May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Why Students with Special Needs Need Science in Your Classroom

Posted: Friday, August 19th, 2016

by Scott Campbell

I am a resource-level special education teacher. Like you, I teach students. As in most classrooms, my students’ skill levels run the gamut from very low to approaching grade level. Unlike you, I do not specifically teach science. Students in my resource program do not qualify for services in science. They qualify for services in the specific areas of reading, writing, math, listening, and speaking. They are pulled out of the regular education classroom for those services. I do my best to schedule these services so there is minimal disruption to you, but the number of students to be seen and the number of minutes available to me limits me. I want us to be partners in the education of our students and I need you to know that my students need to have science in your classroom.

For years Special Education Resource services focused upon filling gaps in skills: decoding, computation, speaking, and writing in complete sentences. For the 12 years I have been teaching the main curriculum has been direct instruction programs which are highly scripted and effective in certain areas, like decoding and grammar, but very boring and not related to the general education classroom. I have had a large number of students that I call word callers. They can read the words but do not really comprehend what they read.

Research shows that the learning gap is not being closed but in reality it is being shifted. The state of California has now set a target goal that students receiving special education resource support should be in their general education classrooms 80% or more of the time. This means our shared students will be in your rooms more. How can you help these students?

Student work. Photo by Scott Campbell

Student work. Photo by Scott Campbell

The answer, in my opinion, is through the use of science. Research shows that science has one of the richest academic vocabularies and when taught from a constructivist approach is highly engaging. Unfortunately, my students often miss science when they are pulled out for support service. Additionally, the new science framework (now in the second draft) calls for science to available to all students.

Although I don’t specifically teach science to my students, I have used science concepts as my vehicle to deliver academic instruction in reading comprehension, and writing. Physical science is very engaging for my students. In order to give my students a common experience they could write about I used an engineering challenge based upon what I had learned from the Engineering is Elementary program developed by the Museum of Science, Boston (http://www.eie.org). I started out with my 5th graders as their science standards involved understanding forces such as the pulling force of gravity.

Specifically my students had to build a structure that would support the mass of a toy car. Their building materials were limited to index cards and painters’ tape. This challenge was my hook and it worked. All my students were eventually successful.

Next, using a strategy from Project GLAD “the cooperative paragraph” we wrote about the challenge. We edited, revised and revised again making the paragraph better. The students worked in groups, pairs, and eventually alone. The students illustrated the final version and they had to read it aloud to others.

I have also been able to support reading and writing skills on what has happened in the regular classroom. Although I used an engineering design challenge directly with my students for a specific writing lesson, I generally do not have time to have the students do science. However, I can work with students to read content text and write about what they have learned in their regular classroom.

Student work sample Photo by Scott Campbell

Student work sample Photo by Scott Campbell
Click to view a larger image.

Here is a sketch done by a 5th grade special education student at my school. This student’s regular education teacher worked to ensure that their special education students were present for science, especially for the hands-on inquiry lessons. In this activity, students were trying to determine if air took up space. Based on the conversation with the student and his sketch, the student demonstrated an understanding of the concept. With that understanding based on his experience, he was better able to access the content text. He also was less reluctant to read. That was a major step for him.

I have found that science is a very effective hook to motivate students. It can help them feel a part of their classroom. When they are included in the hands-on activities, they acquire experiences that assist them in accessing content in text and writing. It can help demonstrate to themselves and others that they are learning. And isn’t that what we want for all of our students?

Scott Campbell is a resource level special education teacher in the Central Valley.

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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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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

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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.