January/February 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 4

Focus on Physical Science

Posted: Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

by Laura Henriques

As a former physics/physical science teacher, the California Classroom Science (CCS) issue focusing on physical science is always one of my favorites. I enjoy reading about lessons, labs and teaching ideas that my colleagues share in each month’s CCS, but I really enjoy reading physics and physical science lesson ideas as those apply most directly to what I teach. As with past issues of CCS, we have some great articles written by a wide variety of members on a range of topics. Sadly (for me), only a couple of them focus on physical science.

One of the physical science highlights is Padma Haldar’s article that has students doing ‘mythbuster’ activities to help them better understand the Nature of Science. This project requires students to engage in many of the science and engineering practices (they ask questions, plan and carry out investigations, analyze and interpret data, and evaluate and communicate information) and Ms. Haldar seems to be explicit in helping students understand the nature of science throughout the process. Another article in this month’s issue is Valerie Joyner’s where she shares a primary activity which focuses on the crosscutting concept of patterns. Her lesson links patterns with properties of plastic lids. As is the case with crosscutting concepts, she shares how this activity about patterns could be linked to other patterns in nature and science.

I think one of the reasons I like this particular issue of CCS so much is because I was usually the only person at my school teaching physics. Unlike my biology teacher friends, I didn’t have the opportunity to walk down the hall to talk content or teaching strategies with my peers. I think it was that professional isolation that started my involvement in regional, state, and national science teacher organizations. Through my involvement in these groups I got to share and learn with colleagues. It has been important to me throughout my career and I’ve maintained professional membership in these organizations for the past 25 years.

One of the things I have noticed over my years of involvement in CSTA and other organizations is that conferences and publications tend to have fewer physics, chemistry and physical science workshops and articles than biology, earth/space science or environmental science. I can understand why that is the case since we have so many more people teaching the earth and life sciences but that doesn’t mean I have to like it!

Issues of CCS like this one, focusing on the physical sciences, is one of CSTA’s efforts to help highlight the physical sciences and help us share with colleagues since physical science teachers don’t have many colleagues ‘down the hall’. As you read this issue of CCS did you find yourself thinking that reminds me of a really successful lesson that I do? If so, I really hope you will consider sharing with us. CSTA encourages our members to write for CCS and to submit proposals for our conferences. While we have monthly themes for CCS, we accept articles on a range of topics each month. That means you don’t need to wait until next year to write about physical science.

Similarly, when we put out a call for proposals for our conferences we are seeking proposals for all content areas but we really need to increase the number of physical science submissions. The 2015 conference will be in Sacramento, October 2-4 and the call for proposals will be available soon. Please help our physical science-minded colleagues by sharing your expertise with us. We tend to have a shortage of chemistry and physics sessions, so we really need you to step up to the challenge.

I have a plea and a promise to you physical science teachers out there. Please share with us. Write for CCS (click here for author guidelines) or submit a proposal to do a workshop at the Sacramento conference. If you have never done something like this before and you want some guidance about how to get started with an article or writing a proposal to present at CSTA, I volunteer to help you with that. You can contact me by clicking on the link below this article.

Written by Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques is a professor of science education at CSU Long Beach and past-president of CSTA. She serves as chair of CSTA’s Nominating Committee and is a co-chair of the NGSS Committee.

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