May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

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 Region 4 Director for CSTA.

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CSTA Annual Conference Early Bird Rates End July 14

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

Teachers engaged in workshop activity

Teachers engaging in hands-on learning during a workshop at the 2016 CSTA conference.

Don’t miss your chance to register at the early bird rate for the 2017 CSTA Conference – the early-bird rate closes July 14. Need ideas on how to secure funding for your participation? Visit our website for suggestions, a budget planning tool, and downloadable justification letter to share with your admin. Want to take advantage of the early rate – but know your district will pay eventually? Register online today and CSTA will reimburse you when we receive payment from your district/employer. (For more information on how that works contact Zi Stair in the office for details – 916-979-7004 or zi@cascience.org.)

New Information Now Available On-line:

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.

Goodbye Outgoing and Welcome Incoming CSTA Board Members

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Jill Grace

Jill Grace, CSTA President, 2017-2019

On July 1, 2017 five CSTA members concluded their service and four new board members joined the ranks of the CSTA Board of Directors. CSTA is so grateful for all the volunteer board of directors who contribute hours upon hours of time and energy to advance the work of the association. At the June 3 board meeting, CSTA was able to say goodbye to the outgoing board members and welcome the incoming members.

This new year also brings with it a new president for CSTA. As of July 1, 2017 Jill Grace is the president of the California Science Teachers Association. Jill is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, a former middle school science teacher, and is currently a Regional Director with the K-12 Alliance @ WestEd where she works with California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative districts and charter networks in the San Diego area.

Outgoing Board Members

  • Laura Henriques (President-Elect: 2011 – 2013, President: 2013 – 2015, Past President: 2015 – 2017)
  • Valerie Joyner (Region 1 Director: 2009 – 2013, Primary Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Mary Whaley (Informal Science Education Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Sue Campbell (Middle School/Jr. High Director: 2015 – 2017)
  • Marcus Tessier (2-Year College Director: 2015 – 2017)

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.

Finding My Student’s Motivation of Learning Through Engineering Tasks

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Huda Ali Gubary and Susheela Nath

It’s 8:02 and the bell rings. My students’ walk in and pick up an entry ticket based on yesterday’s lesson and homework. My countdown starts for students to begin…3, 2, 1. Ten students are on task and diligently completing the work, twenty are off task with behaviors ranging from talking up a storm with their neighbors to silently staring off into space. This was the start of my classes, more often than not. My students rarely showed the enthusiasm for a class that I had eagerly prepared for. I spent so much time searching for ways to get my students excited about the concepts they were learning. I wanted them to feel a connection to the lessons and come into my class motivated about what they were going to learn next. I would ask myself how I could make my class memorable where the kids were in the driver’s seat of learning. Incorporating engineering made this possible. 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 California NGSS k-8 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.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Unveils Updated Recommended Literature List

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson unveiled an addition of 285 award-winning titles to the Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list.

“The books our students read help broaden their perspectives, enhance their knowledge, and fire their imaginations,” Torlakson said. “The addition of these award-winning titles represents the state’s continued commitment to the interests and engagement of California’s young readers.”

The Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list is a collection of more than 8,000 titles of recommended reading for children and adolescents. Reflecting contemporary and classic titles, including California authors, this online list provides an exciting range of literature that students should be reading at school and for pleasure. Works include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama to provide for a variety of tastes, interests, and abilities. Learn More…

Written by Guest Contributor

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: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

Teaching Science in the Time of Alternative Facts – Why NGSS Can Help (somewhat)

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn

The father of one of my students gave me a book: In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood by Walt Brown, Ph. D. He had heard that I was teaching Plate Tectonics and wanted me to consider another perspective. The book offered the idea that the evidence for plate tectonics could be better understood if we considered the idea that beneath the continent of Pangaea was a huge underground layer of water that suddenly burst forth from a rift between the now continents of Africa and South America. The waters shot up and the continents hydroplaned apart on the water layer to their current positions. The force of the movement pushed up great mountain ranges which are still settling to this day, resulting in earthquakes along the margins of continents. This had happened about 6,000 years ago and created a great worldwide flood. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.