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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CSTA Annual Conference Early Bird Rates End July 14

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

Teachers engaged in workshop activity

Teachers engaging in hands-on learning during a workshop at the 2016 CSTA conference.

Don’t miss your chance to register at the early bird rate for the 2017 CSTA Conference – the early-bird rate closes July 14. Need ideas on how to secure funding for your participation? Visit our website for suggestions, a budget planning tool, and downloadable justification letter to share with your admin. Want to take advantage of the early rate – but know your district will pay eventually? Register online today and CSTA will reimburse you when we receive payment from your district/employer. (For more information on how that works contact Zi Stair in the office for details – 916-979-7004 or zi@cascience.org.)

New Information Now Available On-line:

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.

Goodbye Outgoing and Welcome Incoming CSTA Board Members

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Jill Grace

Jill Grace, CSTA President, 2017-2019

On July 1, 2017 five CSTA members concluded their service and four new board members joined the ranks of the CSTA Board of Directors. CSTA is so grateful for all the volunteer board of directors who contribute hours upon hours of time and energy to advance the work of the association. At the June 3 board meeting, CSTA was able to say goodbye to the outgoing board members and welcome the incoming members.

This new year also brings with it a new president for CSTA. As of July 1, 2017 Jill Grace is the president of the California Science Teachers Association. Jill is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, a former middle school science teacher, and is currently a Regional Director with the K-12 Alliance @ WestEd where she works with California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative districts and charter networks in the San Diego area.

Outgoing Board Members

  • Laura Henriques (President-Elect: 2011 – 2013, President: 2013 – 2015, Past President: 2015 – 2017)
  • Valerie Joyner (Region 1 Director: 2009 – 2013, Primary Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Mary Whaley (Informal Science Education Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Sue Campbell (Middle School/Jr. High Director: 2015 – 2017)
  • Marcus Tessier (2-Year College Director: 2015 – 2017)

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.

Finding My Student’s Motivation of Learning Through Engineering Tasks

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Huda Ali Gubary and Susheela Nath

It’s 8:02 and the bell rings. My students’ walk in and pick up an entry ticket based on yesterday’s lesson and homework. My countdown starts for students to begin…3, 2, 1. Ten students are on task and diligently completing the work, twenty are off task with behaviors ranging from talking up a storm with their neighbors to silently staring off into space. This was the start of my classes, more often than not. My students rarely showed the enthusiasm for a class that I had eagerly prepared for. I spent so much time searching for ways to get my students excited about the concepts they were learning. I wanted them to feel a connection to the lessons and come into my class motivated about what they were going to learn next. I would ask myself how I could make my class memorable where the kids were in the driver’s seat of learning. Incorporating engineering made this possible. 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 California NGSS k-8 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.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Unveils Updated Recommended Literature List

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson unveiled an addition of 285 award-winning titles to the Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list.

“The books our students read help broaden their perspectives, enhance their knowledge, and fire their imaginations,” Torlakson said. “The addition of these award-winning titles represents the state’s continued commitment to the interests and engagement of California’s young readers.”

The Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list is a collection of more than 8,000 titles of recommended reading for children and adolescents. Reflecting contemporary and classic titles, including California authors, this online list provides an exciting range of literature that students should be reading at school and for pleasure. Works include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama to provide for a variety of tastes, interests, and abilities. Learn More…

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.

Teaching Science in the Time of Alternative Facts – Why NGSS Can Help (somewhat)

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn

The father of one of my students gave me a book: In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood by Walt Brown, Ph. D. He had heard that I was teaching Plate Tectonics and wanted me to consider another perspective. The book offered the idea that the evidence for plate tectonics could be better understood if we considered the idea that beneath the continent of Pangaea was a huge underground layer of water that suddenly burst forth from a rift between the now continents of Africa and South America. The waters shot up and the continents hydroplaned apart on the water layer to their current positions. The force of the movement pushed up great mountain ranges which are still settling to this day, resulting in earthquakes along the margins of continents. This had happened about 6,000 years ago and created a great worldwide flood. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.