May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

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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From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy:

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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.