May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Increasing Technology and Engineering Practices School-wide and in the Science Classroom

Posted: Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

by Jeanine Wulfenstein

Our science classrooms are in a state of transition as we move closer toward the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core Standards.  A major part of this shift is the integration of technology and engineering practices that is infused throughout the new standards.  As part of this change it is vital that we educate students to be proficient and build the 21st century skills they are going to need to be successful. Now is the time for educators to review and refine current instructional practices to ensure proficiency not only in core science content, but also in overarching skills required to be part of a technologically literate society. 

The Common Core Standards emphasize the “Four-Cs” of collaboration, critical thinking, communication, and creativity.  These components are also at the core of engineering and scientific practice. Practicing scientists and engineers must be able to conduct background research, gather data, collaborate, and utilize technological resources to come to conclusion to push the boundaries of science and technological advancement. Several ways to embrace the technology resources are by utilizing computer based modeling software with students to simulate changes occurring over time, or by requiring students to complete web-based scavenger hunts (“web quests”) to gather data or research a given topic.  Teachers could also help students use pressure plates, force sensors, pH sensors, and/or motion sensors to collect real-time data for analysis and graphing via computer data management software.  By requiring students to utilize technology, not only will students be increasingly engaged in their learning and learn material in a more meaningful way, but they will also be better prepared with desired workplace skills.

We must broaden our vision of when and where science happens if we are to meet the learning needs of the 21st century. There is still room for expansion of data gathering and processing outside of the core science classroom.  Schools could implement Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) or “STEAM” (including integration of the arts) elective courses into the school day (like the one described in this month’s issue of CCS) to reinforce concepts learned in science through hands-on project based learning in other disciplines.  Programs such as this have inspired learning beyond the confines of the brick and mortar of the school, and have been successful with exceptional needs students since the project based elective setting can be a perfect venue for success for students with varying abilities

Time outside of the traditional “science class” could also be used to support scientific inquiry and scientific skills.  Schools could even teach data reporting and creation of science-based simulation using computer coding techniques.  Courses like this could be taught as part of a PLC intervention/enrichment model where computer coding would be offered to enrichment students or to students during a designated technology period.  Free programs like Scratch created by MIT teach programming and computer commands, and could be used to teach students to create content-related games or storyboards to reinforce and explain scientific concepts while at the same time utilizing computer coding skills.

By opening up the possibilities of student technology use and integrating engineering practices into the curriculum, educators are preparing the next generation of scientists and engineers to solve the problems of today, ward off the problems of tomorrow and catapult our society to new levels.  It is our responsibility as science educators to support this movement and to inspire our students to go out and accomplish great things!  Together we can do just that!

Written by Jeanine Wulfenstein

Jeanine Wulfenstein

Jeanine Wulfenstein teaches science at Gardner Middle School and is the CSTA Treasurer. You can reach her by emailing jwulfenstein@tvusd.k12.ca.us.

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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.