May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Starting the School Year Right

Posted: Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

by Joanne Michael

In my position, I teach hands-on science for an entire elementary school (Kindergarten-5th grade). I begin my school year about a week after the first day of school, after the classroom teachers have begun establishing their room protocols. Even though I see the students year after year as they come into my classroom, because they change over the course of a year, and especially over the summer, we often need to start as if I have never seen the students before.

My sample to show younger students

My sample to show younger students

One thing that I started doing this past school year was to initiate the mindset that everyone is interconnected to each other as students in the same school, that every person is unique, but is an integral part of the school. I found some interlocking puzzle piece figures online, and bought a class set for each of my 18 classes (they were on clearance!). On the first day of class for each of my classes, after going over the expectations, I handed out colored pencils and the people. I gave very few directions, other than they should look like them (whatever that meant). For the younger classes, I created one for myself, made a “shirt”, and drew the NASA symbol, as space exploration is something I am very interested in. The students were only given the rest of their time with me (about 20 minutes) to complete their puzzle piece, put their name and room number on the back, and handed it in.

What roughly 400 students’ puzzle people look like, all intertwined on the classroom wall

What roughly 400 students’ puzzle people look like, all intertwined on the classroom wall

As the classes finished, I started putting the people together on the wall. The effect was amazing- as students and parents came in, they could not see definitive lines between grade levels, but rather a color wall, made of individual people and their hobbies. The attitude in the classroom was incredible as well- they immediately took more of an ownership to the classroom, since it was THEIR work that was on the wall. For the 4th and 5th grade students, I truly think it was a type of wake-up call that there are so many other kids, so many younger ones that were going to be looking up to them. They loved looking at it throughout the year, and asked for them at the end of the year, to see how they changed. Most schools have die-cut machines with a puzzle piece cutter that can be used, or even just simple square pieces of paper that are lined up like a quilt can set the tone for your classroom.
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Science is fun, and can be extremely messy and “gross”. One of my favorite expectations is that I tell the students they are not allowed to say the word “gross/icky/nasty/ negative adjectives describing a noun” when doing an activity. Instead, they are to say the word “interesting”. The students always giggle, but I hold them to it! My mindset is that the majority of the time, what they are seeing is so out of their comfort zone because they have not seen it before, and they are not sure how to respond. There are so many much more incredible words out there- why say that something is gross, over and over again? By getting them to say the word “interesting” rather than “gross”, it starts to connect the two in their minds. As the school year goes along, they start to automatically say “this is so… interesting!!!” with a hesitant tone to their voice, and then they begin to smile. They know it’s silly, but they actually begin to believe it- this gooey pile of whatever, the animal before them to dissect, even the combination of solids and liquids congealing in the bowl isn’t gross anymore, but actually is interesting! After multiple years of doing and saying it, even while giggling, their mindset changes- they look forward to the “interesting” labs and activities, so they can practice!

Written by Joanne Michael

Joanne Michael

Joanne Michael is a K-5 Science Specialist for Manhattan Beach Unified, former CSTA Upper Elementary director, and is a current CSTA member.

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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.