May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

From Hot Asphalt to Solar Radiation

Posted: Monday, March 14th, 2016

by Philip Hudec

Imagine a group of sixth graders, challenging one another to see who can sit on the asphalt the longest, on a hot August day at a middle school in the Palm Springs Unified School District, where temperatures can reach 115° F. (This may sound crazy to you but believe me, students in our district really do this!) Our students know that it is hotter in the desert than in most other places.They know that if they stick to the white lines of the black top, they are less likely to burn their feet. They know that when splashing water on the pool deck, it will be cool enough, even if only for a few minutes, to sit on.

What they don’t know is why these facts are true.

Now imagine the opportunity that their science teachers have to make connections between this common knowledge and the physics of heat, weather, and climate. Previous iterations of the California Science Standards, more often than not, ignored these types of opportunities. The 1998 California Science Standards, which placed an emphasis on students’ “knowing” information (often understood to mean being able to regurgitate information), did not always emphasize real world examples as a way of extending knowledge. For example, a 1998 standard on heat at 6th grade read, “Heat moves in a predictable flow from warmer objects to cooler objects until all the objects are at the same temperature.” Separate standards on energy in the Earth system further emphasized the need for students to “know” facts about these important science concepts without making explicit connections in relation to the cause and effect between them.

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Today, as then, we have students in our classrooms that can make concrete connections to experiences in their everyday lives. The difference between then and now, however, is that now we are expected to tap into those real world experiences. As people of science, we understand the connection between heat transfer and how it drives weather and climate. Previously, however, their connections were often lost due to the mere fact that they were concepts in separate chapters of an adopted textbook.

Modeling the Sun and Earth relationship.

Modeling the Sun and Earth relationship.

Within the California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS), our students are asked to develop and use models to describe how unequal heating and rotation of the Earth cause patterns of atmospheric and oceanic currents that determine regional climates. They are asked to collect data and to provide evidence for how the motions and complex interactions of air masses results in changes in weather conditions. These performance expectations (MS-ESS2-5and MS-ESS2-6) are loaded with academic content in the form of “doing” science and engineering practices, applying understanding of disciplinary core ideas, and thinking in terms of crosscutting concepts.  It is easy to see that our students will be challenged to make the connections among the cause and effect relationship between the physics of heat and weather and climate. As educators, we can draw on their prior knowledge (like that obtained in their fun filled challenges on the school asphalt or by wearing black on a hot summer day) and begin to build conceptual frameworks that help them to demonstrate their understanding of the world around them.

Tackling the concept of heat capacity using heat lamps and various substrate materials.

Tackling the concept of heat capacity using heat lamps and various substrate materials.

This, of course, is one of the main goals behind the CA-NGSS. We want our students to have an understanding of how the universe works. This was also one of the main goals a team of scientists and educators and I had when we came together last summer as part of the California K-8 Next Generation Science Standards Early Implementation Initiative to provide professional development training. Dr. Cheryl Peach, from the Birch Aquarium at UCSD’s Scripps Institute of Oceanography, and Dr. Susan Gomez-Zwiep, a CSULB professor of science education, and I worked with a passionate group of 6th grade science educators from around southern California on the integration of earth, physical, and life science components of the NGSS. We found that making strong connections to prior knowledge and asking questions in regards to interesting phenomena helped to make learning the science a more meaningful experience that led to a deeper understanding.

Modeling the Coriolis effect to better understand patterns within global atmospheric and oceanic currents.

Modeling the Coriolis effect to better understand patterns within global atmospheric and oceanic currents.

During the summer institute, teacher’s involved spent time collecting data from their own investigations, and cross checking their findings, while looking for patterns in real world data gathered from various sources such as offshore moorings, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) websites, and the graduate students at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. We started our week with a phenomenon: an animated map of global weather conditions indicating both global temperature patterns and ocean currents.

Throughout the summer institute, an emphasis was placed on asking interesting questions and the path to finding the answers using a 3-dimensional approach found within the NGSS. A 3-dimensional approach is the integration of the Science and Engineering Practices (SEP) with Crosscutting Concepts (CCC) and Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCI). While teachers conducted investigations and analyzed data (SEP) about how heat flows in different Earth materials (DCI), questions were used to focus their discussions around patterns (CCC). Is there a pattern to this data? How can I organize and display my data to show this pattern? Later in the week, teachers were asked to extend these patterns to develop models about how heat from the Sun can predict and explain global wind and ocean currents in the Earth’s system. Our questions shifted to “how can we model this system (Earth) and what are the parts or sub-systems contributing to these currents?” Our goal was to contribute to the important work being done to create more scientifically literate students. As science educators, we were reminded of our need to challenge students to think, to ask questions, and to connect their prior knowledge to science concepts.

Perhaps, in a few years, we will overhear our students contemplating the relationship between elevation, air pressure, and temperature as they sit on the hot blacktop determined to win the asphalt challenge.

Crosscutting concept questions retrieved fromhttp://crosscutsymbols.weebly.com/

>Philip Hudec is a Science Teacher on Special Assignment with the Palm Springs Unified School District, and can be contacted at phudec@psusd.us

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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.

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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.