January/February 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 4

President’s Picks

Posted: Friday, July 1st, 2011

by Rick Pomeroy

This column will appear regularly with a selection of some of my favorite science activity ideas gleaned from over 35 years of classroom teaching and classroom observations. I take no credit for the creation of most of these activities. Any similarity to activities included in copyrighted material, texts, or online media is coincidental. These activities simply represent lessons that I have seen or taught that engaged students and promoted critical thinking or problem solving. A common philosophy of the activities presented here will be the use of data, scenarios or story problems, or simply asking questions instead of providing information. If you have questions or comments, please feel free to contact me at president@cascience.org.

The “e” Alternative

One of the most popular activities that I have observed at many grade levels is the “e” lab. Used as an introduction to microscopes, the lab, as normally presented, asks students to look at a letter “e” under a microscope at low, medium, and high power, drawing what they see. Typically, students notice that the “e” is upside down and backwards, and, if they pay attention to detail, their drawings show some representation of the changing size of the “e” at higher and higher magnification. In most cases, students calculate total magnification for each slide.

The “e” Alternative offers all of these same opportunities but the focus is not on looking at the “e” for the sake of the “e” but as a way to answer a question. In this case, a scenario is set up where students must look at letters printed with different types of inks, on different types of paper, by different types of printers and draw some evidence-based conclusions about which sample matches a note provided by the instructor. In my case, I set up the scenario that one of my students finds my coffee cup and writes me a note offering to give it back to me. Unfortunately, they forget to put their name on the note so I look at assignments that they have turned in, matching the ink, paper, and printer type with the note to identify who has the cup. (The “assignments” are really samples prepared by the teacher as a source of data to compare to the note.) A key difference between this and the traditional “e” activities is that the students are asked to look at the samples for a reason. They have to draw conclusions about which students’ papers most closely match the note and they have to write a justification about their decisions based on what they see under the microscope.

Though the above scenario sounds relatively contrived to teachers, students enjoy the challenge of matching the correct sample to the note and they have to develop the ability to write an explanation that focuses on observations and avoids inference (the new Common Core Standards for English/Language Arts require this type of technical writing at many grade levels.) A side benefit of this activity is that students see that different types of paper look much different under a microscope and different types of ink and printing are distinctly different when viewed under the microscope.

When I set up this activity, I print the student samples on a variety of cotton bond, standard copier paper, ink jet paper, and photo papers using ink jet or laser printers, a typewriter, and a photocopier. Given four types of paper and four printing options yields up to 16 combinations, which may be too many to complete in one class period. There is no magic combination as long as you make sure that there are discernible differences between the papers you choose and the printer types selected.

Rick Pomeroy is science education lecturer/supervisor in the School of Education, University of California, Davis and is CSTA’s president.

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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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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.