May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Crosscutting Concepts Part 1: Patterns in K-2

Posted: Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

by Valerie Joyner

Cross Cut Symbol for Patterns. Used with permission from CrossCutSymbols. http://crosscutsymbols.weebly.com/

Cross Cut Symbol for Patterns. Used with permission from CrossCutSymbols. http://crosscutsymbols.weebly.com/

As early childhood science educators, we are beginning to explore and gain understanding about the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). We know that NGSS will require us to teach science through three dimensions: practices, disciplinary core ideas (i.e. content), and crosscutting concepts. In the past our main emphasis was teaching science through one or sometimes two dimensions with lessons focused on conveying factual content of physical, life, and earth/space sciences, with perhaps some practices added in (formerly known as science process skills). However, three-dimensional learning requires us to take an entirely new approach to science education, one that deliberately teaches with all dimensions.

This article will be the first in a series exploring crosscutting concepts and offering some ideas for applications in the primary grades. Crosscutting concepts “provide students with connections and intellectual tools that are related across the different areas of disciplinary content and can enrich the application of practices and their understanding of core ideas (NRC, 2012, pg. 233)”. In other words, these fundamental conceptual tools are necessary for students to learn effectively, and must be specifically nurtured and referenced throughout all grade levels in all disciplines. 

There are seven crosscutting concepts: 1) patterns, 2) cause and effect, 3) scale, proportion, and quantity, 4) systems and system models, 5) energy and matter: flows, cycles, and conservation, 6) structure and function, and 7) stability and change. All students will need explicit instruction in these crosscutting concepts and these concepts must never be omitted. Our first introduction will be to the concept of patterns. It’s little surprise patterns are embraced by NGSS as one of seven fundamental crosscutting concepts because they play a crucial practical role in early childhood science education. They can also be a powerful tool to awaken curiosity with great visuals, hands on interactions, and interesting details to observe, and make a great starting point for our discussion of how crosscutting can look in primary classrooms.

In classrooms currently, students study patterns in math, reading, writing, and social studies. As an early childhood educator you’ve seen the importance of finding and using patterns in the everyday lives of your students. When students discover patterns they begin to make sense of the world around them. Such patterns are everywhere and observing and learning from them is critical to science literacy. For example, students can observe patterns such as that the sun rises, then the sun sets. It is usually colder at night than in the daytime. Leaves bud in the spring, change colors in the fall, and fall in the winter. In NGSS the core primary crosscutting concept is that observed patterns can be explained.

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True to the crosscutting ideal, the NGSS framework puts more clarity and emphasis on these ideas as unifying threads that tie knowledge together across the disciplines. When we use consistent words throughout our teaching to signal the fundamental crosscutting concepts like patterns, we strengthen students’ understanding by connecting knowledge between each subject.

In kindergarten, students study local weather to find patterns over time. They make qualitative observations about the weather like, “It is a sunny day,” and then quantify their observations by recording the number of rainy, cloudy, and snowy days. Through their observations and data collection patterns begin to emerge.

In 1st grade, students look at the patterns in the sky (sun, moon, and stars) and the amount of daylight throughout the year. They notice that the sun is in the sky in the day and stars appear at night. They can record data over time to reveal daylight and nighttime during different seasons of the year. For example: “It is dark when I have dinner in the winter, but it is light when I eat dinner in the summer”.

In 2nd grade, students look at the patterns in shapes and kinds of land and bodies of water and that water on Earth can be solid or liquid. They learn that lakes are surrounded by land and rivers have banks and that lakes freeze where it is very cold or dry up when there is too much sunshine and not enough rain.

Understanding patterns serves as a basis for core ideas and practices in science and engineering, and the importance of establishing this understanding in the primary classroom cannot be overstated. As young students begin to recognize patterns in the natural and man-made world they then use them to reveal different ways things are organized, understand and describe phenomena, and gather evidence to support their findings. We have the extraordinary opportunity in our primary science teaching to confer lifelong benefits by encouraging young minds to apply pattern understanding as a tool in all areas of life to seek further information and understanding.

Thank you for reading this introduction to the crosscutting concept of patterns. Take these ideas into your classroom today, share them with your colleagues, and collaborate to cultivate the habit of referencing patterns consistently wherever they appear in all subjects.

Look for the next article in the series on another of the seven crosscutting concepts. We’d love to hear your ideas, challenges, and experiences around introducing and reinforcing pattern understanding in your primary setting, so share any feedback in the comments or via email. What crosscutting concept would you like to see us cover next?

Written by Valerie Joyner

Valerie Joyner

Valerie Joyner is a retired elementary science educator and is CSTA’s Primary (grades K-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.