May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Finding My Way Down the NGSS Path – One Step at a Time

Posted: Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

by Lisa Hegdahl

I want to preface this article by saying that I am a proud member of the CSTA Board Directors. I am also an 8th grade science teacher and have been for the past 23 years. While I am excited about the changes coming with the Next Generation of Science Standards, I am also asking many of the same questions as other middle school teachers: What will NGSS look like in my classroom when it is fully implemented? How do I prepare for the NGSS Performance Expectations I have not taught before? What will the assessment look like? And, just like other middle school teachers, I don’t have all the answers to all the questions, but I do know that there is a great deal of support available as we implement the new standards together. CSTA will continue to be an irreplaceable source of information as implementation continues, as will all the organizations with which CSTA works. Teachers will not have to figure out how to implement the NGSS alone.

After my school’s science department chose the preferred NGSS Integrated Learning Progression Model for middle grades, I had to answer the question – Where do I start? The only reasonable answer for any of us is – I started where I was. I was currently teaching the old California Science Content Standard for 8th Grade on Forces – specifically, friction. I wanted to begin turning from the path of my former teaching practices onto the new NGSS path.

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Small steps I took to steer me towards NGSS:

1. Let the students make their own “aha!” moments – Rich Hedman, Director of the Center for Mathematics and Science Education and Co-Director of the Sacramento Area Science Project, gave me this good advice.

2. Adjust the lesson so the students base their conclusions on collected data.

3. Allow students to create their own investigation.

4. Provide students time to collaborate with each other.

5. Give yourself permission to make mistakes while learning to implement the NGSS. Every time we incorporate a piece of the NGSS, we will learn something in the process.

The Old Lab

In the old friction lab, students groups of two have a folder that contains three surfaces – a piece of cloth, a sheet of coarse sandpaper, and crinkled construction paper. The fourth surface is their desktop. The lab sheet’s procedure explains how students will use a spring scale to drag a mass across each surface at a constant speed of approximately two inches per second. Students record the data in a table and answer the follow up questions in the conclusion section. Ultimately, they write a few sentences explaining their understanding about how surfaces affect the amount of force required to move an object.

The New Lab

Students are told that they work for a Fortune 500 company that has been hired to make a recommendation on the best flooring for a company. Before a recommendation can be made, students need to design and carry out an investigation that will generate data to assist them in making the recommendation. The flooring should be safe for people to walk on and still be suitable for pulling massive containers across it on a regular basis. Their final report should be written to the CEO of the company and include:

      • A description of the steps used to conduct the investigation
      • Data displayed in a table, graph, or chart
      • Interpretation of the data
      • The recommendation of which flooring the company should use
      • The reason behind the recommendation

Collaborative groups of four conduct the investigation and have access to the materials and their colleagues for 30 minutes. At the end of that time, they return to their ‘office cubicle’ where they finish their individual report. The time limit is to ensure students are efficient when working with their teammates.

The best part of the new lab was the conversations I heard among students. They discussed the most appropriate techniques for testing the surfaces, deliberated what the data indicated, and argued about how to compose a comprehensible letter to the CEO. Participating in a task that had a clear purpose kept the students engaged from beginning to end.

If I do this lab again, I will have student groups share the data they collect with the entire class and look for patterns. The class will use the patterns to predict the amount of force needed to move an object across an unfamiliar surface. While this year the students used the materials from the old lab, I will invest in real flooring materials or seek out donations for them.

In the end, I met all of my goals for my first attempt at transitioning to NGSS. My students came to their own “aha!” moments about the relationship between surfaces and the force required to move objects across them; their acquired knowledge was based on data they gathered; they designed and carried out their own investigation; they collaborated to come up with the best way to accomplish the task; I allowed myself to try the lab, and even though it was not perfect, I noted areas in need of improvement and I will carry those insights into the next activity.

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Written by Lisa Hegdahl

Lisa Hegdahl

Lisa Hegdahl is an 8th grade science teacher at McCaffrey Middle School in Galt, CA and is President for CSTA.

2 Responses

  1. This is a very clear example of how science education is changing. You entry has helped to to understand the change in perspective and emphasis. Thanks. I teach Science for Grades 1-6, let me know if you can connect me with others with great ideas.

  2. Janette,
    I encourage you to consider joining our Facebook group for elementary science educators: https://www.facebook.com/groups/515472468554988/. The group just started a month ago and already has 30+ members.

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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…

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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 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…

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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.