May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Achieving Success with Common Core Through Community

Posted: Monday, October 19th, 2015

By Angelica E. Gunderson

As we take on the new school year and think about the shifts we are committing to make towards the Next Generation Science Standards, I have found it beneficial to read about the work that various teachers, schools, and districts are engaging in. I would like to toss my own stone in this ocean of knowledge and hopefully create my own ripples of change by sharing some of the strategies and successes happening at the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District.

In the last two years, one of our main common goals has been to effectively and efficiently to integrate the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in all of our classrooms. NGSS and CCSS are the responsibility of language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, technology and English Language Development teachers alike. Our district has also taken the approach that the best way to achieve success is through forming and effectively participating in professional learning communities.

Through this work, we have found the connections of NGSS and CCSS to be symbiotic. As a seventh grade science teacher I personally saw the need for integrating language and mathematical literacies into my instruction in order to provide well-rounded and authentic science instruction. As an example, in order to have students create investigations, my instruction had to include guidance on: data collection, how to analyze and interpret data, researching related concepts, analyzing and summarizing texts, as well as communicating findings and citing resources. Through our collaboration, we have agreed that in order to truly engage our students in rich scientific and engineering practices, we need to incorporate the literacy skills presented in the CCSS.

One of the ways we have integrated CCSS and NGSS is by looking at specific strategies and making sure they are being used similarly across different content areas. Take for example close readings. I have personally participated in professional development sessions at my school in which science and language arts teachers discussed how to carry out a close reading for informational texts. At the end, we walked away with resources and routines our students would use in their language arts and science class. So when I went back and implemented it in my science classroom, I felt like I was speaking a familiar language and was not faced by the look of confusion students often have when we ask them to apply a language arts skill in a science class. We did the same for mathematical and computational thinking strategies. Math and science teachers have collaborated on how to conduct a “Launch, Explore, Summarize” lessons. I found it to be very similar to the BSCS 5E Instructional Model because it presents students with a mathematical problem that they address through exploration, collaboration, and explanation of their thinking process. By actively participating in developing professional learning communities at our school, I have found that sharing what we do in our classes for certain topics and skills helps us avoid reinventing the wheel.

The abundance of resources out there to help guide our work has made a significant impact on our progress. The Teaching Channel has been an essential guide used by our district to showcase the implementation of NGSS and CCSS across the country. Being able to watch how real teachers are implementing these new standards in their classrooms has allowed me to get a better picture of what it should look like in my own classroom. That is how I learned more about the “Launch, Explore, Summarize” model for looking at mathematical and computational thinking in my science class.

Two resources worth mentioning are Appendix L and Appendix M in Next Generation Science Standards. For some of our collaboration sessions, these have been valuable keystones for clarifying and directing our work. Appendix L contains a well-organized and detailed outline of when certain math topics are taught. It also spells out the connections between the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and NGSS with a few examples that have helped me personally get ideas on how to improve my instruction. Appendix M presents the connections of NGSS to the Common Core State Standards for Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects. Like Appendix L, it contains descriptions that clarify how the CCSS relate to science and engineering practices. We are currently anticipating the publication of the California Science Framework, because it will help refine our work.

At Norwalk -La Mirada Unified, we have taken the awareness phase of NGSS to heart. Our leadership and a good number of teachers across different content areas have truly dedicated themselves to creating a sense of empowerment. For me, this has been a simple and manageable way to effectively implement the Next Generation Science Standards with the Common Core State Standards and I look forward for what else is to come.


Angelica E. Gunderson is a seventh grade science teacher at Los Alisos Middle School and is a member of CSTA. She can be reached at aegunderson@nlmusd.org.

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

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

Posted: 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!

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption Reviewer Application

Posted: 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). Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Lessons Learned from the NGSS Early Implementer Districts

Posted: 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. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Using Online Simulations to Support the NGSS in Middle School Classrooms

Posted: 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. Learn More…

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the NGSS Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

Celestial Highlights: May – July 2017

Posted: 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. Learn More…

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Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.