May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Getting’ WILD at the Zoo!

Posted: Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

by Joanne Michael

I am a big animal lover and have been ever since I was a little girl growing up in Seattle. My father was an ornithologist by hobby and I grew up with neighbors knocking at our door, stunned bird in a box after flying into a window. As an adult, I worked as a ZooCamp Instructor at the Los Angeles Zoo for a summer and during school breaks, and then went through the Docent Program, graduating in spring, 2012. To say I enjoy being around animals is an understatement!

Since becoming a docent, my eyes have been opened to how much science can be taught in the zoo that is beyond the obvious. As a docent, I lead student groups of anywhere between four and ten kids (and hopefully a parent chaperone or two) around the zoo, teaching them information about what they are studying in class, what they had covered earlier in the year, or introducing concepts for them to get excited about when they return to their classroom. Even though docents must go through a year of structured classes and exams, and continue to do yearly review tests, a lot of the information that I teach the kids can be easily learned by any classroom teacher when not in a classroom or traditional campus setting.

For example, before going on your next field trip, see if your zoo has a docent program that can escort your students around the park. Most locations have some form of this, and the docents truly love to educate kids – that is why they are there! Slightly older students, e.g. 3rd grade and higher, seem to get the most out of the experience but obviously any student enjoys a personalized tour. If a docent-led tour is unavailable, make yourself and your chaperones mini docents! Although at first glance some of the following activities may seem young, trust me- I have done this with high school students, and they all love it!

If you’re leading your own group, prepare by grabbing a bag – paper lunch sacks, grocery bags, anything that is relatively small will work. In the bag put a quarter, a piece of sandpaper (ideally 50-grit), and a piece of leather. If your students see a marsupial (e.g. koala, kangaroo, possum, sugar glider, etc.), show the kids the quarter. Marsupials begin life even smaller than the diameter of the quarter, but they wiggle themselves into a pouch on the mother where they will continue to grow until they are large enough to survive. In the pouch is a teat for the baby to receive milk, and the milk actually changes as the baby matures. The baby can be in the pouch for many weeks before a zoo employee will discover it is there! Ask the students to consider how that could be a benefit to the animal? Could it be a disadvantage?

Almost all zoos have felines – animals such as jaguars, tigers, lions, and servals. Spend a minute watching the cats walk around their environment. If possible, take a look at the food that the cats are eating, or see if you can find bones. Ask the students to think about what cats (like their cats at home) eat? They only eat meat, and for this reason we call them carnivores. If cats only eat meat, how do they get it off of the bone? Show them the sandpaper and allow them to feel it, even GENTLY slide it against the back of their hand. Tell the students that cats have tongues that are super rough like this sandpaper, and so they actually will lick the meat right off of the bone!

When the students see a reptile such as a turtle, crocodile, alligator, or snake, ask them if they know that these animals lay eggs. Some may know, but most probably won’t be aware. Tell them that these animals lay their eggs in holes, and ask why would they do that? Is that a good idea, or bad idea? Tell the students that in addition to the holes, these reptiles’ eggs are much more leathery than the eggs we have in our refrigerator, and show them the piece of leather. Would this protect the animal completely? Why is this a good idea? When could it be a disadvantage for the animal?

Out in an open field and studying birds? If you have room, get a long (3 feet or so) piece of nylon rope, and fray one of the ends. Hold the rope by the middle, and swing the non-frayed end over your head in a circle. It should make a whirring noise. Switch ends, and swing the frayed end. It shouldn’t make any noise – why is that? The ends of the rope break up the airflow around the rope, so it doesn’t make the whistle noise. Similarly, if one person jumped into the middle of a deep puddle- there would be a big wave all the way out. If a whole bunch of people jumped into the same big puddle at the same time, there wouldn’t be a single wave out- there would be lots and lots of smaller waves. For birds of prey (falcons, eagles, ospreys), the edges of their wings are frayed like the rope, and so when they fly, it makes almost no noise. Most other birds don’t have this adaptation – how come?

In closing, by doing very short, two-minute demonstrations at the zoo, your students will get a much more memorable experience. Not only will they begin seeing the animals through new eyes, but will start to make connections between different species of animals, giving you a better foundation when you return to your school classroom.

Written by Joanne Michael

Joanne Michael

Joanne Michael is a K-5 Science Specialist for Manhattan Beach Unified, former CSTA Upper Elementary director, and is a current CSTA member.

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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.