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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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.