May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Heat Up Science!

Posted: Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

by Sue Pritchard

I am sure you have noticed that education looks a bit different these past two years.  The recession has played havoc in how districts assign teachers, and fluctuating student populations make teacher placement even trickier. I would imagine most of us know at least one teacher who is now wondering, “How am I going to teach science without a science background?”  Right?

I am no different.  I know several teachers in that same situation.  I hope this article helps many of you start the year “on fire,” but not literally.  This collection of ideas focuses on the 6th grade science standards on heat (thermal energy).  The exciting part of this article for me is the new CSTA delivery system of CCS.  Now that we are eCCS, we can help you save steps by connecting directly to the outside links cited.  Read further for some fun suggestions to make your planning easier and your students engaged in science.

Heat transfer is a fascinating concept to teach.  It is possible to use very simple materials and still have a “wow” impact on the students.  Try the Jefferson Lab’s ideas found at  This site has a wonderful set of activities and formative assessments.  The first page gives a great way to assess students’ prior knowledge on conduction, convection, and radiation.  If an LCD projector is available in the classroom, project assessment pages to the class and have them take a few minutes to respond either individually or in small groups.  Since some of the terms are defined at the top of the page, this can be a great way to quickly monitor student focus and application abilities.

Once students’ knowledge levels are assessed, page through the site to find fun, inexpensive activities that can support the student-learned outcomes needed.  The “Cold Stuff” assessment tool is also reorganized into an activity.  Students can bring supplies from home and really expand on what they use for insulators.  It is possible to investigate the concepts within the descriptions given or to allow the students to think outside the box and enhance the activities with their “teacher approved” additions.

“The Cold Stuff” is but one resource at this site.  Click on the different buttons on the top right of the homepage: teacher resources, student zone, games & puzzles, etc., to read about other investigative opportunities provided.

Want more ideas on heat and thermodynamics?  Check out and click on the sixteen different choices for some good background information and activities.  Although the information on this site is good, the site does not have the kinds of graphics that some educators may expect.  Look beyond this aspect and enjoy the ideas presented.  Most of these activities can be the beginnings of inquiry science investigations.  Depending on how you approach the learning, you can simply follow the activities as they are listed, or you can increase the inquiry approach through the use of questioning.  For more information on changing recipe style science activities to inquiry approaches, refer to the site I have mentioned in previous articles,  Bookmark this site because you may want to refer to it often during the school year.

I would be remiss if I did not mention an excellent web resource that I use often.  When I searched the Exploratorium site for heat transfer ideas, a very long list appeared.  Check out to see what is available.  I highly recommend surfing the EXPLO.TV site where a library of podcasts, webcasts, and video clips are just waiting to be enjoyed.  Overall, though, the Exploratorium website is not only an excellent source of thermal activities but also contains some great ideas to help segue to the the 6th grade science standards on Shaping Earth’s Surface.  No matter how the site is used, it is an excellent resource.

I hope you enjoy our new form of delivery, the eCCS.  It is a great way for all of us to be “green” and still enjoy the great resources that YOUR CSTA offers to you.  Enjoy the beginning of your school year … and keep science in the forefront.  All of our students … all of society, deserve it.  Enjoy some hot heat transfer and share it with your students!  It is good for you … it is good for your students … and it is good for science.

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.

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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:

Please contact Rosanne Luu at 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.