May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Using Interactive Tools to Assist High School Students with Difficult Concepts

Posted: Saturday, January 1st, 2011

by Heather A. Marshall

I recently found a website that offers free interactive simulations for teacher use focusing on science topics.  This website: http://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulations/category/new, through the University of Colorado at Boulder, has the sims available for free download.  You can browse by category, by new sims, or by grade level.  They are sponsored by NSF, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and others.  The PhET program is interested in providing research-based simulations of physical phenomena for free to teachers.  These simulations can help students visualize some of the concepts we teach in high school in an engaging way, and help students grasp difficult concepts.  PhET hopes that teachers will use these sims within lectures, as extensions of classroom activities, integrated into homework assignments, and as additions to more traditional laboratory experiments.

One of the simulations is for glaciers.  It allows the user (student) to adjust sea-level and air temperatures and observe the effects on glacier growth and retreat.  It also allows students to measure the thickness of the glacier, create multiple fractures with a drill and observe how the fractures move and stretch through the glacier, and other nifty tools.  The advanced feature allows students to view graphs associated with the data.  Another simulation is for the greenhouse effect, allowing the user to see the differences in temperatures with more or less greenhouse gases, observe photon interactions, and even model the greenhouse effect using glass plates.  Simulations include: Natural Selection, Gravity Force, Buoyancy, a Radioactive Dating Game, and many more.

Another big find of the new year is an interactive flashcard set with terms for a high school earth science class.  The flashcards can be shuffled or not and cover the introductory topics in an earth science class (such as chemical structure, minerals and rocks).  The cards can be manipulated online, printed, downloaded, added to, and more.  The earth science cards are posted here: http://www.proprofs.com/flashcards/story.php?title=earth-science-11-vocabulary-2010, and you can even create your own set by clicking the Create Flashcard button on the right-hand side of the screen.  Looks like an excellent tool to share with students or use as a classroom tool for test reviews.  The ProProfs Flashcard site also has links to an online quiz maker, online brain games, and even SAT preparatory tools.

I use another online site for online testing: www.ClassMarker.com.  For $25.00 a year, I can generate and save all of my unit tests and administer them online (in a computer lab or at home) for all of my 180 students.  It automatically grades the tests for me, and does a great item analysis breakdown.  You create your own standards, so you can completely align the test to your course.  The first test I gave on ClassMarker saved me hours in grading and analysis time.  I have found that short answer tests are incredibly difficult to do, however.  This works best with multiple choice or matching type questions.  I am currently looking for better options to be able to administer online tests with greater variety but still able to do the item analysis.  If you have ideas, please email me and I will gladly report on them here!  geofaultline@gmail.com.

Heather Marshall teaches CP geology at Sobrato High School in Morgan Hill and is CSTA’s high school director.

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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Participate in Chemistry Education Research Study, Earn $500-800 Dollars!

Posted: Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

WestEd, a non-profit educational research agency, has been funded by the US Department of Education to test a new molecular modeling kit, Happy Atoms. Happy Atoms is an interactive chemistry learning experience that consists of a set of physical atoms that connect magnetically to form molecules, and an app that uses image recognition to identify the molecules that you create with the set. WestEd is conducting a study around the effectiveness of using Happy Atoms in the classroom, and we are looking for high school chemistry teachers in California to participate.

As part of the study, teachers will be randomly assigned to either the treatment group (who uses Happy Atoms) or the control group (who uses Happy Atoms at a later date). Teachers in the treatment group will be asked to use the Happy Atoms set in their classrooms for 5 lessons over the course of the fall 2017 semester. Students will complete pre- and post-assessments and surveys around their chemistry content knowledge and beliefs about learning chemistry. WestEd will provide access to all teacher materials, teacher training, and student materials needed to participate.

Participating teachers will receive a stipend of $500-800. You can read more information about the study here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HappyAtoms

Please contact Rosanne Luu at rluu@wested.org or 650.381.6432 if you are interested in participating in this opportunity, or if you have any questions!

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.

2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption Reviewer Application

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

The California Department of Education and State Board of Education are now accepting applications for reviewers for the 2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption. The application deadline is 3:00 pm, July 21, 2017. The application is comprehensive, so don’t wait until the last minute to apply.

On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson forwarded this recruitment letter to county and district superintendents and charter school administrators.

Review panel members will evaluate instructional materials for use in kindergarten through grade eight, inclusive, that are aligned with the California Next Generation Science Content Standards for California Public Schools (CA NGSS). 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.

Lessons Learned from the NGSS Early Implementer Districts

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

On March 31, 2017, Achieve released two documents examining some lessons learned from the California K-8 Early Implementation Initiative. The initiative began in August 2014 and was developed by the K-12 Alliance at WestEd, with close collaborative input on its design and objectives from the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education, and Achieve.

Eight (8) traditional school districts and two (2) charter management organizations were selected to participate in the initiative, becoming the first districts in California to implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Those districts included Galt Joint Union Elementary, Kings Canyon Joint Unified, Lakeside Union, Oakland Unified, Palm Springs Unified, San Diego Unified, Tracy Joint Unified, Vista Unified, Aspire, and High Tech High.

To more closely examine some of the early successes and challenges experienced by the Early Implementer LEAs, Achieve interviewed nine of the ten participating districts and compiled that information into two resources, focusing primarily on professional learning and instructional materials. 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.

Using Online Simulations to Support the NGSS in Middle School Classrooms

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

by Lesley Gates, Loren Nikkel, and Kambria Eastham

Middle school teachers in Kings Canyon Unified School District (KCUSD), a CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative district, have been diligently working on transitioning to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) integrated model for middle school. This year, the teachers focused on building their own knowledge of the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs). They have been gathering and sharing ideas at monthly collaborative meetings as to how to make sure their students are not just learning about science but that they are actually doing science in their classrooms. Students should be planning and carrying out investigations to gather data for analysis in order to construct explanations. This is best done through hands-on lab experiments. Experimental work is such an important part of the learning of science and education research shows that students learn better and retain more when they are active through inquiry, investigation, and application. A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2011) notes, “…learning about science and engineering involves integration of the knowledge of scientific explanations (i.e., content knowledge) and the practices needed to engage in scientific inquiry and engineering design. Thus the framework seeks to illustrate how knowledge and practice must be intertwined in designing learning experiences in K-12 Science Education” (pg. 11).

Many middle school teachers in KCUSD are facing challenges as they begin implementing these student-driven, inquiry-based NGSS science experiences in their classrooms. First, many of the middle school classrooms at our K-8 school sites are not designed as science labs. Learn More…

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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 NGSS 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.

Celestial Highlights: May – July 2017

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

May Through July 2017 with Web Resources for the Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graphs of planet rising and setting times by Jeffrey L. Hunt.

In spring and summer 2017, Jupiter is the most prominent “star” in the evening sky, and Venus, even brighter, rules the morning. By mid-June, Saturn rises at a convenient evening hour, allowing both giant planets to be viewed well in early evening until Jupiter sinks low in late September. The Moon is always a crescent in its monthly encounters with Venus, but is full whenever it appears near Jupiter or Saturn in the eastern evening sky opposite the Sun. (In 2017, Full Moon is near Jupiter in April, Saturn in June.) At intervals of 27-28 days thereafter, the Moon appears at a progressively earlier phase at each pairing with the outer planet until its final conjunction, with Moon a thin crescent, low in the west at dusk. You’ll see many beautiful events by just following the Moon’s wanderings at dusk and dawn in the three months leading up to the solar eclipse. Learn More…

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Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.