May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Bio-Boot Camp

Posted: Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

by Eric Lewis

The Bay Area is full of opportunities and resources for life sciences. While we have great institutions that highlight the natural world around us, there are also amazing opportunities to enjoy nature at our numerous parks and beaches. Last summer, I helped develop a summer school course for SFUSD students that focused on physiology and leveraged expertise and resources from our local medical school (UCSF), our local CSU (SFSU) and our city college (CCSF). We even included a trip to UC Berkeley during the school year to further reinforce a college-going culture for our students.

The course was offered to rising 10th graders at Mission High School in San Francisco. All of these students had just completed a year of conceptual physics, the course that 9th graders take at Mission High. We focused on these students for two reasons: there aren’t many opportunities for rising tenth graders over the summer, and these students were going to be taking biology for their next year of science. In general, the biology curriculum at Mission did not focus on physiology – a part of our old standards that tended to get some attention only at the end of the school year. Consequently, we focused this summer course on physiology. Students met for four weeks, from 9:00am to 3:30pm, Monday through Friday, and students received biology credits toward their graduation.

Of course, we aimed to keep the course FUN and ENGAGING. When you have students for six hours a day, five days a week, it’s important to keep things moving. Not only did we have many different projects going on (research on a physiology topic, dissections, field trips, experiments), we also included many guest speakers, short videos and myriad demonstrations. Rather than providing a day-by-day summary of the course (if you’re REALLY interested, email me at lewise2@sfusd.edu), I want to highlight two aspects of the course that may translate to your context in your city:

  1. Partnering with SACNAS (the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science)
  2. Partnering with UCSF (the University of California, San Francisco – our local graduate school for medical sciences)

SACNAS is a national organization with chapters at all kinds of colleges and universities. As Mission High is richly diverse and many of the students have a Latin American heritage, we decided that partnering with SACNAS would be a great boon to our students (and to the participating SACNAS students). As part of the classroom experience, SACNAS participants had many different roles. SACNAS students shared their experiences with education and how they came to be interested in pursuing science in college or in graduate school. This was incredibly powerful for everyone in the room since the City College students were able to hear from students doing research at UCSF. Of course, the Mission High students were able to hear about the journeys of all the SACNAS students – and there were MANY different pathways for these students. Additionally, the SACNAS students that were engaged in research shared their research with our high school students after having thought about how to best articulate their research to a high school audience that hadn’t yet taken biology (a pretty good challenge for young researchers). Finally, the SACNAS students served as mentors to our students – coming in at least twice as week to share their expertise in research and to help our students develop and research their own areas of interest that were presented in poster session/dinner celebration on our last day of class. Of course, our field trips to SF State, City College of San Francisco, UCSF and UC Berkeley were made more comfortable and accessible by including the SACNAS students as chaperones as well!

Our partnership with UCSF was large a result of work with the UCSF Center for Educational Partnerships (a part of the Student Academic Affairs Division). Through this partnership we were able to provide many different perks for our class (including food for some field trips, T-shirts for all the students, and food/drinks for our final celebration). Some of the clear benefits of this collaboration included:

  • Field trips to UCSF
    • Dental School
    • Stem Cell Building
    • Nursing School
    • Pharmacy School
    • Graduate School
    • Medical School
    • Kanbar Center
    • Mission Bay Campus laboratories
  • Classroom speakers/guest lecturers
  • Picking up and returning materials for our class through UCSF SEP’s lending library

Over all, the students, SACNAS participants, and SFUSD teachers had an amazing summer of learning. We completed amazing laboratory activities, dissections, hands-on activities and had students discussing challenging science content with each other and with their science mentors from SACNAS. Students produced many types of written materials – from annotated illustrations to poster presentations. Our goal of getting many underrepresented minority students more engaged in science (and doing better in their biology classes over the course of 2013-2014 school year) seems to have been successful. The next few months will help complete this particular story… Hopefully, we’ll find many of these students back at our local institutions for college – and, majoring in science!

Written by Eric Lewis

Eric Lewis

Eris Lewis is high school area science support in the San Francisco Unified School District LEAD office.

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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.