November 2015 – Vol. 28 No. 3

Getting Your Primary Classroom Ready for Science!

Posted: Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

by Valerie Joyner

It’s hard to believe summer vacation is almost over and it’s time to plan for a new school year. As primary teachers, you know the importance of building the foundations with your young students during the year to support their futures as students, lifelong learners, and informed citizens. A critical component of these educational foundations is science! But, where do you start?

There are many questions to consider as you plan for a successful year of science learning. What initial steps will you take with NGSS? When is the best time of year to cover life science, physical science, and earth science? When will science fit into your school day? How will students record and share what they observe, do, and learn? How will you manage science hands-on activities and realia in your classroom? Will you plan a field trip to enrich and enhance students’ science learning? What routines will you need in place for “Science Talk?” The list goes on!

With so many questions, possibilities, and of course circumstances specific to each school, workable, effective plans will vary widely. Ultimately you’re the best judge of what works for your situation, so here are some ideas and options to consider, combine, and adapt as you plan.

Classroom Set-Up
Giving thought to your classroom set-up now will allow you greater access to making science successful through the year. Science-ready classrooms include a corner or table where you and your students can share science related realia, specimens, and books to support a unit of study. Plan where to keep your science supplies, materials, and resources. You might also consider seating arrangements geared for science. Since early explorations are often with partners and small groups, some teachers like clustered seating or table groups. Figure out where “Science Talk” will take place at the end of each science lesson.

Science Routines
Establishing classroom routines is also a vital component to successful science experiences and learning. These routines fall into three categories: 1) hands-on science experiences, 2) recording/sharing science learning, and 3) “Science Talk.”

Routines to establish for students’ hands-on activities include establishing who will gather materials, who will perform the activities, and who will cleanup materials. Some teachers use a card or job system to establish who will be the “Getter,” “Recorder,” and “Worker.”

Recording and sharing science experiences and learning begins with a science journal or notebook, so determine what your science journals/notebooks will look like. Some options are teacher-made individual unit journals or whole class booklets or charts. It can even be binders or three-ring pocket folders for older primary students. The choice you make will set the groundwork for the remainder of the year.

The routines you set for science notebooks should include rules for making entries. For example, they should always include the date, and drawings should be accurate (e.g. no pink butterflies just because they like pink) and labeled. Of course developmental abilities of the students must always be taken into account. For a kindergartener entries may involve dictation, sentence strips, stamped dates, or content printed on self-stick labels. Establishing the routine is the critical part, one that can be built upon through the years.

A third routine to plan for is “Science Talk,” where students share what they experienced and begin to make claims based on evidence. A second grade student might say, “I noticed the ice melted and became water (liquid), and became ice (solid) again when I froze it” and “When we cooked the egg, it went from a liquid to a solid, but we couldn’t make it a liquid again. Therefore I think some changes made by heating and cooling can be reversed and some cannot” (NGSS 2-PS1-4).
Expectations and rules about taking turns, making comments about other student’s statements or ideas, and how to use evidence to support claims need to be established in the very first “Science Talk” and practiced throughout the school year.

CSTA believes science should be taught to every student, every day, every year. While that is our goal, we understand that the real constraints placed on you – by your principal,parents, district, and state – have a direct impact on your ability to teach science. Thedesire to teach science as often as possible, combined with a thoughtfully set-up room and practical routines established at the outset, will help you to find time for science in the classroom more effectively and frequently

Written by Valerie Joyner

Valerie Joyner

Valerie Joyner is a retired elementary science educator and is CSTA’s Primary (grades K-2) Director.

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Your Chance to Review the California Science Curriculum Framework Is Here

Posted: Tuesday, November 17th, 2015

by Laura Henriques

The California Science Curriculum Framework & Evaluation Criteria document is now ready for its first 60 Day Public Feedback period.! This is a critical process for the review and vetting of the document. Anyone from around the state is invited to read the document and provide feedback. CSTA encourages its members to participate in this process.

Just to be clear, the California Curriculum Framework is different from the NRC Framework for K-12 Science Education. The NRC Framework is the document which guided the development of Next Generation Science Standards. The California Curriculum Framework is the document which will help us make sense of those standards in our classrooms. Learn More…

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.

Call for Nominations for the 2016-2018 CSTA Board of Directors

Posted: Thursday, November 12th, 2015

It’s that time of year when CSTA is looking for dedicated and qualified persons to fill the upcoming vacancies on its Board of Directors. This opportunity allows you to help shape the policy and determine the path that the Board will take in the new year. There is a time and energy commitment, but that is far outweighed by the personal satisfaction of knowing that you are an integral part of an outstanding professional educational organization, dedicated to the support and guidance of California’s science teachers. You will also have the opportunity to help CSTA review and support legislation that benefits good science teaching and teachers.

Right now is an exciting time to be involved at the state level in the California Science Teachers Association. The CSTA Board of Directors is currently involved in implementing the Next Generations Science Standards and its strategic plan. If you are interesting in serving on the CSTA Board of Directors, now is the time to submit your name for consideration. 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.

Middle School Madness Part 2: Integrated Science Versus Coordinated Science

Posted: Thursday, November 12th, 2015

by Robert Sherriff

In my last article, I compared the integrated versus discipline-specific models of teaching science in middle school. In this article, I seek to dispel some misconceptions and refine the comparison of an integrated science program with a coordinated science program.

This past summer, I was honored to participate in presenting at the two Northern California NGSS Early Implementation Institutes. I was part of a science content cadre to which I brought both my 25 years of middle school teaching experience and my knowledge of NGSS (I was on the State Science Expert Panel and was Co-chair of the Curriculum Framework Criteria Committee – CFCC). Other members of the cadre included Bob Rumer, an innovative engineering professor who helped us incorporate the Engineering Standards, and an outstanding high school science teacher, Lesley Gates, who helped provide activities and pedagogy. Learn More…

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:

The Tree Room: A New Online Resource for Teaching Evolutionary Relationships

Posted: Thursday, November 12th, 2015

by Anna Thanukos, Teresa MacDonald, David Heiser, and Robert Ross

Understanding evolutionary trees is important for students because trees visually represent the idea that all life is genealogically linked. This powerful idea, tied to Next Generation Science Standards MS-LS4-2 and HS-LS4-1, is one of those most fundamental concepts that biological evolution offers to explain the biological world. The implication is that any set of species, no matter how distantly related, share common ancestors at some point in evolutionary history. Evolutionary trees are an efficient way to communicate that idea. It turns out, however, that evolutionary trees are not quite as straightforward to interpret as they may at first appear — so where can a teacher turn for a user-friendly introduction to their use in the classroom? Learn More…

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:

Ship That Chip: Teaching Engineering by Using Snacks

Posted: Thursday, November 12th, 2015

by Joanne Michael

When a new school year begins, almost every student (and teacher) is excited, motivated, and ready to work hard. Almost as quickly as it began, however, the “newness” of the school year wears off, and the students are in need of something new to recharge them. At the same time, teachers attempting to implement NGSS (even if not in full implementation mode) are getting tired, and may need a pick-me-up of their own. Enter the “Ship the Chip” challenge! Learn More…

Written by Joanne Michael

Joanne Michael is the K-5 science specialist at Meadows Elementary in Manhattan Beach, CA, and CSTA’s intermediate grades 3-5) Director.