January/February 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 4

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.

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Written by Lisa Hegdahl

Lisa Hegdahl

Lisa Hegdahl is an 8th grade science teacher at McCaffrey Middle School in Galt, CA and is President for CSTA.

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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.