Fires, floods, hurricanes: Teachers turn natural disasters into science and history lessons

he fires may be out in the Wine Country, but they’re still a daily topic in many California classrooms.

At Design Tech High, a charter school in Burlingame that’s affiliated with Oracle, students are analyzing the science behind the Tubbs Fire that raged through Sonoma County in October and creating blueprints for how the destroyed neighborhoods can rebuild in a way that could minimize impacts from the next fire.

The crash course in sustainability is an example of how, amidst the devastation and human suffering, teachers are using wildfires, hurricanes and other natural disasters to further students’ understanding of science, history and social studies.

Click here to read the full story in Ed Source (November 14, 2017)


Next Generation Science Standards Program Underway

In order for students to better observe nature, Chester Elementary School is embarking on the Next Generation Science Standards program, which promotes outdoor learning through hands-on experiences. The elementary school is serving as a model for other schools in Plumas Unified School District.

The California Department of Education adopted the new Outdoor Core curriculum to update and improve the framework for educating students to appreciate science-literacy in an outdoor setting, where they learn to understand how to look more closely at nature and to express wonder at the world around them.

The new standards program is designed to augment classroom work by allowing kids to leave the classroom and enter the field to see life forms in their natural environment.

Click here to read the full story in Plumas County News (Nov. 11, 2017)

Salinas Valley (CA) Teachers Get Ready for New Science Standards

Ms. Frizzle’s students are used to the weird things that happen in her classroom, like going to the first Thanksgiving or chasing after birds to see where they live.

Something unusual indeed happens in “The Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge,” where Tim, Wanda, Dorothy Ann, Ralphie and Keesha jump on the bus with “The Friz” — as they affectionately call their eccentric teacher — and get to see how the polar caps are melting and how energy from renewable sources is produced.

The adventures of Ms. Frizzle and her students are well known across the United States and have been typically used in English language development classes. But given its scientific potential, the book about climate change will be used for science lessons in the Salinas Valley as new science standards are implemented across California.

“How do we re-engage in science education after years of focusing on English and math?” Mark O’Shea, professor of education and leadership at CSU Monterey Bay, asked a group of about 80 teachers. “Let’s start from that.”

On Wednesday, teachers and administrators of El Camino Education Alliance put together a workshop called “Inquiry through Literacy,” a professional development afternoon for teachers to get ideas on how to implement the Next Generation Science Standards.

Click here to read the full story in the Monterey Herald (November 9, 2017)

NSTA Expresses Support for White Paper on Features of NGSS-Aligned Instructional Materials

In a letter to the California Science Teachers Association (CSTA), NSTA Executive Director expressed support for Priority Features of NGSS-Aligned Instructional Materials, a white paper developed by science teachers in California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington State.

NSTA strongly supports the efforts of science teachers in California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington to describe the high quality instructional materials they need to implement the Next Generation Science Standards. Articulating the teachers’ voice for classroom resources at this stage of implementation is particularly important in view of the dramatic shift in instruction called for with the standards. The white paper, “Priority Features of NGSS-Aligned Instructional Materials,” is a research and practice supported description of what teachers need for their students to be successful.

Next to the students themselves, teachers are the most important element in the new instructional model represented by NGSS. As cited in the white paper, “what happens in K–12 science classrooms will mirror what happens within the scientific community: Sense-making, or making sense of the world, as the fundamental goal of science.”

The features identified in the white paper will provide guidance to providers of instructional materials as to what teachers view to be the most important elements.

Click here to access the document on the CSTA website.

Eighth-Grade Teachers in Iowa are Changing the Way Science in Taught

Memorization no longer equals learning, and Iowa’s teachers must adapt their methods.

Nearly 30 eighth-grade science teachers devoted time on Oct. 28 to collaborate and learn the best practices to engage and educate their students according to new standards at an event hosted by the University of Iowa.

The state implemented new science standards in 2015, encouraging teachers to adapt their practices away from memory-based learning and mandating a curriculum in climate science.

University of Iowa (UI) graduate student Susie Ziemer said the UI surveyed teachers last year on how comfortable they felt teaching to the new standards. The professional development hosted by the UI was based on the various needs the teachers identified.

During the sessions, UI Clinical Associate Professor Ted Neal presented ideas and advice on inquiry-based teaching. Climate scientists also joined to share their knowledge.

“I’ve been teaching for 23 years and it’s been a big shift in how things are taught, when things are thoughts, and where they are taught,” said Greg Robertson, a seventh- and eighth-grade science teacher in Solon.

Click here to read the full story in The Daily Iowan (October 30, 2017)

New Mexico to Adopt Science Standards ‘In Their Entirety’

After facing an onslaught of opposition, New Mexico’s Public Education Department officials on Wednesday decided to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards “in their entirety” with just six state-specific standards, well short of the 35 additions the agency proposed last month.

The science standards outlined by Education Secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski on Wednesday contain none of the omissions or changes to the Next Generation Science Standards proposed last month by the agency. Those proposed changes prompted an outcry from scientists and educators.

His decision Wednesday comes after his announcement last week that he would reinstate the original wording regarding evolution, the rise in global temperatures and the 4.6 billion-year age of Earth – the three revisions that had generated the most outcry.

Click here to read the full story in the Albuquerque Journal (Oct. 25, 2017)

New Mexico Wavered on Evolution and Climate Change in Science Education

An apparent attempt to water down language about evolution and climate change in the guidelines for science education in New Mexico met with protests this week at an eventful public hearing at the Public Education Department’s offices in Santa Fe.

Hundreds of people — some of them demonstrating outside with signs — showed up to the event. The meeting lasted for hours, well past its noon deadline. At one point, someone interrupted the proceedings by setting off a fire alarm.

The attendants overwhelmingly called for officials to include evolution and climate change in proposed standards that would guide science education for public school students. That was on Monday, and it appears the New Mexico Public Education Department heard their complaints; on Tuesday, it announced that it would incorporate the public’s suggestions.

But some say that still wasn’t enough.

But as of Friday, the revised language still deviated from the Next Generation Science standards a little bit, according to analysis from the Environmental Education Association.

Click here to read the full story in The New York Times (Oct. 20, 2017)

Calif. strongly backs expanded science and computer education in schools

poll by Berkeley IGS/EdSource, which surveyed 1,200 registered voters in California, found that a large proportion (87 percent) support the notion of putting “greater emphasis on integrating science as part of the entire public school curriculum.”


Despite the majority of voters saying they hadn’t heard of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) – the new science standards adopted by the state in 2013 – 68 percent supported the movement once it was explained to them. Only 2 percent of voters strongly opposed the new standards.
Click here to read the full story in SI News (Oct. 23, 2017)

Methods by which students learn science undergoing revision with ACESSE Project

A high-profile, learning sciences project known as Advancing Coherent and Equitable Systems of Science Education (ACESSE) could be the impetus behind driving national change about how K-12 students learn science.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the project brings together 13 member states, eight of which have adopted Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and five that have not. Pennsylvania has yet to adopt those standards but ACESSE will examine systems of science education at the state level.

“The elements of bridging research and practices in support of ambitious and equitable science instruction and assessment and building coherence and capacity across state systems of education are both powerful and innovative,” said Carla Zembal-Saul, professor of science education who holds the Kahn endowed professorship in STEM education in the College of Education at Penn State.

“We’re going to look at the coherence and infrastructure for implementing and the research-based framework that underlies the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS),” said Zembal-Saul.

Pennsylvania’s ACESSE team consists of Zembal-Saul; Rick Duschl, the Kenneth B. Waterbury chaired professor in secondary education in the College; and Judd Pittman, special consultant to Pennsylvania State Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera.

ACESSE PA will examine the degree to which there is alignment of curriculum, instruction and assessment with the policies and practices in Pennsylvania science standards, or horizontal coherence.

It also will explore the extent to which there exists shared understandings and consensus practices statewide in three-dimensional science learning goals and the purposes and uses of formative assessment, or vertical coherence.

The Next Generation Science Standards, Zembal-Saul said, are based on a framework that was published first and based on a number of research syntheses. “One of the most important ones is a document from the National Research Council called ‘Taking Science to School,’ and Rick (Duschl) was one of the authors on that,” Zembal-Saul said.

“Decades of research provide strong support for a new vision for science learning that is ambitious and equitable. Transforming the vision into practice requires the integration of crosscutting concepts in science (cause and effect, systems and modeling, and patterns); scientific discourse and practices (arguing from evidence, constructing and interrogating scientific explanations); and what is traditionally known as the content of science (disciplinary core ideas),” she said.


Click here to read the full story in Penn State News (Oct. 2, 2017)

New Mexico Science Standards

New Mexico science educators, scientists, business leaders, and community members continue the fight to ensure the full science content of the NGSS is adopted without removal of select key science topics, including climate change. Here are recent news clips about the issue:

NM Rally Protests “Dumbing Down” of Science Education (Public News Service, Oct. 19, 2017)

Why does PED want to weaken public school science standards? (, Oct. 19, 2017)

Teacher unions: NM PED’s changes to science standards aren’t enough (KRQE News 13, Oct. 19, 2017)

PED dropping some proposed changes to science standards (Albuquerque Journal x, Oct. 18, 2017)

New Mexico to rewrite proposed science standards (Las Cruces Sun-News, Oct. 18, 2017)

Facing Public Outcry, New Mexico Restores Evolution and Global Warming to Science Standards (Mother Jones, Oct. 18, 2017)

American Federation Of Teachers New Mexico Reacts To NM PED Hearing On Proposed Science Changes (Los Alamos Daily Post, Oct. 17, 2017)