May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

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 CSTA’s High School 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:

Please contact Rosanne Luu at 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.