May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

State Superintendent Torlakson Visits CSTA President Elect Lisa Hegdahl’s Classroom to Shine a Spotlight on NGSS

Posted: Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

by Jessica Sawko

On April 21, 2015 State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson visited McCaffrey Middle School in Galt, CA. Galt is in Sacramento County about 30 minutes to the southeast of the city of Sacramento. Why the visit to McCaffrey? To shine the spotlight on the school, district, teachers, and students – all participants in the California K-8 NGSS Early Implementation Initiative. Superintendent Torlakson didn’t come alone, he attracted two local newspaper reporters, two video camera crews, and yours truly.

Elementary teachers Neika Estey (far left) and Leah Wheeler (seated next to Neika), participants in the K-8 NGSS Early Implementation Initiative share their experience with integrating what they have learned thus far into their elementary classrooms.

Elementary teachers Neika Estey (far left) and Leah Wheeler (seated next to Neika), participants in the K-8 NGSS Early Implementation Initiative share their experience with integrating what they have learned thus far into their elementary classrooms.

The day began with a meeting in the school library during which Superintendent Torlakson heard from elementary and middle school teachers in the Galt Joint Union Elementary School District actively participating in this first phase of the Initiative: Christa Dunkel, Jenne McGranahan, Christine Neal, Neika Estey, Leah Wheeler, and Lisa Hegdahl (CSTA President-Elect). Also participating in the presentation were Karen Schauer, the district superintendent, Ron Rammer, middle school principal, Barbara Woods, district science coach (CSTA Member), and two 8th grade students, Ariana Pamplona and Nicholas Picazo. Following the meeting, Superintendent Torlakson, the media, and others, in total about 20 people walked to Lisa Hegdahl’s 8th grade science classroom to observe the lesson for the day.

Guiding Question, Agenda, and Homework on Lisa Hegdahl's 8th Grade Science Classroom Whiteboard.

Guiding Question, Agenda, and Homework on Lisa Hegdahl’s 8th Grade Science Classroom Whiteboard.

Lisa and her students were several days into a Sun-Earth System Lesson Sequence. This sequence was developed by Lisa with assistance from Ron Rammer and Barbara Woods to address the NGSS Performance Expectation MS-ESS1-1: Develop and use a model of the Earth-sun-moon system to describe the cyclic patterns of lunar phases, eclipses of the sun and moon, and seasons.  The guiding question that day was: What is the relationship between the sun and the Earth and how does this relationship impact temperatures on Earth? Lisa started with leading her students through a review of what they had discovered and learned through their lesson sequence prior to today. She then provided a data table of average temperatures throughout the year in the city of Galt, some basic instructions, and the materials that the students could use to develop their models. The materials included a styrofoam sphere on a stick and a flashlight in a small basket. In a manner that clearly showed the students familiarity with classroom protocols and group work the students quickly reconfigured their seats to sit in teams of four, gathered their materials, and got to work – all while 20+ strangers, two video cameras, and at least four other cameras watched their every move.

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Superintendent Torlakson joined one group of three students and Lisa, Principal Rammer, District Science Coach Barbara Woods, CDE Director of Professional Learning Support Carrie Roberts, Superintendent Schauer, and other educators in the room observed the student tables, asked questions of the students, and overall provided support. It was a good thing there were so many hands on deck to help with the students, as Lisa was pulled away several times during the student work time for a TV interview, newspaper interview, and other conversations with observers not familiar with NGSS.

The Superintendent’s visit ended with time for media questions and interviews in the library. During the interview Superintendent Torlakson expressed support for dedicated funding for new standards implementation that included support for teacher professional learning. He also gave a nod to CSTA for their work in advocating for science education in California.

The following is a slide show of images from the day (click on the photo to view the full size gallery):

The K-8 NGSS Early Implementation Initiative 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, this Initiative is a fast-start demonstration project to build local education agency (LEA) capacity to fully implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in grades K-8.  Selected in a competitive application process, with input from expert reviewers, and funded by the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, the eight California districts are: Galt Joint Union Elementary School District, Kings Canyon Unified School District, Lakeside Union School District, Oakland Unified School District, Palm Springs Unified School District, San Diego Unified School District, Tracy Unified School District, and Vista Unified School District. The two California CMOs in the Initiative are Aspire and High Tech High, whose participation is funded by the Hastings/Quillin Fund at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. (Source: WestEd)

Media coverage of this event included:

KCRA 3 News (local NBC affiliate): http://www.kcra.com/news/galt-school-district-first-in-state-to-test-new-science-standards/32495464

Galt Herald: http://www.galtheraldonline.com/articles/2015/04/22/feature_story/doc5537d27089f05964302006.txt

Cabinet Report: https://cabinetreport.com/curriculum-instruction/a-head-start-implementing-the-new-science-standards

Lodi News: http://www.lodinews.com/news/article_f4956d2c-e8bc-11e4-b31d-cbcd70eec39b.html

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Written by Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko is CSTA’s Executive 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.