May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Climate Citizen Science for K-12 Students

Posted: Friday, February 1st, 2013

By Minda Barbeco

Engaging students in science can be tricky. Time is limited, the material can be stifling, and students are not always the most willing participants. Moreover, running students through the same experiments with known results doesn’t really demonstrate what science is like in the real world; often, when researchers conduct scientific experiments, the organismsdon’t behave, the chemicals don’t react, the balls don’t roll down the inclined plane at the right speeds. The fact that in actual laboratory work the results don’t always support the hypotheses no doubt comes as a sad realization to many a new researcher – “But my experiments always worked in high school science classes!”

So how can science teachers working with students of all ages engage students in real life science? Citizen science, a new model of enlisting the public in scientific research, has gained recent popularity. If you are science teacher inCalifornia, there are several projects that can get your students involved and most importantly, engaged in science.

Studying Plants and Climate Change

Project BudBurst is a program run by the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) for both formal and informal educators. Through this program, teachers take their students out of the classroom to monitor plant development in their schoolyard or neighborhood. This requires students to learn about different stages in plant development, where plants grow, and how climate affects their development. The data from Project BudBurst is available online as well, allowing teachers to use data collected from all over the country to teach students about how a changing climate affects plants all across the U.S. Courses on how to collect and use the data in your classroom are available through the NEON citizen science academy.

Tracking Test Gardens

As schoolyard gardens are gaining popularity across California, there are many ways to use them to develop hypotheses to learn about how microclimates affect plant life. Students can create their own notebooks to observe field conditions and how they change through the school year, analyze microclimates, make predictions for the season, and track developmental events. As flowers start to pop out this spring, they can also observe pollinators visiting their plots to understand more about biotic relationships and plant development. For suggestions on creating your own hypothesis-generating science notebook, check out: http://www.learner.org/jnorth/tm/tulips/observe.html

Study Animal Migration

As your students are huddled in the classroom, animals outside are scuttling, soaring, or swimming around, migrating up and down the coast with the changing seasons. An hour of time collecting population data on these critters could be the jumping-off point for abundant investigations into animal physiology and behavior. Through the organization Journey North, you can investigate the movement of robins, the appearance of earthworms, and the migration of monarchs as these animals respond to changing seasons. The data can then be used to chart changes in population density through the year, track short-term migration patterns or incorporated into larger datasets to see how migration has changed over recent years with a changing climate. More information on Journey North’s program is available at: http://www.learner.org/jnorth/

Engaging students in citizen science teaches them, in real-life settings, how experiments are designed, data are collected, and information is analyzed. Taking students through the different steps in a field setting helps them build their understanding of how science works, how researchers study organisms, and about the organisms themselves. There are ample opportunities to use these investigative techniques to teach students about the world around them, while supporting the larger scientific community as a whole. And who knows, maybe some of your students will one day become researchers who look back at the data they collected as citizen scientists as the bedrock of their scientific studies.

Minda Barbeco is the Programs and Policy Director at the National Center for Science Education.

Written by Minda Berbeco

Minda Berbeco

Minda Berbeco is the Programs and Policy Director at the National Center for Science Education and is CSTA’s Region 2 Director.

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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.