May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Kindergarten Teachers Take On the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

Posted: Wednesday, November 16th, 2016

by Karal S. Blankenship and Claudia Mitchell

Science in Kindergarten is no different than teaching science in other grades. Students come to us full of wonder, resulting in endless questions. We strive to provide opportunities for our students to become active listeners, use critical thinking skills, to observe, and to make sense of the work around them. This provides our students the chance to develop a deep appreciation for science. This is nuts and bolts of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Our journey with the NGSS began with the California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative Grant. Teachers were brought together to deepen their understanding of science, at an adult level, using the same strategies we would then take on with our students. At the same time we were learning more about the NGSS and learning to think about more than just the science ideas we used to think of as our content. We were learning how to include the Crosscutting Concepts and Science and Engineering Practices along with the Disciplinary Core Ideas to make our lesson plans three-dimensional.

After that first summer institute, we went to work in small grade level groups. We came together twice during the school year, planning a lesson that would then be taught in one of our classrooms by the group and then be taken back to all our classrooms to try on our own. When planning, our goal was to include the three dimensions of the NGSS. As with any good lesson, we learned that not everything can be included in that “one perfect lesson,” but we learned that as we thought of the flow of lessons, the three dimensions helped to guide our long range planning.

This is the lesson that we created in the spring of 2016. Try it out. There are some important shifts we were thoughtful about in the lesson, but because they are so natural for students, they make sense and will come naturally to the teacher after a while. There are just a few more components to think about when planning. For example, we want the students to engage more, to talk, and to question.

5E Lesson Plan: Kindergarten Pushes and Pulls

Students discovering how gentle and hard pushes affect the speed of a ball.

Students discovering how gentle and hard pushes affect the speed of a ball.

This lesson was planned to introduce the learning sequence. When we came together to plan we realized that in kindergarten, “pushes and pulls” are not easily identified. So we discussed how our learning sequence should include multiple opportunities to observe “pushes and pulls.” We also realized that the Science and Engineering Practice of “Analyzing and Interpreting Data” would be the most useful to help students discover ideas around the concept of push and pulls. While the Performance Expectation K-PS2-1 called for “Planning and Carrying out Investigations”, we chose to focus on getting students to really look at what was happening with the balls and learning how to interpret what they were seeing. Since we planned this lesson as an introduction to the learning sequence, we knew we could include “Planning and Carrying out Investigations”, later in the sequence. Future lesson included taking the students outside to focus on “really” hard pushes, and what happens to the direction the ball takes. After several opportunities to explore and explain pushes, we moved to pulls, and finally, collisions. This is where we chose to include “Planning and Carrying Out Investigations.”

One of our big “aha’s” was centering the lesson around a phenomenon the students would try to explain. As we wrestled with the use of phenomenon in the lesson, we discovered the students let us know if we had found something that really triggered their thinking. When we did, students talked about and referred to the phenomenon throughout (and that even carried over into other lessons). That was when we knew we had found a quality phenomenon. If students only talked about it during the one lesson, we knew it didn’t encourage their connections deeply enough.

We have also realized that because groups of children are different each year, we have to be prepared, always be looking for quality ideas to introduce new information. Don’t worry if things don’t go the way you intended. Student-centered instruction means that you have to build from your students’ understanding. This last year we had to be ready to adapt, to provide students experiences to answer the questions they still had, and we had to keep reading resources that support the NGSS. We found that when we thought our students were taking us off topic, they were really just needing another step to build their understanding and that we had not provided experiences to bridge their learning. This helped us be more careful planners of instruction.

Useful NGSS Resources:

National Research Council (2012). A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

NGSS Lead States. 2013. Next Generation Science Standards: For States, By States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. (2013).


Walt Disney Animation Studios. (2011, November 16). The Mini Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: Stuck at Rabbit’s House. Retrieved from


Karal S. Blankenship is a kindergarten teacher at SDUSD, and a Core Leadership Team Leader of the CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative, and a member of CSTA.

Claudia Mitchell is a kindergarten teacher at Cherokee Point Elementary, SDUSD, a Lead Teacher in the CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative, and a member of CSTA.

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.

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CSTA Annual Conference Early Bird Rates End July 14

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

Teachers engaged in workshop activity

Teachers engaging in hands-on learning during a workshop at the 2016 CSTA conference.

Don’t miss your chance to register at the early bird rate for the 2017 CSTA Conference – the early-bird rate closes July 14. Need ideas on how to secure funding for your participation? Visit our website for suggestions, a budget planning tool, and downloadable justification letter to share with your admin. Want to take advantage of the early rate – but know your district will pay eventually? Register online today and CSTA will reimburse you when we receive payment from your district/employer. (For more information on how that works contact Zi Stair in the office for details – 916-979-7004 or

New Information Now Available On-line:

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.

Goodbye Outgoing and Welcome Incoming CSTA Board Members

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Jill Grace

Jill Grace, CSTA President, 2017-2019

On July 1, 2017 five CSTA members concluded their service and four new board members joined the ranks of the CSTA Board of Directors. CSTA is so grateful for all the volunteer board of directors who contribute hours upon hours of time and energy to advance the work of the association. At the June 3 board meeting, CSTA was able to say goodbye to the outgoing board members and welcome the incoming members.

This new year also brings with it a new president for CSTA. As of July 1, 2017 Jill Grace is the president of the California Science Teachers Association. Jill is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, a former middle school science teacher, and is currently a Regional Director with the K-12 Alliance @ WestEd where she works with California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative districts and charter networks in the San Diego area.

Outgoing Board Members

  • Laura Henriques (President-Elect: 2011 – 2013, President: 2013 – 2015, Past President: 2015 – 2017)
  • Valerie Joyner (Region 1 Director: 2009 – 2013, Primary Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Mary Whaley (Informal Science Education Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Sue Campbell (Middle School/Jr. High Director: 2015 – 2017)
  • Marcus Tessier (2-Year College Director: 2015 – 2017)

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.

Finding My Student’s Motivation of Learning Through Engineering Tasks

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Huda Ali Gubary and Susheela Nath

It’s 8:02 and the bell rings. My students’ walk in and pick up an entry ticket based on yesterday’s lesson and homework. My countdown starts for students to begin…3, 2, 1. Ten students are on task and diligently completing the work, twenty are off task with behaviors ranging from talking up a storm with their neighbors to silently staring off into space. This was the start of my classes, more often than not. My students rarely showed the enthusiasm for a class that I had eagerly prepared for. I spent so much time searching for ways to get my students excited about the concepts they were learning. I wanted them to feel a connection to the lessons and come into my class motivated about what they were going to learn next. I would ask myself how I could make my class memorable where the kids were in the driver’s seat of learning. Incorporating engineering made this possible. 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 California NGSS k-8 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.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Unveils Updated Recommended Literature List

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson unveiled an addition of 285 award-winning titles to the Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list.

“The books our students read help broaden their perspectives, enhance their knowledge, and fire their imaginations,” Torlakson said. “The addition of these award-winning titles represents the state’s continued commitment to the interests and engagement of California’s young readers.”

The Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list is a collection of more than 8,000 titles of recommended reading for children and adolescents. Reflecting contemporary and classic titles, including California authors, this online list provides an exciting range of literature that students should be reading at school and for pleasure. Works include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama to provide for a variety of tastes, interests, and abilities. Learn More…

Written by Guest Contributor

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:

Teaching Science in the Time of Alternative Facts – Why NGSS Can Help (somewhat)

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn

The father of one of my students gave me a book: In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood by Walt Brown, Ph. D. He had heard that I was teaching Plate Tectonics and wanted me to consider another perspective. The book offered the idea that the evidence for plate tectonics could be better understood if we considered the idea that beneath the continent of Pangaea was a huge underground layer of water that suddenly burst forth from a rift between the now continents of Africa and South America. The waters shot up and the continents hydroplaned apart on the water layer to their current positions. The force of the movement pushed up great mountain ranges which are still settling to this day, resulting in earthquakes along the margins of continents. This had happened about 6,000 years ago and created a great worldwide flood. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.