May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

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 K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is 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

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…

Powered By DT Author Box

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…

Powered By DT Author Box

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.