May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Comparing AP Science Practices, Common Core State Standards, and NGSS Science and Engineering Practices

Posted: Monday, June 3rd, 2013

by Bethany Dixon

At NSTA San Antonio and again at the California State Science Fair, I fell into a conversation about connecting NGSS Science and Engineering Practices and AP Biology Science Practices 1-7. In the past few years, ideas have converged on what it looks like to “Do Science:” the habits of mind necessary to develop scientific knowledge. This idea isn’t new to science education – scientific skills are still important. Haven’t we seen this before? We called it using the Scientific Method(s), or Levels of Inquiry, or whichever wrapper we’re putting things into… it doesn’t seem like the ideas of what constitute good science have changed. Or have they?

My question, from the best possible place of curiosity, is this: how is this different than what teachers have been asked to do before? Admittedly, I’m relatively new to the game, but shouldn’t science be happening in science classrooms, and doesn’t that generally involve teaching the basics of engineering and experimental design? Is it merely the idea that the process of science will now be assessed in a standardized way that is new? Is that even new? Watching the droves of teachers in line for sessions on linking NGSS and Common Core State Standards made me wonder if I’m missing some integral piece. With this in mind, here’s what I have gleaned so far from combing and combining the three documents with mentoring from those who have taught long enough to see the pendulum of change swing a few times.

1. Science Practices are iterative; they should be practiced often and with selective guidance to help lead students through inquiry; ranges of inquiry from confirmation labs through the levels of inquiry beginning with structured inquiry and leading to guided, and eventually open, inquiry. These labs are necessary to develop the skills of scientific thinking required for students to succeed at cognitively difficult tasks. Different skills should be isolated with different labs so students aren’t thrown off the deep end with a box of relevant but unknown toys. Teachers should be encouraged to help students uncover important content (making meaning through investigation) but should be cautious to ensure that enough time is taken to link each inquiry activity or modeling activity explicitly with objectives so that students are focused on the outcome of the process.

2. CCSS, the 7 AP Science Practices, and NGSS are already linked: science and engineering practices along with crosscutting concepts (cause and effect, modeling, using math appropriately, etc.) are embedded in the literature of effective science pedagogy. Labeling what we’re doing “Common Core-Friendly” is another standard to write on the board, but doesn’t change the important content-based literacy and numeracy tools we should already be using, such as reading science publications critically, engaging in argument, writing lab reports, collecting and interpreting appropriate data, etc.

3. Student engagement is your best weapon for increasing authentic inquiry. Process Oriented Inquiry Guided Learning (POGIL), case studies, Science Fair, Project Based Learning, etc., all point to giving students relevant choices so that “Real Life” and “Schoolwork” collide and make bookwork relevant. It seems like taking a basic survey of student science interests and framing the course around their real passions could be a powerful way to add relevance to the course: Essential Knowledge and standards are imperative and should be integrated for a content-rich course, but the framework gives teachers room for selection (no pun intended). Within careful limits, giving students choices over a few open-ended investigations that reflect their academic interests combined with teacher-prescribed labs create powerful learning experiences that students own and retain.

Building science skills and learning key information can be integrated, but students are more likely to retain that information if they can then apply it to solve a problem that they are already invested in. Working with the NGSS, AP Science Practices, and CCSS expands the “bull’s-eye” of what’s being tested to better reflect what good teachers already include. It isn’t more work: it just works better.

Written by Bethany Dixon

Bethany Dixon is a science teacher at Western Sierra Collegiate Academy, is a CSTA Publications Committee Member, and is a member of CSTA.

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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.

Finding My Student’s Motivation of Learning Through Engineering Tasks

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Huda Ali Gubary and Susheela Nath

It’s 8:02 and the bell rings. My students’ walk in and pick up an entry ticket based on yesterday’s lesson and homework. My countdown starts for students to begin…3, 2, 1. Ten students are on task and diligently completing the work, twenty are off task with behaviors ranging from talking up a storm with their neighbors to silently staring off into space. This was the start of my classes, more often than not. My students rarely showed the enthusiasm for a class that I had eagerly prepared for. I spent so much time searching for ways to get my students excited about the concepts they were learning. I wanted them to feel a connection to the lessons and come into my class motivated about what they were going to learn next. I would ask myself how I could make my class memorable where the kids were in the driver’s seat of learning. Incorporating engineering made this possible. 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 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.

Teaching Science in the Time of Alternative Facts – Why NGSS Can Help (somewhat)

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.