May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

NGSS Implementation: A Leap of Reason

Posted: Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

by Jeff Schmitz

Any transformation in an organization, like a school or a district, can be a painstaking process of professional learning, creating buy-in, and fund sourcing. But the transformation swiftly gains momentum when individuals at the grassroots level begin jumping in with both feet. Our California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative Teacher Leaders in Vista Unified are starting to jump.

The jump is no mere leap of faith; it’s more like a “leap of reason.” Our Early Implementers spent time in the summer immersed in NGSS content and pedagogy under the tutelage of science education gurus from the K-12 Alliance and supporting institutions that include universities and other institutes of higher education. They also will participate in 2-day TLCs (Teaching Learning Collaborative) this academic year, lesson studies where NGSS-aligned lesson sequences are collaboratively planned, delivered, and evaluated for effectiveness. Consequently, Early Implementer teachers are developing a deeper understanding of how three-dimensional design, the 5E model of instruction, and phenomenon-based investigations align with how people learn. The NGSS makes sense to them, they are seeing how it makes better sense for students, and so it makes sense to make the leap.

Despite having no fully aligned NGSS curriculum or materials, Early Implementers are leading the transformation. They are implementing the NGSS in their classrooms armed with only their standards, the Framework for K-12 Science Education, a draft of the California science framework, and the unit conceptual flows and lessons they are collaboratively developing with their colleagues. It is the very action of going through this process that is helping our teachers better understand the NGSS and grow.

Our middle school Early Implementer teachers are taking on the additional challenge of integrating the science disciplines, which is the preferred model in California. Allison Bowcock, an 8th Grade Science Teacher and Early Implementation Teacher Leader at Roosevelt Middle School, is currently wrangling with all of this. I spent a couple of days with her recently so we can share with you the journey she is undergoing.

As it happened, Allison’s class was exploring claims about what caused a prehistoric extinction event. They were amidst a multi-day lesson sequence where evidence was being gathered to either support or refute competing claims related to this phenomenon. After analysis of their findings, students will be charged with constructing a written argument on the claim they have determined best explains the phenomenon.

Claims: 1) The influence of the variation on the Earth's orbit on climate is the cause of the extinction. 2) the influence of an asteroid on climate caused the extinction. 3) The influence of a super-volcano eruption on climate caused the extinction.

Students evaluate which of these claims best explains the extinction event.

On this day, in particular, the claim that an asteroid’s collision with Earth caused the event was being investigated by the students. The class opened with a lesson-level phenomenon, a spectacular video clip of a fiery meteor streaking across the Russian sky in 2013. Talk about engaging! Students shared questions and wonderings about the Russian meteor. In a clear attempt to integrate physical science into the discussion, Allison gave time for her students to consider what caused the meteor to hit the Earth. Then, it was time to observe the effects of meteor impact via simulation. Allison climbed a ladder and chucked objects into a small plastic pool full of sand.

 

Students had opportunities to be excited, ask questions, make observations, and make predictions, all the while recording in their sense-making notebooks. Allison then asked her students to consider how they could find evidence of meteor impact for a prehistoric extinction event. Following their discussion, Allison cued into an important question: could they compare the chemical composition of Earth’s crust with that of a meteor? Students shared their ideas in table groups, and the class consensus was to sample rock strata that would have been present on Earth’s surface at the time of the extinction event to see if elements of a meteor are present. Allison agreed with their logic and assured the class they would conduct that investigation the next day. Students left the classroom excited, already looking forward to what they would discover tomorrow.

When reflecting on the lesson, it exemplified the spirit of the NGSS in a number of ways:

  • It was phenomenon-based. The “big” phenomenon for the unit was the prehistoric extinction event; the “little” phenomenon for the day’s lesson was the 2013 Russian meteor impact. Both are engaging to students, promote wonder, and are something the students can build understanding of.
  • It was integrated. Force and motion of Physical Science meets the geology and climate studies of Earth and Space Science, which meets the biological evolution of Life Science (later in the unit).
  • It was three-dimensional. The Disciplinary Core Idea of “evidence for extinction” was explored using Science & Engineering Practices (Asking Questions, Modeling, Engaging in Argument from Evidence, and Planning Investigations) while the Crosscutting Concept of Cause & Effect was used to help push student thinking.
  • It stemmed from a collaboratively-developed conceptual flow for an entire unit.
Conceptual flow developed by the Southern California 8th grade cadre for Summer Institute, year 2. Background image from Earnst Haeckel, Artforms in Nature, retrieved from http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_nQaKjURiO_A/TO_QoTqrcpI/AAAAAAAAAXY/_vFWhhYuGfA/s1600/Haeckel_Thalamophora_81.jpg

Conceptual flow developed by the Southern California 8th grade cadre for Summer Institute, year 2. Background image from Earnst Haeckel, Artforms in Nature, retrieved from http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_nQaKjURiO_A/TO_QoTqrcpI/AAAAAAAAAXY/_vFWhhYuGfA/s1600/Haeckel_Thalamophora_81.jpg

Talking with Allison, she is embracing the opportunity to innovate during this time of transition. She has particularly latched on to the idea of using anchor phenomena in her instruction. “It’s engaging, and it promotes the kind of thinking that real scientists do.” Allison is also seeing the benefits of bringing the engineering component of NGSS into science class. “Students are challenged to use a different part of their brain, and it’s not always the straight-’A’ students being successful. Engineering opens the door for more students to blossom.” She concedes that limited planning time and curriculum availability pose a formidable challenge to her NGSS implementation efforts. Creating integrated units of instruction, as opposed to teaching each science discipline in discrete “silos” is also a mindset to which she is adapting. But, she is taking the “leap of reason” nonetheless, and the lesson I observed is evidence that she, and her students, are going to land comfortably on two feet. The transformation is underway!

Jeff Schmitz is an NGSS TOSA in the Vista Unified School District, a member of the Core Leadership Team of the K-12 Alliance California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative, and a member of CSTA.

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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.

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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.