Patterns of Survival
Posted: Friday, May 20th, 2016
by Joey Noelle Lehnhard
To develop a scientific understanding of the natural world, students need lots of time to observe that world and notice patterns. In fact, the Next Generation Science Standards tell us, “noticing patterns is often a first step to organizing phenomena and asking scientific questions about why and how the patterns occur.” This may be different from the way we’ve guided student observations in the past. Before, we might ask for detailed sentences about color, size, and shape. We might have encouraged students to add an illustration and stopped there. However, focusing students on pattern identification can foster authentic engagement with a phenomenon and can lead to opportunities for deeper meaning making.
Finding patterns in the natural world often requires getting out of the classroom. To both contextualize content and develop a conservation ethic, it’s important for young students to study their local environment, rather than exotic ones. So exploring your schoolyard, a field site, or local habitats exhibited by your area zoo or aquarium is an excellent way to engage students in this crosscutting concept. Educators at the Monterey Bay Aquarium recently developed the following PreK-2nd grade curriculum piece, which you can lead with your students at any informal science institution or outdoor site. We’ll use the rocky shore as an example, but you can use any habitat that is accessible to you or available on your next field trip. (We’re a bit biased, but we think the rocky shore is pretty amazing.)
Our activity centers around the focus question, What patterns do we see in animals that live in the rocky shore? You might choose to begin this activity by introducing the focus question to students. First, we access prior knowledge about the habitat by asking if any of the students have ever been to a tide pool. We discuss the various creatures they saw there and create a shared list. Then, we read the book In One Tide Pool by Anthony D. Fredericks aloud with students and add to the list of animals they think they might find in the rocky shore.
At the Aquarium, students spend time exploring the rocky shore touch pools. Coming back together, each student or group of students chooses three animals they saw in the touch pools. They return to the touch pools, as well as other exhibits, to carefully observe those three animals and record their thoughts by taking photos with an iPad or other mobile device, sketching the animal in a science notebook, or talking about what they see with a chaperone. Then students use a sentence frame to construct an explanation about patterns they observed in animals that live in the same habitat. For example, one recent student wrote: “In the rocky shore, the sea star, sea urchin and anemone all stick to rocks.” Other patterns they identify in the rocky shore might include: needing water, having a hard shell, or eating kelp.
Each student then shares the pattern they found and tries to think of why that pattern might be helpful to the animals that live in that habitat. This can be facilitated in small groups by each chaperone or as a whole group in a quieter part of the facility (the back deck of the Aquarium works well for this). In response to the next sentence frame, a student might write: “In the rocky shore, I think sticking to rocks helps animals survive. I think this because of the strong waves.”
Later, back in the classroom, students use their photos, illustrations, observations, and completed sentence frames to create a screencast to communicate their thinking. We use the free version of Educreations, but any screencast program or application would work. Depending on time, students can share their screencasts with a partner, a small group, the whole class or at a school event.
Finally, we return to our focus question: What patterns do we see in animals that live in the rocky shore? We review the patterns we identified and the reasons we think those patterns are helpful. This often leads to more sophisticated discussions about adaptations (body parts and behaviors) and the needs of living things. One way we help solidify student understanding is to end the activity with a meaning-making science talk.
This activity could support a variety of NGSS performance expectations including
- K-LS1: Use observations to describe patterns of what plants and animals (including humans) need to survive.
- 1-LS1: Read texts and use media to determine patterns in behavior of parents and offspring that help offspring survive.
The current draft of the California Transitional Kindergarten Science Standards also includes this standard that may be applicable: PreK-LS1.3: Recognize that living things have habitats in different environments suited to their unique needs.
If you decide to have your students create screencasts, a variety of Common Core State Standards can be addressed as well, including:
- Language Arts, W.K.6, W.1.6, W.2.6 Writing: With guidance and support from adults, explore a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing, including in collaboration with peers.
- Language Arts, SL.1.5 Speaking and Listening: Add drawings or other visual displays to descriptions when appropriate to clarify ideas, thoughts, and feelings.
- Language Arts, W.K.2 Writing: Use a combination of drawing, dictating and writing to compose informative/explanatory texts in which they name what they are writing about and supply some information about the topic.
Field trips to the Monterey Bay Aquarium are always free. Register for next year in May.
Joey Noelle Lehnhard is a Senior Education Specialist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and CSTA member. Find her on Twitter @JoeyElle or Email: email@example.com.
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.
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…
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…
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 www.explorit.org. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Joseph Calmer
Probably like you, NGSS has been at the forefront of many department meetings, lunch conversations, and solitary lesson planning sessions. Despite reading the original NRC Framework, the Ca Draft Frameworks, and many CSTA writings, I am still left with the question: “what does it actually mean for my classroom?”
I had an eye-opening experience that helped me with that question. It came out of a conversation that I had with a student teacher. It turns out that I’ve found the secret to learning how to teach with NGSS: I need to engage in dialogue about teaching with novice teachers. I’ve had the pleasure of teaching science in some capacity for 12 years. During that time pedagogy and student learning become sort of a “hidden curriculum.” It is difficult to plan a lesson for the hidden curriculum; the best way is to just have two or more professionals talk and see what emerges. I was surprised it took me so long to realize this epiphany. Learn More…