May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

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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From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy:

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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.