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Change is Blowing in the Wind

This past December the NYS Board of Regents approved the New York State Science Learning Standards (NYSSLS); STANYS was one of the lead partners in developing NYSSLS and the plan for implementation in New York.

STANYS’s Annual Conference held in Rochester spans three days with workshop opportunities over ten sessions, keynote speakers, exhibits, and field trips. The 122nd STANYS Annual Conference, November 4-6, 2017, will be the best place in New York State to find out what is going on in science education. The focus of the Conference will be on Science – Now in 3-D (Three Dimensional Learning) as teachers begin to prepare for the NYS Education Department’s implementation of the NYSSLS. What better place to learn about this new constructivist approach!

At the Annual Conference’s Exhibit you will have an opportunity to meet with company representatives and learn about their company’s:

  • Advancement of scientific products / technologies aligned with the NYSSLS
  • Impact on the environment
  • Educational programs/activities for K-12 science teachers and or students
  • Scholarships for high school to attend summer science workshops / research programs

We hope you will make every effort to attend this year’s Conference so you will be able to share the information you acquire with you colleagues.

Cool Tools: Loopy

Systems thinking is as important as it is hard.  As we look at the New York State Science Learning Standards, we see a clear role for systems thinking.  Systems and System Processes is one of the Cross-Cutting Concepts, and Developing and Using Models is a Science Practice.  It should be obvious to all of us that where we are going as a state is very much to system-land.

There are many ways that we can model system dynamics.  Many of us model systems in our classrooms whenever we engage in “simulations”, or other types of modeling activities.  And I’m sure most readers are well aware of the various interactive computational simulations that have been created for students to work with.  But there are not a whole lot of computational resources that allow students to construct relatively robust models of systems for their own investigation.  This is mostly because programming computers is relatively difficult. As such it’s not often tenable to train students in how to create a computational tool prior to having them use it.

Which is where Loopy comes in.  Loopy is a very simple systems dynamics modeling tool where anyone can create a system and then see how its dynamics affect the system.  No programming is required, and the tutorial should take anyone <5 minutes to be able to render a system of their own interest.

Here’s an example of Loopy at work in a simple food web model that I created for this article:

See?  Not that hard (also, I totally understand that it’s “not that good”).

Tools like Loopy can help give students opportunities to model systems, without the high cost of entry that usually accompanies computational model construction.

Upcoming Summer Professional Development

Summer is almost here! While summer is most definitely a time for relaxation and recharging, it is also a time for reflection. It is the ideal time, away from papers to grade, meetings to attend and the many distractions that can interrupt the creative process, to think about how to improve our lessons and expand our knowledge of pedagogy. While the first week or two of summer, we may just be exhausted and need to unwind from the hectic pace of the school year, mid-summer is the perfect time to start thinking about how we would like to elevate our instructional practices for the upcoming school year.

Paul Anderson working with teachers at the American School in Dubai

Suffolk STANYS and the New York State Master Teacher Program are co-sponsoring a visit by Paul Anderson to “Take a Deeper Dive into NYSSLS” this summer. The conference will be offered at three locations. The first will take place July 31-Aug 1 at Stony Brook University, followed by August 2-3 at SUNY Adirondack in Queensbury and August 4-5 at Monroe Community College in Rochester. The cost of registration is $125, which includes continental breakfast and lunch both days. Twelve hours of CTLE credit is available. Space is limited, so register ASAP!  You can register here.

If you are not familiar with Paul, you may want to check out his vast array of videos on all fields of science and science education at his website,  or on his YouTube channel. Paul was a classroom science teacher in Bozeman, Montana for twenty years and has created countless videos for his students. Paul has shared his informative and engaging videos on all four basic science classes, including videos for science topics at the AP level. Both teachers and students have found his videos to be helpful additions to the classroom experience. Paul also collaborated with SCSTA’s own David Knuffke on a podcast “Horizontal Transfer” available on iTunes, and other podcast places. For more information on the podcast visit their website. Paul now consults on science education at schools around the world and has offered professional development in New York State at the STANYS Conference and at the Commack High School STEM conference in November 2016.

Paul’s website offers several videos that explore the NGSS including the Science and Engineering Practices and Cross-Cutting concepts as well as a close look at the Disciplinary Core Ideas for physical, life and earth and space sciences. The videos are an easy way to gain an understanding of the NGSS, which are the basis for the NYSSLS and are recommended viewing whether or not you are able to attend this summer’s professional development. The videos are relatively short in length and focus on one central theme…a perfect accompaniment to your morning coffee and an easy way to become familiar with the NYSSLS!

Paul is an engaging speaker and you will most definitely leave this program with a deeper understanding of how the new standards will influence the future of science education in New York State. You will have a better idea of how to transform lessons to align with the NYSSLS approach to science education. You will have an opportunity to meet fellow content area teachers and share ideas to bring back to the classroom. I was present when Paul spoke at the annual STANYS conference in Rochester in November of 2016 and held the entire audience of science educators captive with his keynote presentation on “Unlocking the Power of the NGSS”. As his presentation started to wind down and the hour for dinner was approaching, the entire room remained attentive and came away excited to make the changes to our lessons that would not “kill the wonder” of science. I can honestly say that his keynote address was among the best professional development that I have ever attended! I can guarantee that you will both enjoy this conference and return home excited about the transition to the NYSSLS!

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!

A Couple of New Websites

This is the moment of the year when I can begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel so they say. AP Exams are around the corner and I often forget the stress not only on the students but on myself as well. I am often thinking “Wow, I am not sure I will be ready for this in September again,” but then after recharging over the summer I find myself excited to start all over again.

I do try to use my time after the AP Exam to finish, start, continue with the things that have been placed on the back burner during the rest of the year. I have found two great resources I would like to pass on to the membership:

  1. An online library full of resources for biodiversity produced collectively by the California Academy of Sciences and Khan Academy. This is an online virtual expedition for high school (and adult) learners and covers more than 30 specific tutorials. It ranges from topics like why biodiversity is important, where it is found, specific case studies and how it can be protected. Each of the tutorials includes videos, articles, a glossary, quiz questions, activities, and references to dive deeper into content.
  2. A youtube channel that covers teacher tools. It is a mixed collection of teaching tools and websites that students can learn from. Each week the author, Jamie Keet presents a short (~10 minute) video on his picks of the week. I often play this in background while I am working on something else so that I can pause when something peaks my interest and pick up a new tool. Here’s a recent video from the channel: