May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Highlights from NGSS Science Curriculum Framework Focus Group #3

Posted: Monday, February 3rd, 2014

by Jill Grace

I had the pleasure of attending the Science Curriculum Framework Focus group in Orange County on January 31, 2014.  The focus group was hosted by the Orange County Department of Education with 3 other counties, Ventura, Los Angeles, and Riverside, participating via teleconference.  A huge shout out to the 80 dedicated individuals who attended and had to brave rush-hour traffic on a Friday evening!  It was also nice to see several dedicated members of the Instructional Quality Commission present among the four counties listening in on the conversation.  

Since Heather did such a great job explaining the process, I thought I’d highlight a few of the suggestions put forth by both members of the focus group and members of the public.  There was a tremendous amount of information given, so keep in mind that these are just highlights.

One common theme that emerged from the meeting was the need to help teachers with the shift from what students KNOW to what they can DO.  Grade level examples with pedagogy and content, as well as rubrics for measuring success were requested.  It was emphasized that teachers will need help in understanding how engineering, literacy skills, nature of science, and crosscutting concepts can be embedded in the content, not taught as separate “units”.  It was also expressed that there was a need to help teachers identify what specific content and specific skills students would have acquired before “getting to my class” (like an atlas or learning map).  Models for different ways of bundling the standards were requested.  There were numerous suggestions for vignettes, videos of what NGSS looks like in a classroom, as well as an expanded resource website.

NGSS is designed to embed Common Core, so naturally conversation on this topic emerged.   It was requested that the framework help show the integration of math and language arts in an interdisciplinary way, and provide support ideas for cross-curricular training.  Incorporating some common language arts strategies that aren’t as familiar to science teachers, as well as known science education strategies that support literacy and metacognition would be helpful.  The frameworks should emphasize that reading and writing about science is not the same as doing and that hands on experiences can improve the literacy development in students – literacy and writing support science (not vice versa).  It was also stressed that because science is taught conceptually, this should inform collaborations between science teachers and other content teachers.  Further, distinguishing between evidence in science and evidence in ELA will be necessary.  Oh yes, and PLEASE help with finding quality, relevant, and grade-level appropriate readings for use with students in a science class.

Suggestions were made to help inform local education agencies about NGSS and including:

  • providing rationale by the Science Expert Panel for the middle grades learning progressions;
  • help with transitioning and “rolling out” NGSS;
  • help with professional development, information on credentialing, emphasizing equity across the State, and that science should be a full-year program for all students in all schools;
  • clearly defining and providing course protocol for what “life science”, “physical science”, and even “integrated science” should be at the high school levels are necessary as the existing courses do not necessarily hold up the vision or goals of NGSS. In addition, for students moving on beyond these courses, provide guidance for STEM bound students.  

Conversations arose about motivation for both teachers and students.  Suggestions were made to

  • emphasize that science should be hands-on;
  • connect students and teachers with scientists;
  • offer strategies on how to foster collaboration between higher education, informal/outdoor education groups, and non-profits and what this looks like in the classroom.

Other suggestions included requests to leave some flexibility for the creativity of teachers.  This flexibility could allow for differentiation of NGSS to meet the needs of a particular school population, allowing it to be relevant for those students and their community.  Framework writers were encouraged keep suggestions practical as many classrooms in California have large numbers of students, few supplies and resources, and only 45-55 minute periods.

Finally, another important theme emerged with respect to helping teachers understand the generality of the Performance Expectations (PEs).  There seems to be some confusion that because content isn’t explicitly stated in the PE, it won’t be taught.  Teachers will need guidance on how to build content to meet the goal of the PE. For example, although “acid base chemistry” isn’t explicitly stated, students would need to have an understanding of it to meet the high school standard HS-ESS3-6, which involves understanding the impact of human activity on Earth systems such as the ocean, atmosphere, biosphere, and others.  Although DNA isn’t explicitly stated, students would need to have some understanding of it to meet the expectations of the middle school standard MS-LS3, which involves understanding inheritance and variation of traits.  Teachers will need to know what prior knowledge students will have on the topic, as well as what new knowledge students will need to acquire to meet the PEs.

As mentioned previously, much more was shared beyond this, but these were some big themes that stood out to me.  Two more focus groups are being held in February: Sacramento with video conference locations from Humboldt, Shasta, and Siskiyou on February 4, 2014, and Fresno on February 11, 2014.  More info can be found at: http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/sc/cf/sciencefocgroup2014.asp.  Public comments are also encouraged by February 18, 2014.  You can submit your own comments to scienceframework@cde.ca.gov.

Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is the President-elect for CSTA.

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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.