September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

Newton’s Laws Rotation Activity

Posted: Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

by Carolyn Peterson

For the chapter on Newton’s Laws, I designed a station-rotation activity following the introductory lesson. The introductory lesson explained the vocabulary, the different laws, and how to draw force diagrams. The rotations were created with the intent of making the subject approachable and relatable for the students. With this shared common experience from this activity, students were able to learn the deeper content in the following lessons by applying it to what they experienced in the rotations. Having a shared prior experience helped with class discussions and helped them relate concrete experiences to the new content. The stations and times are easily modified, but I used the resources I had in my classroom along with the time frame of our 80-minute class cycle. I split the students into seven groups so that only one group was at a station at any one time; then they all cleaned up and rotated simultaneously.

Here is a short video clip of my students in the midst of the activity.

Station 1:

At this station, students have one person sit in each rolling chair holding the end of the rope/scarf. One student just held while the other pulled the rope. Students manipulated variables such as resistance (feet up or down), weights of participants, and magnitude of the force pulling. They then described the results of their manipulations, drew a force diagram, and identified the Newton’s laws involved.

  • Materials = 2 rolling chairs, long rope or scarf

Station 2:

Students set a newspaper open and flat on a tabletop. They place a paint stir stick under the newspaper with about two to three inches sticking out from under it over the edge of the table. They experienced pushing down slowly then quickly karate chopping and then compared the results. They identified the Newton’s laws involved and drew a force diagram.

  • Materials = newspaper, paint stir sticks (if you say you will be using it for education, Home Depot gives you as many as you need for free)

Station 3:

Students raced three different sized balls using air through straws. They set up the three balls on the starting line and all blew at the same time with about the same force. They compared the results, changed the variables, retried, and saw what happened. They identified the Newton’s Laws involved and drew a force diagram.

  • Materials = 3 different sized balls (I had a ping pong, tennis, and bowling ball), straws, taped starting line on the floor


Station 4:

Here a belt was set up as a curved barrier and a marble was rolled along the inside edge. Students anticipated the path the marble would take on leaving the barrier, tried it, and explored the results. They were encouraged to set up the experiment in other fashions to see if they could change the trajectory. They finished by describing the Newton’s Laws involved and drawing a force diagram.

  • Materials = belt, marble

Station 5:

Here students used a spring scale to see how the force of gravity affects different sized weights. They recorded their findings with at least six different sized weights and graphing the mass vs. weight data and analyzing the slope.

  • Materials = spring scale, various weights

Station 6:

Students referenced their data from station 5 to use the formula for weight to perform calculations.

  • Materials = calculators

Station 7:

This last station was designed to help students see vector addition in action. They used washers and weights at various angles to anticipate and see how the angle between three vectors needs different weights to balance out. My students actually really appreciated this visual and will often refer back to this part of the activity when struggling with vector addition later in the year.

  • Materials = vector addition force table, weights/washers, electronic scale

Click here for a PDF worksheet for this activity.

Carolyn Peterson is a physics teacher at Lutheran High School of Orange County and was invited to write for CCS by CSTA President Laura Henriques

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California Science Assessment Update

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 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.

Some ways to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in your classroom

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. 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.

2016 Award Recipients – Join CSTA in Honoring Their Accomplishments

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

John Keller

John Keller

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…

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.

NGSS: Making Your Life Easier

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Peter A’hearn

Wait… What?

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…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Celestial Highlights, September 2016

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…

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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.