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 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

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:

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.