March/April 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 6

NGSS – Putting the STEM in STEM

Posted: Friday, December 11th, 2015

by Peter A’Hearn

“Our proposed design uses waves with a frequency of 5,000 Hz to detect the tumor. We are getting our best resolution of the tumor when we are 7 cm away, which is one wavelength of the sound waves that we are using. Our proposed App would include a set of wheels for smooth tracking and image the body as a grid to help determine location.”

Is this an episode of Shark Tank? No this was a group of teachers at the Project Prototype* 2015 Summer Institute. Project Prototype is a California Math Science Partnership Grant in the Coachella Valley focused on the integration of science and engineering through the NGSS. Secondary science teachers were focusing on the middle and high school standards on Waves and their Applications in Information Technology. The week began with a visit to the Desert Regional Medical Center where teachers got to learn about and experience the different uses of waves in medical imaging technology from the ultrasound used to view soft tissue, to X-rays, CAT scans, MRI, and PET. A highlight was the Stereotaxis Machine used to visualize and guide a catheter to a stroke in a patient’s brain.i-phoneThe STEM movement aims to teach students how to use the related fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math to solve problems and access careers in high paying, high skill fields. There are many varied opportunities for kids to be involved in STEM, from after school robotics clubs, Career Technical Education (CTE) pathways, and special STEM and Engineering elective programs like Project Lead the Way and Engineer Your World. These are powerful programs, but they do not reach all kids.

How can we make sure that ALL kids get some rich learning about how Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math work together? The answer is that STEM is built into NGSS. NGSS has strong STEM connections built in with its engineering-specific Performance Expectations (PEs), the many PEs at all grade levels that incorporate engineering design and thinking, and also through the Science and Engineering Practice of “Using Mathematical and Computational Thinking.”

Lots of teachers (me included) saw that one and thought, “Oh, I already use math – I do that already.” So, if you haven’t read that one carefully, go back to the NRC’s Framework. It’s asking for computers: Computers to run algorithms, computers to handle large data sets, computers to run simulations. All of which are important parts of how real life scientists and engineers do their jobs.

ahearnBack at the institute, the teachers used long springs to find the mathematical relationship between the frequency and wavelength of standing waves. They were then introduced to Anechoic, a free iPhone App developed by Dr. William Grover of the Department of Bioengineering at the Bourns College of Engineering, University of California, Riverside. Anechoic uses both the speaker and the microphone of an iPhone to send out a sound at a certain wavelength and record its echo, like a sonar. The teachers used Anechoic to explore how sound waves interact with various materials.

In exploring the App, teachers discovered that the properties of the waves used strongly influences the way the waves interacted with different materials. They also discovered the wave property of interference.Teachers then had to put themselves into the role of engineers trying to develop an iPhone based device that could visualize a tumor using sound waves. The “tumor” was an old compact disk hidden behind a black cloth screen, and the teachers used the Anechoic app to visualize the tumor with sound. This led to the “Shark Tank” Proposal described above. Teams needed to describe the waves used mathematically as well as how they worked to visualize the tumor. They needed to address a list of criteria and constraints for real world medical devices in the design and explain how they would further develop the device if they were funded.

ahearn_screenshotThe group took some time to look at how programming in the Python language can be used to take a huge raw data set and turn it into an easy to understand visual display. A sound-recording app like Anechoic makes 44,000 sound measurements per second, so it can generate very large data sets very quickly. Data like this is virtually impossible to analyze without a computer, and the teachers saw firsthand how a simple Python program can perform this analysis. They saw that with small changes to the code, they can create many different ways to look at the Anechoic data sets to study different aspects of the signal. We were running short on time, but wished we could have had opportunities to explore this rich subject further.

The week ended by bringing the learning back to the hospital context. Teams of teachers were put into the role of hospital administrators who had to decide which medical imaging technologies to purchase given a limited budget. This engaging lesson comes from a new middle school curriculum from STC.

Hopefully this summer learning can be an example of how the real world context of STEM can give meaning and purpose to science learning. The convergence of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math is where many of our student’s bright futures lie. NGSS is the vehicle that will get them there. This will require hard work by teachers and students, some big shifts in how we think science learning happens, and lots of creative work designing curriculum and resources.

ahearn_2*Project Prototype is a partnership between Coachella Valley USD, Palm Springs USD, The UCR Bourns School of Engineering, CSU San Bernardino, and the College of the Desert. Community partners include the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership, SMART Education, The Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert, Linked Learning and others. It is a California Math Science Partnership (CaMSP) funded by the California Department of Education.

Pete A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is region 4 director for CSTA.

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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.

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CSTA Endorses March for Science

Posted: Monday, March 27th, 2017

The California Science Teachers Association (CSTA) stands with our science and science education colleagues in endorsing the March For Science and its associated activities.

The decision by the CSTA Board of Directors to support the March for Science was based on the understanding that this is an opportunity to advocate for our mission of high quality science education for all and to advance the idea that science has application to everyday life, is a vehicle for lifelong learning, and the scientific enterprise expands our knowledge of the world around us. The principles and goals of the March for Science parallel those of CSTA to assume a leadership role in solidarity with our colleagues in science and science education and create an understanding of the value of science in the greater community. CSTA believes that the integrity of the nature of science and that the work of scientists and science educators should be valued and supported. We encourage your participation to stand with us.

There are over 30 satellite marches planned for the April 22, 2017 March for Science in California (to find a march near you, click on “marches” in the upper right of the main page, select “satellite marches” and use the search feature). We encourage members who participate in the March for Science to share their involvement and promotion of science and science education. Feel free to promote CSTA on your signs and banners. For those on social media, you may share your involvement via Twitter, @cascience and our Facebook groups.

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.

California Science Curriculum Framework Now Available

Posted: Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

The pre-publication version of the new California Science Curriculum Framework is now available for download. This publication incorporates all the edits that were approved by the State Board of Education in November 2016 and was many months in the making. Our sincere thanks to the dozens of CSTA members were involved in its development. Our appreciation is also extended to the California Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Instructional Quality Commission, and the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee and their staff for their hard work and dedication to produce this document and for their commitment to the public input process. To the many writers and contributors to the Framework CSTA thanks you for your many hours of work to produce a world-class document.

For tips on how to approach this document see our article from December 2016: California Has Adopted a New Science Curriculum Framework – Now What …? If you would like to learn more about the Framework, consider participating in one of the Framework Launch events (a.k.a. Rollout #4) scheduled throughout 2017.

The final publication version (formatted for printing) will be available in July 2017. This document will not be available in printed format, only electronically.

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.

Call for CSTA Awards Nominations

Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017

The 2017 Award Season is now open! One of the benefits of being a CSTA member is your eligibility for awards as well as your eligibility to nominate someone for an award. CSTA offers several awards and members may nominate individuals and organizations for the Future Science Teacher Award, the prestigious Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, and the CSTA Distinguished Contributions Award (organizational award). May 9, 2017 is the deadline for nominations for these awards. CSTA believes that the importance of science education cannot be overstated. Given the essential presence of the sciences in understanding the past and planning for the future, science education remains, and will increasingly be one of the most important disciplines in education. CSTA is committed to recognizing and encouraging excellence in science teaching through the presentation of awards to science educators and organizations who have made outstanding contributions in science education in the state and who are poised to continue the momentum of providing high quality, relevant science education 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.

Call for Volunteers – CSTA Committees

Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017


CSTA is now accepting applications from regular, preservice, and retired members to serve on our volunteer committees! CSTA’s all-volunteer board of directors invites you to consider maximizing your member experience by volunteering for CSTA. CSTA committee service offers you the opportunity to share your expertise, learn a new skill, or do something you love to do but never have the opportunity to do in your regular day. CSTA committee volunteers do some pretty amazing things: 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.

A Friend in CA Science Education Now at CSTA Region 1 Science Center

Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017

by Marian Murphy-Shaw

If you attended an NGSS Rollout phase 1-3 or CDE workshops at CSTA’s annual conference you may recall hearing from Chris Breazeale when he was working with the CDE. Chris has relocated professionally, with his passion for science education, and is now the Executive Director at the Explorit Science Center, a hands-on exploration museum featuring interactive STEM exhibits located at the beautiful Mace Ranch, 3141 5th St. in Davis, CA. Visitors can “think it, try it, and explorit” with a variety of displays that allow visitors to “do science.” To preview the museum, or schedule a classroom visit, see Learn More…

Written by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw is the student services director at Siskiyou County Office of Education and is CSTA’s Region 1 Director and chair of CSTA’s Policy Committee.