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.
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.
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.”
- 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.”
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.
Bybee, R. W. 1997. Achieving scientific literacy: From purposes to practices. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
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.
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.
Posted: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016
by Jessica Sawko
In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.
At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/ai/infomeeting.asp.) Learn More…
Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
by Carol Peterson
1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. https://www.engadget.com/2016/08/25/google-offers-360-degree-tours-of-us-national-parks/. Learn More…
Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!
Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award
The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well into the future.” Learn More…
Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
by Peter A’hearn
NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?
The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…
Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt
Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. Learn More…