Category Archives: News

Elementary Science Transition to NYSSLS

Having spent a career teaching high school science, I am now engaged with the world of elementary science. The adoption of the New York Science P-12 Science Learning Standards (NYSSLS) in December 2016 has apparently rejuvenated interest in elementary science. Recently retired (meaning time on my hands?) and involved with the transition to our new science standards based on A Framework for K-12 Science Education and NGSS, I was drawn into professional development opportunities. I’ve learned a lot about how students should learn science, reasons to shift to significant core ideas, how to incorporate engineering, provide meaningful hands-on experiences, and engage with phenomena. These standards should address the needs of all students, incorporate real-world scenarios and when possible be community-based. What really excites me the most about the NYSSLS is the impact this will have on our youngest learners.

The hours spent with our elementary colleagues has given me some insight into their challenges teaching science. Besides the many times that their students are involved in activities outside their classroom, most admit their world is driven by and focused on ELA and math. Teacher evaluation, APPR, and district initiatives typically don’t elevate science learning to the level it deserves. Many are lucky if they get a couple of hours a week of science. Unfortunately, some only do “science” by using the literacy-based science in the ELA domains and modules from www.engageny.org. I’ve seen a wide variety of programs with science “push-ins”, STEM specialists, family STEM nights, STEAM classrooms and varieties of publisher and BOCES kits. Even with that support, most admit science can be short-changed. Since the past standards outlined in Elementary Science Core Curriculum Grades K-4 isn’t grade banded, each district has been left to develop their own scope and sequence so there may be a lack of coherence or much repetition based on “favorite topics.” Students that transfer between districts and sometimes other schools within a district can miss important foundations of science literacy. Sometimes, it’s the grade 4 teachers have the primary responsibility of preparing the students for the Elementary-Level Science Test given in grade 4.

Our New York State P-12 Science Learning Standards is very different for our young learners. Grade banded P-5 with specific Performance Expectations gives teachers and curriculum designers guidance as to what students are expected to know and do at the end of instruction. Coherence is presented by the progressions in grade blocks of K-2, 3-5, MS and HS for the three dimensions (Disciplinary Core Ideas, Science and Engineering Practices, and Crosscutting Concepts). This means that students learning science using curriculums developed from the NYSSLS will experience increasing expectations in how they learn (Practices), what they learn (Core Ideas), and what they look for in the questions they ask (Crosscutting Concepts). Students are expected to construct their understandings by doing science. Much greater depth in learning occurs when the focus shifts from knowing about science to them figuring out about science.

Many elementary teachers admit to me that their students say science is their favorite subject but the teachers are looking for support. The teachers I’ve worked with are among the most pedagogically talented teachers. I have seen them run with a token of an idea and turn it into fun activities, make ELA connections, and be totally appropriate to their school community. The challenge for STANYS and the science specialists across New York is how to support the transition of elementary teachers into NYSSLS. I’ve worked as a life science consultant with teams of elementary teachers and other science specialists writing grade 1 and 2 for Science21 and I can admit it is very challenging. Many elementary teachers feel they lack the background and confidence to dive into developing curriculum for science. They also wonder what these standards will look like on the student assessment which can help when developing curriculum. Our elementary programs need a good curriculum that maintains fidelity with the intent of the new standards. The elementary teachers and administrators need the training to recognize materials that are aligned and provide constructivist learning opportunities. They should be aware of the limits of the science content in the NYSSLS so they’re not compelled to teach well beyond and be sure to address science literacy for all the students.

This is an exciting opportunity for our elementary colleagues to teach science and for students to experience science as a platform for interdisciplinary learning. It has been shown that students that learn science this way not only show significant gains in science but students of high needs subgroups exhibit high gains, and positive gains are also demonstrated in subjects other than science.* Districts need a plan, decide on resources, and provide the support for the transition to an NYSSLS based elementary science program. It’s time we take advantage of our young student’s natural inquisitiveness and sense of wonder as an opportunity to teach and for students to learn science.

*Smithsonian Science Education Center. (2015). The LASER Model: A Systemic and Sustainable Approach for Achieving High Standards in Science Education. Executive Summary. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution.

Geological Society of America Annual Meeting in Seattle: Tales and Take-Aways from the West Coast

The Geological Society of America held their annual meeting in Seattle, WA, in late October. This year, I had the privilege of attending and presenting with a fellow New York State Master Teacher about training pre-service and in-service teachers to write and implement inquiry labs in an outdoor setting, in an Earth Science classroom. We had an amazing trip, saw and did a lot in our short time on the West Coast, and I have several take-aways to share.

Items I want to share, in no particular order:

  • Take advantage of excursions offered by conference planners. We thoroughly enjoyed the Foodie Tour of the Public Market (more commonly referred to as Pike Place Market). We enjoyed a variety of cuisines from creamy Greek yogurt to dungeness crab cakes, and the best New England clam chowder (yes, even though it’s on the West Coast, it is the national award winning recipe)! Our tour guide Heather was informative, dramatic at times, and gave a nice behind-the-scenes tour of this world famous location! Oh, and the “original” Starbucks is not actually the original…
  • The Sun shines in Seattle! A LOT!
  • The Seattle Monorail goes from downtown to the Space Needle in 90 seconds!
  • From the top of the Space Needle we saw the Olympic Mountains, the Cascades, Mt. Baker, Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens. It was a perfect day.
  • If I ever head back to the area, I would like to go and visit the Olympic Bike and Skate Shop, in Port Orchard, WA. You see, we met Fred Karakas, the shop’s owner atop the Space Needle. Fred is the MAN! He is a Vietnam veteran, leading a reunion of fellow vets to the Space Needle. With a background in biochemistry, Fred spent the better part of an hour teaching us how to get muscle cells to operate at their maximum level by completing his method of High Intensity Interval Training. We met Fred’s daughter, fighter pilot buddies, got a history of the entire area, saw him at lunch at The Collections Cafe, and ran into him again in the Chihuly Glass Gardens.
  • The ladies from Eastern Oregon deserve an award more so than their own bulleted section. These ladies are public school teachers who presented directly next to us. Their topic? The implementation of NGSS in Oregon public schools over the last four years. They have great ideas, and more importantly… they have experience in writing and implementing year’s worth of NGSS lessons! We are invited to Zoom with their planning group, and I cannot wait to learn from their expertise. Work smarter, not harder, people!
  • Great resources for implementing NGSS-aligned lessons include GETSI – GEodesy Tools for Societal Issues at: https://serc.carleton.edu/getsi/index.html and also InTeGrate – Interdisciplinary Teaching about Earth for a Sustainable Future at: https://serc.carleton.edu/integrate/index.html 
  • I am particularly interested in this from GETSI – Ice Mass and Sea Level Changes: https://serc.carleton.edu/getsi/teaching_materials/ice_sealevel/index.html 
  • It would be nice if there was a clearinghouse of sorts for people to share and save NGSS aligned lessons, for the rest of us to see, adapt, and share on a national level.
  • I need to join NAGT.
  • Dr. Lee is a professor at the University of Waterloo in Ontario. He is interested in working to promote better hydrogeology labs, and will share his expertise and an absolutely great artesian aquifer lab with us in the very near future!
  • There is a severe underrepresentation in geoscience education in the United States. We need to promote and develop geoscientists from all fields in the very near future. If not, the future of our nation may very well be in peril!

Here’s my view, looking south, from the Space Needle! Spectacular!

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Here’s my view, looking south, from the Space Needle! Spectacular!

Registration Information for the STANYS Fall Regional Science Conference at Hofstra

In order to register for the conference at Hofstra on Monday, October 16th, participants have three options:

Option A: Online Registration via Credit Card

Participants would be able to choose their workshop preferences while they register, on a first-come, first-served basis. Please note that the online registration is not currently supported by mobile devices.

Option B: Registration by Purchase Order

School districts are encouraged to call Hofstra University in order to discuss the purchase order process (516-463-5750). The registration form below (Form A) must be used by each participant on the purchase order in order to provide workshop preferences and must be included when the purchase order is submitted to Hofstra. All purchase orders and workshop registration forms must be faxed together to 516-463-6006. Again, workshop registration preferences will be entertained on a first-come, first-served basis.

Option C: Registration by Phone

Individual participants that would like to register by phone can call Hofstra University (516-463-5750). Registrants would email or fax the registration form below (Form B) after registering over the telephone.

FORM A – STANYS FALL REGIONAL SCIENCE CONFERENCE

FORM B – STANYS FALL REGIONAL SCIENCE CONFERENCE – PHONE REGISTRATION

STANYS State Conference – More Change is Coming!

Science education in NYS is changing, so is the annual State Conference in Rochester!

Come join us November 4th through November 6th, as we roll out workshops focused on the transition to the new New York State Science Learning Standards (NYSSLS). In addition to these several workshops, the Directors-at-Large have collaborated with Subject Area Representatives (SARs) from each section from all over the state to develop half-day institutes that will immerse participants in three-dimensional style teaching and learning.

One noted change that you may observe as you register is the openness of the registration process. Besides the half-day institutes, breakfasts/luncheons, and the Paul Andersen Monday Institute, all workshops will be open enrollment for you to pick and choose your sessions using the official conference app. You must formally register for the three special events (institutes, Paul Andersen, and breakfasts/luncheons), but let your feet guide you to whichever other workshops you may be interested in. For example, if you are inspired by the Chemistry Institute Saturday morning and would like to learn more about chemistry phenomena, you are now free to change your entire conference schedule to find workshops that would meet this new need. You are no longer locked in to particular workshops, so the possibilities are endless!

Please be sure to visit the conference website to view the workshops. The conference app will be pushed out to registrants in early October to start building your custom schedule!

Many of the tried and true events are still happening, like the Wards Giveaway and the Wine and Cheese Reception, so come join us for three days of fun (and a little bit of learning too)!

Fall Regional Science Conference

The Suffolk Section of STANYS, in partnership with Hofstra University, is proud to announce that the STANYS Fall Regional Conference will be held at the Mack Student Center on Monday, October 16th! Morning registration starts at 7:30am, and the cost of the day is only $65!

Our distinguished keynote presenter will be Professor Joseph Krajcik, the Lead NGSS Writer for Physical Science and Director for the CREATE for STEM Institute at Michigan State University.  Since the publication of the Next Generation Science Standards, Professor Krajcik has played an integral role in the development of formative assessments through the Concord Consortium. You can check out the following video from the National Science Teachers Association, where Professor Krajcik discusses the vision of the NGSS.

The Framework for K-12 Science Education and the Next Generation of Science Standards challenges the science education community to support students in developing deeper, useable knowledge to make sense of phenomena or solve problems. This will only occur when students make use of the three dimensions – disciplinary core ideas, scientific and engineering practices and crosscutting concepts. The Framework and the NGSS refer to this as 3-dimensional learning. Three-dimensional learning shifts the focus of science classrooms from environments where students learn about science ideas to places where students do science by exploring, examining and using science ideas to explain how and why phenomena occur and designing solutions to problems. Doing science to learn science helps students form useable knowledge to explain phenomena and make sense of problems. In this session, Professor Krajcik will provide an overview of each of the dimensions and show how they work together to enable students to explain phenomena or design solution to problems. Woven throughout his remarks, he will discuss the opportunities and challenges of engaging learners in three-dimensional learning.

After the keynote address, participants will be able to choose workshops in three separate sessions, with a provided lunch in between. We will be offering two unique double session workshops, where attendees can choose to attend Professor Emily Kang’s workshop on Implementing the NYSSLS/NGSS or to participate in an authentic modeling scenario with Donghong Sun from STEMteachersNYC. Representatives from the Right Question Institute will also be offering two sessions on the Question Formulation Technique, which is one method that STEM teachers could develop students’ ability to ask their own questions.

Besides the double sessions, teachers can also choose from a variety of other workshops from Long Island teachers and college professors focused on improving science education for all students! To check out the full list of workshops, please click here. The link for registration will be active soon for payment by credit card. District purchase orders will also be accepted. Please check back by September 8th for more information on registration!

The Science Event of the Summer

It is difficult to get the Sun, Moon and Earth to align for a total solar eclipse. The last total solar eclipse to cross a large portion of the United States was in 1979. The last annular solar eclipse to cross New York was May 10, 1994, when I was in 8th grade. That was amazing to see and since then, I have waited patiently for 2017’s totality event.
After a year of planning our eclipse trip, our path is set. On August 21, 2017, we will be in Mount Juliet, Tennessee, northeast of Nashville, nearly on the centerline of totality! There is a lot to do in the area, and when I searched for hotel rooms in late April, there were still many available.
Originally, we intended to view the eclipse from Carbondale, Illinois. A shady hotel cancelled the reservations I made a year in advance, and left us scrambling for a new location. Luckily, it is not too late to find a room, or a campsite, and see one of nature’s rare and beautiful events.

Eclipse Resources:

General Eclipse Info and Maps: www.greatamericaneclipse.com 

NASA’s Eclipse Page: https://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/eclipse.html 

Rice Space Institute’s Eclipse Page (sign up for the eclipse listserv!): http://space.rice.edu/eclipse/ 

Totality App (from Big Kid Science): Free!

Safe Viewing Practices:

NASA GSFC’s Eclipse Safety Page (with links ranging from eye protection to taking travel precautions): https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/safety 

Purchase your Eclipse Eyewear ASAP, before they sell out! https://www.greatamericaneclipse.com/eclipse-viewing/ 

Eclipse Lesson Plans:

NSTA Eclipse Booklet: http://static.nsta.org/extras/solarscience/SolarScienceInsert.pdf

Big Kid Science Lesson Ideas: http://www.bigkidscience.com/eclipse/classroom-activities/

NASA/JPL Eclipse Yardstick Model: https://nightsky.jpl.nasa.gov/download-view.cfm?Doc_ID=327

Other NASA Activities: https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/activities 

Eclipse Animations:

Eclipse as viewed from the Earth, accounting for the Earth’s topography and Lunar Rim features from the LRO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJgXaqW3md8 

2017 Eclipse Shadow Cones (my students thought this was so cool!): https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/4321 

Other NASA Animations (a treasure trove of resources from the Scientific Visualization Studio): https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/index.html 

What will you see from New York?

Depending on your latitude, you will see 70% (southern New York) or less of the Sun covered by the New Moon this coming August.

Finding a Place to Stay on Eclipse Day:

Camping (and Glamping) at the Oregon SolarFest: https://www.oregonsolarfest.com/ 

Casper, Wyoming Eclipse Festival: http://eclipsecasper.com/ 

Nebraska Sandhills: https://2017nebraskaeclipse.com/ 

St. Louis, Missouri Eclipse Day: http://www.missourieclipse2017.com/ 

Tennessee State Parks: http://tnstateparks.com/activities/solar-eclipse-at-the-park-2017 

Mount Juliet, TN (where we will be stationed): http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/local/wilson/mt-juliet/2017/02/27/mt-juliet-jumps-city-view-total-solar-eclipse/98274534/ 

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What if you miss the eclipse this summer?

The next American total solar eclipse will be Monday, April 8, 2024. This will take a different path from the 2017 eclipse, with the Moon’s shadow crossing over far western and northern New York State! We will have to work on our local school boards to plan our spring break that week, so we are all able to travel for the event.

Spring Conference Recap

On Friday, April 21, Suffolk STANYS held their annual “Spring Into STEM” conference at Brookhaven National Laboratory.  Attended by over 140 science teachers from around Long Island, it is one of the premier events for science educators of all grade levels and content backgrounds.  Presenters came from a variety of organizations and institutions, including the Long Island Association for Chemistry Teacher Support and the Long Island STEM Education Leadership Association.  Participants had the opportunity to participate in a wide array of workshops – there was even a Makerspace!

One of the overarching themes of the conference was informing and preparing teachers about the New York State Science Learning Standards (NYSSLS).  With its roots in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), NYSSLS is not just a change in content; NYSSLS will change how educators teach science to their students.  As a result, STANYS made sure to offer sessions in these methods such as question formulation technique, science and engineering practices, and modeling.  here was even a session that discussed the possible upcoming changes to science assessments that educators could expect see.

Since this conference is held at Brookhaven National Laboratory, educators had several experiences that are unique to the lab.  Teachers were able to tour the National Synchrotron Light Source II, which is currently the brightest synchrotron in the world! Additionally, Brookhaven National Laboratory’s Office of Educational Programs also offered a variety of workshops that were in the spirit of the NGSS.

 One of the highlights of this conference was our feature keynote speaker Chris Paparo.   Not only is he the manager of SUNY Stony Brook’s Southampton Marine Science Center’s web and the center’s resident naturalist, he is a well-respected speaker and advocate for Long Island’s natural environment.  His talk, “From Plankton to Whales – Why Our Local Waters Are Worth Protecting”, captivated many of our attendees, especially since he included many of his personal photographs of Long Island.  Many of his photographs, as well as his adventures with his red-tailed hawk Emmy, can be seen on his online photo gallery, Fish Guy Photos.  It can be found on both Facebook and Instagram.    

In closing, the conference was a success.   Special thanks go out to our Vice President of Programs, Matthew Christiansen for all his hard work putting this conference together, the STANYS Suffolk Board for volunteering in assisting in this conference, and all the presenters who came together to offer a high-quality conference.  We hope to see you soon at our fall conference, which will be taking place on October 16, 2017 at Hofstra University.  Be on the lookout for a postcard this September with more details!

Bioengineering New Fertilizers

Researchers from Harvard have recently unveiled a new method in bioengineering a bacteria-based fertilizer that has shown tremendous increases in the biomass of selected crops.

Nocera Lab, Harvard University

The Nocera Lab gained recognition in the past in the development of the artificial leaf, which is capable of splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen through the use of different catalysts. The researchers have now used this technology to develop the bionic leaf: the artificial leaf used in concert with a particular microorganism capable of using the hydrogen gas evolved from the artificial leaf and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to produce a stored biofuel in the bacteria. When this Xanthobacter bacteria is placed in the soil, it is capable of undergoing nitrogen fixation with the stored biofuel and nitrogen in the air to produce natural ammonia to fertilize the crops. As seen in the image above, the soil with the nitrogen-fixing bacteria (right) had a considerable increase in the biomass of the planted crop.

For more information about the study, check out the press release on the American Chemical Society’s website.

In thinking out the transition to the new standards, this could be an interesting example of an investigative phenomenon or just a great article to bring into the classroom on how scientists are currently trying to solve either the energy crisis or the food demand of our ever-increasing human population.