May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Second Grade Seed Dispersal Engineers!

Posted: Monday, November 14th, 2016

by Nila Arensberg, Kristi Drake, Amanda Cloutier, and Pete A’Hearn

It’s time for the big test! Which seeds will stick to the animal’s fur?

It’s time for the big test! Which seeds will stick to the animal’s fur?

Second graders had worked hard on their engineering designs to make a lima bean that would be transported by sticking to an animal’s fur. The used wires, tape, Play-Doh©, staples, paperclips, foil, and paper to make their seed dispersal attachments.

This was the highlight of a lesson designed and taught by a team of second-grade teachers in Palm Springs Unified School District as part of the California Next Generation Science Standards K-8 Early Implementation Initiative. Our team used a lesson study process, designed by the K-12 Alliance, called a Teacher Learning Collaborative (TLC). As a team, we know that in elementary school, and especially early elementary, we need to find the strong connections between science and the Common Core standards. We set out to design an engaging lesson that would teach science and provide students with opportunities to engage in speaking and listening, writing, and reading.

Our team had worked on second grade physical science earlier in the year and we were eager to try our hand at the second-grade life science standards. We decided to focus on the needs of plants and used the conceptual flow tool to get our heads clear about what concepts, practices, and crosscutting concepts would belong in a unit about the needs of plants (if you’ve been to a CA NGSS Rollout you have experienced this tool and process).

Turns out, there is a lot of content for this topic. Plants need soil and sunlight, water and air, but they also need help from animals by assisting with pollination and dispersing seeds in locations where they will find the right conditions for growth. We planned for students in this unit to think in terms of Structure and Function and Cause and Effect. They would make models and conduct investigations as a way on understanding the concepts. After getting clear on the three-dimensional content, we focused in on this Performance Expectation for the lesson we would design:

2-LS2-2: Develop a simple model that mimics the function of an animal in dispersing seeds or pollinating plants.

Image source: http://pgtnaturegarden.org/2012/09/droughts-arent-all-bad/

Image source: http://pgtnaturegarden.org/2012/09/droughts-arent-all-bad/

We tried to think about a good way for students to demonstrate their understanding of seed dispersal. We studied various curricula and resources to look for ideas. Nila came up with the idea that we could have the students try to design a seed structure that we could test with a stuffed animal to see if it would stick to an animal’s fur. After testing the designs, students could practice writing an argument about whether their structure was successful or not. Now that we had a good idea about where the lesson was going, we could design a sequence that would lead them to the seed test.

We decided to engage the students with the phenomenon of a dog covered with seeds. We asked the students to talk to a partner about why the seeds stick to the dog. We were hoping for responses both about the structure of the seeds (Structure and Function) and the idea that animals help to move seeds around (Cause and Effect). We had follow-up questions planned if students didn’t address both ideas.

Students observing seed structures.

Students observing seed structures.

Then it was time to let kids explore some real seeds. We gave the kids some desert seeds to study under a hand lens and then also gave them cotton balls that they could use like an animal to “walk” over their seeds and see which ones would stick. The hand lenses allowed them to closely observe the structures that functioned to allow the seeds to stick to the cotton balls.

Students using sense-making notebooks.

Students using sense-making notebooks.

Science notebooks were used for drawings and written descriptions of the seed structures. We had some students share their notebook entries using the document camera. Students shared structures like hairs, spikes, hooks, and fuzzies.

Now for some reading to help reinforce the idea. We chose a short passage about how seeds travel and grow that expanded the idea about seed dispersal with other means like ending up in animal scat and being carried on the wind. Students recorded new ideas from the reading in their notebooks to show their understanding of both the hands-on exploration and reading (explain).

Now it was time for the engineering design challenge as an elaborate! We showed students the lima beans and showed how we would test their designs by walking the animal over their seeds. The lima beans sure did not stick! We also showed kids the materials that would be available for the building.  Students began by brainstorming designs in their notebooks.

They could choose to work with a partner or on their own. Once they had a design idea, we gave them materials to start building.

These seeds stuck!

These seeds stuck!

Then finally the big test. Seeds were sorted into a pile of those that worked and those that didn’t. We then asked students to write a claim in their notebooks about whether their design worked or didn’t and support it with evidence.

As always in a lesson study, we teach the lesson as a team debrief the lesson by examining student work for evidence of the lesson’s effectiveness. This debrief informs changes to the lesson that are warranted. One change was obvious: don’t include balloons in the materials. They don’t work but are way too exciting for second graders not to want to use. Their inclusion just distracted from the designs. We also shortened the reading to the essential pages of the book.

Analysis of the student work revealed a bigger concern: the claims were poorly written and the students didn’t really have any idea of what evidence to use. We decided that we needed to include a class discussion of what worked in the designs and what didn’t. This was done by sorting the seeds under the document camera and having a class discussion. We charted ideas from the discussion on the board. We also provided sentence frames (Table 1) for the writing to help students with the types of evidence that would support a claim.

ngss-ei-oct-16-table-1

We taught the lesson a second time and could see from the designs and the student work that the adjustments had a big effect. The students walked away with a deeper understanding of seed dispersal, structure and function, design, and using evidence. As teachers, we learned a lot about how an NGSS lesson could incorporate engineering into science learning. We also reinforced what we already knew – in teaching, little changes can make a big difference!

Nila Arensberg is a 2nd grade teacher at Bubbling Wells Elementary School, PSUSD, a Teacher Leader in the CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative, and a member of CSTA.

Kristi Drake is a 2nd grade teacher at Rancho Mirage Elementary School, PSUSD, a Teacher Leader in the CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative, and a member of CSTA.

Amanda Cloutier is a 2nd grade teacher at Bubbling Wells Elementary School, PSUSD, a Teacher Leader in the CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative, and a member of CSTA.

Pete A’Hearn is a K-12 Science Specialist in PSUSD, a Project Director for the CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative, and the Region 4 Director for CSTA.

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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.

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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.

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Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

by Lesley Gates, Loren Nikkel, and Kambria Eastham

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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

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by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graphs of planet rising and setting times by Jeffrey L. Hunt.

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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.