Focus on the new standards

Interested in what using the NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) could look like in a classroom? The editor has a summary of significant components outlined in the Framework for K-12 Science Education, which is a guide for the development of the standards. The featured articles in this issue each start with an overview of how the activity can be related to the Framework.

What are the differences between science inquiry and engineering design? The authors of Taking Engineering Design Out for a Spin* compare and contrast these in several tables and then illustrate the processes with a simple whirl-a-gig activity (which many of us may already do—or something similar such as paper airplanes). Cost or Quality* looks at the trade-offs that can be part of engineering projects. Using an egg-drop activity, students go beyond following directions to designing their own solutions to a problem with a real-life context. The authors include rubrics, examples of student work, a visual of the design process, and other resources. Shedding Light on Engineering Design shows how content and engineering practices can relate to a real-life design project—determining the UV protection afforded by sunglasses.  The Stealth Profession* suggests several trade books and activities to think about engineering and think like an engineer or inventor. [SciLinks: UV Index, Gravity, Buoyancy]

Wonders of Weather* is this month’s Early Years contribution which includes suggestions for a learning activity to investigate local weather patterns. You could take this a step further and have the students present their observations each day via the school’s public address system or website. [SciLinks: Weather, Weather and Climate, Weather Instruments, Weather Patterns]

The authors of Ducks Overboard* show how principles of buoyancy can be integrated with concepts of water movement and pollutants (especially debris) in the ocean – or local waterways. This is an interesting activity, given that debris from the 2011 tsunami in Japan is beginning to wash up on the beaches of Hawaii.  This month’s Formative Assessment Probe Using the P-E-O Technique* is also related to uncovering students’ ideas about sinking and floating. [SciLinks: Water Pollution and Conservation, Buoyancy]

Many elementary science classes include growing plants from seeds and learning the names of plant parts. Strong STEMS Need Strong Sprouts* has 5e lesson ideas that show how to kick this up a notch to incorporate questioning, models, and higher order thinking (the photographs of the first-graders and their work are wonderful). [SciLinks: What Are the Parts of a Plant?, Photosynthesis]

Constructing and Critiquing Arguments describes strategies that could be used with any age level of student: Visualize ideas using a concept map; Whole-class engagement in a negotiation circle; Time to pause and reflect; and Writing a letter to a younger audience. The authors provide examples of student work, too.

* Many of these articles have extensive resources to share, so check out the Connections for this issue (January 2013). Even if the article does not quite fit with your lesson agenda, there are ideas for handouts, background information sheets, data sheets, rubrics, and other resources.

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