May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

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…)

Science Helps Build Language for All: An Early Implementer Perspective

Monday, March 13th, 2017

by Dave Tupper and Cecelia Ochoa

A fundamental principle in the CA Next Generation Science Standards (CA NGSS) is that students must use the three dimensions to understand and begin to explain specific phenomena and that the phenomena drive the science (CA Science Framework). If this is our goal, it becomes clear very quickly that the process of “figuring out” the phenomenon, developing understanding, and then sharing that new learning, is going to require language. (more…)

Equity and Access for All Students

Monday, March 13th, 2017

Reprinted, with permission and with edits, originally from the book “Navigating the Common Core with English Language Learners” by Larry Ferlazzo. Chapter 9 (page 315), on Science, was written by Laura Prival, Diana Vélez, Claudio Vargas, and Caleb Cheung 

As many states shift science instruction towards the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), it is imperative that educators look closely at whether equitable opportunities to learn and do science are available to all of our students. In Appendix D of the NGSS, “All Standards, All Students,” the writers make the case that these new standards and expectations are intended for every child in each of our classrooms. This means that no student shall be denied the experience of actually doing and learning science. To achieve this, we must teach in equitable ways. This is a central philosophy of the Oakland Unified School District that permeates all of our work, including our participation in the CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative. (more…)

Laying the Foundation: Our NGSS Journey of Getting Elementary School Students Ready for Middle School

Thursday, January 12th, 2017

by Kim Chanda, Janel Poon, and Richard Yang

Providing quality science instruction at the elementary level is an endeavor for many general education teachers. Although intimidating, science instruction in elementary school allows students to develop skills that will enable them to compete in an increasingly scientific and technological society. As California NGSS K-8 early Implementation Initiative Teacher Leaders for Aspire Public Schools, a charter organization that focuses on providing education for underserved students in low-income neighborhoods, Richard Yang and Kim Chanda are elementary science specialists, and Janel Poon is a 6th-grade middle school science teacher. (more…)

Read and Talk to Construct Science Knowledge

Thursday, January 12th, 2017

by Maralee Thorburn and Debra Schneider

Teachers in Tracy Unified School District, a CA NGSS Early Implementation Initiative district, recently participated in a lesson study where they planned a lesson to explore the behavior of waves in an 8th grade classroom, and had the opportunity to teach and debrief a portion of the lesson together.  They agreed to focus on reading and talk strategies to increase students’ learning; this was a challenge for teachers who were comfortable teaching science but not as comfortable in supporting ELA literacy standards. Teachers were pleased to discover that these strategies gave students time to think, reflect, and cement their learning. The result was rich, deep discussions as well as evidence of content knowledge retention weeks later. (more…)

NGSS Implementation: A Leap of Reason

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

by Jeff Schmitz

Any transformation in an organization, like a school or a district, can be a painstaking process of professional learning, creating buy-in, and fund sourcing. But the transformation swiftly gains momentum when individuals at the grassroots level begin jumping in with both feet. Our California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative Teacher Leaders in Vista Unified are starting to jump.

The jump is no mere leap of faith; it’s more like a “leap of reason.” Our Early Implementers spent time in the summer immersed in NGSS content and pedagogy under the tutelage of science education gurus from the K-12 Alliance and supporting institutions that include universities and other institutes of higher education. They also will participate in 2-day TLCs (Teaching Learning Collaborative) this academic year, lesson studies where NGSS-aligned lesson sequences are collaboratively planned, delivered, and evaluated for effectiveness. Consequently, Early Implementer teachers are developing a deeper understanding of how three-dimensional design, the 5E model of instruction, and phenomenon-based investigations align with how people learn. The NGSS makes sense to them, they are seeing how it makes better sense for students, and so it makes sense to make the leap. (more…)

Second Grade Seed Dispersal Engineers!

Monday, November 14th, 2016

by Nila Arensberg, Kristi Drake, Amanda Cloutier, and Pete A’Hearn

It’s time for the big test! Which seeds will stick to the animal’s fur?

It’s time for the big test! Which seeds will stick to the animal’s fur?

Second graders had worked hard on their engineering designs to make a lima bean that would be transported by sticking to an animal’s fur. The used wires, tape, Play-Doh©, staples, paperclips, foil, and paper to make their seed dispersal attachments.

This was the highlight of a lesson designed and taught by a team of second-grade teachers in Palm Springs Unified School District as part of the California Next Generation Science Standards K-8 Early Implementation Initiative. Our team used a lesson study process, designed by the K-12 Alliance, called a Teacher Learning Collaborative (TLC). As a team, we know that in elementary school, and especially early elementary, we need to find the strong connections between science and the Common Core standards. We set out to design an engaging lesson that would teach science and provide students with opportunities to engage in speaking and listening, writing, and reading. (more…)

Taking “Risks” with NGSS: A Growth Model for the Classroom

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

by Rachel Poland, Patricia Evans, and Jill Grace

As we entered the classroom to face a room full of 7th graders at Challenger Middle School in San Diego Unified School District, it was hard to tell who was more nervous, us or the students. Our journey had started the week before as we had gathered to plan our lesson study as a part of the California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative. The lesson study is made up of a “planning day” where a team of teachers plans a learning sequence and targets for a teaching day where they can use a 5-E lesson plan to teach (Bybee, 2014). Most of our lesson study experience thus far had been designed to engage or explore a topic. We knew that with this time we wanted to work towards honoring the vision of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) by focusing on student conceptual understanding and seeing how we could shift our instruction to be three-dimensional (3D) using the Science and Engineering Practices (SEP) and Crosscutting Concepts (CCC) to help students reach conceptual understanding of the Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCI). This required that students be near the end of a unit of study and in the explain phase of their lesson sequence, so the decision was made to conduct our lesson study with the students in Patricia Evans 7th grade classroom. (more…)

SciEd Side Bar: Let Them Figure It Out!

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

Supplement to: Poland, Evans, and Grace (2016), Taking Risks with NGSS: A Growth Model for the Classroom, California Classroom Science, (29)1.

“Every kid starts out as a natural-born scientist, and then we beat it out of them. A few trickle through the system with their wonder and enthusiasm for science intact.”

– Carl Sagan

There is a vast body of research that supports the notion that for students to develop deep conceptual understanding, we must put students in the driver seat of thinking. (more…)

Sensemaking Notebooks: Making Thinking Visible for Both Students and Teachers!

Friday, August 19th, 2016

by Karen Cerwin

“Students can’t yet write independently without basic sentence frames.  Their thoughts are usually bigger than what they can put on paper.” – Kindergarten Teacher

This quote works for everyone; our thoughts are usually bigger than what anyone can put on paper! Yet, our job as educators is to help students learn to communicate their thinking in meaningful ways. One strategy is to use science notebooks in the classroom in a way that aligns with how scientists use their notebooks in their daily work.

Scientists use notebooks as a “thinking journal” in which they record observations and thoughts about a phenomenon they are investigating. They propose ideas, research how others have thought about the phenomenon, do original investigations, edit and refine their thinking as they gather more data, generate more questions for further study. Scientist notebooks are living documents that reflect the author’s thinking.  Thus their notebooks are unique and individual to that scientist’s ideas. (more…)

Cross Cutting to the Concepts (Or How My Own Use and Understanding of CCC’s Evolved)

Monday, June 20th, 2016

by Rob Sherriff 

Many of you have jumped into turning at least some of your lessons into NGSS three-dimensional (3D) lessons, or you may be using an NGSS lesson/unit from a training or workshop. The Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCIs) are similar to our old content standards, so for most, implementing the DCIs are the easiest to do. Similarly, for the SEPs, or science and engineering practices, many of you say, “That’s just good teaching!” Practices are the way students learn the science and NGSS incorporates a practice for each standard, but you will find that “practices build on practices.” If you used scientific inquiry for students to discover scientific principals as integral of your science program, you are probably viewing the SEPs as a way to refine what you were doing. That leaves Crosscutting Concepts (CCC), the part of 3D learning that has taken me the longest to wrap my head around on how to implement.  So, here is my CCC journey.  Implementing CCC’s in my learning sequences has increased my appreciation of the power of the CCC’s in causing my students to make connections to and between content DCI’s. (more…)

Taking It to the Field—Where Students Become the Experts

Monday, June 20th, 2016

by Nancy Taylor, David Polcyn, and Terrie Perez

Most teachers would agree that field experiences are invaluable teaching tools.  Given that, at the 2015 CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative south summer institute held in Vista, CA, just north of San Diego and a couple of miles inland from the Pacific Ocean, we took advantage of nearby Batiquitos Lagoon, one of the few remaining tidal wetlands in southern California.  Besides being a beautiful site and an exceptional educational destination, the lagoon is undergoing a restoration project to maintain the integrity of the coastal wetlands and to mitigate human impact on this precious ecosystem. Instead of engaging the help of one of the local experts, the “students” (southern California 7th grade teachers, in this case) became the experts and led the field trip themselves.  At this point, you might be asking “how do students become the experts?”  The answer is through three-dimensional learning supported by the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) using a method that could easily be duplicated by a classroom teacher. (more…)

Practical Tools to Begin Implementing the NGSS in a First Grade Classroom

Friday, May 13th, 2016

by Crystal Howe, Nicole Hawke, and William Straits:

Across the state, during the summer of 2016, hundreds of teachers of NGSS “Early Implementers” schools participated in professional development institutes designed to help teachers better understand NGSS and science pedagogy. During a week-long summer institute, we worked with 1st grade teachers to explore sound and light waves, while highlighting practical tools to help implement NGSS in classrooms. These tools included a KLEWS chart (Hershberger & Zembal-Saul, 2015) to focus science learning, a field trip structured to create opportunities for students to share their science thinking, and the Engineering Design Cycle from Appendix I of NGSS. (more…)

Activity Mania, This Is Not!

Friday, April 8th, 2016

by Terry Shanahan

In preparation for the summer 2015 Southern California K-8 NGSS Early Implementation Institute in Vista, our grade 2 cadre of science educators from elementary, secondary, and the university, planned a week of science investigations around matter and its interactions. Of course, we began our planning with the question, “What would you expect a second grader to know about matter?” After our quick write, we began our conceptual flow, using post-its for each of our statements. We then checked our conceptual flow against “A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Cross-Cutting Concepts, and Core Ideas”. Had we left out any important concepts? Our biggest idea became: Matter is observable and it is not created or destroyed even as it changes form. Our conceptual flow moved from left to right: concrete to abstract. Our smaller ideas and the concepts we found in the Framework document later became the guiding statement for each day of our institute: (more…)

From Hot Asphalt to Solar Radiation

Monday, March 14th, 2016

by Philip Hudec

Imagine a group of sixth graders, challenging one another to see who can sit on the asphalt the longest, on a hot August day at a middle school in the Palm Springs Unified School District, where temperatures can reach 115° F. (This may sound crazy to you but believe me, students in our district really do this!) Our students know that it is hotter in the desert than in most other places.They know that if they stick to the white lines of the black top, they are less likely to burn their feet. They know that when splashing water on the pool deck, it will be cool enough, even if only for a few minutes, to sit on.

What they don’t know is why these facts are true. (more…)

The Big Idea Page: A Creative Way to Emphasize the Crosscutting Concepts for Three Dimensional Learning

Monday, February 8th, 2016

by Jennifer Weibert

Making three-dimensional learning a reality in the classroom of teachers starting to implement the NGSS can be a struggle. In many cases, the Crosscutting Concepts are often an afterthought. According to A Framework for K-12 Science Education, “…the purpose of the Crosscutting Concepts is to help students deepen their understanding of the disciplinary core ideas, and develop a coherent and scientifically based view of the world” (NRC, 2012). This is achieved via the Crosscutting Concepts, “because they provide an organizational schema for interrelating knowledge from various science fields into a coherent and scientifically based view of the world” (Achieve, 2016). The NGSS were designed for all three dimensions (Science and Engineering Practices, Disciplinary Core Ideas, and Crosscutting Concepts) to work together allowing the teacher to create an environment where students make sense of real world phenomena. To measure the success of this in an NGSS aligned classroom, teachers need access to evidence of student understanding and thinking. The Big Idea Page was my solution for that. (more…)

An Early Implementer Teaching Learning Collaborative: Connecting Science and Literature

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

by Karen Cerwin

“I used to let myself get stuck on what my students don’t know instead of asking how I connect with what they do know. Every student has his or her own understanding and knowing where each student is at is challenging. Now I know that I have a responsibility in orchestrating student understanding. Working with my colleagues increases the effectiveness of my lesson design, my teaching practice, and my student learning.” — TLC participant

The Teaching Learning Collaborative (TLC), a K-12 Alliance professional development strategy for lesson study, began 20 years ago as a way for teams of teachers who attended institutes to apply their learning in the classroom. TLCs focus on identifying specific learning goals (content) that students should know and understand, and designing a learning sequence which helps students produce quality work. (more…)

Planning STEM-Based Professional Development – A Behind the Scenes Look

Friday, December 11th, 2015

by Myra Pasquier

Committing to the planning of 15+ hours of teacher professional development in Science content for the California NGSS Early Implementer Institute that took place in Vista, California last summer was a daunting task. One major advantage was the collaboration that took place between my team members – Stephen Tsui, PhD, physics professor at California State University, San Marcos, and Kathryn Schulz, Regional Director of the San Diego Science Project. Our mission: put together a 5th Grade Physical Science content story line (also known as a Conceptual Flow) featuring the structure and properties of matter and its interactions. The story needed to be aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for both Mathematics and Language Arts, modeling the cross-curricular elements of (STEM) education.

With our mission envelope tucked under our arm, we started the brainstorming process of developing a Conceptual Flow for our story that would unfold for the teachers. With piles of multi-colored sticky notes, chart paper, and sharpies as our tools we embarked on our task. Different sized concept notes scattered the chart paper and were in constant motion as we debated back and forth about their placement in the story. Were the concepts appropriate for our objectives? Did they make the story flow and be seamless? Was the story complete with a beginning, a middle, and an end? As hours went by, and the Conceptual Flow began to take shape, a sense of euphoria grew from a combination of fatigue and exhilaration at our accomplishments. And this was just the beginning. (more…)

Using Phase Changes to Remove Contaminants from Water

Thursday, November 12th, 2015

by Ellen Raco

Water, water, everywhere…nor any drop to drink!

(adapted from Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1798)

Most of our communities provide us easy and safe access to water. We can easily grab it off of the shelf of a store or turn on the faucet and there it is – perfectly perfect water. The idea that water can contain contaminants and/or pathogens and that it is a limited resource is a new concept for our students. Teachers recently grappled with this timely real world phenomenon and the ways they might help their students wrap their heads around possible solutions. (more…)

Supporting Argumentation Through Student Talk

Monday, October 19th, 2015

By Judi Kusnick, Angie Ruiz, and Susheela Nath

A central element of all of the new standards – the Next Generation Science Standards, the Common Core Math standards and the Common Core English Language Arts standards – is that students are making sense of the world through argumentation. Let’s explore how student talk can support development of students’ argumentation skills in a classroom setting.

Mrs. Ramierez’s fifth grade class has been working on understanding the particle model of matter for two weeks. First they explored sugar – sugar cubes, granulated sugar, powdered sugar – and concluded that bigger things can be made of much smaller things. They investigated the conservation of matter by mixing baking soda and vinegar in a bottle on a digital scale. When the bottle was open to the air, the mixture lost mass. When the bottle was closed, the mass stayed the same. From this result the class deduced that there must have been some invisible mass that went into the air when the bottle was open, but was captured in the system when the bottle was closed. They agreed to call the very tiny invisible bits of matter particles. (more…)

Introducing the California K-8 Next Generation Science Standards Early Implementation Initiative Monthly Series

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

by Kathy DiRanna

Each month, dedicated educators from the California K-8 Next Generation Science Standards Early Implementation Initiative will share stories of their experiences as they dig deeper into the CA NGSS as an effort to help support high-quality science teaching and learning across California and other NGSS-adopted states.

The Early Implementation Initiative is a partnership among the K-12 Alliance @ WestEd, eight school districts, and two charter management organizations: Aspire, Galt Joint Union Elementary School District, High Tech High, Kings Canyon Unified School District, Lakeside Union School District, Oakland Unified School District, Palm Springs Unified School District, San Diego Unified School District, Tracy Unified School District, and Vista Unified School District. The K-12 Alliance provides professional learning opportunities for teachers, administrators, and university faculty in content, pedagogy, and leadership. (more…)

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