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.
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.
Posted: Tuesday, March 14th, 2017
The pre-publication version of the new California Science Curriculum Framework is now available for download. This publication incorporates all the edits that were approved by the State Board of Education in November 2016 and was many months in the making. Our sincere thanks to the dozens of CSTA members were involved in its development. Our appreciation is also extended to the California Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Instructional Quality Commission, and the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee and their staff for their hard work and dedication to produce this document and for their commitment to the public input process. To the many writers and contributors to the Framework CSTA thanks you for your many hours of work to produce a world-class document.
For tips on how to approach this document see our article from December 2016: California Has Adopted a New Science Curriculum Framework – Now What …? If you would like to learn more about the Framework, consider participating in one of the Framework Launch events (a.k.a. Rollout #4) scheduled throughout 2017.
The final publication version (formatted for printing) will be available in July 2017. This document will not be available in printed format, only electronically.
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
The 2017 Award Season is now open! One of the benefits of being a CSTA member is your eligibility for awards as well as your eligibility to nominate someone for an award. CSTA offers several awards and members may nominate individuals and organizations for the Future Science Teacher Award, the prestigious Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, and the CSTA Distinguished Contributions Award (organizational award). May 9, 2017 is the deadline for nominations for these awards. CSTA believes that the importance of science education cannot be overstated. Given the essential presence of the sciences in understanding the past and planning for the future, science education remains, and will increasingly be one of the most important disciplines in education. CSTA is committed to recognizing and encouraging excellence in science teaching through the presentation of awards to science educators and organizations who have made outstanding contributions in science education in the state and who are poised to continue the momentum of providing high quality, relevant science education into the future. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
CSTA is now accepting applications from regular, preservice, and retired members to serve on our volunteer committees! CSTA’s all-volunteer board of directors invites you to consider maximizing your member experience by volunteering for CSTA. CSTA committee service offers you the opportunity to share your expertise, learn a new skill, or do something you love to do but never have the opportunity to do in your regular day. CSTA committee volunteers do some pretty amazing things: Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Marian Murphy-Shaw
If you attended an NGSS Rollout phase 1-3 or CDE workshops at CSTA’s annual conference you may recall hearing from Chris Breazeale when he was working with the CDE. Chris has relocated professionally, with his passion for science education, and is now the Executive Director at the Explorit Science Center, a hands-on exploration museum featuring interactive STEM exhibits located at the beautiful Mace Ranch, 3141 5th St. in Davis, CA. Visitors can “think it, try it, and explorit” with a variety of displays that allow visitors to “do science.” To preview the museum, or schedule a classroom visit, see www.explorit.org. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Joseph Calmer
Probably like you, NGSS has been at the forefront of many department meetings, lunch conversations, and solitary lesson planning sessions. Despite reading the original NRC Framework, the Ca Draft Frameworks, and many CSTA writings, I am still left with the question: “what does it actually mean for my classroom?”
I had an eye-opening experience that helped me with that question. It came out of a conversation that I had with a student teacher. It turns out that I’ve found the secret to learning how to teach with NGSS: I need to engage in dialogue about teaching with novice teachers. I’ve had the pleasure of teaching science in some capacity for 12 years. During that time pedagogy and student learning become sort of a “hidden curriculum.” It is difficult to plan a lesson for the hidden curriculum; the best way is to just have two or more professionals talk and see what emerges. I was surprised it took me so long to realize this epiphany. Learn More…