September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

Introduction to the Scientific Method Lesson Plan

Posted: Saturday, September 1st, 2012

by Jeff Orlinsky

It is the start of a new year and you are looking for new way to start your class.  How about introducing the scientific method with this simple experiment? Your students will investigate how increasing salt solutions affect seed germination, and the results can be used to make connections to different topics in your class.

Grades: 7th – 12th Grade
Subjects: Biology / Life Sciences, Chemistry, Earth Sciences, English-Language Arts, Investigation and Experimentation, Life Sciences. Although this lesson would work in any science class, it is intended for a life science class.
Topics: Germination, salinization; Extensions:  osmosis, Human influences on the environment, plant growth.

Duration: 20 min Prep + 1 hour Activity + 1 hour Post

Setting: Classroom

Salt Lab Handout

Soil Salinization article


Zip-loc bags, paper towels

NaCl concentrations  – 0, 0.25, 0.5, 0.75, 1.0, 1.5, 2.0, 2.5, 3.0 grams/100 mL H2O

Distilled water

Graduated cylinders, 25 mL

Seeds, i.e. radish, lettuce


Introduce the topic of salinization of soils: soils and water contain minute quantities of dissolved minerals, and repeated watering and drying out of the soil increases the concentration of these minerals in the soil.  This is known as soil salinization.  Have students read the article, or parts of the article.

Preparation:  you can make the salt solutions ahead of time, or you can have the students make the salt solutions.  I have the students prepare the solutions, as this is my way of introducing metric systems and developing good measuring skills.  I group the students to lower my cost, and each group runs the control (no salt) plus one variable (salt solution).

Have the students place 10 seeds on a paper towel, fold the towel, and place it into a Ziploc bag. Next, the students add the solution to the Ziploc bag and close it securely.
Check the bags daily, and after the 4th day count the number of seeds that have germinated.

Have each group determine the percent of seeds that have germinated, and collect the data from the class, averaging counts where the different solutions were duplicated. In addition, have the students graph their data. In most cases, the results are very clear.  As part of the conclusion, have the students predict why the salt may be affecting the seed germination.

Throughout the year, I have my students return to this experiment, and I incorporate this experiment’s results into my lessons. For example, in my lessons on membranes and osmosis, I ask the students to review and update their conclusions.

Written by Jeff Orlinsky

Jeff Orlinsky

Jeff Orlinsky teaches science at Warren High School and is CSTA’s High School Director.

5 Responses

  1. What a great idea for a lab. I think I will use this in my ecology unit!

  2. I really like this lab too! It seems that the links for the handout and article are no longer active, any chance you could email them to me or repost them? Thanks so much!

  3. Thank you for your comment Connor, I have updated the links!.

  4. […] September’s e-CCS, I introduced a lab about salinization and seed germination and one of the concepts illustrated was […]

  5. […] Lab Activity: How Salt Affects Seed Germination […]

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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.