September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

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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California Science Assessment Update

Posted: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

by Jessica Sawko

In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.

At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at 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.

Some ways to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in your classroom

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

by Carol Peterson

1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. 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.

2016 Award Recipients – Join CSTA in Honoring Their Accomplishments

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference  on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!

Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award

John Keller

John Keller

The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well into the future.” 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.

NGSS: Making Your Life Easier

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Peter A’hearn

Wait… What?

NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?

The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Celestial Highlights, September 2016

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt 

Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. 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.