September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

Primary Science, Common Core, and NGSS

Posted: Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

by Valerie Joyner and Michelle French

With special thanks to the Tulare County of Office of Education and the K-12 Alliance

Spring is here! And with it comes many opportunities for adding science and NGSS to your Common Core Curriculum! As flowers bloom, snails and spittle bugs emerge, and creeks flow, look around your school and home for science opportunities for your students to explore. It might take some digging or turning rocks over (don’t forget to put them back) and you have instant enthusiasm for a new primary science lesson! Remember, the focus for K-2 science is: choose ideas about phenomena that students can directly experience and investigate (adapted from A Framework for K-12 Science Education 2012).

To get started, look through your ELA and math CCSS to see what you still need to cover this year. It might be strengthening your students reading for understanding, engaging in argument, graphing, or descriptive writing.  Then identify and highlight any standards or curriculum materials that could be taught through science. Look closely at the texts and/or trade books your students will be working with and determine what local flora or fauna you could use to integrate into your curriculum.

Let’s say for example your students will be reading “Earthworms Underground” by Kevin Beals, “An Earthworm’s Life”, by Himmelman, or “Diary of a Worm” by Doreen Cronin and Harry Bliss. This is the perfect time to allow students to make first hand observations and experiences that they can use to strengthen their reading, writing, listening, and oral language skills.


Material You Will Need:

  • Collect or buy earthworms (available at your local bait shops) – 2-3 for each pair of   students
  • Small 3-4” containers – 1 for each pair of students
  • Roll of paper towels
  • Water to moisten towels and clean up


Before you begin an earthworm observation ask students to share with each other what they know and wonder about worms.  You can use a sentence frame like: “I know that worms are/have _______________________________.” And “I wonder if worms are/have _______________.” Record ideas on chart paper.


Set-up: Place 2-3 worms in a small dish, one for each pair of students. Moisten paper towels for students to place on work areas for observing their worms.  Have clean-up materials ready.

Part #1 – Observation

  1. Start the observation with a discussion about how to safely and responsibly handle earthworms.
  2. Explain to the students that they will be observing the structures and behaviors of earthworms. Instruct them to record 1-3 things they observe in their science notebook.
  3. Distribute worms and paper towels and allow time for students to observe and record (or dictate) their observations.
  4. Ask students to share their observations about the structures and behaviors of their worms.  Compare their observations with the “I Know and I Wonder” chart.  This is an excellent time to check for misconceptions and to allow students to increase their reading and oral vocabulary. Common Core!

Part #2 – Guided Reading

Using Text Features – identify the vocabulary words from the chart that are words in the Glossary, read the definitions of the words noted on the chart.  Next ask students which words from our chart are missing from this glossary? Make notations on chart. Then ask students to think about this question: “If you were the author, what word(s) from the chart would you add to the Glossary?  “I would add the word ___________________, because _____________.”

Reading for Understanding – Choral Reading, questions to ask during reading (depending on text).

  • What structures do earthworms have that help it live underground?
  • What is an adaptation that allows earthworms to survive?
  • How do earthworms protect themselves from sunlight?
  • What structures do other animals have that live underground?

Engaging in Argument – partners and then whole group

  • Discuss with your partner how earthworms protect themselves. “Earthworms protect themselves by ____________________________.
  • Whole group – “From your observations and readings, what new information can we add to the chart?


Notebook entry

  1. Draw a picture of a worm in its underground habitat.  Include at least 1 predator that shares its habitat.
  2. Explain how the earthworm protects itself from these predators.  Write in complete sentences.
  3. Have students share out their pictures and writing (dictation).


Observing – Have students observe other local animals and record their observations.

Comparing – Have students, work with partners to compare and contrast the structures and behaviors of the animals they have observed

Designing (NGSS) – Identify a problem a worm or other animal has, brainstorm possible solutions, make a plan with drawings and materials, create a model and test it, and then discuss what didn’t work and modify and improve your original design.  Finally retest and modify.


National Research Council (NRC).2012. A Framework for K-12 Science Education:   Practices, Cross-Cutting Concepts, and Core Ideas. Washington, D.C: National Academies Press

NGSS Lead States. 2013. Next Generation Science Standards: For States, By States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.



Written by Valerie Joyner

Valerie Joyner

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

One Response

  1. […] to get started? Here’s a great K-2 observation and critical thinking lesson on earthworms (and the district elementary libraries have lots of books about earthworms you can use […]

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California Science Assessment Update

Posted: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

by Jessica Sawko

In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.

At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at 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.

Some ways to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in your classroom

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

by Carol Peterson

1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. 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.

2016 Award Recipients – Join CSTA in Honoring Their Accomplishments

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference  on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!

Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award

John Keller

John Keller

The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well into the future.” 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.

NGSS: Making Your Life Easier

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Peter A’hearn

Wait… What?

NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?

The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…

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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.

Celestial Highlights, September 2016

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt 

Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. 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.