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 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.
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, email@example.com
Posted: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016
by Jessica Sawko
In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.
At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/ai/infomeeting.asp.) Learn More…
Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
by Carol Peterson
1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. https://www.engadget.com/2016/08/25/google-offers-360-degree-tours-of-us-national-parks/. Learn More…
Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!
Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award
The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well into the future.” Learn More…
Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
by Peter A’hearn
NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?
The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…
Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt
Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. Learn More…