March 2015 – Vol. 27 No. 7

Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Lesson Plans

Posted: Friday, April 1st, 2011

by Heather A. Marshall

We have all heard by now about the recent 9.0 earthquake off the coast of Japan and the resulting tsunami. Though this event is tragic in terms of lives lost and damages, it is an excellent “teachable moment.” IRIS is great with these teachable moments. Any time a large earthquake occurs, IRIS posts lessons on their website for teachers to use in their classrooms within 24 hours of the event. For the Japan quake, I used their site to show my students about the earthquake, tsunami, rank of this quake compared to other historic quakes, and videos of the event. This helped my students understand the implications of the Japan quake, and realize what could happen on the Pacific coast.

A colleague of mine, Kelly Heid, shared a virtual lab with me. All you need is a class set of computers with internet and flash player, and the students can go through some modules online to become “virtual seismologists.”  I tried this in my primarily 10th grade CP Geology classes with a set of nine netbooks, and the students loved it.  The learning curve on how to use the software was a little high–so the first module took us closer to 45 minutes than the 15-20 intended, but the remaining modules went more quickly once they were familiar with the software.

Heather Marshall teaches CP geology at Sobrato High School in Morgan Hill and is CSTA’s high school director.

Written by Heather Wygant

Heather Wygant

Heather Wygant teaches CP geology at Sobrato High School in Morgan Hill and is CSTA’s high school director.

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California State Board of Education Approves Suspension of State’s Accountability Measurement System

Posted: Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

SACRAMENTO— State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today announced that the State Board of Education voted unanimously to suspend the Academic Performance Index (API) for the 2014-15 school year 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.

Engineering Brings It All Together

Posted: Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

by Peter A’Hearn

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I am really enjoying the creativity that NGSS is awakening in teachers. Those who want to create are taking the standards (and the freedom that comes from the lack of a test) and really exploring what engages their students. I found though, that even when trying our best to match up to the expectations of NGSS, there is a feeling that we missed something. Did we remember the crosscutting concepts? Did the students engage in the practices at the level that NGSS expects? Did we get to the engineering? How about the Nature of Science? Was the content deep enough to really teach the DCI to the point where it could be applied to a new situation? Was it engaging? About a real world phenomenon or problem? 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, Co-Chair of the 2013 Conference Committee, and a member of CSTA.

Meaningful Thinking in 140 Characters or Fewer

Posted: Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

by Jill Grace

I’ve learned the hard way that I will get “huffs”, eye-rolls, grunts, and the occasional nuclear meltdown from students if I ask them to summarize their learning in, dare I say it, a paragraph. It’s as though paragraph is a bad word and how shocking that I would ask for one in science class! I even get slammed with questions: “How many sentences to I have to write?” (why are we still asking that question in middle school?), “Do I have to use complete sentences?”, and “Do I really have to write a whole paragraph?” *teacher sigh*

First and foremost, I am a huge advocate of having students produce writing in a science class. I will also admit that this can be a challenge, and so the year that I decided to make the shift to an interactive science notebook it was glaring at me. I would be asking students for writing as a vehicle to share their thinking (in what we refer to as “outputs” in the notebook) all the time. Although we wouldn’t be able to avoid the writing, sometimes I may want to ask my students to share their thinking in a way that will avoid the drama that asking for a paragraph can sometimes generate. (Incidentally, this was all prior to implementation of the Common Core Standards – where anecdotally, in just one year, I’ve seen a big shift in student acceptance of writing outside of language arts.) Learn More…

Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace teaches 7th grade science at Palos Verdes Intermediate School and is the Middle School/Jr. High Director for CSTA.

State Board to Vote on Suspension of API for 2014-2015

Posted: Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

The California State Board of Education will vote on the Public School Accountability Act (PSAA) Committee’s recommendation to suspend the calculation of the Academic Performance Index (API) for a second year 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.

Exploring the Ecosystem That Is Your Classroom

Posted: Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

by Laura Henriques

As you read through this month’s CCS you’ll find articles about biology, professional learning, NGSS implementation tales, and finding a job. I find the juxtaposition of the articles works. When we look for a job we need to have a good fit – we need to fill a niche in the school’s ecosystem and our needs must be met. When we look at our professional learning needs we are doing a self-assessment, finding out our own needs and meeting them

Earlier this year John Speigel, Anthony Quan and Yami Shimojyo wrote an article for CCS which discussed a pathway from NGSS awareness to implementation. If we use their awareness-transition-implementation matrix to mark our efforts we can start making changes to our instruction and have a mechanism to note progress. So let’s think of our classroom as its own teaching/learning ecosystem and start modifying the system to see what positive changes we can make to student engagement and student learning. Learn More…

Written by Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques is a professor of science education at CSU Long Beach and president of CSTA.