May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Students Apply NGSS Science Practices in Environmental Stewardship

Posted: Thursday, January 14th, 2016

by Deborah Tucker, Bill Andrews, and Kathryn Hayes

Regardless of the grade level(s) you teach and the ability levels of your students, if you are looking for collaborative projects that get your students excited about learning while applying the NGSS science practices, read on! We surveyed California teachers who participated in a 4-month Environmental Education (EE) Professional Development (PD) institute in Spring 2015 and found they were re-energized and truly inspired as they facilitated student-driven environmental stewardship projects that encouraged student use of NGSS science practices. Based on participating teacher feedback, your passion for teaching may also be renewed and your students will be proud that they made a difference for the environment!

EE Professional Development Institute

Science practices can be taught at all grade levels in a variety of environment-based projects, as evidenced by 28 teachers (K-12) from the Los Angeles area with an average of 13.5 years of teaching experience. The teachers participated in a 4-month environmental education professional development institute and received in-depth content instruction from experts provided by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and the California Environmental Education Foundation (CEEF) in partnership with the CA Department of Water Resources, Sandia National Laboratories, and the Los Angeles Metropolitan Water District. The institute also focused on effective pedagogy (including the 5Es), required teacher facilitation of a student-driven environmental stewardship project, and provided follow-up support from both the local California Regional Environmental Education Community (CREEC) Network Coordinator and a Regional Director with the K-12 Alliance. The teachers were asked to incorporate two NGSS science practices (#6 explaining and #8 communicating) into the student work.

Nasco Science - Click for your FREE catalog!

-Advertisement-

The students determined the topic and conducted the research. Projects ranged from water conservation and water quality testing to energy audits, school gardens, and campus beautification. Most projects contained a communication component, for example, a local campaign to “pick up your trash,” a parent “Eco” night, or a digital storybook.

Figure 1: Students create a collaborative Google Slide presentation of their research on solving the need to add woodland plants around water-stressed redwood trees.

Figure 1: Students create a collaborative Google Slide presentation of their research on solving the need to add woodland plants around water-stressed redwood trees.

All stewardship projects can be viewed on the CEEF website. This list includes descriptions of the environmental benefits of the stewardship projects, as well as the teachers’ observations of student engagement in the stewardship projects.

Research Conducted on the Institute

The teachers’ shifts in instructional practices while engaged in the institute were the subject of a research study. Pre/post quantitative data analyses demonstrated that teachers made statistically significant instructional shifts in their integration of stewardship, their use of reasoning, explanation, and argument (Science and Engineering Practices 6 and 7), and data collection and analysis (Science and Engineering Practice 3 and 4). Teachers were able to incorporate grade-appropriate science practices into their instruction. (See Appendix C: Progression of the Science and Engineering Practices in Grades K–12 of the draft CA Science Framework), successfully aligning them with several of California’s Common Core (CCSS) anchor standards (e.g., Reading 1, 2, 8; Writing 1, 2, 7, and 8).

Qualitative data analyses of teacher interviews and reflections also demonstrate increase in the use of the NGSS practices and shifts in integrating EE activities and stewardship into instruction. The research indicated the following three key findings:

  • Environmental stewardship is an effective vehicle for science practices, with the inclusion of science practices “legitimizing” EE in schools. From a high school science teacher, “The advantages of integrating the NGSS practices and CCSS into the environment stewardship projects is that you will be teaching the students what needs to be taught at their grade level and at the same time you are helping them learn the importance of taking care of the environment and how they can become advocates…” A high school teacher wrote how essential it is to bring the practices to life. “I think that integrating environmental stewardship strategies into your teaching practice will bring life into the NGSS practices [emphasis added]. So when you have standards like that, they tend to be abstract. But there are things like energy flows [integrating the crosscutting concepts of Energy and Matter: Flow, cycles and conservation], … if you use the framework of environmental stewardship and figure out how to teach the standards…then you can make the NGSS practices come alive for the kids. You’ve got to have something real at the core.” 
Figure 2: Student poster, which is intended to raise awareness of fellow students about water use and waste at their school; communicates student thinking.

Figure 2: Student poster, which is intended to raise awareness of fellow students about water use and waste at their school; communicates student thinking.

  • Students were engaged in and excited about learning and exhibited positive As another teacher stated, “Students have become more aware of their personal responsibilities as stewards of the environment.”
  • Teachers noticed the integration of NGSS science practices was seamlessly applied in the stewardship projects. One grade 5 teacher whose class worked on campus beautification wrote of her students, “Then they actually started tallying, going to different areas of the school to see if they could notice any different trends when there was more litter, to kind of get an idea of what’s happening. Like are the students walking out to the yard and just throwing their trash anywhere?…So they were walking around and tallying and taking notes. Then we brought it back together, talked about the data and why they think the results were the way they were.”
Figure 3: Graphs of student-generated data on campus litter collection; amount of trash (y-axis) and the day and time of the litter collection (x-axis) at an elementary school

Figure 3: Graphs of student-generated data on campus litter collection; amount of trash (y-axis) and the day and time of the litter collection (x-axis) at an elementary school

In the context of this stewardship project, the teacher combined practice 8 (communication) with both practice 3 (Planning and Carrying Out Investigations) and practice 4 (Analyzing and Interpreting Data).

What does this mean for California’s teachers?

Whether you’re teaching science, math, or environmental science, you can incorporate the NGSS science practices into your instruction. Make the science practices an integral part of your curriculum, integrating them into every activity your students do, and consider using environmental stewardship as a means to powerfully motivate your students and recharge your enthusiasm for teaching.

For information about the 2016 EE Professional Development Institute, go to the CEEF website. To apply, download an application.

References

Bybee, R. W. 1997. Achieving scientific literacy: From purposes to practices. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

CA draft CA science framework (http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/sc/cf/scifw1st60daypubreview.asp)

California Common Core Standards

Loucks-Horsley, S., K. Stiles, S. Mundry, N. Love, and P. Hewson. 2009. Designing professional development for teachers of science and mathematics. 3rd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

National Research Council. 2012. A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

National Research Council. 2013. Next Generation Science Standards: For States, By States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Deborah Tucker is an Independent Science Education Consultant and a past president of CSTA. Bill Andrews is an Environmental Education Consultant and member of CSTA. Kathryn Hayes is Assistant Professor, Dept. of Educational Leadership, CSU East Bay.

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

Leave a Reply

LATEST POST

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…

Powered By DT Author Box

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…

Powered By DT Author Box

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.