May 2015 – Vol. 27 No. 9

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 Director.

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Science Is in the Air – So Much Going On!

Posted: Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

by Laura Henriques

It’s May and with that comes AP exams, science fair, science Olympiad, NGSS Rollout Symposium, plans for summer professional development opportunities for us and our students. There are so many things happening in our regions and around the state. It’s hard to keep up on everything, but try we must!

Springtime is when our students show us what they’ve got!

Springtime is the culmination for a wide range of year-long or semester-long science activities. Congratulations and thank you to all of our members and science friends who helped with Science Olympiad, Science Fairs, academic decathlon, AP exams, robotics competitions, science or STEM fairs and more. We all recognize that it takes a lot of time, work, energy and passion from teachers and kids to get to the point where kids are able to share what they know, apply their knowledge and skills, be competitive, and shine. Those long after-school sessions, Saturday work sessions, the time away from family, the extra hours… they are worth it. You do make a difference and the opportunities that you are providing to your students will be remembered long after the event(s) are over.  Learn More…

Written by Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques is a professor of science education at CSU Long Beach and president of CSTA.

Computer Based Testing for Science – Coming Soon Plus Sample 2015 Individual Student Reports for 5th and 8th Grade Science CSTs

Posted: Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

updated May 6, 2015

by Jessica Sawko

On Wednesday, May 6, 2015 the California State Board of Education voted to approve Educational Testing Service (ETS) as the contractor to develop the new science assessments that are required to meet federal testing regulations.  The vote is not without controversy and was preceded by a closed session of the the State Board. As reported in the Sacramento Bee on April 5, Pearson School was dissatisfied with the results of the bidding process and threatened a lawsuit.

Partial view of the sample 5th grade student report. Click the image to access a full copy of the sample report.

Partial view of the sample 5th grade student report. Click the image to access a full copy of the sample report.

Additionally, this week the California Department of Education also released the final version of sample individual student reports that will be sent home to parents this summer. These reports will include the science assessment results in grades 5 and 8. The sample report of the grade 10 life science test has not been posted and CSTA has requested more information about what information this report will contain. Learn More…

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Written by Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko is CSTA’s Executive Director.

Science Framework Delay Passes First Committee While Standards Implementation Funding Stalls in Appropriations

Posted: Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

by Jessica Sawko

There is a great deal of positioning and lobbying going on at the state Capitol these days with the projected increase in state revenue, which may translate into as much as $3 billion in additional funding for K-12 education. The question is “how will that be spent?.” Governor Brown is expected to release his revised budget proposal on May 14. The budget will likely give us the answer to this question. CSTA, the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA), CSLNet, Children Now, TechAmerica, TechNet, Education Trust-West, California Federation of Teachers, and several LEAs agree that $1 billion should be earmarked to fund implementation of new state standards. AB 631 (Bonilla) proposes just that, and while it easily passed the Assembly Education Committee last month, it stalled in the Assembly Appropriations Committee and was put on suspense. Learn More…

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Written by Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko is CSTA’s Executive Director.

A Teacher’s Journey: NGSS Is NOT an Add On

Posted: Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

by Peter A’Hearn

Students looking at a beaker containing 55.85g of iron-

AHearn_Photo_1

“That is one atom of iron.”

Huh… Umm…Sinking feeling… I hope nobody who knows anything about science walks into my room right now.

My students were looking at a mole of iron (602,200,000,000,000,000,000,000 atoms more or less) and concluding that they were probably looking at one atom of iron. And this was after two weeks of learning about the periodic table and structure of the atom. My formal observation lesson that year had been about how to figure out the number of protons, neutrons, and electrons in an atom based on the periodic table. My principal gave me all “3s” and told me it was one of the best lessons he had observed that year. 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, Co-Chair of the 2013 Conference Committee, and a member of CSTA.

NGSS – Next Generation Science Students

Posted: Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

by Leah Wheeler

For the past 10 years, students have entered my 5th and 6th grade classrooms with little science experience.  Because science has not been taught and takes the backseat to all other subject areas, students had no idea how fascinating science could really be for them.  However, this past year, I had the pleasure to be a part of Galt Elementary School District’s NGSS Early Implementation team and it has truly transformed how I teach science in my classroom.

In years past, students would moan, “Oh no, science!” and, “This is so boring just reading out of a book,” but not this year.  This year students are enthused about learning science and thrilled for the opportunity to explore something new.

We started out our school year exploring Earth’s systems and the human impact on those systems.   Learn More…

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