May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Getting Started with Engineering

Posted: Thursday, September 15th, 2016

by Meredith Casalino

Having been in the classroom for nine years, I have seen all sorts of crazy things. One of those things is that kids will rise to virtually any challenge you give them, and if you let them build something you will have them completely hooked!  For the last three years I have had the incredible privilege to work on a strong 9th grade team at Da Vinci Communications, dedicated to interdisciplinary project based learning. Through this experience I was given the freedom, guidance, and support to integrate engineering into my physics classroom and have seen the power of this practice first hand.

Teaching kids processes to use in order to think and create like an engineer is a great way to get started. In my classroom I used the Project Lead the Way engineering design process, but there are lots of different takes on the engineering design process out there. I do recommend teaching your kids an engineering design process and sticking to it in order for them to have a richer, more meaningful engineering experience. Many schools or districts have one that they prefer so you many not even have to find one on your own. An engineering design process should include lots of flexibility, as well as ways to generate, evaluate, test, and revise multiple solutions to a single problem.

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Engineering practices can be incorporated in different ways, for different purposes, and at different scales in a science classroom. I have used basic engineering challenges when students have switched groups. These may or may not connect to the current physics content the kids were working on but they definitely required collaboration, communication, and critical thinking skills of all members of the new group. I have introduced my kids to engineering games, both hands-on and digital. I have given kids individual engineering challenges and projects that they had to complete individually, and some they needed to complete as a group. We have even done projects where kids had an individual design challenge, which they then had to incorporate into a larger group deliverable. The vast majority of the time projects combined both science and engineering content, but there is also a time and a place to practice engineering skills, especially since it can help enforce 21st century skills along the way.

I have included brief descriptions of some of the larger projects my students completed, along with some of the beginning details to give you some ideas of where you could start integrating engineering, too. There are also some resources at the end to find other engineering challenges and projects both big and small.

Be Heard is a signature project that all of the Da Vinci high schools do. Our team has done this project in a couple different ways over the years, incorporating everything from poetry and Romeo and Juliet in English, to statistics and music mixing in math and computer science, but it always involves the students making headphones in my class. In physics I usually pair this project with electricity, magnetism, and electromagnetic induction topics. My students usually completed a project on circuits previous to this project which allowed me to focus on magnetism, electromagnetism, and, of course, engineering. Headphones are much easier to make than it seems like they should be, and with some wire, a neodymium magnet, and an audio jack you can have your very own working headphones.

Our team has also put on TEDx events, and my kids completed two different projects for these events. For two years my kids had to complete an individual lighting structure in which they had to use a combination circuit to light up a certain number of lights. This structure also had to be representative of their TED talk that they wrote in English class and was displayed at the actual event. One year the kids created a hands-on demonstration of a certain physics topic and put on a small physics demo fair before the TEDx event. The kids had to physically construct the demonstration and present it to all of our guests before the event.

During our Cultivating Community Project, my kids learned all about energy through the lens of renewable energy and green spaces. They had to design and construct a green space for our school’s blacktop area and write up an energy profile of our school, their home, and their home city. These profiles incorporated their knowledge and understanding of energy including conservation of energy, types of energy, transformation of energy, and renewables, as well as how green spaces can impact those energies. They presented their findings to a panel to persuade the city to incorporate more green spaces, as well as actually constructing their own green space at our school.

Resources:

Pinterest.com It may sound funny but there are TONS of great ideas on how to incorporate engineering and various engineering challenges. Often all you need is an idea, a challenge question, and a possible list of supplies

Tryengineering.org There are lots of lesson plans, games, and project ideas here!

pbskids.org/designsquad While the site seems like it is more for younger kids, a lot of the projects can be easily adapted for big kids!
Meredith Casalino is a CSTA member who taught at Da Vinci Communications High School the last 3 years and recently became the STEM coordinator for the Orange County Department of Education.

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

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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.