May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Chapter 1 Will Be Re-Written

Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017

by Pete A’Hearn

“With NGSS, every science textbook will have to re-write chapter 1” – Helen Quinn, Professor emeritus Stanford University and Lead scientist on the development of NGSS

(Seriously has anyone EVER used the Deka prefix?)

(Seriously has anyone EVER used the Deka prefix?)

Like most science teachers, I used to start my year with a unit on measurement and a unit on the scientific method. When my students tried to measure things they weren’t very precise and also didn’t really know how the metric system worked. Starting with the scientific method seemed like a good foundation for the rest of the year. Year after year we worked on measurement. We used this fun little metric staircase. I would arrange different sized chairs and step stools so I could walk up and down the ladder!

It wasn’t until I got out of the classroom and became a science coach, that I realized there was a problem. Students began EVERY year with measurement and the scientific method. Yet they didn’t seem to arrive at the next year any better at these two subjects.

The reason is not hard to understand. Teachers often teach kids measurement skills without following that up with actually measuring something. People learn what they use and forget what they don’t. The same goes for the scientific method, we learn what we use. A much better way to teach measurement is to teach it right before we are actually going to measure something to collect data. Then the measurements will be meaningful and the learning will be reinforced. Also, knowing that kids get taught measurement every year, you might just want to give them the tools and see how they do with no instruction. If the measurement looks badly off, this is a great time to lead a discussion about how we measured and what might give us the most accurate measurements.

NGSS Mobuius Strip Logo

The NGSS favors this approach. The NGSS logo symbolizes the idea that the Science and Engineering Practices – what we traditionally frontload at the beginning of the year should not be taught separately from the core ideas and the crosscutting concepts. They should be part of every lesson. Students need to do science as they learn science.

You won’t find the scientific method in the NGSS Framework. Instead you’ll find this diagram that shows how science works in the real world. Not a simple step-by-step process but a continuous back and forth between the real world and how we make sense of it. How do we get students to understand this? By doing it! This is a reason that a Science and Engineering Practice is attached to every performance expectation. There isn’t a division between learning about science and doing science.

Figure 3-1: The three spheres of activities for scientists and engineers. from the Framework for K-12 Science Education, National Research Council http://www.nap.edu/catalog/13165/a-framework-for-k-12-science-education-practices-crosscutting-concepts

Figure 3-1: The three spheres of activities for scientists and engineers.
http://www.nap.edu/catalog/13165/a-framework-for-k-12-science-education-practices-crosscutting-concepts

So with NGSS, chapter 1 isn’t needed, because chapter one is all year long. Next year try diving right into content (making sure to go slow and set up strong routines, procedures, and norms) and realize that you have all year to work on doing the science.

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is Region 4 Director for CSTA.

One Response

  1. Excellent point!!

    This phenomenon of “use it or lose it” also holds true when learning a foreign language. You can memorize vocabulary and grammatical constructions all you want, but they won’t stay in memory unless used repeatedly.

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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.