May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

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.

Engineering in the classroom can be a valuable vehicle for student learning. Its contribution to student buy-in, lesson purpose, and content augmentation is substantial. Engineering allows our students to become problems solvers applying scientific concepts they learn and evidence that they gather. Science and Engineering go hand in hand as the Science and Engineering Practices (SEP’s) of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) identify. Students not only need to gather information to make sense of the world around them, they need to use this information to present possible solutions to problems. This partnership between science and engineering increases the rigor by connecting to real-world problems for students to work on.

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Before the NGSS, I incorporated engineering tasks in my 8th-grade class at Aspire’s Vanguard College Preparatory Academy, but they were often stand-alone activities that were fun but had only a weak connection to the concepts my students were learning. I tended to use these tasks as beginning and/or end of year activities. Now, using the California Science Framework, I can see the connections between engineering and science via the Performance Expectations (PE’s) and Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCI’s). The Engineering, Technology, and Science Performance Expectations (ETS) can be seamlessly incorporated into the DCI’s to engage my students and enrich their learning experience throughout the year.

At the start of a learning sequence, my students are challenged to solve a problem and asked what knowledge they need to learn in order to find a solution to the stated problem. This gives my students a stake in what they are learning and a purpose that drives them. This has triggered a big shift in my teacher-student classroom relationships. Instead of me driving the instruction, now my students drive the learning sequence by asking questions and organizing their ideas. The classroom relationship has become a partnership where I am now the facilitator of the learning experiences.

In an 8th grade sequence on forces and interactions, my students are challenged to design an effective helmet that will protect the wearer from injuries caused by forces. I asked the students what they would need to know in order to tackle this design challenge and explain the science behind their innovations. They came up with a list of questions that they needed answers to be able to complete the engineering task. Their questions included;

  • What is a force?
  • How do you measure force?
  • How can you calculate the forces?
  • When does a force become dangerous?
  • How can we reduce the injuries caused by these forces?
  • Does the mass of the person affect how well the helmet will protect them? How?
  • What material will make the helmet safer? How can we test this?

My students were excited that the lessons were driven by their questions. They were invested in what we were doing because they had a purpose for learning the content thanks to the engineering task. I was thrilled beyond belief to find that the question, “Why do I need to learn this?”, (the bane of my teaching life) faded away. Students knew why they were learning, what they were learning, and they were eager to do so!

Centering my lessons on engineering tasks has not only benefited my students but has also improved my instructional practice. When planning my lessons now, I look at the big picture and find the story that connects the concepts that I am teaching. An engineering task allows me to see those connections and present them to my students in a coherent and interesting way. It has challenged me to be thoughtful and reflective in my teaching and has also challenged my students to problem solve as engineers while thinking like scientists.

 

Huda Ali Gubary works for Aspire’s secondary school, Vanguard College Preparatory Academy and teaches integrated science-8, High School Chemistry, and High School Physics, a teacher leader for the CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative, and a member of CSTA. Her e-mail address is ali.gubary@aspirepublicschools.org

Susheela Nath works for Aspire Public Schools as the multi-regional science director, is a project director for the CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation, and a member of CSTA. Her e-mail address is susheela.nath@aspirepublicschools.org

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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.

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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 zi@cascience.org.)

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: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

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.