra mile and inspire those around them to give their best. Consider exercising your CSTA Membership benefit by nominating someone for one of several awards offered by CSTA – the Future Science Teacher Award, the Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, or the CSTA Distinguished Contributions Award (organizational award).

May 9, 2017 is the deadline for nominations for these awards. (more…)

CSTA Member Benefits

Friday, May 5th, 2017

by Sue Campbell

CSTA Logo

If you are like me you have memberships for several organizations, and if you are like me, you sometimes forget or don’t realize all the benefits you have as a member. CSTA members enjoy many benefits and access to resources not available to the general public.

Member benefits include discounts from outside sources, including:

  • Ticket discounts to the Monterey Bay Aquarium
  • Discounts at Office Depot/Office Max on supplies and copies
  • Discounts from Avis and Budget on car rentals

Members enjoy savings on conference registration and joint membership with NSTA.

Members also have access to many resources. The CSTA website has a link to member resources. You will find: (more…)

Thoughtful Use of Computer Simulations

Friday, May 5th, 2017

by Lisa Hegdahl

More teachers than ever before are making the transition to the CA NGSS and there are many resources available now to make that transition a smooth one. While we should embrace new ways of teaching our students, we should also be thoughtful consumers of the new information and technologies that come our way.

Computer simulations are a wonderful tool for facilitating CA NGSS instruction. Not only do they allow students to use 21st Century technology, but they also often allow students to explore scenarios that would not be possible in the traditional classroom. And, since the California Science Test (CAST) will be computer based, it makes sense that our students become comfortable with manipulating data with computerized platforms.

With that said, teachers should use computer based science simulations with prudence. In the early years of the CA NGSS adoption, I had the opportunity and honor to have an informal conversation with Helen Quinn. The conversation eventually turned to this very topic of utilizing computer simulations in the science classroom. While all for their practical uses, Dr. Quinn did express concerns that simulations are often too neat. Among others issues, the data that is produced often comes out too perfect (real world data is often messy) and there are limitations as to the variables that can be manipulated which can mislead students. (more…)

CA NGSS Implementation in Full Swing

Friday, May 5th, 2017

by Lisa Hegdahl core_ideas

If you have been teaching since Fall 2013 when the State Board of Education (SBE) adopted the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) as the new science standards for California, you have heard lots of words of encouragement – “Take your time implementing the standards,” “Full implementation is years away,” and “No one knows what NGSS looks like in the classroom.”
However, the transitional years of NGSS implementation have slipped away and much has changed in the CA science education landscape since 2013:

  • In 2013, there was no CA Science Curriculum Framework – in 2017, we have the Pre-Publication Version of new CA Science Curriculum Framework.
  • In 2013, there was no CA standardized science assessment aligned to the new standards – In 2017, we have a Pilot Test being administered in grades 5, 8, and high school.
  • In 2013, there were no districts in California implementing NGSS – In 2017, eight public school districts and two Charter management organizations are in their 3rd year of implementing CA NGSS via the California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative, and hundreds more are leveraging their LCAPs and LCFF funding to support implementation work.
  • In 2013, there were no vetted communication tools to inform about NGSS – In 2017, CA4NGSS has several toolkits to support communication with teachers and principals, parents, and district leaders. (Introductory webinar on the tools)
  • In 2013, there were no statewide professional development events centered around CA NGSS – In 2017, the CA NGSS Rollouts begin #4 of the series.

The Time to Implement CA NGSS Is Now 

While, as California educators, we are a long way from the “let’s wait and see” of 2013, we should be encouraged that much work has been done at the state, county, district, and classroom levels to produce a clearer idea of what NGSS implementation looks like for our students. (more…)

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