May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

What Am I Going to Teach?

Posted: Monday, September 14th, 2015

As I write this article, it is the day before I return to my classroom to begin a new school year. Across California, thousands of science teachers are doing the same. Sometime before that first bell rings, we all have to face the question, “What am I going to teach and how am I going to teach it?” As a CA NGSS Early Implementer, I know I will teach the California Next Generation of Science Standards, blending its three dimensions of science and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas into a learning experience that will help my students construct meaning…at least I will make every attempt to do so. But as I sit down to plan out the details of the first lesson sequence, all that I have learned about NGSS over the past few years stares me right in the face and challenges me to determine how the entirety of all the professional development, research, and collaboration translates into an actual classroom.

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On CSTA’s many Facebook pages, where Science educators in California go to collaborate, more frequently teachers and professional development providers are asking the same questions about NGSS. Fortunately, since NGSS first came on the scene, CSTA has been supporting teachers, initially by helping them to understand the structure of NGSS, and now to begin its implementation in the classroom.

At the CSTA hosted 2015 California Science Education Conference in Sacramento, October 2-4, teachers can not only get what they need to know to help them implement NGSS and apply best practices from experts around the state, but also get updated on the state’s progress with the standards. Teachers will make connections, gain new classroom ideas, and grow professionally. Workshops, field courses, short courses, focus speakers, and keynote speakers are just a few of the offerings at this well anticipated event. There is even a 9-hour Primary Pathways professional development opportunity for teachers Pre-K – 2 to help our elementary school colleagues coordinate Common Core State Standards (CCSS), NGSS, and the ELD standards into their daily curriculum.

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For additional ideas on how to teach NGSS in California classrooms, CSTA members can access archived articles from California Classroom Science that describe NGSS lesson ideas and strategies. Recent articles include:

  • December 2014The E Word – A teacher’s journey to come to terms with the engineering in NGSS – opportunities to enrich student science learning through the practice of engineering.
  • January 2015Next Generation Science Standards: Jump Right In – 6th grade teacher describes an NGSS lesson sequence that culminates in students creating a Mars habitat prototype.
  • February 2015Bold: Showing the Ability to Take Risks – A lesson sequence combining the concepts of states of matter, energy, and density to engineer hot air balloons.
  • March 2015Staying Local – Investigating the Schoolyard – Monterey Bay Aquarium Science Specialist shares ideas and strategies for getting kids to explore the ecosystems right outside their classroom door.
  • August 2015Middle School Integrated Science Getting Over It – the first year of CA NGSS Early Implementation in Palm Springs Unified

This coming year, look for additional articles by CA NGSS Early Implementation teachers, K-12 Alliance cadre instructors, and other California science educators sharing their NGSS experiences and expertise.

For all of us, successful implementation of NGSS will take time. What I teach in my classroom and how I teach it will evolve as I try new ways of helping my students construct understanding by weaving together the three dimensions of science learning. At times I will be successful while other times I will realize that I need to step back and re-think how to improve. CSTA will be on that journey with me, and with all the science educators in California, helping us to feel confident in our ability to teach NGSS.

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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 President for CSTA.

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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.