September 2016 – Vol. 29 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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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.