January/February 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 4

Student Experiments to See the Edge of Space

Friday, August 19th, 2016

by Joanne Michael

A view of Southern California from 90,000 feet.

A view of Southern California from 90,000 feet.
Click image for a larger view.

Three years ago, I had a dream- I wanted to work with my students to send a weather balloon with experiments into the edge of space. I had colleagues around the country that had done it with their schools, and I was loving every moment of their stories. Their students were coming up with the experiments, talking with scientists, spending months learning about meteorology, weather patterns, calculating the speed and trajectory- all things that I wanted to have my students experience. Not knowing how to fund it, or really how to do it in the first place, I tried writing grants, getting sponsors, talking to aerospace companies, but came up empty-handed. My school district is located in a very financially wealthy area, and so we do not qualify for many grants. In addition, I teach elementary school (I’m a hands-on science educator, teaching the entire K-5 school), and the majority of grants that my area would allow my to apply for were for middle and high school teachers- not elementary. (more…)

New “EiE Video Snippets” Let You Peek Inside the Engineering Classroom

Thursday, May 12th, 2016

posted by Cynthia Berger

Reprinted with permission from http://blog.eie.org/peek-inside-the-engineering-classroom-with-new-eie-video-snippets.

Engineering is Elementary is pleased to announce a new set of online resources for K–12 engineering educators: EiE Video Snippets. This collection of short videos can be used in three ways:

(more…)

Systems Thinking Skills in the Engineering Classroom

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016

by Cynthia Berger

Reprinted with permission from http://blog.eie.org/systems-thinking-skills-in-the-engineering-classroom.

The students in Jean Facchiano’s fourth-grade class have spent the morning engineering their own models of permeable membranes, using ordinary kitchen supplies like sponges, coffee filters, and perforated aluminum foil. The goal is to design a system that lets water drip into a frog habitat, keeping the container slightly damp, not dry or flooded.

Berger1.1Each group of students has come up with their own unique system for controlling water flow into the habitat. Now, in the video at right, the students present their results. It’s not just a show-and-tell; it’s a concise demonstration of elementary students starting to apply their systems-thinking skills. (more…)

Engineering Made Easy: Understanding the Role of Engineering in NGSS

Monday, March 14th, 2016

by Cynthia Berger

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) put unprecedented emphasis on engineering as part of K-12 STEM instruction. In fact, the standards recommend that engineering be raised “to the same level as scientific inquiry when teaching science disciplines.”

But your school days are already crowded. Adding engineering to the mix can sound daunting—especially if you don’t have much experience with science or engineering. (more…)

A Primary Engineering Unit Template

Friday, December 11th, 2015

by George Feldman and Joey Noelle Lehnhard

For the past few years, as a teacher in a bilingual first grade classroom in rural central California, I’ve been having my students conduct some simple engineering design challenges. The engineering activities are a good way to address the demands of state testing and the intensive English Language Arts and Math curriculum, because they can provide an authentic context for integrating different subjects. I hope this week-long lesson template might inspire you to try some engineering activities with your students. (more…)

The “S” in STEM: The Search for Science in STEM TK-2

Friday, December 11th, 2015

by Valerie Joyner

Young children are naturally curious about their world. Their curiosity engages them in science activities every day as they watch salt dissolve, rain fall, or bubbles float and pop. They build ramps and bridges from blocks and cardboard, and contraptions to solve everyday problems that show their innate ability to engage in engineering. This inquisitive nature is the basis for STEM education in our youngest students and builds the foundation for increasingly more complex problem solving as students move through the grades. (more…)

Ship That Chip: Teaching Engineering by Using Snacks

Thursday, November 12th, 2015

by Joanne Michael

When a new school year begins, almost every student (and teacher) is excited, motivated, and ready to work hard. Almost as quickly as it began, however, the “newness” of the school year wears off, and the students are in need of something new to recharge them. At the same time, teachers attempting to implement NGSS (even if not in full implementation mode) are getting tired, and may need a pick-me-up of their own. Enter the “Ship the Chip” challenge! (more…)

Primary Science – Integrating NGSS and the Common Core

Monday, October 19th, 2015

By Valerie Joyner

It’s hard to believe that it is already October and that you have been working with your primary (TK-2) students for several weeks now. As your new class settles into the routines and is now ready to begin to take on new challenges, it’s time to look at how you will integrate NGSS science and CaCCSS (California Common Core State Standards). To some this may seem a daunting task, but in reality there are many integration connections that already exist in both NGSS science instruction and CaCCSS. (more…)

Trying NGSS with Paper Clips and Gummy Worms

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

by Joanne Michael

By now, most teachers have heard of NGSS, know that it is not going away, and have realized they will be teaching this new set of standards within the next few years. While some are excited at the possibility of new happenings, others are terrified at the prospect of having to change curriculum that they have spent years fine-tuning and tweaking. A few districts are implementing NGSS early, working out the kinks and creating guides for the rest of the state, but what about the teachers that want to venture out and try the new curriculum without the support of the entire district? It seems daunting, but there are some ways to ease into the NGSS world. (more…)

Starting the School Year Right

Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

by Joanne Michael

In my position, I teach hands-on science for an entire elementary school (Kindergarten-5th grade). I begin my school year about a week after the first day of school, after the classroom teachers have begun establishing their room protocols. Even though I see the students year after year as they come into my classroom, because they change over the course of a year, and especially over the summer, we often need to start as if I have never seen the students before.

My sample to show younger students

My sample to show younger students

One thing that I started doing this past school year was to initiate the mindset that everyone is interconnected to each other as students in the same school, that every person is unique, but is an integral part of the school. I found some interlocking puzzle piece figures online, and bought a class set for each of my 18 classes (they were on clearance!). On the first day of class for each of my classes, after going over the expectations, I handed out colored pencils and the people. I gave very few directions, other than they should look like them (whatever that meant). For the younger classes, I created one for myself, made a “shirt”, and drew the NASA symbol, as space exploration is something I am very interested in. The students were only given the rest of their time with me (about 20 minutes) to complete their puzzle piece, put their name and room number on the back, and handed it in. (more…)

Primary Science Comes Alive with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), California Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and English Language Development (ELD)

Thursday, June 4th, 2015

by Valerie Joyner

Join your primary colleagues for the wonderful opportunity to learn about Next Generation Science Standards. You’ll learn how NGSS aligns with 21st Century Skills, links to CCCSS and supports ELD. Teams of 3-5 teachers/administrators from your school/district are encouraged to apply for this amazing workshop. Space is limited so apply now!

As California educators strive to provide a twenty-first century education for all students, there is nothing more important than a strong foundation in science education. The time to nurture and develop this foundation is at the beginning, as students enter primary grades. It is essential for the youngest of our students to develop scientific literacy and interest from the start. As we focus priority on our youngest students, there are few missions more urgent to long-term educational goals than equipping primary grade teachers with science content knowledge and pedagogical strategies to kindle the love of science in their students and set a course for lifelong learning. (more…)

Cup of Tea

Thursday, June 4th, 2015

by Leah Wheeler

Have you ever felt like your time is split between too many subject areas in your classroom and you’re torn on how to teach all of the content? As a 5th grade teacher in a self contained classroom, I have always struggled with integrating curriculum in my classroom instruction. Through my participation with the Next Generation of Science Standards (NGSS) Early Implementation team in Galt, I have learned how to take the science and engineering practices (SEP) and incorporate them into the other curricular areas using simple modifications to my instruction.

Instead of looking at science and engineering practices as only part of the three-dimensional learning of NGSS, I try to think of ways to incorporate them into other content areas, so I can create bridges for learning.  For instance, inspired by the Boston Tea Party after my students studied the American Revolution, students engineered crates to hold tea. (more…)

Maintaining Summer Engagement

Thursday, June 4th, 2015

by Joanne Cozens Michael 

Sunblock and beach towels, car trips that stretch out too long, and visits with friends. While summer can be a relaxing, wonderful time to unwind and rejuvenate, too often our students go far in the opposite direction, causing August/September to be a month of solid review of concepts from previous years before diving into new information. Although we cannot escape that entirely, keeping students engaged in learning new things via fun experiments throughout the summer can be a great way to keep their young brains going! (more…)

Crosscutting Concepts Part 2: Structure and Function

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

by Valerie Joyner

Cross Cut Symbol for Structure and Function. Used with permission from CrossCutSymbols.  http://crosscutsymbols.weebly.com/

Cross Cut Symbol for Structure and Function. Used with permission from CrossCutSymbols. http://crosscutsymbols.weebly.com/

In January we explored, the NGSS crosscutting concept of patterns in the primary grades through the lens of earth, space, and ocean sciences. This month we will take a look at the crosscutting concept of structure and function as it relates to the life sciences.

While structure and function are not taught in kindergarten, they are covered in 1st and 2nd grades. The early study of structure and function is necessary for laying the groundwork for all students’ science education throughout the grades. The importance of early childhood science in grades K-2 cannot be emphasized enough. (more…)

Next Generation Science Standards: Jump Right In

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

by Jennifer McGranahan

In the midst of all that is new this year – implementing Common Core for Language Arts and Mathematics, the new ELA/ELD Framework and our district’s Personalized Learning Plans – we are also hearing more about the Next Generation of Science Standards (NGSS). As a 6th grade classroom teacher, when I heard the acronym “NGSS,” I quickly put it out of my mind. My brain couldn’t face one more new expectation. However, I had majored in biology in college and had decided I wanted to focus on improving my teaching in science, and NGSS kept creeping back into my thoughts no matter how hard I tried to ignore it. Before I knew it, I was part of a team of teachers in my district selected to be part of the California K-8 NGSS Early Implementation Initiative. With the honor of being an Early Implementer came trainings during the summer and regular school year, and hours crafting and planning “beautiful” NGSS lessons that include 3-dimensional learning that I am not familiar with. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Actually, it is!!  (more…)

Crosscutting Concepts Part 1: Patterns in K-2

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

by Valerie Joyner

Cross Cut Symbol for Patterns. Used with permission from CrossCutSymbols. http://crosscutsymbols.weebly.com/

Cross Cut Symbol for Patterns. Used with permission from CrossCutSymbols. http://crosscutsymbols.weebly.com/

As early childhood science educators, we are beginning to explore and gain understanding about the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). We know that NGSS will require us to teach science through three dimensions: practices, disciplinary core ideas (i.e. content), and crosscutting concepts. In the past our main emphasis was teaching science through one or sometimes two dimensions with lessons focused on conveying factual content of physical, life, and earth/space sciences, with perhaps some practices added in (formerly known as science process skills). However, three-dimensional learning requires us to take an entirely new approach to science education, one that deliberately teaches with all dimensions.

This article will be the first in a series exploring crosscutting concepts and offering some ideas for applications in the primary grades. Crosscutting concepts “provide students with connections and intellectual tools that are related across the different areas of disciplinary content and can enrich the application of practices and their understanding of core ideas (NRC, 2012, pg. 233)”. In other words, these fundamental conceptual tools are necessary for students to learn effectively, and must be specifically nurtured and referenced throughout all grade levels in all disciplines.  (more…)

Thermal Protection- Science with Blowtorches!

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

by Joanne Cozens Michael

STEM… the final frontier. Okay, not really, but it is our students’ future and it is up to us to get them as prepared as possible. One of the issues many educators face when teaching STEM is finding something that can cover multiple strands of the STEM “rope”. A few years ago, I attended Space Camp for Educators in Huntsville, Alabama, and was introduced to an amazing lesson sure to inspire engineering and creativity, get those STEM juices flowing, and captivate even the most reluctant of learners! (more…)

Patterns in the Primary Grades: Plastic Lids Activity

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

by Valerie Joyner

Primary grade teachers have always understood the importance of patterns in early childhood education. Patterns are used in reading, math, and written language. They are also used with students to assist in their development of understanding and applying science. According to the NGSS, “Patterns in the natural and human world can be observed, used to describe phenomena, and used as evidence”. The importance in patterns in early childhood science education cannot be understated! (more…)

Engineering in Afterschool: Attitude Is Everything!

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

by Melissa Higgins

A boisterous group of fifth grade girls stand at the front of the room at Girls, Inc., an afterschool program in Lynn, MA. Younger girls sit crowded on the floor before them. They’re waiting for the start of the Bubble Bonanza—a carnival show being put on by the fifth grade engineers who have just finished designing their very own bubble wands. (more…)

Integrating Common Core into Everyday Teaching

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

by Joanne Michael

If your school is anything like mine, math and language arts have recently been overhauled to meet with the Common Core Standards. Just as everyone seems to be getting their heads slightly above water with the changes, in comes NGSS, flipping the standards around and creating more panic. What?! We need to somehow integrate more science into our lessons? With the new curriculum that I am barely understanding in the first place? How am I supposed to do that?! (more…)

Bridging Science and Math with Classroom Engineering

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

by Kristin Sargianis

The Next Generation Science Standards, recently adopted in California, highlight the connections between science and engineering. As children design solutions to engineering challenges, they naturally apply their science content knowledge and engage in science practices. However, engineering also provides meaningful opportunities for children to apply what they are learning in math. (more…)

Getting Your Primary Classroom Ready for Science!

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

by Valerie Joyner

It’s hard to believe summer vacation is almost over and it’s time to plan for a new school year. As primary teachers, you know the importance of building the foundations with your young students during the year to support their futures as students, lifelong learners, and informed citizens. A critical component of these educational foundations is science! But, where do you start? (more…)

What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate: Evaluating Negotiation in an Elementary Science Classroom

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

by Mason Kuhn

Engaging students in negotiation with their peers is considered a central motivation for recent national policy recommendations (National Research Council, 2011) and has been a focus of much scholarship in science education (e.g. Bergland and Reiser, 2009 & Hand, 2008). In the Next Generation Science Standards under the heading “Science and Engineering Practices,” the term “Engaging in Argument From Evidence” appears in almost every standard. However, most literature on negotiation focuses on theory, where little focuses on the topic of negotiation as related to science teaching and learning. (more…)

Primary Science, Common Core, and NGSS

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

by Valerie Joyner and Michelle French

With special thanks to the Tulare County of Office of Education and the K-12 Alliance

Spring is here! And with it comes many opportunities for adding science and NGSS to your Common Core Curriculum! As flowers bloom, snails and spittle bugs emerge, and creeks flow, look around your school and home for science opportunities for your students to explore. It might take some digging or turning rocks over (don’t forget to put them back) and you have instant enthusiasm for a new primary science lesson! (more…)

My First Science Conference…How Did I End Up Here? Reflections of a Non-Science Person Teaching Elementary Science

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

by Cheryl Romig

OK, so here’s my dirty laundry. I actually chose my major in college based on the number of science classes I would have to take. I can vividly remember lying on the dorm floor, college course catalog spread out in front of my freshman year, counting science classes and crossing off potential majors if I had to take more than two. That was my limit… two classes in four years would surely send me over the edge.  (more…)

Lesson Plan: Ornamental Corn Inquiry (Grades K-2)

Monday, November 4th, 2013

by Valerie Joyner 

Ornamental corn

Ornamental corn

Ornamental corn, available this time of year, is great for setting up an inquiry activity for your primary (K-2) students to explore.  If the weather in your part of California is still warm, you can begin this activity right away.  However, due to the size and diversity of weather conditions around California, you may need to purchase a few ears of ornamental corn now and save the activity until the spring when the weather warms up.  (more…)

Elementary Science Can Glue It All Together!

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

by Bethany Dixon

Elementary students use a lot of glue. Cutting and pasting develops fine motor skills as well as providing opportunities to assessment learning in the primary grades. Even in my fourth grade classroom, we frequently used glue outside of art to put our ideas together into graphic organizers. Consider, then, the following analogy. Time and funding for science in elementary education have been cut repeatedly. However, what if science didn’t take additional time but instead gave context to your current class work in other subjects? What if science could be the curricular glue that helps elementary students to transition from math and reading into writing and back again? (more…)

The Importance of Early Childhood Science!

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

by Valerie Joyner

First let me introduce myself as your new Primary Director for CSTA.  For the past three years I have been the CSTA’s Director of Region 1, and when the opening for Primary Director came about I quickly sought the position.  I am a retired elementary school teacher whose passion has always been working with young learners and science.  My background includes over 30 years teaching experience both inside the classroom as well as outside in informal science settings. I look forward to sharing my experience and supporting California primary teachers in the coming months. (more…)

Focus Speaker Feature – Betsy Rupp Fulwiler

Monday, October 1st, 2012

by Valerie Joyner

Betsy Fulwiler is the developer of the nationally recognized, “Expository Writing and Science Notebook Program,” a part of the Seattle Public School System.  She is a pioneer in the development of strategies for students to deepen their understanding of science through writing.

In 1996, with funding from the NSF, the Seattle’s Public System set out to make a systemic change from their Pre-K-5 science instruction to an Inquiry-Based Science Program throughout the district.  Fulwiler, an active participant in this reform effort, was excited to begin teaching her students using the new inquiry skills she had learned.  However, she found it challenging to teach her elementary students to write about science, and this marked the beginning of her journey to research and develop writing practices that encouraged analytical thinking in her students’ writing.  (more…)

5th Grade – Root Beer Chemistry

Monday, October 1st, 2012

by Sean Timmons

Summary:
Activities involving dry ice and root beer help students understand the chemical and physical changes that occur in matter. Students will investigate evidence (more…)

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