May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Breaking Myths with Mythbusters Project

Posted: Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

by Padma Haldar

The Mythbusters project is the first project of the year for our physics class and is part of the “Nature of Science” unit. The students are all juniors and seniors and they know the scientific procedure by heart by now, so as we review we focus on the “real” nature of science doing activities. We read articles and discuss how science can be open-ended; we also explore how it may be influenced by the prejudices, experiences and biases of scientists. (As an aside, the checks lab by Evolution & the Nature of Science Institutes  at Indiana University is an excellent activity that drives home these points precisely.)

We start the project by watching one of the Mythbusters episodes. Then working in groups of two, students are asked to think about a myth they would like to prove or bust. Students are encouraged to find their own myths. I usually guide them into thinking about a sport they participate in, or an instrument they play, or a hobby they may have; they then think of a question they have related to that activity. The requirements are that it must be:

  • testable
  • safe
  • able to be completed within three weeks of time
  • useful in some way (science should be useful!)

I’ve had wide ranging myths presented by the students. Here are a few examples –

  • From softball: do expensive bats really perform better than cheaper ones?
  • From cross-country running: does pushing the pedestrian button change the wait time at traffic lights?
  • From everyday experiences: do doorknobs in school contain more germs than the ones at home?
  • Social questions such as, do women react differently to men in situations related to finances, health, safety?

Once students pick their myth they start to design the experiment they will conduct by

  • predicting an outcome for their experiment, backing it up with a logical reason
  • listing the independent, dependent and controlled variables for their experiment
  • including a detailed step-by-step procedure for the experiment
  • thinking about what kind of data they will collect and how long will it take them to complete data collection
  • thinking about how they will analyze, organize and present their data.

They turn in an outline of their experimental design, which gives me a chance to communicate any concerns I have for any aspect of their experiment. Once the teacher and students are happy with the outline they can begin their experiment.

The project ends with a science fair style presentation where each group sets up a poster and they take turns presenting their project. Peer assessment is built in as each group member takes turns going around the class to assess other projects while the second member stays at their table to present. I encourage students to either do a demo as they present or to engage their audience through a hands-on experience during their presentation. In addition to the poster presentation students are also required to turn in a report of their experiment following the classical steps of scientific procedure.

The creativity, enthusiasm and often deep insights shown by students are evidence that this project is a fun way of learning the “Nature of Science” and applying it to their lives.

Padma Haldar is a physics teacher at Warren High School in the Downey Unified School District and was the 2007 recipient of CSTA’s Future Science Teacher Award. She was invited to contribute by CSTA High School Director Jeff Orlinsky

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.

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Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

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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.

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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.