May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Patterns in the Primary Grades: Plastic Lids Activity

Posted: Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

by Valerie Joyner

Primary grade teachers have always understood the importance of patterns in early childhood education. Patterns are used in reading, math, and written language. They are also used with students to assist in their development of understanding and applying science. According to the NGSS, “Patterns in the natural and human world can be observed, used to describe phenomena, and used as evidence”. The importance in patterns in early childhood science education cannot be understated!

The study of patterns in K-2 provides students with myriad opportunities to identify patterns and properties using examples like weather, plant and animal parts, inherited traits, daylight, the stars, moon, and sun. Take a look at the NGSS Performance Expectations and Crosscutting Concepts for your grade level, and you will see that the Crosscutting Concepts of Patterns occurs several times throughout the year in connection with several different Disciplinary Core Ideas.

A great way to start off any study of patterns and properties is to allow students to collect, sort, and identify patterns in their everyday world. One of the easiest collections to make is an assortment of plastic lids, like the ones that come from shampoo, milk bottles, toothpaste, and yogurt cups. The possibilities are endless, and they are free!

Activity: Properties and Patterns

Making the Collection:

  1. Ask families to collect a variety of plastic lids and send them to school with their child. Encourage them to think big and small, colorful and dull, flip-top or screw-on, the greater the variety the better. It is fine to have duplicates. It is best to have at least 200 lids.
  2. Allow the collection to grow in the classroom for a few weeks. As the plastic lids come into the classroom allow students to observe them.

Getting Ready:

  1. Put 15-20 plastic lids in a zip lock bag or tub – one bag/tub for each pair of students
  2. Paper folded into halves or quarters for recording sorts – one for each student
  3. Pencils or crayons to record sorts

Getting Started:

Day #1

  1. With the entire class, discuss the word “Collections” with students. Ask them to identify collections they have or have seen at home, school, or elsewhere.
  2. Next ask students how people organize items in a collection. This is a good time to introduce the word “Properties” using examples like shells sorted by size, shape, or color; clothes sorted by type; books sorted by author or genre; numbers sorted by odd/even, etc. Explain that people use properties to sort and/or describe patterns.
  3. Explain to the students that they will be observing their classroom collection of plastic lids. Demonstrate by sorting several plastic lids by color. Then, ask the students to identify and describe how you sorted the lids. Record the sort.
  4. Next ask one student to sort your lids in another way. Then ask students to identify the new way the lids were sorted.
  5. Explain that each pair of students will be sorting a bag of plastic lids at least 2-4 different ways, and they may not repeat the same sort. As they complete a sort they must record their sort on paper by drawing or writing each of the ways they sorted the lids.
  6. Distribute materials and allow student to begin working.
  7. As the students are working walk around the room asking questions and guiding inquiry. Be sure the students are recording their sorts as they go along.
  8. Allow enough time for students to complete their sorts and record. Then ask each pair of student to show one way they sorted and describe the properties they used to sort. As students are sharing point out and record all of the different properties that were used to sort.
  9. Collect the lids and bags to allow the students to continue their discussions. Ask questions like: Why is it important to sort? What types of patterns did we notice? What other ways might we sort in the future?
  10. Save students records for Day #2.

Day #2

  1. Post the record of prior ways the students sorted.
  2. Repeat the activity and have students sort in new ways. They may refer to their records from Day #1. It gets harder and harder as they continue to look for new patterns and properties. I have seen students sort by bumpy and flat edges, the sounds that are made when lids are tapped or clicked, even by rooms where the lids are used. There are limitless possibilities.
  3. Again, debrief with the entire class sharing and asking for different ways the lids were sorted. Depending on your grade level, you might ask about patterns in weather, seasons, plant and animal traits, the sky, sound, etc. Ask students to identify different patterns in their world, including but not limited to science.

Patterns are critical to the understanding and application of science as a discipline and in our everyday world. As primary grade teachers it is our job to see that science is taught every day. Crosscutting Concepts like Patterns, Science and Engineering Practices like developing models, and Disciplinary Core Ideas like inheritance and variation of traits are taught every school day and every school year!

Written by Valerie Joyner

Valerie Joyner

Valerie Joyner is a retired elementary science educator and is CSTA’s Primary (grades K-2) Director.

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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.