NGSS Curriculum Integration—Off on a Tangent!

The creation of a school garden inspired this fourth-grade unit.  All students in the school were responsible for planning the garden, as well as for planting, weeding, and harvesting our crops of tomatoes, pumpkins, and carrots. The harvest was shared with the school cafeteria staff, who prepared salad and dessert bar selections for the students, and our fire department staff, who watered our garden in the summer, providing a community connection. All food scraps were composted, and many seeds were harvested, dried, and saved for use in future gardens.

Judy Hebert and 4th-grade students

The curriculum focus for each grade included the study of specific plant parts. Fourth graders explored how the structure and function of plant leaves would be important for optimum plant growth, a Disciplinary Core Idea focus at this grade level. During their research, students often encountered the term food factories. It was interesting to observe students wondering (on their own!) why that connection existed, then, without prompting, asking questions while they considered potential answers, reflecting NGSS practice.

Continue reading …

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STEM Sims: Explosion Shield

Stem Sims: Explosion Shield


STEM Sims provides over 100 simulations of laboratory experiments and engineering design products for applications in the STEM classroom. Explosion Shield, one of the many valuable simulations offered by STEM Sims, allows students to explore how an explosion can affect different types and shapes of materials. Moreover, students can discover which material combination can offer the best protection. This simulation asks participants to test explosives on different materials, which is a very safe and motivating mechanism to cover this interesting topic. STEM Sims: Explosion Shield is aligned with state standards and the following national (NGSS) standards:

• MS-PS3.C. – Relationship Between Energy and Forces
• MS-ETS1.C – Optimizing the Design Solution

The simulation makes available for students a brochure (see link below) with a pre-assessment quiz and introductory information about the history of explosives and shields. We found that the historical overview gave a nice foundation of content and helped students to learn of advances in technology have changed over time. Moreover, this simulation is a great fit for teachers who want cover learning objectives related to energy and force in a fun and interesting manner that is very safe. Moreover, the deductive reasoning skills that are incorporated will challenge the brightest students to make accurate observations and formulate high-level problem-solving solutions.


Sample Assessment

To maximize learning and help teachers in lesson planning, STEM Sims provides two lesson plans for this simulation (see link below):

Lesson 1:

Lesson 2:


Explosion Shield is a nice tool for teaching students about how the dangers of energy and force manifested in explosions can be both safe and very interesting. Undoubtedly, the topics covered in this simulation would be too unsafe for actual experimentation. Therefore, by using this simulation, students will be able to explore an area that would otherwise be ignored and at best- speculated. Consider signing-up for a free trial and evaluate this simulation for your future lesson planning and course instruction.

For a free trial, visit:

Recommended System Qualifications:

• Operating system: Windows XP or Mac OS X 10.7
• Browser: Chrome 40, Firefox 35, Internet Explorer 11, or Safari 7
• Java 7, Flash Player 13

Single classroom subscription: $169 for a 365-day subscription and includes access for 30 students and 100 simulations.

Product Site:

Edwin P. Christmann is a professor and chairman of the secondary education department and graduate coordinator of the mathematics and science teaching program at Slippery Rock University in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania. Anthony Balos is a graduate student and a research assistant in the secondary education program at Slippery Rock University in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania

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Learning from experience

My first year of teaching biology was challenging, but I made it! Do you have any suggestions for what I should do to improve for next year?  —C, Virginia

Congratulations for completing your first year! A good way to prepare for next year is to reflect on this one, learning from your experiences.

How did you know a lesson was successful? What did you do when things didn’t go as planned? Were your classroom management routines and procedures effective? How did you deal with disruptive students? How well were you able to access and use the technologies available in your school? Are there any strategies you would like to consider, in terms of instruction, classroom management, or communications?

Were you surprised by any misconceptions or lack of experience among your students? Should you change the amount of time or emphasis invested in some topics? Did you have an effective combination of content, processes and interdisciplinary connections? Do you have any gaps in your own knowledge base?

Were your lesson plans detailed enough to adapt or modify? How well did assignments and projects align to unit goals and lesson objectives? Did your lab activities go beyond cookbook demonstrations to help students develop their own areas of inquiry? Did you provide opportunities for students to reflect on their own learning (e.g., through a science notebook, comparing their work to the rubrics)?

Did your students seem to enjoy learning science? Did you enjoy teaching and learning with them?

Your reflections can be the basis for next year’s goals. It’s tempting to say, “I’ll think about this when school starts. But if you think, reflect, organize, and plan now, you’ll have more time in the fall for getting your second year off to a good start.

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New NSTA Book Shines Light on Solar Eclipses

When the Sun Goes DarkA solar eclipse is coming on Monday, August 21, 2017! What a rare and exciting treat for your students who will get to experience this magical phenomenon. Of course after this amazing event, they will have plenty of questions. They will want to know why, how, and when will it happen again.

When the Sun Goes Dark by Andrew Fraknoi and Dennis Schatz is the perfect resource to share with your students. The illustrated book tells the story of a 12-year-old’s experience of learning about solar eclipses from her grandparents.

“Grandma was telling us about the big event during their trip. First, the Sun looked like it had a little bite taken out of it. They had to use special glasses to be able to look at the Sun without hurting their eyes. Then that dark bite out of the Sun got bigger and bigger. When the Sun was almost covered, it looked like a diamond ring for a second. After that, not only the Sun but also the sky turned dark. The birds even stopped singing. The stars came out in the middle of the day. All of the people watching with my grandparents oohed and ahhed because there was a halo of light around the Sun that was very beautiful,” the narrator says.

This story, designed for readers in grades 5-8, explains the extraordinary science behind solar eclipses by using everyday objects such as a lamp, tennis ball, hula hoops, and ping pong balls.

Just as Grandma gives the narrator step-by-step instructions for creating an eclipse with a lamp’s light, teachers can illustrate the same lessons in the classroom. There are also many detailed illustrations showing the different phases of the moon; the constellations the Sun is in front of each month; and the paths of the Moon’s and the Sun’s orbits, for example.

“It turns out that the Sun and the Moon arrive at the crossing points together only twice a year. So we have a kind of ‘eclipse season’ roughly every six months when eclipses of the Sun and the Moon happen somewhere on Earth,” Grandpa explains.

The book discusses how astronomers can predict eclipses hundreds of years in advance and helps students to comprehend complicated astronomical concepts using vocabulary at their reading level.

When the Sun Goes Dark will answer students’ questions and stimulate their curiosity. The book comes with a glossary of terms and additional web resources that will help beginners to gain an in-depth understanding of both solar and lunar eclipses and inspire their interest in our magical solar system.

Fraknoi and Schatz are award-winning experts in astronomy and science education, and the authors of the NSTA book Solar Science: Exploring Sunspots, Seasons, Eclipses, and More.

Read a sample chapter here. This book is also available as an e-book.



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Ed News: The Role Of Science In Boosting Outcomes For English Learners

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This week in education news, students attending high-poverty schools have fewer opportunities than students attending low-poverty schools; K-12 school spending got caught up in budget standoffs this year; the number of girls taking AP computer-science exams more than doubled; writing improves all learning; and a South Dakota science teacher selected as a national ambassador.

The Role Of Science In Boosting Outcomes For English Learners

All too often, English learners (ELs) do not receive the same educational opportunities as their non-EL peers. This pattern manifests in a variety of ways, including the disparate levels of access that ELs have to high-quality science instruction. Indeed, a recent Education Trust-West study of California school districts found that ELs are significantly underrepresented in advanced science courses throughout the state. The report also notes that ELs consistently score lower than the rest of the population on statewide science assessments at all grade levels. Click here to read the article featured in New America.

‘STEM Deserts’ In The Poorest Schools: How Can We Fix Them?

Students attending high-poverty schools tend to have fewer science materials, fewer opportunities, and less access to the most rigorous mathematics classes, like calculus and physics, than students attending low-poverty schools, a new analysis points out. That means that they’re less likely to encounter real-world problem-solving that characterizes advanced work in those fields—as well as the most rigorous content that serves as a benchmark for beginning college majors or minors in those fields. Click here to read the article featured in Education Week.

Continue reading …

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Math is integral to early childhood STEM learning

Cover of summer 2017 issue of Young Children. Cover of the summer 2017 issue of Science and Children.July has brought my happy place (where the worlds of early childhood education and science education overlap) to my mailbox in the form of the 2017 summer journals from the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC): Science and Children and Young ChildrenBoth issues of these journals focus on math and the resources are such good reading in preparation for teaching! NAEYC’s Teaching Young Children (TYC) also has resources about early math. 

A friend who is a former early childhood educator was telling me about her grandchild, sharing how smart he is because at 2 years old he can count to 25. Knowing her and her daughters, I have no doubt her grandchild will grow up to be a deep thinker, capable of many achievements and contributions to society but she and I both know his ability to recite numbers in order does not reveal the depth of his understanding of the meaning of numbers.

When parents, grandparents, and other educators share their excitement about children’s achievements we can cheer and offer resources that support both the children’s learning and the adult’s learning about how children learn. I might say, “Wow, counting to 25! Here are some resources on early math development you may enjoy or already know about.”

I’m using these resources to help me understand what children may know and be able to do at ages of 2-5. Add your favorite resources in a comment to help me learn more.

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics’ (NCTM) October 2013 position statement, “Mathematics in Early Childhood Learning” states, “The big ideas in mathematics must include mathematical experiences that incorporate mathematics content in areas such as number and operations, geometry, algebraic reasoning, and measurement,” and, “Early childhood educators should actively introduce mathematical concepts, methods, and language through a variety of appropriate experiences and research-based teaching strategies.”

The NCTM Principles and Standards for School Mathematics has both content and process standards, defined in grade bands beginning with PreK-2. For example, part of the preK-2 expectations in content standard “Number and Operations” states, “In pre-K through grade 2 each and every student should- count with understanding and recognize “how many” in sets of objects.” And a PreK-2 expectation in content standard “Understand patterns, relations, and functions” states, “In pre-K through grade 2 each and every student should– sort, classify, and order objects by size, number, and other properties; 

Bean bag toss game from UNI Regents' CenterPlaying games is a time-tested and fun way to include math skill building in early childhood programs. 

Regents’ Center for Early Developmental Education’s Games page, developed in collaboration with Dr. Constance Kamii of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The Head Start and the Common Core Standards are listed for each game, with clear photos and instructions and illustrations to download. 

Next Generation Preschool Math, a project of Education Development Center’s (EDC) Center for Children and Technology, SRI International, and First 8 Studios at WGBH led to the development of a curriculum that includes eight tablet apps that are games that can be played individually or collaboratively and classroom activities. A teacher’s guide ( includes “The Basics” (defining the units subitizing and equipartition and explaining why they are important) and lesson plans for engaging children with these concepts through both digital and traditional classroom activities.

Games for Young Mathematicians webpage photo of children playing math gameEDC’s Games for Young Mathematicians project researches the use of games to foster early mathematical learning in preschool settings. See their list of suggestions for published math picture books

The Erikson Institute Early Math Collaborative’s video series, Focus on Play, illustrates how educator care givers can help infants and toddlers explore precursor concepts of math, “concepts that anchor a child’s mathematical thinking and are essential for the growth of further mathematics.” Cover of book, Big Ideas of Early MathematicsSee descriptions of the “Big Ideas of Early Mathematics” from The Early Math Collaborative’s book, Big Ideas of Early Mathematics and follow the links to learn more about each idea in written descriptions and Focus on the Child video clips from one-on-one interviews with individual children that reveal children’s thinking. It’s interesting to see how, after asking a question, the teachers and researchers wait for a relatively long time for children to answer.

Drs. Clements and Sarama Dr. Doug Clements and Dr. Julie Sarama, professors at the University of Denver, shared their work in a free webinar, “The Path for Math in Early Childhood: The Learning Trajectories Perspective” (June 15, 2016 Early Childhood Investigations). These learning trajectories include three components: “the mathematical goals, developmental progressions of children’s learning, and educational activities and teaching strategies (based on finding the mathematics in, and developing mathematics from, children’s everyday activity).” Read more of their work, “Math in the Early Years: A Strong Predictor for Later School Success,” in The Education of the States’ October 2013 newsletter. 

Will you add to the number of resources listed here? What early math resource makes sense to you?

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folder icon  Safety

Purchasing the Safest Lab Chemicals

Prior to the new school year, most science teachers select and order their lab chemicals. Before placing an order, however, teachers should consider the health risks associated with using hazardous chemicals in the classroom laboratory.

Making the right purchase

To purchase the least chemically hazardous material possible, science teachers should first determine whether the hazard is health, physical, or environmental by running a hazards analysis. This involves:

• securing and reviewing the Safety Data Sheet (i.e., Section 2: Hazard(s) Identification, Section 7: Handling and Storage, Section 8: Exposure Controls/Personal Protection, and Section 11: Toxicological Information),

• checking the appropriateness of the chemical’s use on Rehab the Lab’s school chemical list,

• reaching out to the chemical supplier for additional information on the chemical’s potential hazards,

• reading professional publications such as the Journal of Chemical Health and Safety for health and safety information on chemical hazards, and

• checking out the chemistry listserv on NSTA’s listservs.

Next, complete a risks assessment. Some risks related to chemicals might include:

• breathing in vapors, gases, and particulates;

• exposure to skin by splashing, dipping, and airborne dust;

• exposure to chemicals by sticking fingers in the mouth or eating or drinking;

• exposure to eyes from vapor, gasses, particulates, or splashes; or

• puncture of the skin.

Continue reading …

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Ed News: DeVos’s Hard Line On New Education Law Surprises States

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Last week in education news, DeVos’s signals hard-line approach on new federal education law; emergency effort to address teacher shortages in Wisconsin reflects larger education issues; teacher development model shows promising results; STEM education has well over 99 problems—but, for now, a lack of funding isn’t one; and physicist John Holdren is troubled by what has happened to the OSTP and to science policy under President Trump.

DeVos’s Hard Line On New Education Law Surprises States

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who made a career of promoting local control of education, has signaled a surprisingly hard-line approach to carrying out an expansive new federal education law, issuing critical feedback that has rattled state school chiefs and conservative education experts alike. Click here to read the article featured in The New York Times.

New Teachers Need A Master’s Support

Teaching is a craft and, as with any craft, neophytes should ideally work alongside the experts and artisans to soak up knowledge and experience along the path to mastery. David Krulwich, principal of the Urban Assembly School for Applied Math and Science, a college preparatory school serving grades 6 through 12 in the Bronx, says new teachers are too often left to fend for themselves, without the benefit of an artisan-apprentice relationship. Click here to read the article featured in District Administration.

Borsuk: ‘Emergency’ Effort To Address Teacher Shortages Reflects Larger Education Issues

Underlying the legal language lie questions that are causing big concern in perhaps every school district and independent school in Wisconsin this summer: Who’s going to fill the remaining open teaching jobs we have? How are we going to put together a staff when some specific positions are proving hard to fill? Are we really getting the best people we feasibly could to work in our classrooms? Click here to read the article featured in USA Today.

Teacher Development Model Shows Promising Results As Advocates Fear Funding Cuts

In 2012, the New Teacher Center received federal funding in order to pilot a teacher induction model program, hoping to work with educators in a range of school districts to offer substantive mentoring and professional development. The center expanded its model to three districts, including Chicago Public Schools, Broward County Public Schools in Broward, FL, and Grant Wood Area Education Agency in eastern Iowa. Late last month, an assessment of the NTC model showed some promising results, indicating that model offered students in grades 4-8 learning gains of as much as two to four months in English language arts and two to five months in mathematics over a three-year span. Click here to read the article featured in Education DIVE.

STEM Education Is Facing Over 100 Challenges. Can $28 Million Solve Them?

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education has well over 99 problems—but, for now at least, a lack of funding isn’t one. 100Kin10, the national nonprofit seeking to recruit, prepare, and support 100,000 STEM teachers by 2021, has mapped out over 100 “grand challenges” facing STEM education. And today, the organization announced that Google, Chevron, and other funders have committed over $28 million to help. Click here to read the article featured in Education Week.

Science Is A Team Sport; Showing Students That May Boost Interest In STEM

Hollywood’s version of science—the lone genius toiling in the basement, the socially awkward computer engineer—stands in stark contrast to the real life, increasingly team-oriented work in science and engineering fields. A new study suggests correcting that misconception could encourage more American students to engage in science. Click here to read the article featured in Education Week.

Q&A: Former Obama Science Adviser John Holdren On The White House Science Office And Trump’s Science Policy

Physicist John Holdren, who for 8 years was Obama’s top aide on science and technology issues and also led the White House’s Office of Science and Technology (OSTP), is now back at Harvard University, where he is a professor of environmental policy in both the John F. Kennedy School of Government and the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. He says he is troubled by what has happened to his office, and to science policy, under Trump. Holdren spoke with ScienceInsider about those concerns and about the role OSTP plays in supporting the president’s agenda. Click here to read the article featured in Science.

Stay tuned for next week’s top education news stories.

The Communication, Legislative & Public Affairs (CLPA) team strives to keep NSTA members, teachers, science education leaders, and the general public informed about NSTA programs, products, and services and key science education issues and legislation. In the association’s role as the national voice for science education, its CLPA team actively promotes NSTA’s positions on science education issues and communicates key NSTA messages to essential audiences.

The mission of NSTA is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all.

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Ideas and inspiration from NSTA’s July 2017 K-12 journals

Get ready for the total eclipse visible in parts of the US:

Science & Children – The Science and Math Connection

Editor’s Note: The “Fundamental Tools” of Science: As they [students] investigate, we can move them beyond play by emphasizing the use of mathematics to develop scientific understanding, make predictions, record observations, create models, communicate information, and defend arguments through data.

  • Many of the lessons this month incorporate data collection, graphing, and simple statistical analysis. The lessons described in the articles include connections with the NGSS.
  • Toad-ally Cool Math and Science Integration describes a summer program in which students do field studies of frogs and toads. The photos show these girls in action.
  • With the 5E lesson described in Bubble Babies, students investigate (using experimental design and data collection) the connection between parental care and survival rate in animals.
  • Gaining Traction integrates a variety of strategies (including basic statistics) in a study of beetle behavior.
  • Integrating Math in a Sea of Science is a variation of the lesson on birds’ beaks. Students study the relationship between the structure of a fish’s mouth and the type of food it eats using data they collect.
  • Blending In uses colorful candies to simulate how living things that blend in with their surroundings have a higher survival rate.
  • In The Early Years: Taking Math Outside, students collect objects to connect nature with skills such as classifying, sorting, counting, and comparing.
  • Teaching Through Trade Books: Becoming a Citizen Scientist has two 5E lessons (K-2, 3-5) that illustrate the data collecting aspect of citizen science projects.
  • Perhaps some students would enjoy describing their data as a poem — The Poetry of Science: The Math of Science.

These monthly columns continue to provide background knowledge and useful classroom ideas:

For more on the content that provides a context for projects and strategies described in this issue, see the SciLinks topics Adaptations, Amphibians, Animal Camouflage, Animal Reproduction, Bats, Classification, Ecosystems, Forces and Motion, Fishes, Friction, Insects, Math and Science, Plant Growth

 Continue for Science Scope and The Science Teacher Continue reading …

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NSTA Legislative Update: House Marks up FY2018 Appropriations

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) marked up their FY2018 education budget on Thursday; despite a lower funding level overall from last year, lawmakers seek to cut the Department of Education by $2.4 billion, or 3.5 percent. President Trump proposed cutting the Department’s budget by 13 percent (about $9.2 billion). Highlights:

  • Provides $500 million funding to the Title IV block created by the Every Student Succeeds Act. The current funding level is $400m, and the authorized level for this program is $1.6 billion. President Trump eliminated funding for this program in his budget.
  • The bill does not fund the Title II program under ESSA as Title II, Part A. Trump’s budget also calls for eliminating this program.
  • Funds the 21st Century Learning Centers Program at $1 billion — down from $1.2 billion in funding this year. The President eliminated this program in his budget proposal.
  • The bill funds Title I at $15.9 billion, similar to its funding for the current year. The House did not allocate $1 billion in Title I money to a new grant program that would allow students to attend the public school of their choice, and they did not include $250 million that the Trump administration wanted to expand and study vouchers.
  • Provides $12.2 billion in funding for special education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, a $200 million increase from the current level of funding.
  • Increases funding for charter schools by $28 million, bringing it to a total of $370 million
  • The legislation also calls for a $1.1 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health (the President had proposed reducing funding for NIH by $5.8 billion)

The full Appropriations Committee is expected to take action on this bill later this week. Continue reading …

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