September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

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.

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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: The group just started a month ago and already has 30+ members.

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California Science Assessment Update

Posted: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

by Jessica Sawko

In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.

At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at 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.

Some ways to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in your classroom

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

by Carol Peterson

1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. 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.

2016 Award Recipients – Join CSTA in Honoring Their Accomplishments

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference  on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!

Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award

John Keller

John Keller

The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well into the future.” 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.

NGSS: Making Your Life Easier

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Peter A’hearn

Wait… What?

NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?

The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…

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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.

Celestial Highlights, September 2016

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt 

Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. 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.