May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

The NGSS Crosscutting Concepts ARE Science Content!

Posted: Monday, February 8th, 2016

by Pete A’Hearn

“How come if people evolved from monkeys, monkeys aren’t turning into people now?”

Evolution-Ahearn-1

I’m going to bet that any science teacher who has taught evolution has run into this question at some point. There are a bunch of incorrect assumptions behind the question, including the idea that evolution is a process that we could observe occurring during our lifetimes. This idea is directly addressed as part of the NGSS Crosscutting Concept of Scale, Proportion, and Quantity with the idea that:

  • Phenomena that can be observed at one scale may not be observable at another scale.

and

  • Time, space, and energy phenomena can be observed at various scales using models to study systems that are too large or too small.

(Note that this is not the crosscutting concept called out in the middle school evolution topic. Teachers will need to used multiple crosscutting concepts as well as multiple practices in building coherent units – not just the ones highlighted in the standards).

What can you see when you look at things at a different scale?

What can you see when you look at things at a different scale?

Evolutionary change only becomes observable when we look at time scales that dwarf a human life. If students don’t understand that, they will make assumptions like those behind the monkey question. The idea that we see different things at different scales is basic to many science ideas (chemical reactions, geology, astronomy, cell biology), which is why it is directly addressed in the NGSS. This idea appears in the NGSS as part of the middle school content for the Crosscutting concepts.

Mobius_Ahearn-2

Confusing and incorrect logo- there is “content” in all three dimensions.

“Wait a minute”, I can hear you saying, “aren’t the Disciplinary Core Ideas the content in NGSS?” Some versions of the NGSS logo imply that.

Correct logo- all three dimensions are “content!”

Correct logo- all three dimensions are “content!”

Actually, if you read carefully you will find that there are specific content ideas within the Crosscutting Concepts AND the Science and Engineering Practices. A easy to read list can be found at: http://nstahosted.org/pdfs/ngss/MatrixOfCrosscuttingConcepts.pdf.

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This may help teachers who find the crosscutting concepts to be interesting, but sometimes a little vague. There are specific ideas behind them and those ideas should be directly addressed in a lesson sequence that contains that crosscutting concept.

If you are looking for questions to guide your lesson, check out the critical questions at the Crosscut Symbols website at http://crosscutsymbols.weebly.com/ . For example, when discussing geologic (and evolutionary) time, a good starting question with students could be: How does this scale relate to you? How much bigger is it than what you are used to experiencing? Like most questions about scale, it takes some math to answer. In finding the answer, students will understand that the scale of evolutionary change is much larger than the scale of our lifetimes.

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

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

2 Responses

  1. Actually, evolution can be demonstrated within a school year using short lived species such as fruit flies or fast growing plants. This sort of experimental approach really gets into the science of science. You could even use rats to demonstrate the epigenetic consequences of stress and obesity in offspring, but there would be ethics concerns.

  2. Thank you Pete for the great resource and providing a deeper perspective regarding on cross-cutting concepts. I get the monkey question on a a regular basis!

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CSTA Annual Conference Early Bird Rates End July 14

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

Teachers engaged in workshop activity

Teachers engaging in hands-on learning during a workshop at the 2016 CSTA conference.

Don’t miss your chance to register at the early bird rate for the 2017 CSTA Conference – the early-bird rate closes July 14. Need ideas on how to secure funding for your participation? Visit our website for suggestions, a budget planning tool, and downloadable justification letter to share with your admin. Want to take advantage of the early rate – but know your district will pay eventually? Register online today and CSTA will reimburse you when we receive payment from your district/employer. (For more information on how that works contact Zi Stair in the office for details – 916-979-7004 or zi@cascience.org.)

New Information Now Available On-line:

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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Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Jill Grace

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This new year also brings with it a new president for CSTA. As of July 1, 2017 Jill Grace is the president of the California Science Teachers Association. Jill is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, a former middle school science teacher, and is currently a Regional Director with the K-12 Alliance @ WestEd where she works with California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative districts and charter networks in the San Diego area.

Outgoing Board Members

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  • Valerie Joyner (Region 1 Director: 2009 – 2013, Primary Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Mary Whaley (Informal Science Education Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Sue Campbell (Middle School/Jr. High Director: 2015 – 2017)
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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.

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the California NGSS k-8 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.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Unveils Updated Recommended Literature List

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson unveiled an addition of 285 award-winning titles to the Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list.

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The Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list is a collection of more than 8,000 titles of recommended reading for children and adolescents. Reflecting contemporary and classic titles, including California authors, this online list provides an exciting range of literature that students should be reading at school and for pleasure. Works include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama to provide for a variety of tastes, interests, and abilities. Learn More…

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.

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Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn

The father of one of my students gave me a book: In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood by Walt Brown, Ph. D. He had heard that I was teaching Plate Tectonics and wanted me to consider another perspective. The book offered the idea that the evidence for plate tectonics could be better understood if we considered the idea that beneath the continent of Pangaea was a huge underground layer of water that suddenly burst forth from a rift between the now continents of Africa and South America. The waters shot up and the continents hydroplaned apart on the water layer to their current positions. The force of the movement pushed up great mountain ranges which are still settling to this day, resulting in earthquakes along the margins of continents. This had happened about 6,000 years ago and created a great worldwide flood. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

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