May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

So You’re Going on a Field Trip. What Will the Students Accomplish?

Posted: Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

by Jeff Orlinsky

Field trips can be a great learning experience for everyone. Most museums, zoos, aquariums, or “parks” have lesson plans or activities. Some have developed thematic lessons for use on site, as well as in the classroom. These are tried and true lessons, almost foolproof, and may already fit your lesson plan completely. You may also choose to use a teacher-created lesson; these are our pride and joy. Most teachers have been to the field trip destination previously and developed a lesson that may be a better fit with what they’re doing in the classroom.

Regardless of the developer, such activities can vary from scavenger hunts; fill in the blanks, to collection of data. The observations in the field are brought back to the classroom for discussions and incorporated into the curriculum.

With the Next Generation Science Standards, teachers have the opportunity to make science teaching more meaningful and can tie in well with field trips. Recall that there are 8 science and engineering practices:

  • Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)
  • Developing and using models
  • Planning and carrying out investigations
  • Analyzing and interpreting data
  • Using mathematics and computational thinking
  • Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)
  • Engaging in argument from evidence
  • Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

Here are some ideas of how to combine these NGSS Practices with your field trips.

Visiting a zoo or an aquarium?

Visit Sportsman’s Paradise Online or simply Google search for any wild animal webcam or zoo-cam.

The goal of this inquiry lesson is for students to develop a scientific protocol to compare organisms from two or more different places and use current BYOD (Bring Your Own Devices). Once at the zoo or aquarium, the students will answer the question: are the animals we see on our field trip doing the same behaviors that we previously saw on the web cam? To prepare:

  • Have student watch animals on the web cam before your field trip.
  • Help students focus on a type of behavior they wish to compare.
  • Have the students brainstorm ways to collect the data once they are in the field.
  • While on the field trip, have the students make observations of the animals. If possible, have them form groups of two or three. One person views the webcam on their phone or tablet and makes observations while the others are observing the animals in the enclosure.
  • Upon the return from the field trip, debrief. Have the students discuss ways to improve their data collection and observations skills.
  • If you make this trip yearly, have the next field trip build on the work of the previous year’s data and observations.
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Heading to a Park?

The goal of this inquiry lesson is for students to compare their school grounds to the park you are visiting. This works great if you can identify the plants around your school campus. Ask the district’s groundskeepers for help.

  • Have the students develop and then use a protocol to count and measure the different types of plants and animals around campus. If you have the equipment, soil, air, and water tests provide more opportunities for students to develop laboratory skills.
  • Repeat the data collection process at the park you are visiting. It’s best to check with the park beforehand to make sure that you can sample and run experiments before doing this activity.
  • Upon your return, discuss the similarities and differences between the two locations.
  • The next time you go, use the previous year’s observations and data as the stepping stone to monitor changes over time.

On your way to the Museum?

Build a museum display. After your students have completed your lessons, have them pick a display and begin to critique the display in terms of building science literacy.

  • What is the purpose of the display?
  • What are the main scientific concepts that are being used in the display?
  • Does this display correct any misconceptions? Does it create misconceptions?

I hope these ideas have given you some ways to make your next field trip a different type of experience.

Written by Jeff Orlinsky

Jeff Orlinsky

Jeff Orlinsky teaches science at Warren High School and is CSTA’s High School Director.

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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.