January/February 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 4

Getting Started On Engineering

Posted: Saturday, June 1st, 2013

by Pete A’Hearn

One of the biggest concerns I have heard about the NGSS is that elementary teachers are not well prepared to teach the science standards and are especially concerned about the addition of engineering. So, I was happy this week to visit several classrooms at Vista Del Monte elementary school where elementary teachers were diving into engineering big time.

Second grade teachers Dena Azzolin and Debbie Gordon at Vista Del Monte were preparing their students to build bridges. To start, they tested a few bridge designs to learn what works and what doesn’t work.  They were reading the story, “Three Little Pigs,” with an emphasis on how different forces were used in the story. Kids were talking about which forces were involved in a bridge – the supports exert an upward force and the load exerts a downward force.  The goal is for teams of students to build and test their own bridges, and along the way they will test different materials and shapes, and record data and observations.  Note that this was not haphazardly throwing materials at students and asking them to design something, but taking them step by step through a process of testing and redesign that is rich with opportunities to read, write, share ideas, and use math. Nice introduction to Common Core State Standards as well

The curriculum they were using is called, Engineering is Elementary and the unit was To Get to the Other Side: Designing Bridges.  All of the units begin with the story of a child who has an engineering challenge they are trying to solve. The teachers and students have already done the Catching the Wind: Designing Windmills unit and plan to try to do A Work in Progress: Improving the Playdough Process before the year is out.

Sails that were built as part of the Windmills engineering unit.

Sails that were built as part of the Windmills engineering unit.

More bridge testing.
More bridge testing.

Meanwhile, Kurt Slieldge was working with third graders on building structures to survive earthquakes – a pertinent lesson in a school just five miles from the San Andreas Fault and built on loose sediment. Again students went through a process to test the strength of different shapes of folded paper to learn lessons to be applied in final design. Each team was given paper, straws, modeling clay, paperclips, and tape and challenged to build a tower to survive an earthquake. The structures were tested on a Pitsco programmable shake table for 50 seconds of hard shaking.

These lessons show that engineering is accessible and engaging to elementary school students. Teachers will need training and well-designed units to be successful, but it seems clear that the addition of engineering practices to elementary school will be less daunting than some fear. Be sure to come to the California Science Education Conference October 25-27 in Palm Springs to learn more about engineering and the rest of NGSS!

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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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STEM Conference Hosted by CMSESMC

Posted: Saturday, January 14th, 2017

The Council of Math/Science Educators of San Mateo County will be hosting the 41st annual STEM Conference this February 4, 2017 at the San Mateo County Office of Education. This STEM Conference is the place to get lots of new lessons and ideas to use in your classroom. There will be over twenty-five workshops and a variety of exhibitors that provide participants with a wide range of practical and realistic ideas and resources to use in their science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs from Pre-K to grade 12. With California’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards, we are dedicated to ensuring that we prepare our teachers to take on these educational policies.

Teachers, administrators, and parents are invited to explore the many exciting aspects of STEM education and learn about and discuss the latest news, information, and issues. This is also an opportunity to network with colleagues who can assist you in building your programs and meet new friends that share your interests and love of teaching. Register online today!

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.

Submit Your NGSS Lessons and Units Today!

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

Achieve has launched and is facilitating an EQuIP Peer Review Panel for Science–a group of expert reviewers who will evaluate the quality and alignment of lessons and units to the standards–in an effort to identify and shine a spotlight on emerging high-quality lesson and unit plans designed for the NGSS.

If you or your state, district, school, or organization has designed NGSS-aligned instructional materials, please consider submitting these in order to help provide educators across the country with various models and templates of high-quality lesson and unit plans. 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.

Opportunity for High School Students – Los Angeles County

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

An upcoming Perry Outreach Program on Saturday, April 22, 2017 at the Orthopaedic Institute for Children in Los Angeles, CA. The Perry Outreach Program is a free, one-day, hands-on experience for high school and college-aged women who are interested in pursuing careers in medicine and engineering. Students will hear from women leaders in these fields and try it for themselves by performing mock orthopaedic surgeries and biomechanics experiments. 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.

Science Education Policy Update

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

January 2017 has proven to be a very busy month for science education policy and CA NGSS implementation activities. CSTA has been and will be there every step of the way, seeking and enacting all options to support high-quality science education and the successful implementation of CA NGSS.

California Department of Education/U.S. Department of Education Science Double-Testing Waiver Hearing

The year started with California Department of Education’s (CDE) hearing with the U.S. Department of Education conducted via WebEx on January 6, 2017. This hearing was the final step in California’s efforts to secure a waiver from the federal government in order to discontinue administration of the old CST and suspension of the reporting of student test scores on a science assessment for two years. As reported by EdSource, the U.S. Department of Education representative, Ann Whalen, a senior adviser to U.S. Secretary John King Jr., committed to making her final ruling “very shortly.” Deputy Superintendent Keric Ashley presented on behalf of CDE during the hearing and did an excellent job describing the broad-based support for this waiver in California, the rationale for the waiver, and California’s commitment to the successful implementation of a new high-quality science assessment. As previously reported, California is moving forward with its plans to administer a census pilot assessments this spring. The testing window is set to open on March 20, 2017. For more information visit New CA Science Test: What You Should Know.

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Written by Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko is CSTA’s Executive Director.

NSTA Los Angeles Conference Features Many CA Science Leaders

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

The early-bird registration rates for the 65th NSTA National Conference on Science Education in Los Angeles is just days away (ends Feb. 3). And as the early-registration deadline approaches excitement is building for what is anticipated to be the largest gathering of science educators (both California and nationwide) – with attendance expected to reach 10,000 or more. If you have never had the pleasure of attending the NSTA National Conference, I recommend you visit their website with tips for newcomers that describe the various components of the event. A conference preview is also available for download. Learn More…

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Written by Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko is CSTA’s Executive Director.