Simple, Introductory Activity Aligns with Common Core and Provides Common Experience
Posted: Monday, July 1st, 2013
by Lisa Hegdahl
Years ago, when I was a Club Live Advisor, I took a group of students to a leadership seminar. As an introductory activity, students were put into groups of four and asked to build a freestanding tower with only straws, tape, and 20 minutes.
Oh yes, and they had to complete the task without talking. These days, I use the tower building activity in combination with the 8th Grade Common Core Standards, and the Common Core Standards for Science and Technical Subjects, to build a common experience that my students can refer back to when studying balanced and unbalanced forces.
Materials Needed Per Group of four students:
- 25 Plastic straws
- 1 Roll of tape (masking tape works well)
- 1 Ruler
As with the original Club Live activity, students work in groups of four. Each group receives their plastic straws (paper straws or spaghetti also work), a roll of tape, and 20 minutes to build their tower. Students may use as much tape as they want, but individual pieces cannot exceed two inches. This detail prevents groups from taking the roll of tape and wrapping their entire tower. Although the students weren’t allowed to talk when I was first introduced to this activity, since the Common Core Standards for Language Arts has a Speaking and Listening component I do encourage students to communicate with each other while building their towers (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.8.6).
Students begin the activity by individually writing plans for how they think the tower should be built (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.8.1). Plans must include how each of the materials will be used, what each group member will be responsible for, and why they think their plan will be successful. Each group member explains their plan to their group before the group chooses the one plan they will implement (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.8.3).
At the end of 20 minutes the tower heights are measured, and students individually write an analysis of the towers produced by the class (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.8.1e). Included in the information is a proposed explanation of why some towers were successful and other towers were not. Students discuss their conclusions with their group before each group summarizes their thoughts to the class (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.8.4).
The tower building activity is simple, inexpensive, and engaging. It meets current California Science Content Standards for 8th Grade (http://www.cde.ca.gov/be/st/ss/documents/sciencestnd.pdf) and the Common Core Standards for Writing, Speaking & Listening, and the Common Core Standards for Science &Technical Subjects. Providing students with a common experience at the beginning of a unit makes exploring the specifics of the unit less intimidating, and helps the students generate their own questions and hypothesizes about what will follow.
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 http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/ai/infomeeting.asp.) Learn More…
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. https://www.engadget.com/2016/08/25/google-offers-360-degree-tours-of-us-national-parks/. Learn More…
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
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…
Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
by Peter A’hearn
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…
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…