May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Professional Development Opportunity: Students Empowered to Help the Environment

Posted: Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

by Bill Andrews

In the Spring semester of 2013, 436 Northern California students in grades three through twelve completed dozens of remarkable school-based environmental stewardship projects. Facilitated by their teachers who were participating in a professional development institute, the students reported they not only “learned new information [about the environment] and were motivated to do new [stewardship] projects,” but also they “came away from their project with a sense of empowerment to help the environment.” The students’ attitudes and behaviors toward the environment were collected via surveys after they completed their stewardship projects. The survey results were compiled by the Los Angeles-based Evaluation and Training Institute (ETI), as part of an external evaluation plan coordinated by the California Environmental Education Foundation (CEEF).

The ETI research revealed that the “younger students in the third and fourth grades gained in environmental knowledge, had positive attitudes towards specific stewardship behaviors, and were willing to engage in these behaviors.” ETI found equally impressive results in the post-project surveys with the students in grades five through twelve. ETI reported the older students “experienced statistically significant impacts [in environmental knowledge, attitude and behavior] and they “demonstrated they were able to think through an environmental problem: identifying the problem, cause and solutions.” In all likelihood, the students’ acquired thinking skills and environmental knowledge will be very useful in helping them master the new “science and engineering practices” and “disciplinary core ideas” found in the recently adopted California Next Generation Science Standards.

Students pictured above clear brush to restore an over-grown nature trail

Students pictured above clear brush to restore an over-grown nature trail

The most promising evidence that the students benefitted from their stewardship projects is seen in ETI’s finding that two-thirds of the students indicated they “agreed or strongly agreed” that “the stewardship project taught me new information about environmental problems.” And one sixth-grade student proudly stated, “we know that we are going make a difference to pass this life-lesson on to the community,” after his class presented a water awareness campaign to other students and their parents. This student’s confidence was corroborated by 85% of the teachers who reported to ETI that they “saw student evidence of increased ecological content knowledge [e.g. through tests, classroom discussions, and reports].” These positive student results were exactly the desired outcomes of both CEEF and its outside supporters: the Saxton Family Foundation, The Department of Water Resources, and the Sandia National Laboratories.

Teachers role-playing sediment in a Project WET activity: "Just Passing Through”

Teachers role-playing sediment in a Project WET activity: “Just Passing Through”

The next CEEF teacher institute is planned for 2015 in Los Angeles. Prior to being accepted to the Institute the teachers will need to obtain their principal’s permission to conduct a stewardship project and agree to participate in action research. The Institute teachers receive a stipend, complimentary meals, 24 hours of professional development, and follow-up coaching from experts in pedagogy, environmental education and stewardship. The teacher institute application will be posted on the CEEF website in the fall at www.caeefoundation.org. Questions regarding the Institute should be directed to Bill Andrews, CEEF Executive Director, via email at w.andrews2930@comcast.net.

Bill Andrews is the Executive Director at the California Environmental Education Foundation (CEEF)

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

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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.