Bringing Science to Life

Ramirez Thomas Elementary School teacher Rita Rios-Baca’s first-graders let her know in one collective shout what they thought of her plan to use bubbles to study wind patterns as part of a Los Alamos National Foundation project that brings science into public school classrooms.

“Hooray!” they screamed in unison as they readied their science kits and notebooks under the watchful eye of Rios-Baca and school Principal Loretta Booker.

Within minutes, they were outside the south-side school, blowing bubbles and observing the way they moved with the wind — sometimes north, sometimes south and sometimes right into their own faces.

 They were playing science detectives, in a sense: talking in groups about what they had witnessed and making notes plotting out the trajectory of the bubbles and how that correlated to the way the grass, bushes and tree limbs moved in response to the wind.

It was part of an effort to provide a hands-on approach to learning that makes them excited about a topic that a lot of students may see as boring or too technical or challenging.

“For me it brings science to life,” said Booker, who used the foundation science kits as a kindergarten teacher at Salazar Elementary School a few years ago.

The foundation is celebrating its 20th year supporting public schools with science curriculum and kits at the K-6 level through an $80 million endowment. Each grade level at each school gets two kits — one revolving around physical science and one involving earth science. The foundation gives teachers four days of professional development every summer on the program, paying the teachers for their time. It also offers ongoing classes during the school year on Friday afternoons.

Click here to read the full story in the Santa Fe New Mexican (November 26, 2017)

Fizz! Pop! Bang! Teachers find new science standards fun, but costly

 

With their emphasis on hands-on experiments, California’s new science standards have turned classrooms into noisy, messy laboratories.

That’s been popular with students and teachers who say it’s a more effective way to learn science than studying textbooks and memorizing facts, but the cost of all those underwater robots and exploding chemicals has left some teachers wondering how they can successfully implement the standards with ever-restricting budgets.

“I love the new standards, I really do. But it’s so expensive, I just don’t see how it’s going to happen,” said Laura Ruiz, a science teacher at Hollenbeck Middle School in Los Angeles Unified. “All of us teachers are spending hundreds of dollars a year of our own money to purchase supplies. Is there a cheap way to teach these standards? I’m trying to find one, but I just don’t think so.”

The new K-12 standards, called the Next Generation Science Standards, were approved by the California State Board of Education in 2013 and are gradually rolling out in districts across the state. All schools are expected to have fully implemented the new standards by spring 2019, when the state gives its first official assessments.

Hundreds of schools have already switched to the new standards, which are intended to give students a deeper understanding of scientific concepts by conducting as many as three or four science experiments a week.

But even the simplest science experiments cost money. Vinegar and baking soda for 150 middle-schoolers to make their own volcanoes costs at least $50. For a lesson on thermal energy, calcium chloride, ammonium nitrate and plastic baggies for 150 students to make their own hand-warmers can cost at least $65.

Click here to read the full story in Ed Source (November 26, 2017)

 

Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation Brings Science to Classrooms

A huge warehouse in Chimayo holds a treasure trove – boxes filled with materials needed to teach young students lessons about energy, matter, or other science topics.

Operated by the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) Foundation, a nonprofit with programs fostering educational opportunities in communities in the shadow of the national laboratory in Los Alamos, the 7-year-old program offers science education modules or “kits” for northern New Mexico elementary classrooms.

And, they deliver.

LANL Foundation officials provided a tour of the warehouse earlier this week to representatives of Sens. Tom Udall, D-NM, and Martin Heinrich, D-NM. The tour offered a ground-floor view of the Inquiry Science Education Consortium, which includes providing professional development for the hundreds of teachers who receive the modules or kits, twice a year.

Click here to read the full story in The Los Alamos Monitor Online (November 13, 2017)

Iowa Schools Partners With Community College to Teach Sixth-Graders Chemistry

For at least five weeks, a portion of Lincoln Intermediate sixth-graders has been learning chemistry through a variety of hands-on activities.

“Doing is learning,” said Lisa Hugi, a teacher at Lincoln Intermediate in Mason City.

Hugi’s 90 sixth-grade students are part of a “pilot project” being done in collaboration with Nikae Perkinson, Natural Sciences Division chairwoman and a chemistry instructor at North Iowa Area Community College, and her college students, to prepare the school for new Iowa science standards required to be in place by the 2018-19 school year.

The state’s new standards are based on the Next Generation Science Standards, learning expectations for grades K-12 developed by 26 states, including Iowa, to equip students’ for college and 21st-century careers.

Under the new standards, which were approved by the Iowa State Board of Education in 2015, sixth-grade teachers will teach their students chemistry for the first time.

“We’re gearing up (for next year),” Perkinson said.

Click here to read the full story in the Globe Gazette (November 14, 2017)

Congratulations to New Mexico for Adopting the NGSS

On November 14, the New Mexico Public Education Dept filed official records indicating the adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards as well as 6 additional STEM standards for K-12 students. With the adoption, NM joins 19 other states and the District of Columbia as official adoption states.

NSTA congratulates the science teachers, scientists, education leaders, environmental advocates, and business and community members in New Mexico who stood up for science to ensure the adoption of these standards.

Click here to access the New Mexico standards

Click here to read a story by the National Center for Science Education (November 14, 2017)

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)