May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Engaging Your Students with the NGSS This Summer

Posted: Thursday, June 4th, 2015

by David Sloan

Many of us will use this summer to engage with the NGSS so we can bring new experiences and examples into our classrooms in the fall.  We are always looking for those examples, but the opportunity to travel to different places and experience new ecosystems is especially great during the summer.  We come back to the new school year invigorated with new ideas to bring into our science instruction, only to find that our students have lost some ground during that same break. 

I would like our students to engage with their environment and to think about science all summer long, just like we do as science teachers.  To do that, we need to plant some seeds in their minds during the last week or two of the school year.  Consider having the students engage in a Next Generation Science Standards scavenger hunt.

The fruit of summer.  Photo of Kyler Sloan by David Sloan.

The fruit of summer. Photo of Kyler Sloan by David Sloan.

The initial step is to have the students identify several things that they plan to do this summer.  Many of them will go places that they don’t go during the school year such as the beach, the local river (which might be more of a creek this year), the mountains, an amusement park, or to visit with family.  Others may stay very close to home, but they will still engage in behaviors that are unique to summer.  This could be as simple as swinging on the swings at a local park, or escaping summer’s heat by experiencing the cooling relief of a shade tree and enjoying the fresh fruit of summer time in California.

Once your students have identified several things that they plan to do this summer, the NGSS scavenger hunt is ready to begin.  Have them explore the NGSS across the grade levels and find the connections between the standards and those activities that they are planning to do this summer.  The Science and Engineering Practices, the Disciplinary Core Ideas, and the Crosscutting Concepts found in the NGSS are all about and connected to the world in which we live.  From the waves at the beach to the rounded rocks in the river to the motions and forces of a roller coaster or swing to the genetic traits they share with their cousins to the weather outside to the fruit they are eating, these are all excellent examples of science.  Since these are their examples of science in their own lives, the examples are even more meaningful and powerful.
After the summertime activities and the NGSS standards have been identified, have your students do a written explanation of how they are connected to each other.  When they report out to the class, everyone will have had the figurative seeds planted about a wide variety of activities that they might engage in, and how they are great examples of science.  As they engage in those activities during the summer, there is a decent chance that the scientific concepts will also come to mind.

Summer at the beach.  Photo of Marin Headlands by David Sloan.

Summer at the beach. Photo of Marin Headlands by David Sloan.

The final step in the process would occur in the fall.  That is when the subsequent teachers would ask the students about the science they engaged with during the summer.  It is a great way for that teacher to get to know their new students, and to get a sense of their prior knowledge as they all start the new school year together.

We work hard during the school year to bring science to life in our classrooms.  If we can get the students to a place where they can continue to see science in their summer activities, they will continue to make those connections and see science come to life all summer long.  Instead of losing ground during the summer, maybe we can hold steady or even see some growth.  Those seeds that we planted in the last weeks of school can germinate and the topics, the understanding, and the new questions can bloom.

Just imagine what it could be like if our students returned from summer invigorated about all of the science they saw and experienced during their time out of the classroom.  We experience that invigoration because we live the science and see it in everything we do.  Our students can learn to do the very same thing by seeing the science in the cherished summer activities of youth.  Wouldn’t it be great if instead of the first week of school’s assignment being about “What you did this summer,” it evolved into being about “What science did you experience this summer?”

David Sloan is a professor of education at Brandman University and the Region 1 Interim Director for CSTA,

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.

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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.