September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Maintaining Summer Engagement

Posted: Thursday, June 4th, 2015

by Joanne Cozens Michael 

Sunblock and beach towels, car trips that stretch out too long, and visits with friends. While summer can be a relaxing, wonderful time to unwind and rejuvenate, too often our students go far in the opposite direction, causing August/September to be a month of solid review of concepts from previous years before diving into new information. Although we cannot escape that entirely, keeping students engaged in learning new things via fun experiments throughout the summer can be a great way to keep their young brains going!

Most students have seen (or done) the “Diet Coke and Mentos” experiment (YouTube it if you haven’t seen it- it is GREAT!), and love it. Why stop there? Have students experiment with other colas, with fruit sodas, name brands against store brands, maybe peppermint vs fruit-flavored Mentos. Grocery stores regularly have 2-liter bottles of soda on sale for a dollar or less per bottle, and while Mentos are not on sale on a regular basis, Costco/Sam’s Club normally has large packs (individually wrapped in tubes of 14ish) for pretty cheap. They can measure it by height (if there is a grassy area near a brick wall for reference), by mass (measuring how much is left in the bottle), or any other way the scientists can think of!

Have some active kids who love to kick around a soccer ball? Turn it into an experiment! Deflate the ball until it is as flat as possible. Using a hand pump, pump it 10 times, and then kick it. If you happen to have an air pressure gauge that is sensitive, the students can get detailed results- otherwise, knowing the number of pumps on the hand pump will work for a summertime experiment. Yes, there is also the variable of the strength of the kick- the students can create a contraption to do the kicking for them! Every 10 pumps, measure the distance the ball travels, and see if there is a “sweet spot” for the ball to get the furthest kick.

This one is a personal favorite of mine-making bubble solution! 6 cups distilled water to 1 cup liquid dishwashing soap, and ¼ cup of light corn syrup works really well, and lasts for a long time. Dawn really does work the best… but what is the second best? Does any kind of liquid soap work? If you have young children or pets running around, be careful, as some kinds of soap can be toxic. They can make their own wands as well, using pipe cleaners, but sometimes the wands do not make good bubbles- if you can find extra bubble wands around, those may work out the best.

Making ice cream is a classic, uses a bit of science, and is a reward in itself at the end! Traditionally it was done using 2 coffee cans, but you can find balls to put the ingredients in online, and occasionally at local stores. Create some new flavors! How about root beer ice cream! Raspberry-chocolate chip? The students can run off some energy making the cans or ball move around for 20 minutes, can test the temperature of the forming ice-cream every 5 minutes, and when it is all ready to consume, have earned the reward of a dessert!

These are only a few ideas- the concept is to get the students out and into the world! Look at a bug, climb a tree, track the clouds or the stars- the sky is the limit!

Written by Joanne Michael

Joanne Michael

Joanne Michael is a K-5 Science Specialist for Manhattan Beach Unified and is a CSTA member.

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State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2017 Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Posted: Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated eight exceptional secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“These teachers are dedicated and accomplished individuals whose innovative teaching styles prepare our students for 21st century careers and college and develop them into the designers and inventors of the future,” Torlakson said. “They rank among the finest in their profession and also serve as wonderful mentors and role models.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partners annually with the California Science Teachers Association and the California Mathematics Council to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program—the highest recognition in the nation for a mathematics or science teacher. The Science Finalists will be recognized at the CSTA Awards Luncheon on Saturday, October 14, 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.

Thriving in a Time of Change

Posted: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

by Jill Grace

By the time this message is posted online, most schools across California will have been in session for at least a month (if not longer, and hat tip to that bunch!). Long enough to get a good sense of who the kids in your classroom are and to get into that groove and momentum of the daily flow of teaching. It’s also very likely that for many of you who weren’t a part of a large grant initiative or in a district that set wheels in motion sooner, this is the first year you will really try to shift instruction to align to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a challenging year – change is hard. Change is even harder when there’s not a playbook to go by.  But as someone who has had the very great privilege of walking alongside teachers going through that change for the past two years and being able to glimpse at what this looks like for different demographics across that state, there are three things I hope you will hold on to. These are things I have come to learn will overshadow the challenge: a growth mindset will get you far, one is a very powerful number, and it’s about the kids. Learn More…

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Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is President of CSTA.

If You Are Not Teaching Science Then You Are Not Teaching Common Core

Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn 

“Science and Social Studies can be taught for the last half hour of the day on Fridays”

– Elementary school principal

Anyone concerned with the teaching of science in elementary school is keenly aware of the problem of time. Kids need to learn to read, and learning to read takes time, nobody disputes that. So Common Core ELA can seem like the enemy of science. This was a big concern to me as I started looking at the curriculum that my district had adopted for Common Core ELA. I’ve been through those years where teachers are learning a new curriculum, and know first-hand how a new curriculum can become the focus of attention- sucking all the air out of the room. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

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

Tools for Creating NGSS Standards Based Lessons

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Elizabeth Cooke

Think back on your own experiences with learning science in school. Were you required to memorize disjointed facts without understanding the concepts?

Science Education Background

In the past, science education focused on rote memorization and learning disjointed ideas. Elementary and secondary students in today’s science classes are fortunate now that science instruction has shifted from students demonstrating what they know to students demonstrating how they are able to apply their knowledge. Science education that reflects the Next Generation Science Standards challenges students to conduct investigations. As students explore phenomena and discrepant events they engage in academic discourse guided by focus questions from their teachers or student generated questions of that arise from analyzing data and creating and revising models that explain natural phenomena. Learn More…

Written by Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke teaches TK-5 science at Markham Elementary in the Oakland Unified School District, is an NGSS Early Implementer, and is CSTA’s Secretary.

News and Happenings in CSTA’s Region 1 – Fall 2017

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Cal

This month I was fortunate enough to hear about some new topics to share with our entire region. Some of you may access the online or newsletter options, others may attend events in person that are nearer to you. Long time CSTA member and environmental science educator Mike Roa is well known to North Bay Area teachers for his volunteer work sharing events and resources. In this month’s Region 1 updates I am happy to make a few of the options Mike offers available to our region. Learn More…

Written by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw is the student services director at Siskiyou County Office of Education and is CSTA’s Region 1 Director and chair of CSTA’s Policy Committee.