May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Mars Curiosity

Posted: Saturday, September 1st, 2012

by Bethany Dixon

With a new year, it’s easy for teachers to feel like they’re on Mars, but with the landing of the Curiosity, we now have the opportunity to show students what it’s actually like to be there! How long can you spend on Mars? Whether it’s 60 seconds or 16 lessons, integrating the landing of the Curiosity rover into your curriculum can be more than just an interesting lesson in current STEM events. Organized by approximate time needed, here are the latest resources to deliver an out-of-this-world classroom experience, with a preview that spans bell work, an Emmy-award winning short video series, standards-based, ready-to-go lesson plans, and resources for using Mars for interdisciplinary community involvement:

60 Seconds for Mars: For a quick intro, start with “Mars in a Minute’s: How Hard is it to Land Curiosity on Mars?” from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory video series, this super-short introduction gives an intro to exactly what put the “terror” into NASA during those first seven minutes. The student-friendly animation is still sophisticated enough for high school but exciting enough to keep elementary students engaged.

2 Minutes for Mars:  If you have two minutes in your day, the “Flex, Zap, Roll,” video shows Curiosity’s new rock-zapping laser and some scientific camaraderie as they celebrate the first roll of the wheels.

15 Minutes for Mars: Try the Emmy-Award-Winning NASA Now videos. They’re free, come with pre-during-and-post-lesson questions, and leveled for grades 4-12. These come with questions to ask before and after and include extension activities for students. September is Mars month for NASA Explorer Schools, so if you haven’t signed up for this standards-based free resource this may be a great reason to join.

1 Class Period for Mars: Map Mars. Take a trip to the computer lab and utilize this seriously addictive program. NASA’s “Be a Martian” allows anyone to view imagery from the Odyssey orbiter and to align them with previous pictures to help build a more comprehensive map of Mars. The epic introduction will make students (and Mars-loving science teachers) feel like they’re an important part of the mission: align tiles to help map mars, count and tag craters, and help identify one of the 250,000+ images by clicking on what is in the picture. This is the perfect alternative to the early “scientific observations” lesson that you’ve grown tired of and it involves students in real-world research. The ability for students to earn points gives teachers an automatic accountability piece that can help with classroom management and give students a sense of accomplishment.

2 Class Periods for Mars: Consider using “Electromagnetic Spectrum: Remote Sensing Ices on Mars.” In this NASA Explorer Schools Physical Science lesson, students analyze data collected by Mars spacecraft using three different forms of electromagnetic energy — visible light, infrared, and gamma rays — to investigate the composition and distribution of ices at the high-latitude regions of Mars.

2 Weeks for Mars: If you have time and want a closer look at Mars, the Mars Student Imaging Project (MSIP) from Arizona State University and NASA’s Mars Education program works with teams of students from grades 5-college sophomores to help image the surface of Mars with the Odyssey, a spacecraft orbiting Mars.

Minutes to Months for Mars: The Imagine Mars Project is a STEM-based interdisciplinary project that asks students to work with NASA scientists and engineers to imagine and design a community on Mars. This project involves looking at and reflecting on school and community culture and making decisions about what careers and arts will be necessary for a community on Mars based on the differences in climate, terrain, and resources available. Projects are showcased in an impressive online gallery.

Mars Road Trip: Still can’t get enough of Mars? On Saturday, September 29, NASA and Arizona State University are hosting the “Curiosity has landed in Your Classroom!” Educator Conference for free at the Mars Space Flight Facility on campus: for more information visit the link below.

“But I teach life science!?” Not to worry, “Properties of Living Things: searching for life on Mars,” has an excellent activity that is a variation of the chestnut “yeast lab.” I modify the NASA curriculum by having my students act as samplers – I prepare three Martian “soils,” one with salt and sand, one with sugar, yeast, and sand, and one with crushed Alka-Seltzer tablets and sand. Then I have students test for signs of life by adding warm water. Use the NASA materials to discuss characteristics of life, and look to the NASA Now videos for the “Search for Life,” or “Extremophiles,” to expand their thinking on what life looks like – or MIGHT look like.

Links:

Mars in a Minute: How Hard is it to Land Curiosity on Mars? http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/video/index.cfm?id=1087

Flex, Zap, Roll: Curiosity’s New Moves: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/video/index.cfm

Map Mars: http://beamartian.jpl.nasa.gov/maproom#/TagMarsTaskCompleted

Mars Exploration Program for Educators: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/participate/marsforeducators/soi/

NASA Explorer Schools: http://explorerschools.nasa.gov/web/nes/home

Mars Student Imaging Program Registration Form: http://marsed.mars.asu.edu/msip-online

Imagine Mars: http://imaginemars.jpl.nasa.gov/leaders/getting_started/5steps.html

Curiosity has Landed in Your Classroom Educator Conference Registration Form: http://marsed.asu.edu/curiosityhaslanded

Written by Bethany Dixon

Bethany Dixon is a science teacher at Western Sierra Collegiate Academy, is a CSTA Publications Committee Member, and is a member of CSTA.

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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: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HappyAtoms

Please contact Rosanne Luu at rluu@wested.org 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.