September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Switching Lab Materials Gives 8th Grade Teachers Options

Posted: Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

by Lisa Hegdahl

Recently, I was setting up a series of labs for Open House.  I became aware of how many labs have evolved over the years and how I’ve made changes to better suit my teaching situation. For example, I never prepared the Destroying Water Lab because I had only seen it using a huge battery, large beakers, and wires.  After attending a workshop at the California Science Teachers Conference, though, I started preparing the Destroying Water Lab using a small 9V battery, metal thumb tacks, 2 test tubes, and a 3 ounce condiment cup.  This lab has amazed my students every year since. Below, I offer some other lab variations for you to try.  I am sure there are countless other lab material options out there – you can add your favorites to the comment section below this article.

  • Changing the density of water:  As an introductory demonstration to density, I used to float an egg that had been sunk in water by adding salt.  A colleague mentioned that students could do the experiment by substituting the egg with a piece of carrot.  Last year, I substituted the carrot with a golf ball.
  •  Buoyancy Boats:  Instead of using clay, I now use foil (washers for the passengers).  When the students are finished, I have them flatten out the foil to dry, and then I recycle it with my aluminum cans.
  •  Building Towers:  As an introduction to balanced and unbalance forces,  my students build towers using limited amounts of straws, tape, and time. Replacing the straws with pasta makes the lab more environmentally friendly.
  •  Making Atoms:  My students use large blue and white beads twisted together with string for the nucleus and tiny green beads on wire for the electrons and electron orbitals.  They attach the orbitals to the nucleus by tying the left over string from the nucleus to them.  (I recycle the beads for use each year.) I have also seen atoms constructed from candy, Styrofoam balls, and paper.  You may also decide to have students choose their own suitable materials.
  •  Raisins rising and falling in soda water can be done with grapes as well.  A peeled grape changes the results.
  •  Density Columns:  Students find the masses and volumes of 3-7 liquids (there are many suggestions for the liquids on the internet), calculate the densities, predict how the liquids will stack in a column, and then test their hypothesis.  When I don’t have the time or resources, I give the students a list of masses and volumes for some stackable liquids.  Students calculate the densities, and then draw the columns instead.   Solids can be added to either option.

 

 

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Written by Lisa Hegdahl

Lisa Hegdahl

Lisa Hegdahl is an 8th-grade science teacher at McCaffrey Middle School in Galt, CA and is Past-President of CSTA.

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State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2017 Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Posted: Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated eight exceptional secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“These teachers are dedicated and accomplished individuals whose innovative teaching styles prepare our students for 21st century careers and college and develop them into the designers and inventors of the future,” Torlakson said. “They rank among the finest in their profession and also serve as wonderful mentors and role models.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partners annually with the California Science Teachers Association and the California Mathematics Council to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program—the highest recognition in the nation for a mathematics or science teacher. The Science Finalists will be recognized at the CSTA Awards Luncheon on Saturday, October 14, 2017. 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.

Thriving in a Time of Change

Posted: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

by Jill Grace

By the time this message is posted online, most schools across California will have been in session for at least a month (if not longer, and hat tip to that bunch!). Long enough to get a good sense of who the kids in your classroom are and to get into that groove and momentum of the daily flow of teaching. It’s also very likely that for many of you who weren’t a part of a large grant initiative or in a district that set wheels in motion sooner, this is the first year you will really try to shift instruction to align to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a challenging year – change is hard. Change is even harder when there’s not a playbook to go by.  But as someone who has had the very great privilege of walking alongside teachers going through that change for the past two years and being able to glimpse at what this looks like for different demographics across that state, there are three things I hope you will hold on to. These are things I have come to learn will overshadow the challenge: a growth mindset will get you far, one is a very powerful number, and it’s about the kids. Learn More…

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Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is President of CSTA.

If You Are Not Teaching Science Then You Are Not Teaching Common Core

Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn 

“Science and Social Studies can be taught for the last half hour of the day on Fridays”

– Elementary school principal

Anyone concerned with the teaching of science in elementary school is keenly aware of the problem of time. Kids need to learn to read, and learning to read takes time, nobody disputes that. So Common Core ELA can seem like the enemy of science. This was a big concern to me as I started looking at the curriculum that my district had adopted for Common Core ELA. I’ve been through those years where teachers are learning a new curriculum, and know first-hand how a new curriculum can become the focus of attention- sucking all the air out of the room. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Tools for Creating NGSS Standards Based Lessons

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Elizabeth Cooke

Think back on your own experiences with learning science in school. Were you required to memorize disjointed facts without understanding the concepts?

Science Education Background

In the past, science education focused on rote memorization and learning disjointed ideas. Elementary and secondary students in today’s science classes are fortunate now that science instruction has shifted from students demonstrating what they know to students demonstrating how they are able to apply their knowledge. Science education that reflects the Next Generation Science Standards challenges students to conduct investigations. As students explore phenomena and discrepant events they engage in academic discourse guided by focus questions from their teachers or student generated questions of that arise from analyzing data and creating and revising models that explain natural phenomena. Learn More…

Written by Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke teaches TK-5 science at Markham Elementary in the Oakland Unified School District, is an NGSS Early Implementer, and is CSTA’s Secretary.

News and Happenings in CSTA’s Region 1 – Fall 2017

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Cal

This month I was fortunate enough to hear about some new topics to share with our entire region. Some of you may access the online or newsletter options, others may attend events in person that are nearer to you. Long time CSTA member and environmental science educator Mike Roa is well known to North Bay Area teachers for his volunteer work sharing events and resources. In this month’s Region 1 updates I am happy to make a few of the options Mike offers available to our region. Learn More…

Written by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw is the student services director at Siskiyou County Office of Education and is CSTA’s Region 1 Director and chair of CSTA’s Policy Committee.