September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Creating Lessons–NGSS Style

Posted: Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

by Jeff Orlinsky

As the new school year approaches, it is time to begin thinking about our science lessons. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) require a different approach to lesson planning. It is my goal in this article to show you one way to approach designing a lesson. It is important to know there are other techniques and lesson models that incorporate the NGSS model. I am going to share how I approach designing a lesson using a model developed by Achieve to support NGSS implementation. I used the chart provided to set up my lesson. You could also develop whole units using a similar approach.

This lesson took me about an hour to prepare. I only used materials that my students would have access to, such as 2-liter bottles for the spirometers. I envision this lesson could take 1 to 2 weeks. (view larger image)

orlinskyWhere to Start:

For my unit on lung volumes, exercise, and homoeostasis, I found an interesting article: “Childhood Asthma Linked to Freeway Pollution.”

My Guiding Question: How can we measure and identify the lung volumes and breathing rates of a person with and without asthma?

Finding the DCI, the CCC, and the Practices

The DCIs:

  • Multicellular organisms have a hierarchical structural organization, in which any one system is made up of numerous parts and is itself a component of the next level. (HS-LS1-2)

This unit will cover the human respiratory system, as well as comparative anatomy.

  • Feedback mechanisms maintain a living system’s internal conditions within certain limits and mediate behaviors, allowing it to remain alive and functional even as external conditions change within some range. Feedback mechanisms can encourage (through positive feedback) or discourage (negative feedback) what is going on inside the living system. (HS-LS1-3)

This unit will cover the role of diseases on the human respiratory system, and the role of the nervous system on regulation of respiration.

The CCCs:

  • Structure and Function
  • Stability and Change

The Science and Engineering Practices:

  • Developing and Using Models
  • Planning and Carrying Out Investigations

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Identify the performance task of the lesson

For the Unit:

  • HS-LS1-2. Develop and use a model to illustrate the hierarchical organization of interacting systems that provide specific functions within multicellular organisms.
  • HS-LS1-3. Plan and conduct an investigation to provide evidence that feedback mechanisms maintain homeostasis.

For the Lesson:

  • Using and interpreting pulmonary function graphs to determine if a patient has asthma or COPD.
  • Students make a Spirometer out of 2 liter bottle.
  • Students develop a set of procedures to measure their respiration rates or respiration volumes before, during and after exercise.
  • Students calculate lung volumes based on height and mass, and compare their results to their observed measurements.

Determine the Evidence Statements

  • Pulmonary Function Graphs
Proficient Approaching Proficient Basic Needs to improve
Correctly identifies the lung ailment based on calculations from the graph. Uses inferences to demonstrate understanding Uses inferences to demonstrate understanding Correctly identifies the healthy lung pulmonary function graphs and identifies the ailments based on “they’re different” Students may correctly identify the graphs with the ailments but make calculation errors.
  • Procedures for measuring their lung volumes
Proficient Approaching Proficient Basic Needs to improve
Student designs a set of procedures that include controls, independent and dependent variables. Hypothesis presented with reasons for the prediction Student designs a set of procedures that include controls, independent and dependent variables. Poor hypothesis given Student designs a set of procedures that include independent and dependent variables. Hypothesis and controls are incomplete Student designs a set of procedures that includes only one person doing the experiment
  • Calculating lung volumes
Proficient Approaching Proficient Basic Needs to improve
Students can correctly calculate their lung volumes from three different sources and find the average lung volume. Students can correctly calculate their lung volumes from three different sources and present their answers showing all three values. Students can correctly calculate their lung volumes from one source. Student attempts to calculate the lung volumes; makes calculation errors.

Classroom integration:


  • Have the students read the article using close reading techniques.
  • Students discuss in groups how scientists collected the data used to reach the conclusion found in the article.
  • Ask students to explain asthma and COPD and how it affects the lungs.
  • Ask: How can we measure our lung volumes? How would asthma and COPD affect the lung volumes?

Introduce the project making a spirometer.

  • Students work on making a working spirometer.
  • Students develop a set of procedures to find the total forced vital capacity of their lungs.

Using mass and height to find your lung volumes.

  • Hand-out the “Finding Your Lung Volume” worksheet.
  • Have students share their results with each other.

Discuss some possible reasons they would be different.


Have the students compare their calculated lung volumes to their spirometer data.

  • Analyze the data
  • Create comparative graphs.

Be prepared to share your results and conclusion with your classmates.

  • Lecture on lungs and diseases of the lung

Introduction of the Pulmonary Lung Function Graphs.

  • Hand out Pulmonary Lung Function graphs of several patients.
  • Students need to determine the diagnosis based on the graphs.


  • Students design an experiment to measure the effect of exercise on lung volumes.
  • Introduction to homeostasis and lung functions.

Run the lesson and evaluate the lesson.

Written by Jeff Orlinsky

Jeff Orlinsky

Jeff Orlinsky teaches science at Warren High School and is a member of CSTA.

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CSTA Is Now Accepting Nominations for Board Members

Posted: Friday, November 17th, 2017

Current, incoming, and outgoing CSTA Board of Directors at June 3, 2017 meeting.

Updated 7:25 pm, Nov. 17, 2017

It’s that time of year when CSTA is looking for dedicated and qualified persons to fill the upcoming vacancies on its Board of Directors. This opportunity allows you to help shape the policy and determine the path that the Board will take in the new year. There are time and energy commitments, but that is far outweighed by the personal satisfaction of knowing that you are an integral part of an outstanding professional educational organization, dedicated to the support and guidance of California’s science teachers. You will also have the opportunity to help CSTA review and support legislation that benefits good science teaching and teachers.

Right now is an exciting time to be involved at the state level in the California Science Teachers Association. The CSTA Board of Directors is currently involved in implementing the Next Generations Science Standards and its strategic plan. If you are interested in serving on the CSTA Board of Directors, now is the time to submit your name for consideration. 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.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2017 Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Posted: Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated eight exceptional secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“These teachers are dedicated and accomplished individuals whose innovative teaching styles prepare our students for 21st century careers and college and develop them into the designers and inventors of the future,” Torlakson said. “They rank among the finest in their profession and also serve as wonderful mentors and role models.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partners annually with the California Science Teachers Association and the California Mathematics Council to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program—the highest recognition in the nation for a mathematics or science teacher. The Science Finalists will be recognized at the CSTA Awards Luncheon on Saturday, October 14, 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.

Thriving in a Time of Change

Posted: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

by Jill Grace

By the time this message is posted online, most schools across California will have been in session for at least a month (if not longer, and hat tip to that bunch!). Long enough to get a good sense of who the kids in your classroom are and to get into that groove and momentum of the daily flow of teaching. It’s also very likely that for many of you who weren’t a part of a large grant initiative or in a district that set wheels in motion sooner, this is the first year you will really try to shift instruction to align to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a challenging year – change is hard. Change is even harder when there’s not a playbook to go by.  But as someone who has had the very great privilege of walking alongside teachers going through that change for the past two years and being able to glimpse at what this looks like for different demographics across that state, there are three things I hope you will hold on to. These are things I have come to learn will overshadow the challenge: a growth mindset will get you far, one is a very powerful number, and it’s about the kids. Learn More…

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Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is President of CSTA.

If You Are Not Teaching Science Then You Are Not Teaching Common Core

Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn 

“Science and Social Studies can be taught for the last half hour of the day on Fridays”

– Elementary school principal

Anyone concerned with the teaching of science in elementary school is keenly aware of the problem of time. Kids need to learn to read, and learning to read takes time, nobody disputes that. So Common Core ELA can seem like the enemy of science. This was a big concern to me as I started looking at the curriculum that my district had adopted for Common Core ELA. I’ve been through those years where teachers are learning a new curriculum, and know first-hand how a new curriculum can become the focus of attention- sucking all the air out of the room. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Tools for Creating NGSS Standards Based Lessons

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Elizabeth Cooke

Think back on your own experiences with learning science in school. Were you required to memorize disjointed facts without understanding the concepts?

Science Education Background

In the past, science education focused on rote memorization and learning disjointed ideas. Elementary and secondary students in today’s science classes are fortunate now that science instruction has shifted from students demonstrating what they know to students demonstrating how they are able to apply their knowledge. Science education that reflects the Next Generation Science Standards challenges students to conduct investigations. As students explore phenomena and discrepant events they engage in academic discourse guided by focus questions from their teachers or student generated questions of that arise from analyzing data and creating and revising models that explain natural phenomena. Learn More…

Written by Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke teaches TK-5 science at Markham Elementary in the Oakland Unified School District, is an NGSS Early Implementer, and is CSTA’s Secretary.