March/April 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 6

Teaching Physics Through the Crosscutting Concepts

Posted: Monday, February 8th, 2016

by Joseph Calmer

I have been teaching science for 10 years. During that time I have taught biology, anatomy/physiology, chemistry, and physics. When the NGSS began to trickle down to us teachers, I began to see the light at the end of the science education tunnel. The authors of the NGSS seemed to grasp the interrelatedness of the different disciplines of science and were trying to explicitly demonstrate that interconnectedness through the new standards. As a science teacher and a person who has studied science for a long time, the connections between science fields are painfully obvious, but to a new learner, the obvious may not be so obvious.

In the book, Developing a Pedagogy of Teacher Education, John Loughran identifies the notion of “making the tacit explicit” (Loughran, 2006). The idea of making the tacit explicit is at play with the crosscutting concepts. To science teachers and experts in science, the transdiciplinary nature of science is clear. To us, chemistry, biology, physics, etc, are not separate and distinct fields, they are simply permutations of different examples of science. Our students, being novices, probably do not see the panoply of science like we do, despite being exposed to the “scientific method” and “the scientific process” throughout their education. It is not their fault; they may never have had the teacher say, “Well, this is the biology and the chemistry and the physics…(of a phenomena)” They have always learned the aforementioned subjects in isolation. The curriculum has always been structured that way, but now it will be different.



The NGSS has set to rectify this. As patrons of science, we can see the patterns, cause and effect, systems, etc. in a scientific story. Often the experts forget the novices’ perspective. To a student, that same story may only appear to be about a cellular respiration (which is from biology). They may not see the chemistry (molecular structure…) or the physics (thermal energy, entropy…). The NGSS has done an excellent job of creating seven items that span all of science. The work will be integrating them into our pedagogy and classrooms. The SEPs and DCIs are very comfortable to use. They are guidelines for objectives that are familiar to us. The CCC are new, but they are ingrained in the Nature of Science. Below, I point out some of the concepts that can connect to the CCC and can serve as a place for you to start.

This list is not meant to be exhaustive, but is a place to help you start making the tacit explicit to your students. Also, Peter A’Hearn has developed a site for educators to use the CCC and integrate them into lessons (A’Hearn, 2015). I hope this list will help make the tacit explicit:

  • Collisions: can be used as lesson on patterns
  • Newton’s Laws: can be used as lesson on cause and effect
  • Vectors: can be used as lesson on Scale, Proportion, and Quantity
  • Thermodynamics: can be used as lesson on systems and system models
  • Waves: can be used as lesson on energy
  • Circuit: can be used as lessons on structure function
  • Conservation of energy or momentum: can be used as lesson on stability and change

There are a myriad of directions the CCC can take a lesson. The existence of the CCC is by definition to integrate everything, so we can literally place any learning objective into a crosscutting concept. The only limit is creativity. As teachers, we can be seen as experts in both pedagogy and science, so we need to practice making lessons that help students see the obvious transdiciplinary nature of science.

The goal of teaching (implicitly) is making the tacit explicit to our students. The NGSS is a paradigm shift in science education. This shift has been a long time coming; Herbert Smith described a dilemma in science education that could be fixed when science is taught in its true interdisciplinary form along with its connection to humanistic roots (Smith, 1969). Despite the gravity of the shift (pardon the pun), I think that the CCC are a great place to start making a change in your lessons.


A’Hearn, P. (2015). Crosscut Symbols.   Retrieved from

Loughran, J. (2006). Developing a Pedagogy of Teacher Education (Kindle Edition ed.). New York: Routledge.

Smith, H. A. (1969). Science: Trends and Dilemmas. In D. G. Hays (Ed.), Britannica Review of American Education (Vol. 1). Chicago, Il: Britannica Reviews.

Joseph Calmer, Ed.D, is a Physics and Chemistry Teacher at Lawndale High School.





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CSTA Endorses March for Science

Posted: Monday, March 27th, 2017

The California Science Teachers Association (CSTA) stands with our science and science education colleagues in endorsing the March For Science and its associated activities.

The decision by the CSTA Board of Directors to support the March for Science was based on the understanding that this is an opportunity to advocate for our mission of high quality science education for all and to advance the idea that science has application to everyday life, is a vehicle for lifelong learning, and the scientific enterprise expands our knowledge of the world around us. The principles and goals of the March for Science parallel those of CSTA to assume a leadership role in solidarity with our colleagues in science and science education and create an understanding of the value of science in the greater community. CSTA believes that the integrity of the nature of science and that the work of scientists and science educators should be valued and supported. We encourage your participation to stand with us.

There are over 30 satellite marches planned for the April 22, 2017 March for Science in California (to find a march near you, click on “marches” in the upper right of the main page, select “satellite marches” and use the search feature). We encourage members who participate in the March for Science to share their involvement and promotion of science and science education. Feel free to promote CSTA on your signs and banners. For those on social media, you may share your involvement via Twitter, @cascience and our Facebook groups.

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.

California Science Curriculum Framework Now Available

Posted: Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

The pre-publication version of the new California Science Curriculum Framework is now available for download. This publication incorporates all the edits that were approved by the State Board of Education in November 2016 and was many months in the making. Our sincere thanks to the dozens of CSTA members were involved in its development. Our appreciation is also extended to the California Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Instructional Quality Commission, and the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee and their staff for their hard work and dedication to produce this document and for their commitment to the public input process. To the many writers and contributors to the Framework CSTA thanks you for your many hours of work to produce a world-class document.

For tips on how to approach this document see our article from December 2016: California Has Adopted a New Science Curriculum Framework – Now What …? If you would like to learn more about the Framework, consider participating in one of the Framework Launch events (a.k.a. Rollout #4) scheduled throughout 2017.

The final publication version (formatted for printing) will be available in July 2017. This document will not be available in printed format, only electronically.

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.

Call for CSTA Awards Nominations

Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017

The 2017 Award Season is now open! One of the benefits of being a CSTA member is your eligibility for awards as well as your eligibility to nominate someone for an award. CSTA offers several awards and members may nominate individuals and organizations for the Future Science Teacher Award, the prestigious Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, and the CSTA Distinguished Contributions Award (organizational award). May 9, 2017 is the deadline for nominations for these awards. CSTA believes that the importance of science education cannot be overstated. Given the essential presence of the sciences in understanding the past and planning for the future, science education remains, and will increasingly be one of the most important disciplines in education. CSTA is committed to recognizing and encouraging excellence in science teaching through the presentation of awards to science educators and organizations who have made outstanding contributions in science education in the state and who are poised to continue the momentum of providing high quality, relevant science education into the future. 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.

Call for Volunteers – CSTA Committees

Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017


CSTA is now accepting applications from regular, preservice, and retired members to serve on our volunteer committees! CSTA’s all-volunteer board of directors invites you to consider maximizing your member experience by volunteering for CSTA. CSTA committee service offers you the opportunity to share your expertise, learn a new skill, or do something you love to do but never have the opportunity to do in your regular day. CSTA committee volunteers do some pretty amazing things: 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.

A Friend in CA Science Education Now at CSTA Region 1 Science Center

Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017

by Marian Murphy-Shaw

If you attended an NGSS Rollout phase 1-3 or CDE workshops at CSTA’s annual conference you may recall hearing from Chris Breazeale when he was working with the CDE. Chris has relocated professionally, with his passion for science education, and is now the Executive Director at the Explorit Science Center, a hands-on exploration museum featuring interactive STEM exhibits located at the beautiful Mace Ranch, 3141 5th St. in Davis, CA. Visitors can “think it, try it, and explorit” with a variety of displays that allow visitors to “do science.” To preview the museum, or schedule a classroom visit, see 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.