May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

The Next Generation of California Science Standards

Posted: Friday, March 1st, 2013

by Rick Pomeroy

What will California science standards look like at this time next year? At present, we really don’t know. As we saw with the number of changes between the first and second public drafts of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and with the large number of reviews received by Achieve (thank you to those who were able to take time of out your busy lives to submit a review), this means we  still can’t be sure what the final NGSS will be until they’re released later this month. Even if we knew now, we still do not necessarily know what the California science standards will look like. As explained in last month’s president’s column, the NGSS release by Achieve, Inc. only starts the process. At this time, there is no guarantee that the State Board of Education (SBE) will adopt the NGSS, in their final form. Before the SBE’s final adoption of new standards occurs, State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SSPI), Tom Torlakson, must recommend new science standards that are based on the NGSS between the release of the final version of the NGSS and the presentation of the recommended science standards to the SBE the Superintendent will collect public comment and hear testimony from stakeholders. The SBE will then have four months to review the SSPI’s recommendation and make their own decision to adopt, amend, or reject the SSPI’s proposal. In the end, the version of science standards that will manifest in California is still unknown.

Given this uncertainty, what can we do to prepare for the changes that are bound to occur?  First, we can take a lesson from the standards that have already been adopted – both Mathematics and English-Language Arts have the Common Core State Standards. Though the California implementation of those standards is just beginning, there are several lessons we can already take from them. In math, there is a major emphasis on the practices and applications of mathematics, and it will no longer be sufficient to memorize formulas for solving difficult problems or “find the right answer” without being able to explain what it means. Instead, greater emphasis is placed on the practices associated with using mathematics to understand real world problems. In the same vein, we already know that, regardless their final format, the new science standards will emphasize the realities of science, engineering, and technology and the practices and applications that tie all those subjects together. With this in mind, we can begin engaging our students in modeling and thinking critically. We can work to incorporate real world technology and engineering examples in our classes. We can help our students learn to create mental models of the phenomena that they observe everyday and pursue a deeper understanding of how those models work. For example, rather than just requiring student to memorize the stages of meiosis we must begin to help them build understanding of the connections those processes share with biodiversity, understanding cancer, and disease heritability. In the process, we will better engage our students and may motivate them to pursue further studies in the STEM fields.

Similarly, the ELA Common Core standards contain specific expectations for including more non-fiction reading and technical writing in science classes. Already, their implementation is having a significant impact in our science classes. More and more, teachers are including technical writing in their lessons by setting higher expectations for linking evidence to conclusions. These are excellent tools for improving students’ scientific reasoning and communication skills, which we know will be central to any new science standards that strive to prepare students for college and career. As science educators, we can help improve these skills by incorporating authentic reading and writing as part of the science curriculum to demonstrate the importance of context. By making literacy a key part of the science curriculum instead of a subject all its own, science will be seen as an integral part of the core curriculum.

Although we don’t know what the next generation of science standards will be in California there is no reason to sit idly by waiting for a bolt of lightning from on high to define them for us. There are many things we can already do within the context of the already-adopted Common Core Standards that will support and ease the implementation of new science standards.  Any task that engages our students in critical thinking, problem solving, and the general practices of science, technology, engineering, and math can only serve to better prepare them for the college and careers of their futures.

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Written by Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy is science education lecturer/supervisor in the School of Education, University of California Davis.

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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.