Supporting Excellent Science Teaching for Georgia

Back to School: Preparing to Implement the Science GSE
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 August 1, 2017 Back to School: Preparing to Implement the Science GSE

In This Issue
· Unpacking 3D Science Standards
· PBL & Science GSE 
· Biotech & Biology GSE
· 3D Lesson of the Month: K & 3
· Ecology of Trophic Cascades
· Phenomena of the Month
· GSTA Recommends
· General
· Elementary
· Middle/High
· Notes from the Editors
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Phenomena of the Month

S3L1b: Bat Locating & Catching a Moth

A myotis bat echolcates and attacks insects. The bat captures moths using its entire wing surface, bringing the prey into its tail membrane, then into its mouth. Sometimes it doesn't like what it catches and drops the moth, other times the bat misses. But when it goes right, the bat flies away, while echolcating and eating its reward. 

Possible Guiding Question(s): How do bats catch their prey? What adaptations help them do this? 

Possible Instructional Use(s): This phenomenon could anchor a lesson on animal adaptations.

View this and other 3rd grade phenomenon in GSTA's GSE Phenomena Bank. Please also submit your own phenomenal ideas.

S6E5b,c: Bellwood Quarry

Bellwood Quarry is an old granite quarry on the west side of Atlanta. The City of Atlanta is currently drilling a tunnel from the Chattahoochee River to the quarry in order to store a 30 day supply of water. 

Possible Guiding Question(s): How do you drill through granite? 

Possible Instructional Use(s): This phenomena could be used to introduce rocks and minerals in Georgia. In order to reach the quarry, a 10 foot wide tunnel will be drilled through granite. A possible sequence could include 1) introducing the quarry; 2) investigating common rocks and minerals in Georgia; 3) exploring the geologic history of Georgia including the various types of rocks across the regions of Georgia

View this and other 6th grade - Earth Science phenomenon in GSTA's GSE Phenomena BankPlease also submit your own phenomenal ideas.

GSTA Recommends

Revised Science GSE PLC Guide

- Dr. Donna Barrett-Williams, Vice President

Are you ready for the GSE? When the new school year begins, teachers in Georgia will implement the revised Georgia Standards of Excellence (GSE) in Science. One of the things that you can do to get ready is to review the Revised GSE PLC to get familiar with the structure of the GSE and the accompanying shifts in instruction that are notable in the GSE. This PLC approach includes 10 guided discussions that can be used to learn more about the structure, background, and intended outcomes of the GSE. Each discussion will include a topic such as 3-D Learning, Crosscutting Cutting Concepts, Phenomena, and Assessment. There will be an introduction through a video or reading, discussion questions, and additional resources if you want to learn more. These are exciting times for us in Georgia! We need to be open to these new ideas and have time to make sense of the shifts and how they impact our practice as educators. A PLC approach can be instrumental in providing us with enhanced knowledge, skills and understanding. You can access the PLC here.


- Dr. Donald White, President

The Science GSE require students to develop and use models. For many of us, the word "model" conjures a physical object in our mind, even though models in science and engineering also involve diagrams, drawings, mathematical representations, analogies, and computer simulations. When a physical model is appropriate, 3D Printing is one option for producing that model. Developing and printing a 3D model allows students to apply many science and engineering practices in an engaging way. One resource available to help with the implementation of 3D printing in any subject is the CREATE package from VariQuest.

The CREATE package combines the K-12 STEM:IT series and Trifecta 800 3D Printer, to connect 3D printing with hands-on classroom applications. The K-12 STEM:IT series, developed by STEM Fuse, provides teachers of all subject areas the opportunity to reinforce standard-aligned objectives through STEM and Project-Based Learning. For more information, visit the Variquest site, where you can sign up for a free demonstration.

Congratulations to Georgia's 2017 PAEMST State Finalists

GSTA joins GaDOE in congratulating Matthew Reger (Holy Spirit Preparatory School),  Benjamin Bolton (Habersham Ninth Grade Academy), Annette Parrott (Lakeside High School),  Joseph Cox (Brookwood High School), and Martha Milan (East Coweta High School) for their selection as 2017 state finalists for the 7-12 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). Dr. Juan-Carlos Aguilar, chair of Georgia's PAEMST selection committee, said "We are very lucky in Georgia to have so many wonderful teachers working tirelessly to provide a better future for our students and for that we are very grateful."

NSTA Legislative Update: Secretary DeVos and Ivanka Trump Team Up for STEM Ed

- Jodi Peterson, Assistant Executive Director, Communication, Legislative & Public Affairs

Last week, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Adviser to the President Ivanka Trump teamed up for a STEM-related reading event at the National Museum of American History and later worked on some STEM-focused projects with the students. Read more here

The following day, President Trump donated his second quarter salary to the Department of Education to help fund a STEM-focused camp for students. The donation, totaling $100,000, was accepted by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos at the daily White House Press briefing, more here.

STEM Education Focus of Congressional Hearing

On Wednesday July 26, STEM Education Coalition Executive Director James Brown testified before the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Research and Technology at their hearing on “STEM and Computer Science Education: Preparing the 21st Century Workforce.”

The hearing focused on the importance of STEM and computer science education to meeting a wide range of critical current and future workforce needs. In his written testimony, Brown covered three key issues: how states are incorporating STEM as they work to implement the Every Students Succeeds Act; the changing nature of STEM careers; and the emergence of informal STEM education. View the hearing and read the testimony here, and learn more about the STEM Education Coalition here. (NSTA chairs the STEM Education Coalition.)

You may view the full post here.

Georgia Middle School Students Participate in NOAA Training

On July 5th, members of the Richmond Hill Schools Field Studies Program received training from Jennifer Maucher, Coordinator for the The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Southeastern Phytoplankton Monitoring Network. Students were taught how to conduct surveys for phytoplankton capable of producing harmful algal blooms (HABs). Students will begin bi-monthly surveys in their community beginning in August. The Field Studies Program has two microscope imaging stations that enable students to view microscopic organisms on a computer screen and capture still images and videos for their database. The individuals in the picture are Emily Dobson, Jes Freeze, Jackson Martin, Ava Bowling, NOAA trainer Jennifer Maucher, and Ryan Wiebold. Each of these students is also a certified water quality monitor for Georgia Adopt-a-Stream/ Wetland.
Notes From the Editor
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Diving Deeper Into 3D Learning

Unpacking 3D Standards & Steering Clear of Rote Learning in the Science Classroom

- Ted Willard, NGSS@NSTA Director; Dr. Jeremy Peacock, Communications Director

NSTA’s March 15th webinar, How do I Select Phenomena to Motivate Student Sense Making?, provided excellent guidance on the slated topic from Tricia Shelton, who is just out of the classroom after implementing the NGSS in Kentucky.  Tricia was joined by Ted Willard, NSTA’s self-proclaimed “standards geek” and Director of NGSS@NSTA, who focused on the importance of unpacking the dimensions of the standards before selecting phenomena and planning instruction.  Ted emphasized the importance of instruction flowing from the disciplinary core idea, rather than the performance expectation, and this led to some questions from the audience.  Remember that the NGSS performance expectations are most analogous to the 3D elements of the Science GSE.  Ted suggested that viewing the performance expectations as rigid instructional expectations could lead to rote learning of an isolated task, rather than helping students learn to apply the three dimensions flexibly to explain multiple phenomena. 

This exchange struck a chord with me, so I asked Ted whether he had written more about the idea.  It turned out that he had not, but he was willing to co-author the Q&A article you see here.  Ted originally drafted his answers with a focus on the NGSS, but I have revised them to address the Science Georgia Standards of Excellence.  I think Georgia teachers are likely to encounter these 10 questions as we plan instruction for our new standards this year, and Ted’s advice should help us navigate that process.  Ted's wealth of knowledge was more than we could fit into the newsletter.  You can get a glimpse at each answer below, but you can read the full Q&A here.

Q1: I’ve reviewed the standard, so why do I need to unpack it?  Isn’t everything I need already there?

A1: Each standard or element is a statement of what students should be able to do at the end of instruction to demonstrate what they have learned.  It is really just guidance for assessment developers in designing an end-of-year assessment task.  The practices, core ideas, and crosscutting concepts included in the standard are really the description of what is to be learned.  Therefore, the these ideas are much more informative for planning instruction.  In the NGSS, these ideas are listed in the foundation boxes provided with each performance expectation.  For Georgia teachers, a little more work is required.  The practices and crosscutting concepts are common to the NGSS and Science GSE, so you can find the specific elements of these dimensions on the NSTA matrix documents linked above.  The content of the NGSS and GSE do not align, so we are on our own there.  A full articulation of the core ideas was not provided along with the Science GSE, but a combined committee of GSTA and GSSA members is currently working to develop such a document, along with a full set of foundation boxes for the GSE.  You can view a draft of the K-5 Georgia core ideas here.

Q2: The content is right there in the standard.  Why do I need to 'unpack' that?

A2: Whether you are looking at a practice, a core idea, or a crosscutting concept, there is a lot of meaning packed into one element.  These elements can be better interpreted by carefully thinking about them, examining support documents such as the Framework for K-12 Science Education and Benchmarks for Science Literacy, and discussing them with colleagues.  In my experience, two educators will initially have different interpretations of what a given element means but through careful study and discussion, they will both gain insights into the goals and reach a consensus.  Continue reading

Q3: If I know students will be doing a specific practice, why is it important to look at the elements of the practice in the matrix?

A3: First, the title of the individual practices give a general sense of what students do when they engage in the practice, but there is a lot that can be open to interpretation.  Just as a crosscutting concept such as Energy and Matter is made clearer by many more specific elements (the bulleted statements in the matrix) a Practice such as Developing and Using Models is made clearer by providing more specific descriptions of what we want students to be able to do in a given grade range.  Second, the research described in the Framework points out that the most effective way for students to develop understanding of science ideas is when they study phenomena by engaging in multiple practices.  

Q4: Do I have to use just the practice that is listed in the standard?

A4: As I noted earlier, for students to gain a deep understanding of any core idea, they need to engage in multiple practices as they explore phenomena related to that core idea.  While it is not necessary to engage in every practice in every learning sequence, the majority should be used within a unit.  Engaging in just one practice would not give students the experience of constructing knowledge the way that scientists do it.  Continue reading

Q5: How do I know which crosscutting concept is the best fit?

A5: The crosscutting concepts generally are not as explicit as the practices in the Science GSE, but they remain an important dimension to support student learning.  Just as there is no mandate to use a practice (as noted above), there is no mandate to use a particular crosscutting concept.  Instead, teachers are encouraged to target whatever crosscutting concept seems most relevant to the phenomena being investigated.  Applying all of the crosscutting concepts multiple times as students study different disciplines is the best way to help them appreciate the universality of the crosscutting concepts and the special role they have in science.

Q6: I didn't see ____ in the standard.  You can't teach ____ without an understanding of that concept.  How do we account for this?

A6: This is a very tricky question to address because it is often very context dependent.  In some cases, we teachers think that students must learn X in order to understand Y, but we think this because it is the way that we learned it.  I used to teach high school physics and there are some college professors who think that students should not learn anything about energy until they have learned the mathematical definition of work using some integral calculus.  I will simply note that I disagree with that assessment as I know many people who can discuss energy as a physics concept without having to engage in mathematical calculations.  Continue reading

Q7: I think it will take more instruction for a student to grasp the concept.  Are we really expected to just teach the concept the way it is described in the standard?

A7: While the way the GSE elements are phrased sounds like it is describing what students should do in class to learn the standard, that is not their intent.  As noted above, the element is a statement of what students should be able to do at the end of instruction to demonstrate what they have learned.  If teachers only have students do what is described in the element, it is very unlikely that they will be successful in an assessment task that targets that standard.  This may seem counterintuitive at first, but keep in mind that there are many different contexts in which a given standard can be assessed.  Rehearsing an element can lead to rote performance in a particular context rather than true achievement of the standard.  If the standard is assessed in a different context, the student wouldn’t be properly prepared.  Continue reading

Q8: How will I have enough time to get this all done?

A8: It is important that we not let the ambitiousness of three-dimensional science overwhelm us, so it is important for teachers to keep several things in mind as they begin implementing the Science GSE.  Continue reading

Q9: Okay, I’m ready to start unpacking, what resources should I look at?

A9: NSTA has developed a flow chart and a set of worksheets that can help with unpacking each of the three dimensions.  You can find these tools (and many others) on the NGSS@NSTA Hub.  Each worksheet features a set of questions to consider as you unpack the core ideas, crosscutting concepts, and science and engineering practices.  Remember that the content of the NGSS and the Science GSE do not align perfectly, so you will need to use discretion when referring to NSTA resources that focus on the disciplinary core ideas.  The Benchmarks for Science Literacy should serve as a supplement to Framework-based resources when you are unpacking Science GSE content.  Continue reading

Q10: I’m the only _____ teacher in my building.  How can I collaborate with colleagues to unpack standards?

A10: This is one of the great things about the world we live in today.  First of all, even if you are the only teacher in your building teaching a given subject, you are not alone.  Teachers all across the country are wrestling with new three-dimensional standards.  Even in a state that hasn’t adopted NGSS, having state standards means that there are still lots of other teachers in your state with the exact same standards.  Furthermore, about two-thirds of teachers in the country are in states with three-dimensional standards.  Continue reading

Final Thought

I have yet to hear anyone describe three-dimensional teaching and learning as easy to do, but I have heard many educators describe it as worth doing.  We know that the way we have been teaching for the last century has not led to the successes that we want for all students.  Three-dimensional science is not an a smooth and easy road to travel, but it is heading in the direction that we want to go.  

Sponsored by:National Geographic Learning is Georgia's source for K-12 science instruction.
Connecting Research to Best Practice

Science & Problem-Based Learning

- Chinita Allen, District 3 Director

In August 2017 the new Science Georgia Standards of Excellence (GSE) will be implemented at the local school level. School boards are tasked with identifying curriculum which meets these new standards. The new GSE standards include three-dimensional learning. Three-dimensional learning encompasses science and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas.  This approach requires students to do science rather than consume science, and to make connections across curricula while understanding the fundamental ideas necessary for comprehending a given science discipline. In essence, the new GSE are student-centered and inquiry-driven, which can lead to authentic problem solving, collaboration, and communication that aligns with problem-based learning (PBL).

Problem-based learning, according to Cornell University Center for Teaching Excellence, is a student-centered approach in which students learn about a subject by working in groups to solve open-ended problems. The Buck Institute for Education (BIE) maintains that with the closely related project-based learning teaching method students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time investigating and responding to an authentic, engaging, and complex question, problem, or challenge. This approach shares fundamental features related to 3D learning and, in particular, the science and engineering practices:

  1. Asking Questions and Defining Problems, 
  2. Developing and Using Models,
  3. Planning and Carrying Out Investigations,
  4. Analyzing and Interpreting Data,
  5. Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking,
  6. Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions,
  7. Engaging in Argument from Evidence, and
  8. Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information. 
Further, BIE maintains that well-designed projects have a meaningful driving question that guides student exploration (Practice 1, 3 and 8), sustains student interest (Practice 3 and 8), is authentic, utilizes student voice and choice (Practice 2, 6 and 7, Crosscutting Concepts & Disciplinary Core Ideas), provides opportunities for reflection (Practice 2, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 plus Cross Cutting Concepts and Disciplinary Core Ideas) and to critique and revise (Practice 4, 5, 6 and 7 plus Cross Cutting Concepts and Disciplinary Core Ideas), and culminates with a public product (Practice 2, 6, 7 and 8 plus Crosscutting Concepts and Disciplinary Core Ideas).

So what does project-based learning look like in the science classroom? Let’s take a look inside one 4th grade class. In this project students are studying water and water pollution. They have worked with community partners to test, gather, and analyze data from the school’s water run-off using technology tools such as pH probes, conductivity meters, and thermometers, as well as using digital photography to record living organisms. Students have also worked with District Technology Specialists to learn how to collaboratively communicate online and how to create a website for communicating and advocating to stop water pollution beyond the school environment.

As we relate this PBL experience to 3D learning, the following emerges. The driving question is “How do we end water pollution?” The crosscutting concepts can encompass cause and effect, energy and matter, and stability and change. The core idea includes the life and physical sciences, and the Practices are as follows. Based on the driving question, students work collaboratively create a concept map to brainstorm ideas and ask more questions relevant to the topic before conducting research (Practice 1 and 8). Students also explore properties of water and test local water for pollution (Practice 3 and 4). As part of the culminating project, students design a survey to access key information related to what other students know about water pollution, what causes water pollution, and whether students have ever polluted, themselves (Practice 3). Using this survey data, students categorize, analyze, synthesize, graph, and draw conclusions based on information collected from students throughout the school (Practice 1,2,3,4,5, and 6). They then begin to create websites and poster boards using research notes and survey data in order to help educate other students about water pollution, correct misconceptions from survey data, and to advocate for ways to decrease water pollution (Practice 2, 4, 6,7 and 8). Finally, students present information in a school-wide presentation whereby K-5 classes rotate into the media center to engage in discussion, ask questions, and sign a pledge to end water pollution (Practice 6, 7 and 8).

Problem-based learning is an engaging and motivating approach to teaching with 3D science learning. Students become more exploratory and investigative in seeking solutions to real world problems. As students seek answers to relevant problems they are, in fact, exploring core ideas, crosscutting concepts, and science and engineering practices due to their natural alignment wit PBL.  PBL can serve to deepen students' understanding and useable science knowledge, because it becomes real and can be applicable to their daily lives.


Speaking Up for Science Education

Summer Learning with the Biology GSE Biology

-Tiffany Jones, Member, North Paulding High School

There have been many extraordinary opportunities this summer to advance my knowledge of the new Biology Georgia Standards of Excellence (GSE). After participating in the Biotech Bootcamp hosted by University of Georgia, BioBus Teacher Workshop at Georgia State University, and various sessions offered at the STEMapalooza conference sponsored by STEM Cobb, I now feel completely comfortable in biotechnology applications that will further student discovery of phenomena in the biology standards. During the Biotech Bootcamp, we explored labs that taught the foundations of micropipetting and led to the use of spectrometers, advanced micropipetting exercises, and gel electrophoresis units. The BioBus Teacher Workshop built on that experience by adding a bioreactor and allowing us to practice the skills needed to run a bioreactor in our classrooms. The last conference of the summer for me was STEMapalooza, where we were shown a DIY Gel Electrophoresis kit that uses basic supplies from most dollar stores, allowing easy accessibility to students and teachers. This lab allows students to utilize their creativity as they build their own electrophoresis unit, measure and pour gels, then apply the content knowledge to the experimental procedures. The biology GSE that are applicable to this lab cover content that relates the structure of macromolecules to their functions (SB1C), ethical considerations of biotechnology (SB2c), and the role of meiosis in reproductive variability (SB3a). You can access the procedure here.

Photo 1: An example of the DIY Gel Electrophoresis unit. This setup is running food coloring mixed with corn syrup for demonstration

Included are some examples that allow students to make connections to concepts based on data they constructed in an argument from their experiments. Using the student constructed electrophoresis unit, students could run a sample of each macromolecule to compare the size of various compounds and how that relates to the function. Another example would be a DNA Fingerprinting lab. There are tons of different scenarios based on the company the lab is ordered from, but doing the lab with student made gel electrophoresis units adds ownership for the lab and correlates to SB2c when considering the ethical consequences to the technology along with SB3a to discuss why each DNA sample is composed of different markers.

My main goal of each semester is to bridge the gap between the students and the science. Most students believe that you are required to have advanced degrees and a white lab coat to be able to do any meaningful science, which is a misconception that I work to break down all year. Real-life examples that I give my students include:

Students with biotech skills, basic lab skills, data collection and analysis abilities, and some fundamental scientific knowledge can lead to careers in a growing market which is the ultimate goal for most of us in education (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Implementing the Science GSE

3D Lesson of the Month: Storylines for Physical Science

Editors' Note: We love to share lessons and units that members are developing as we implement the Science GSE. If you would like to share your own 3D lesson or unit that is designed for the GSE, then please email us.

This month's lessons come from Jolaine Whitehead, GSTA member and Regional Coordinator at Oconee River GYSTC. Both lessons here follow the storyline approach, about which you can learn more here:

The first storyline, Rock Hounds, engages kindergarten students in investigating and classifying rocks that they collect on a walk around their schoolyard.  The second storyline, Hot Stuff, engages 3rd grade students in investigating the effect sunlight has on different materials on the school playground. After a series of investigations, students answer the driving question, "Why are some things on the playground hotter than others?"

Implementing the Science GSE

Wolves, Otters, and Wildebeest: Teaching Ecological Concepts Through Trophic Cascades 

- Robert Hodgdon, Member, Richmond Hills Middle School

In the new Science GSE, the word “model” appears repeatedly in many of the elements. Models can be a visual representation such as a cell model or a mobile of the solar system, but there are many more types of models, some of which are far more sophisticated. In my discussions with other middle grades science teachers, many were willing to admit they simply did not understand what is or is not an accurate or effective model as required under the new standards. The definition of a model sometimes causes more confusion than clarity: a model is a physical, mathematical, or conceptual representation of an idea, an object, or a process that is used to describe and explain phenomena that cannot be experienced directly. Models are created by scientists during research, to make predictions related to a phenomenon, and for the purpose of presenting or sharing their results or explanations. That is a lot to consider, especially when developing a lesson for a middle grades science lesson. Many teachers are already employing models in their lessons, but at times they are used ineffectively or not nearly as completely as they can be. Rather than submit a list of types of models, which is a lengthy article in itself, this article focuses on one of the most commonly used models. 

Food webs are models that are commonly used in biology, life science, and ecology classrooms. These models, at the simplest level, demonstrate how energy and matter are distributed throughout an ecosystem and enable scientists to predict how a change to one organism or abiotic factor in an ecosystem may affect other populations and the food web as a whole. Unfortunately, food webs are often taught without any real-world context and the effect of a change in the population of one organism is used only to predict how the change might affect another organism immediately proximal to that organism: either above or below it in a food chain or as a competitor. Limiting effects to only proximal organisms in a food web has been the minimal standard in 7th grade Life Science for years, but this limitation makes it difficult for students to understand the rippling or cascading effects that take place throughout a food web in many real-world examples. One cannot understand the concept of “interdependence” without understanding these ripples. 

Students learn to “read” a food web and perhaps even make basic predictions based on the manipulation of certain organisms or abiotic factors in the food web, but often it is a generic application of those concepts using some stock image of a food web. The food web is “a” marine food web or “a” temperate forest biome food web, but not one specific to a real geographical location. Many food webs are available “pre-made” on the internet or in a text book. The exclusive use of these models is something science teachers must move beyond. These may be adequate as an introduction, but ultimately this practice does not meet the criteria for application implied in the new GSE. The implications throughout A Framework for K-12 Science Education seem clear that whenever a lesson can be tied into a real-world situation or problem it should be. Students should be provided with the resources to build their own food webs for a particular habitat or ecosystem, and this is easiest by examining real-world situations for which a wide body of research exists. 

The study on the reintroduction of wolves to the Yellowstone ecosystem is one of the best documented studies of the effects of a top-down disruption of an ecosystem and the phenomenon known as a trophic cascade. While several examples of (a section of) the Yellowstone food web are found on the web, these “models” fall short as a tool for explaining the actual trophic cascade that occurred in Yellowstone. If one has students research only the predator/prey, producer/consumer relationships between Aspen, Willow, Cottonwood, beaver, moose, coyotes, birds of prey, grizzly bears, foxes, small rodents, ravens and magpies, and perhaps a few other organisms, they will be able to gather a great deal of information on the dramatic changes in these species’ populations resulting from the manipulation of the wolf population. Students can be asked to build and use a Yellowstone food web model incorporating these organisms to predict what should happen to the populations of each organism above and use previously learned knowledge to offer ideas about why a particular population might be affected. However, the Yellowstone study also provides some excellent examples of instances where an actual effect of the extirpation or the reintroduction of the wolves should not have happened or, if it happened, it was not for the reasons the model predicted. It is an excellent opportunity for them to observe that all models have limitations due to the effects of unknown or unpredictable variables. 

For example, a food web of the Yellowstone ecosystem models that wolves prey on beaver. The extirpation of wolves from Yellowstone, then, should have resulted in an increase in the beaver population based on a model where only proximate changes are predicted. In fact, the beaver population declined dramatically. Following the reintroduction of wolves, the food web model predicts that the population of coyotes would decrease and it did: by 80-90%! But the population did not decrease primarily as a result of competition with the more efficient wolves as one might predict or deduce from examining the food web. In many Yellowstone food webs found online, coyotes and wolves are shown competing for the same prey, but in reality they are not as competitive as the model might indicate. Old, lone wolves eat small prey and coyotes can sometimes collaborate to take down a small elk calf or scavenge wolf kills, however, neither action is common enough to result in the dramatic change that did take place in the coyote population. The decrease in the coyote population was a result in large measure to the wolves' apparent dislike of coyotes. The coyotes were run off or chased down and killed by the wolves (see the documentary In the Valley of the Wolves). In the video, difficult to predict limiting factors such as disease wreak havoc on recruitment (through birth) during one pupping season and then bizarre behavior by a rival pack during the following pupping season which resulted in the collapse of a once mighty pack of wolves. After reading the article and watching the documentary referenced above, students can revisit their original predictions of what should have happened and compare them to what actually happened. As an extension activity, students can develop a claim, evidence, reasoning (CER) argument using livestock deaths in the greater Yellowstone region to determine whether, as argued by many ranchers, wolves are responsible for the majority of livestock predation. 

Other interesting case studies involve the dynamics of the wolf/moose population on Isle Royale (; and; the trophic cascade that resulted from the rinderpest virus spreading from cattle to wildebeest in Sub-Saharan Africa; and the trophic cascade that occurred as a result of a decrease in the sea otter population along the Pacific Coast. Each of these examples focuses on an organism referred to as a “keystone” species, one that has a disproportionate effect on the ecosystem. Scientists now know that a keystone species can come from any level of a food web: the wolf as an apex predator, the otter as a secondary consumer, the wildebeest as a primary consumer. Each of these phenomena is well documented and supported by readily available data. 

The Isle Royale study also provides an excellent study in the effects of genetic bottlenecking as the moose and wolf population are now experiencing the adverse effects of that phenomenon. Another real-world ecological model might involve the management of the commercial fisheries in the U.S. The backdrop could be the crash of the Atlantic fisheries off the northeastern U.S. and Canada in the 1970’s and 1980’s due to lack of regulation on harvest limits, aka, the “tragedy of the commons.” After studying the phenomenon, students can develop a management plan and then compare their plans to the sustainable fisheries practices developed by Alaska to manage their crab, groundfish, and salmon fisheries. A culminating activity for students in Georgia can be an examination of the effects of the dramatic increase in the coyote population on local ecosystems. These invasive or perhaps introduced predators by some estimations are killing an alarming number of the whitetail fawns born in some areas of the state. 

The trophic cascade phenomena examples incorporate a host of 3D elements. Practices include asking questions and defining problems, developing and using models, and analyzing and interpreting data. Crosscutting concepts include cause and effect: mechanism and explanation; system and system models; stability and change, etc. Core ideas include interdependent relationships within ecosystems and ecosystem dynamics, functioning, and resilience. Cycles of matter and energy transfer can also be incorporated into the the beginning of the unit. The idea of incorporating models into instruction need not be intimidating. As our educational practices evolve to address the Framework and our new Science GSE more effectively, our understanding of what constitutes a model, our ability to teach modeling, and our ability to evaluate models will develop. As with any skills that need refining, starting with models that we already use such as food webs and working toward making these a more effective component of instruction allows us to start within our comfort zone and expand from there.

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Submit Your Phenomenal Ideas

We hope you've already taken advantage of the most popular resource our GSTA's website, the GSE Phenomena Bank. The bank gets better and more useful with each new entry, and we would love to see the ideas you and your colleagues are coming up with as you plan for the coming year. You don't need a full lesson, just a good phenomenon and basic ideas about how you might use it. It will only take you a few minutes to submit your ideas here. We already have more than 170 entries, but we hope you will help us add even more!
Website Under Renovation

You might have noticed that GSTA's website is undergoing major renovations to modernize our site, bring you new resources to support the GSE, and streamline navigation. During this process, you will notice pages missing.  These will be restored with new content as soon as possible.  Please be patient as we make these changes and check back often to see our progress.
REGISTRATION NOW OPEN: Science on My Mind - 2018 NSTA National Conference is Coming to Atlanta, March 15-18

NSTA's 2018 National Conference will be in Atlanta, March 15-18. The conference is being planned collaboratively by NSTA and a local planning committee with strong GSTA representation. The result will be a combination of nationally prominent presenters, thousands of science teachers from across the country, and programming that is directly relevant to Georgia science teachers. The conference theme will be Science on My Mind, and the meeting will feature the following strands.
  • Focusing On Evidence of 3D Learning
  • Imagining Science as the Foundation for STEM
  • Reflecting On Access for All Students
  • Comprehending the Role of Literacy in Science
Mark these dates on your calendar and begin talking to your school or district about the value of this incredible professional learning opportunity. If you have never attended an NSTA conference, you can learn more here.
Sponsored by:
Phenomenal Science Fun With GPB Education & Discover Education

Phenomenal Science Fun is a powerful evening of learning, sharing, and connecting around the new Georgia Standards of Excellence for Science.

For this event, we are providing opportunities for you to connect with local educational resources, led by Georgia Public Broadcasting and Discovery Education, that will help you to bring the new standards to life in your classroom. Join fellow area educators in a roundtable format to brainstorm ideas and walk away with ready to implement lessons and strategies that you can use right away in your own classroom.

We'll review the updates and allow you to spend time with each of our educational partners in grade level groups, learning, sharing, and connecting.

  • September 26, 2017
  • 6:30 - 8:30 PM
  • Free Parking at GPB (260 NW 14th Street, Atlanta GA)

We hope to have a diverse set of voices to provide compelling resources and insights into ideas for helping you to address the new Science GSE. We can't wait to share, learn, and connect with you! We are excited to learn with

  • GPB Education
  • Discovery Education
  • Georgia Department of Education
  • Georgia Science Teachers Association
  • High Museum of Art
  • Tellus Science Museum
  • Fernbank Science Center
  • and More

The cost is free. We'll provide refreshments, and you bring your curiosity and ideas around innovation. See you on September 26th. Space is limited. Register here.

Free Registration for Education Perfect Science Championships

The Education Perfect Science Championships will take place from the 14th to the 21st of August this year and as a GSTA member you can register all your students for free. The Education Perfect Science Championships is a 7-day event run during National Science Week 2017. This is a great opportunity to motivate and inspire all students and raise the profile of Science at your school. The content follows the Australian Curriculum, NSW Syllabus, Victorian Curriculum and New Zealand Curriculum so this is a brilliant chance for students to revise and consolidate what they are learning in Science. Use the code GSTA to REGISTER NOW!

Engage Your Students in the Congressional App Challenge

The third annual Congressional App Challenge (CAC) has now launched and will run through November 1, 2017. The CAC is a congressional initiative to encourage student engagement in coding and computer science through local app challenges hosted by the Members of Congress. K-12 students in the following Georgia Congressional districts may participate.

The CAC aims to bridge the gendergeographic, and racial gaps in tech. In its first two years, the program yielded 239 challenges across 33 states. Over 1,150 apps were created by nearly 4,000 students, and participant demographics surpassed all industry diversity metrics, with young women representing 30% of all competitors. This year, the Congressional App Challenge will strive to build upon those numbers. Learn more here.


Science Video Guides

Students love to watch popular science videos from favorites like Bill Nye the Science Guy, but how do you help students stay focused and retain content while watching the programs? At, K–12 teachers can access video worksheets to accompany more than 200 physical, Earth, and life science videos from series such as Bill Nye, Magic School Bus, and NOVA Science. Many of the guides include versions with word banks for students who need additional help to complete the task.

Who, Me? A Scientist?

Targeted for students in grades 3–5, this STEM lesson from helps students see themselves as scientists. In the activity, students watch a short video and a demonstration of a discrepant event. The follow-up classroom discussion helps students understand that curiosity, perseverance, and the ability to solve problems are qualities they possess.

Self-Assessment and Reflection for Middle School Students

Have you wondered how to help your middle school students become more thoughtful, independent learners? Mary Bigelow answers that question in this NSTA Blog post.

Make the upcoming Solar Eclipse a Learning Experience!

As most of you know, on August 21, 2017 we will experience a solar eclipse. This is a perfect example of a scientific phenomenon for all of us to study with our students. If you are looking for materials and resources for your students, I have the perfect webpage for you! This page is created by members of the American Astronomical Society Solar Eclipse Task Force and includes a list of valuable websites, PDFs, an online course, the proper way to view an eclipse, and videos for all grade levels. Make this eclipse an experience your students will never forget!

Solar Eclipse Across America Webpage

Are You Looking for Inspiring Science Lessons?

Mystery Science is an amazing science website that begins with a mystery to hook your students and utilizes the students’ creativity and critical thinking skills to participate in scenarios and experimentation to solve the scientific mysteries. Every lesson concludes with hands-on investigations using easy, inexpensive materials. No longer are students bombarded with just learning vocabulary (as done in the past), now they are using their thinking skills and collaborating with their classmates to solve a variety of real life scientific situations and questions. The website was created for grade K-5, but is definitely a valuable resource for middle school teachers as well. It is free until next summer, so check it out. I guarantee you will love it!

Mystery Science

Help Your High School Students Develop Data Literacy

Data literacy has become increasingly more important for all levels of high school science. For the high school sciences there are three highlighted resources below that can help teachers use data in the classroom. First are the HHMI Data Points series. These biology and ecology related documents provide a published data graph and scaffolding to help you use it in your class. A new data point is released each month. The second resource is AAAS Science in the Classroom annotated research papers. Here students can perform close reading of select Science papers. Students can use the “learning lens” by clocking on categories to reveal them highlighted in the paper. For example, if a student wanted to see all things related to the experiment, the learning lens will highlight those parts. This resource provides papers across the science disciplines. Lastly, Data Nuggets provides quantitative data sets for you to use in your classroom. Provided are the phenomenon, teacher guide, graphing activities and a grading rubric. All Data Nuggets and Data Points are keyed to various standards and frameworks.

Check out these three free resources and incorporate more data literacy to your classroom this fall!

Teaching Energy Concepts? New Online Course and Media for Science Teachers and Their Students

Energy: A Multidisciplinary Approach for Teachers (EMAT) is an online course for high school science teachers. We developed it for teachers, but it’s chock full of resources that teachers might use with high school students.

Energy ideas are fundamental to all areas of science. Our goal is to help teachers learn more about energy ideas and, in turn, help their students understand energy, too. When our kids understand key energy concepts, they will be better prepared to actively participate as citizens in making energy decisions as part of our rapidly changing economy.

BSCS developed the EMAT course in collaboration with Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB), the National Teachers Enhancement Network (NTEN) of Montana State University, the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), and the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC). EMAT is NOW AVAILABLE! You can access EMAT hereRegister with the Rise learning management system (it’s free) and then choose EMAT from the course catalog.

Ecology Teacher PD Fellowships

Ecology Project International (EPI), an international education & conservation nonprofit, has just opened the application period for their 2018 Teacher Fellowships, which will take place in Costa Rica, Baja California Sur, and Yellowstone National Park. These are 8-day professional development opportunities geared toward high school and college-level educators interested in experiential education and conservation. All costs are covered by EPI save a $350 program fee and the participant's airfare to the program site.

Educators can review the programs' focus areas, watch a promo video, and submit an application via our website. The application will close on September 1st.

Notes From the Editors

Share Your Great Ideas! Write for eObservations

Have a great lesson or idea to share? Contribute to eObservations and gain recognition for your great work with students by submitting an article for publication. Each month, we feature articles of ~500-750 words that fit into one of the three series described below. We also invite classroom-oriented education research, or K-12 student scientific research. Articles should include 1-2 supporting images and one or more links to additional information or supporting files. Articles can be submitted to submitted via email.

Implementing the Science GSE

This series is intended to build teachers' capacity for the new Science Georgia Standards of Excellence and to increase their understanding of the Framework for K-12 Science Education by highlighting model classroom lessons that support students in three-dimensional science learning. Articles should describe lessons that challenge students to integrate core ides, science & engineering practices, and crosscutting concepts to explain phenomena or solve problems.

Connecting Research & Best Practice

This series is intended to help teachers incorporate research-based best practices into their science and STEM classrooms. Articles should focus on curriculum, instructional, or assessment approaches that are demonstrated to support science learning within the context of Georgia's student assessment and teacher evaluation systems. Each article should provide relevant background information and practical guidance for classroom implementation.

Speaking Up for Science Education
This series offers a space for GSTA members to share their perspectives on key issues facing science education in our state and nation. We seek articles that inform and support members in acting as leaders and advocates for science education on the local, state, and national levels.
Have Something to Share with GSTA Members?

GSTA seeks to share announcements, information, and resources from not-for-profit or government-sponsored programs at no cost. We also offer paid advertising options for commercial interests that align with GSTA's goals. Please visit GSTA's Newsletter Information for details.
Have Something to Share with GSTA Members?

GSTA seeks to share announcements, information, and resources from not-for-profit or government-sponsored programs at no cost. We also offer paid advertising options for commercial interests that align with GSTA's goals. Please visit GSTA's Newsletter Information for details.


eObservations Co-editors: Dr. Amy Peacock and Dr. Jeremy Peacock
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