September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

How to Shift to the 3-Dimensional Teaching of NOS for the CA NGSS: Chapter 10

Posted: Monday, June 20th, 2016

by Lawrence Flammer

Have you been wondering just how you can adapt your favorite lessons to comply with the 3 dimensions of the CA NGSS? And how to shift effectively from your “traditional” teaching style to an “authentic” scientific problem-solving approach? Well, did you read the draft version of the proposed CA Science Framework when it went out for public review last December? And did you get to chapter 10? If you did, you found answers to those first questions. If you didn’t, then DO take a look at Chapter 10.

When the draft was made public, you were strongly encouraged to read Chapters 1 and 2 first. Did you do that? I suspect that many teachers, busy with pre-vacation shut down may have put off their critique of the draft until vacation time. Then vacation time became more impacted than expected, so that critique probably became a minimal review of a specific grade level, and/or a specific subject area of particular experience and expertise. Many may have even skipped the reading of chapters 1 and 2 altogether. Well, if that describes your actions, then you may have just missed much of the material that provides excellent support for making the transition from your former teaching methods to the new expectations of the CA NGSS.

But I’m a retired science teacher. I’ve had time to read and explore many aspects of the NGSS as it was developing over the past few years. So I read Chapters 1 and 2 before digging into the topics and grade levels that are of the greatest interest to me. Chapter one pretty much confirmed most of what I had come to know about the NGSS, but there were a few aspects that were made clearer, so that was useful. But I was mainly looking for material that would actually help teachers to teach the unique features about the culture of science.

Much of the science illiteracy in our country can be traced directly to common misconceptions about the nature of science (NOS). This is not surprising given that an accurate picture of the NOS is seldom effectively presented in science textbooks or discussed in science classes. As a result, there is subsequent misuse and distrust of science by many people in our country.

Because of that, many educators have been scrutinizing the NGSS during their development to be sure that the new standards reflect more realistically the culture of science and what scientists actually do, and expect students to do the same thing in their classes. The NGSS do that. And the new CA Framework draft includes excellent suggestions and examples for implementing that NOS material, and teaching it effectively. The CA Framework mentions it in Chapter 2, and refers in several places to a more detailed treatment in Chapter 10.

All science teachers should see what has been included in the new California Science Framework (now in draft form) to help them understand and implement the NGSS. Go online to see Chapter 10: of that draft. Then note how early in this long chapter (on line 193, p. 9) begins several pages of strategies for teaching NOS. On line 216 (p. 10), it points out that “NOS must also be explicitly emphasized…” [to be effectively understood, according to research on the subject.] Then, at line 295 (p. 15), it begins a series of excellent examples to show how a topic can be integrated 3-dimensionally into a scientific problem-solving experience.

To see the contrast with “traditional” teaching, these examples start with a competent “pre-NGSS” treatment by “Ms. A.” followed by an analysis and how that approach could be modified to more closely meet the NGSS 3D mandate (line 358). This in turn is followed (line 464) by how Ms. B could provide the “Explicit Teaching of the NOS…” better-aligned with the CA NGSS  Instruction. Following this is a comparative analysis of those two examples (line 562). And this is followed with a brief example for how Mr. C could teach NOS to “young” (elementary) students in a 3D-NGSS fashion (line 581). Very compelling examples, greatly clarifying how teachers can adapt their “traditional” way of teaching to the 3D-NGSS. If you don’t have time to read the first draft of Chapter 10, be sure to read it in the second draft when the CA Science Curriculum Framework becomes available for public review, currently scheduled for June-July of 2016.

One of the likely barriers to teaching NOS explicitly is the probability that textbooks developed to teach NGSS will focus mostly on the science and engineering practices (for traditional topics), with little if any attention to key concepts of NOS. If textbooks continue to minimize NOS elements (as they have in the past), they will probably also lack engaging experiences for students to practice and reflect explicitly on any of the NOS elements that uniquely characterize science. But there is a solution.

In order to fill that likely gap, you have free access to a collection of about 25 student-centered interactive lessons that were designed to provide experiences with NOS elements explicitly. Those classroom-tested Nature of Science lessons are freely available on the ENSI website. There is also an e-text written for students that expands on those lessons. That e-text, Science Surprises: Exploring the Nature of Science, helps students to recognize the many popular misconceptions about science, and to repair them. More details about that e-text, and a teaching guide that helps to effectively integrate the lessons with the e-text, are available on the ENSI website.

Take the initiative: begin your science classes in the fall with several of those engaging NOS lessons on the ENSI website, and be sure your students follow the prompts to discuss and reflect on the aspects of science that each lesson illustrates. Then, throughout the year, you and your students can refer back to those NOS elements in the many science topics that you will explore, further reinforcing them, and deeply repairing many of the misconceptions about science. Your students will become truly scientifically literate.


Lawrence Flammer is a retired biology teacher, CSTA member, and webmaster for ENSIWEB (Evolution/Nature of Science Institutes Website). He can be reached at

Editor’s Note: A new version of the draft Science Curriculum Framework will be released for the second and final public review on June 28, 2016. That document will be available via

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State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2017 Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Posted: Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated eight exceptional secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“These teachers are dedicated and accomplished individuals whose innovative teaching styles prepare our students for 21st century careers and college and develop them into the designers and inventors of the future,” Torlakson said. “They rank among the finest in their profession and also serve as wonderful mentors and role models.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partners annually with the California Science Teachers Association and the California Mathematics Council to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program—the highest recognition in the nation for a mathematics or science teacher. The Science Finalists will be recognized at the CSTA Awards Luncheon on Saturday, October 14, 2017. 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.

Thriving in a Time of Change

Posted: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

by Jill Grace

By the time this message is posted online, most schools across California will have been in session for at least a month (if not longer, and hat tip to that bunch!). Long enough to get a good sense of who the kids in your classroom are and to get into that groove and momentum of the daily flow of teaching. It’s also very likely that for many of you who weren’t a part of a large grant initiative or in a district that set wheels in motion sooner, this is the first year you will really try to shift instruction to align to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a challenging year – change is hard. Change is even harder when there’s not a playbook to go by.  But as someone who has had the very great privilege of walking alongside teachers going through that change for the past two years and being able to glimpse at what this looks like for different demographics across that state, there are three things I hope you will hold on to. These are things I have come to learn will overshadow the challenge: a growth mindset will get you far, one is a very powerful number, and it’s about the kids. Learn More…

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Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

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

If You Are Not Teaching Science Then You Are Not Teaching Common Core

Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn 

“Science and Social Studies can be taught for the last half hour of the day on Fridays”

– Elementary school principal

Anyone concerned with the teaching of science in elementary school is keenly aware of the problem of time. Kids need to learn to read, and learning to read takes time, nobody disputes that. So Common Core ELA can seem like the enemy of science. This was a big concern to me as I started looking at the curriculum that my district had adopted for Common Core ELA. I’ve been through those years where teachers are learning a new curriculum, and know first-hand how a new curriculum can become the focus of attention- sucking all the air out of the room. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Tools for Creating NGSS Standards Based Lessons

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Elizabeth Cooke

Think back on your own experiences with learning science in school. Were you required to memorize disjointed facts without understanding the concepts?

Science Education Background

In the past, science education focused on rote memorization and learning disjointed ideas. Elementary and secondary students in today’s science classes are fortunate now that science instruction has shifted from students demonstrating what they know to students demonstrating how they are able to apply their knowledge. Science education that reflects the Next Generation Science Standards challenges students to conduct investigations. As students explore phenomena and discrepant events they engage in academic discourse guided by focus questions from their teachers or student generated questions of that arise from analyzing data and creating and revising models that explain natural phenomena. Learn More…

Written by Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke teaches TK-5 science at Markham Elementary in the Oakland Unified School District, is an NGSS Early Implementer, and is CSTA’s Secretary.

News and Happenings in CSTA’s Region 1 – Fall 2017

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Marian Murphy-Shaw


This month I was fortunate enough to hear about some new topics to share with our entire region. Some of you may access the online or newsletter options, others may attend events in person that are nearer to you. Long time CSTA member and environmental science educator Mike Roa is well known to North Bay Area teachers for his volunteer work sharing events and resources. In this month’s Region 1 updates I am happy to make a few of the options Mike offers available to our region. Learn More…

Written by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw is the student services director at Siskiyou County Office of Education and is CSTA’s Region 1 Director and chair of CSTA’s Policy Committee.