September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Tell a Story: Quantitative vs. Qualitative

Posted: Friday, October 1st, 2010

by Bonny Ralston, CSTA Middle School Director


All science students need to practice the skill of detailed observation.  In describing an object or an observation, it’s important to cite as many details as possible.  In order to engage students to observe all details, it is necessary to have them practice what they should be looking for.  Shape, color, and amount are the most common observations.

This lab is used to introduce students to all kinds of observation.  Students will learn how to use observation by using similarities and differences, and quantitative and qualitative observations.


Part 1: Any type of small colorful toys like windups, or variety of colorful plants.

Part 2: Different types of natural items such as shells, pieces of wood, bones, or skulls.  If possible, include same types of shells like abalone for students to observe.  For each group: Chart showing qualitative vs. quantitative observations.

Part 3: Each student may bring in or select a natural item from the classroom.  For each table group: balances, rulers, (for small items) tools for density measurements.

Into: Hold up an item (toy or plant etc.).  Ask students to describe an observation like a color, a number, texture, etc.  Write down all answers on the board (qualitative).  Repeat with two or more trials until you feel all students have participated.  Hold the same items up or use a simple plant, and ask students to observe numbers of leaves, stems, etc. (quantitative).

Through: Have the group divide themselves in half.  Hand out an item to each group.  One group will determine as many quantifying observations and record on one-half of a folded paper.  The other group will find as many qualitative observations as possible then record on the second half of the paper.

If there’s time, the group can write a short story about the item using qualitative and quantitative observations.  The story can be about the life and times of the organism using a creative twist.  (Have students bring in their own items for next part on day two.)

Beyond: Now that the students have had a little practice, have them select an item from classroom specimens, or select the item from home.

On their own, students will complete observations for their item (as practiced previous day).  The goal is to use these observations to create a fictional story about the life and times of the item (organism, etc.).  Students should use creativity to write the story.  Students are allowed to research more about the organism they selected.  Students may also draw a close-up picture of the organism; use a jewelers’ loop (private eye) or magnifying glass.  The story or account should be a minimum of one page and no longer than three.

For English learners, you can have them draw a day in the life, like a comic book.  Encourage some vocabulary use to describe what’s happening in the picture.

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.

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CSTA Is Now Accepting Nominations for Board Members

Posted: Friday, November 17th, 2017

Current, incoming, and outgoing CSTA Board of Directors at June 3, 2017 meeting.

Updated 7:25 pm, Nov. 17, 2017

It’s that time of year when CSTA is looking for dedicated and qualified persons to fill the upcoming vacancies on its Board of Directors. This opportunity allows you to help shape the policy and determine the path that the Board will take in the new year. There are time and energy commitments, but that is far outweighed by the personal satisfaction of knowing that you are an integral part of an outstanding professional educational organization, dedicated to the support and guidance of California’s science teachers. You will also have the opportunity to help CSTA review and support legislation that benefits good science teaching and teachers.

Right now is an exciting time to be involved at the state level in the California Science Teachers Association. The CSTA Board of Directors is currently involved in implementing the Next Generations Science Standards and its strategic plan. If you are interested in serving on the CSTA Board of Directors, now is the time to submit your name for consideration. 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.

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.