New School-Year Science Resolutions: My Top Five List
Posted: Wednesday, September 1st, 2010
by Michelle French
At the end of the last school year, I sat in my first grade classroom, stared at the empty walls, and reflected upon the year. That time of quiet and uninterrupted peace also allowed me to start dreaming of what my classroom environment and curriculum will look like next year. As I looked at the wall that displays my students’ work in science, I began thinking about how I could build upon what I did in science this year and make next year even better. So, I narrowed down the five areas where I felt I could use some rejuvenation, research, and refinement. I thought that perhaps my “Top Five List” of science resolutions might be helpful to others as we start off a new year.
1) Ensure that my classroom environment is a safe place for children to ask questions, take risks, and learn from each other … not just from me. Last year, I went over basic classroom survival rules right off the bat: take turns and share, clean-up after yourself, keep all parts of our bodies to ourselves, etc. This year, in addition to those rules, I would like explore norms for discussion from the start. I delayed introducing norms for discussion last year, and I felt like I was playing catch-up the rest of the year. Ready, Set, SCIENCE! Putting Research to Work in K-8 Science Classrooms (2008) by the National Research Council states, “Proficiency in science entails skillful participation in a scientific community in the classroom and mastery of productive ways of representing ideas, using scientific tools, and interacting with peers about science.” Even children in K-2 classrooms are capable of engaging in these types of productive content-driven discussions. By having my students engage in scientific discussions when school begins, I hope to have students understand that it is okay to respectfully disagree with each other, feel safe even if they don’t know something, and know that their peers can help them find answers to questions.
2) I will craft questions and talk stems that: engage students, allow all students to participate, and lead to higher level thinking. As I went through our adopted science materials last year, I noted that many of the questions were designed to elicit “right there” or “yes/no” answers. I felt that there were missed opportunities in the curriculum for asking higher level questions. While reading through Activating & Engaging Habits of the Mind (2000), Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick propose that teachers should “…formulate and pose questions that intentionally challenge students’ intellect and imagination.” They also state that the level of questions that I mentioned finding in my curriculum is important for data gathering. The next two levels that move students forward in their metacognitive abilities are processing and then speculating, elaborating, and applying concepts. The authors break down questions in a way that is very easy to follow. In a nutshell, they state to select:
- First, an invitational stem
- Next, the cognitive operation (Data Gathering; Processing; or Speculate, Elaborate, and Apply)
- Then, chose internal content (focus on feelings/emotions, thoughts, or reactions) or external content (focus on the lesson, the event, or the other students, etc).
A sample first grade science question could be “How might we (invitational stem) compare and contrast (processing level) the goldfish and the millipede (external content)?” Costa and Kallick have provided me a blueprint to help me as I am crafting my own questions/talk stems and analyzing existing textbook questions.
3) I will look for every opportunity to make science meaningful, relevant, and accessible for all of my students. In Teaching with the Brain in Mind (1998) by Eric Jensen, the author states, “It’s not more content that students want; it’s meaning.” One of my most eye-opening moments last year actually came during a social studies lesson. A very bright, inquisitive girl asked me, “Mrs. French, why do we need to know this?” I obviously hadn’t made the lesson meaningful for her. Ready, Set, SCIENCE! advocates using “practical or applied problems” to engage students in using what they already know to find solutions. So, my plan of action to accomplish this will include accessing prior knowledge, creating problems for students to work on in collaborative groups, and scaffolding the science content/process skills that will support the problem.
4) I will attend the 2010 California Science Education Conference in Sacramento, October 22-24. I am already registered and ready to go. The last two years I attended the CSEC, I came away excited and more prepared to teach science. I have looked through the extensive list of workshops that are available to K-2 teachers and have picked the ones that I know will strengthen my teaching. I also can’t wait to meet with other K-2 teachers from around the state. This is a great opportunity to hear about what is going on in the world of science education. The networking alone is reason to attend.
5) I will try not to be so stressed-out. My self-imposed stress should dissipate because I am going to follow my first four resolutions. My goal is to work smarter, not harder. Even though my resolutions will take more time initially, I know that in the long run, time spent with my students will be much more productive. I will have: predesigned, targeted questions; norms for discussion established early in the year; designed problems that engage and motivate my students; been rejuvenated from attending the CSEC.
I hope that my list of resolutions is helpful to other primary teachers. If you would like to talk to me about anything I mentioned in this article or anything else that I might be able to help you with, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the subject field, please put that you are emailing me about CSTA.
Posted: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016
by Jessica Sawko
In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.
At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/ai/infomeeting.asp.) Learn More…
Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
by Carol Peterson
1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. https://www.engadget.com/2016/08/25/google-offers-360-degree-tours-of-us-national-parks/. Learn More…
Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!
Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award
The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well into the future.” Learn More…
Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
by Peter A’hearn
NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?
The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…
Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt
Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. Learn More…