September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Engineering Brings It All Together

Posted: Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

by Peter A’Hearn

P.Ahearn_Photo_1

I am really enjoying the creativity that NGSS is awakening in teachers. Those who want to create are taking the standards (and the freedom that comes from the lack of a test) and really exploring what engages their students. I found though, that even when trying our best to match up to the expectations of NGSS, there is a feeling that we missed something. Did we remember the crosscutting concepts? Did the students engage in the practices at the level that NGSS expects? Did we get to the engineering? How about the Nature of Science? Was the content deep enough to really teach the DCI to the point where it could be applied to a new situation? Was it engaging? About a real world phenomenon or problem?

Sometimes when planning for NGSS I feel like a juggler trying to keep too many balls (chainsaws?) is the air at once. But I am increasingly finding that the engineering, rather than feeling like an add-on, can be the piece that helps bring it all together. Here are some examples:

6th grade students try to design a model of Mars habitat that efficiently uses the Sun’s energy to melt ice and keep warm. They are working on understanding heat transfer, the

P.Ahearn_Photo_2

crosscutting concept of matter and energy, constructing models, analyzing data, and designing solutions. As a class they learn which solutions work best and revise their models based on evidence. This learning can then be extended into the weather and climate unit. (The idea from this project came from the awesome middle school content team at the NGSS Early Implementer Summer Institute).
website-banner_register
High school biology students work on designing model membranes for kidney dialysis. This uses the old zip top bag iodine and cornstarch semi-permeable membrane demo, but extends this to allow students to explore materials, concentrations, and structures. They learn that there are common structures of membranes that allow for efficient exchange at all levels of biological organization: thin, high concentration gradient, and high surface area. The students are working on real world phenomena, wrestling to understand the relationship between structure and function and deeply engaged in the practices.

Similarly 8th grade students design hot air balloons to understand how thermal energy affects particle motion and second graders design hand pollinators as they study ecological relationships.

The next time you start to plan an NGSS unit, instead of looking at the engineering as “one more thing to fit in,” ask: “is engineering the thing that can drive this unit?”

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.

2 Responses

  1. Great post highlighting reflection around 3D learning! I love the lens the post provides into your thinking about engineering and 3D learning. I appreciate the questions in the post which encourage my own reflection. Thank you for helping us grow in our NGSS thinking!

  2. I am very inspired by the cross-cutting concepts, science and engineering practices, and the common core claim/evidence focus. We’ve done much over the past 2 years to weave these into our current curriculum: data analysis and presentation using Google spreadsheets, deeper understanding of chemistry and physics concepts through PhET models, a summative catapult project with prototype and final designs, and close reading/presentations on Science in the News as some examples.

    As a middle school science teacher I am very concerned that we will spend little time on these concepts and practices once the curriculum is reorganized. Most middle school science teachers will now teach totally NEW and UNRELATED topics of science (about 40-50 percent of our curriculum). We currently teach an integrated curriculum of RELATED science, but the new model will purposefully split up topics in biology and earth science over 3 years throwing together unrelated science topics each school year.

    Aside from the fact that asking 11-14 years olds to remember content over 3 years is untried and untested, it also asks teachers to become experts in areas of science we did not study in college. So unfortunately a lot of our teaching energy will be focused on becoming proficient in these new subjects. For example, I have a degree in chemistry (4 years of physics included) and currently teach chemistry, physics, and astronomy (I’m also an amateur astronomer). When the curriculum change occurs I will teach expanded physics (add in light, waves, electricity, and magnetism), astronomy and evolution including the geologic record. So while I struggle to come up to speed on evolution/geologic record, my 7th grade counterparts (mostly biology majors), will be struggling to come up to speed on chemistry. Makes sense right?

    And there is one glaring error in this article – STAR testing continues for 5th, 8th, and 10th grade science students and teachers. We aren’t “free” from testing – last year, this year, or the foreseeable future. As a coach for science teachers in his school district I would expect Mr. A’Hearn to be more knowledgable about the challenges teachers face in the classroom.

Leave a Reply

LATEST POST

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2017 Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Posted: Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated eight exceptional secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“These teachers are dedicated and accomplished individuals whose innovative teaching styles prepare our students for 21st century careers and college and develop them into the designers and inventors of the future,” Torlakson said. “They rank among the finest in their profession and also serve as wonderful mentors and role models.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partners annually with the California Science Teachers Association and the California Mathematics Council to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program—the highest recognition in the nation for a mathematics or science teacher. The Science Finalists will be recognized at the CSTA Awards Luncheon on Saturday, October 14, 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.

Thriving in a Time of Change

Posted: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

by Jill Grace

By the time this message is posted online, most schools across California will have been in session for at least a month (if not longer, and hat tip to that bunch!). Long enough to get a good sense of who the kids in your classroom are and to get into that groove and momentum of the daily flow of teaching. It’s also very likely that for many of you who weren’t a part of a large grant initiative or in a district that set wheels in motion sooner, this is the first year you will really try to shift instruction to align to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a challenging year – change is hard. Change is even harder when there’s not a playbook to go by.  But as someone who has had the very great privilege of walking alongside teachers going through that change for the past two years and being able to glimpse at what this looks like for different demographics across that state, there are three things I hope you will hold on to. These are things I have come to learn will overshadow the challenge: a growth mindset will get you far, one is a very powerful number, and it’s about the kids. Learn More…

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is President of CSTA.

If You Are Not Teaching Science Then You Are Not Teaching Common Core

Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn 

“Science and Social Studies can be taught for the last half hour of the day on Fridays”

– Elementary school principal

Anyone concerned with the teaching of science in elementary school is keenly aware of the problem of time. Kids need to learn to read, and learning to read takes time, nobody disputes that. So Common Core ELA can seem like the enemy of science. This was a big concern to me as I started looking at the curriculum that my district had adopted for Common Core ELA. I’ve been through those years where teachers are learning a new curriculum, and know first-hand how a new curriculum can become the focus of attention- sucking all the air out of the room. Learn More…

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Tools for Creating NGSS Standards Based Lessons

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Elizabeth Cooke

Think back on your own experiences with learning science in school. Were you required to memorize disjointed facts without understanding the concepts?

Science Education Background

In the past, science education focused on rote memorization and learning disjointed ideas. Elementary and secondary students in today’s science classes are fortunate now that science instruction has shifted from students demonstrating what they know to students demonstrating how they are able to apply their knowledge. Science education that reflects the Next Generation Science Standards challenges students to conduct investigations. As students explore phenomena and discrepant events they engage in academic discourse guided by focus questions from their teachers or student generated questions of that arise from analyzing data and creating and revising models that explain natural phenomena. Learn More…

Written by Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke teaches TK-5 science at Markham Elementary in the Oakland Unified School District, is an NGSS Early Implementer, and is CSTA’s Secretary.

News and Happenings in CSTA’s Region 1 – Fall 2017

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Cal

This month I was fortunate enough to hear about some new topics to share with our entire region. Some of you may access the online or newsletter options, others may attend events in person that are nearer to you. Long time CSTA member and environmental science educator Mike Roa is well known to North Bay Area teachers for his volunteer work sharing events and resources. In this month’s Region 1 updates I am happy to make a few of the options Mike offers available to our region. Learn More…

Written by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw is the student services director at Siskiyou County Office of Education and is CSTA’s Region 1 Director and chair of CSTA’s Policy Committee.