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Welcome to the Science Teacher Update! Here, you will find ideas to inspire your Next Generation Science Standards implementation for the classroom. We will also showcase student events happening in the Keystone area and, of course, professional development opportunities!


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Science Update for November 2023


Reforming Science Practices

Science Notebooks for Sensemaking

Science notebooks can transcend mere note-taking, serving as active platforms for students to engage in NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) Science and Engineering Practices. By using these notebooks for recording observations, constructing explanations, and interpreting data, students develop critical thinking skills and a deeper understanding of scientific concepts. As opposed to just a place to record the information provided by the teacher, these “sensemaking” notebooks encourage active thinking and revision, fostering a hands-on approach to learning and enabling students to analyze their work and revise scientific models as their ideas develop over time. This approach not only stimulates creativity and critical thinking but also aligns seamlessly with the NGSS, promoting the essential scientific skills required for future endeavors.

Here are a few resources to support introducing a sensemaking student notebook into your classroom:

Additional Keystone Resources:

  • B123713 Notable Notebooks: Scientists and Their Writings

  • B 090684 Using Science Notebooks in Elementary Classrooms

  • B 094488 Teaching Science with Interactive Notebooks

  • KM 010792 Science and Literacy; A Natural Fit


If you would like to try introducing science notebooks into your classroom and are looking for a thought partner for how to start, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at and plan a way we can collaborate!

Media Connections

Vernier Probeware for Physical Science

Data collection is a significant part of of what scientists (both student scientists and professional scientists) do - so much so that two of our science and engineering practices are very closely tied to it:  Planning and Carrying Out Investigations (where we think about the data we might want to collect) and Analyzing and Interpreting Data (where we try to make sense of the data we collected).  Collecting and displaying data are important skills we want our young scientists to develop, but there is also a place for streamlining that process so that more time can be spent on making sense of the data and this is where digital sensors (sometimes called “probeware”) really shine.

Keystone offers a variety of Vernier probes for data collection with students.  Two that are both easy to use and have multiple applications in the physical sciences are the Go! Motion Detector and Go! Temperature Probe.  The Go! Motion probe is used to collect the position, velocity and acceleration data of moving objects, while the Go! Temperature probe allows students to immediately read and display temperature data digitally in a variety of formats.  Both connect directly to a computer or Chromebook USB port making it fast and easy to set up experiments and start collecting a wide range of real-time motion data.

Consider how students could make sense of motion data by physically moving back and forth to match a motion graph while their movement is recorded in real time or using temperature data to decide how to best insulate a water bottle (this article references a FLIR Thermal Camera which Keystone also has for checkout - more on that in a future post!).

You can see all the available probeware and get a description of what they do by visiting Keystone’s Media Catalog.  Navigate to the Keystone Media Catalog Search Page for all the options available (PRO TIP:  In the search, type “Vernier” If you unclick the “All Options” checkbox and click the “Kits” checkbox before searching, you’ll just see the order numbers for the probes).  The materials are packaged in classroom sets of 8, allowing you to have lab groups of 3 in a 24-student classroom.

If you would like to learn more about how to use these probes (or any of the others), please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at and plan a time to do some basic training and planning on how to best integrate these technology resources into your current curriculum.


Science Safety

Chemical Storage

When it comes to K-12 educators managing chemical storage, prioritizing safety is key, as part of our expected duty of care. A few basics are always good to keep in mind, regardless of what grade level you teach:

  • Ensure that containers are meticulously labeled with clear hazard warnings and 

  • Store chemicals in well-ventilated spaces, away from direct sunlight and heat sources. 

  • Make sure to store chemicals separately from incompatible materials (more on that here). 

  • Use the original containers or appropriately labeled secondary containers to help prevent confusion for others who may use or be responsible for the chemicals. 

  • Regularly inspect your chemicals to detect any leaks or damage to containers.

  • Make sure you have the Material Safety Data Sheets for the chemicals you store and that they are readily accessible.

You can learn more about proper storage and handling of chemicals from the American Chemical Society through this recorded webinar or by engaging in the Flinn Science Safety courses.  Both are excellent sources of information around chemical safety and other safety topics for you to consider for your classroom and your students.


Upcoming Opportunities (Professional Learning, Grants, and Student Events)

Northeast Iowa STEM Festival- Manchester, IA

Bring your whole family to the Northeast Iowa Family STEM Festival! Experience FUN Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematic activities at this hands-on event.

  • Thursday, November 16, 2023
  • 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM
  • Community Center (Delaware Co. Fairgrounds) – 200 East Acers Street, Manchester


Student Engagement in the Science Classroom - Iowa Science Learning Community

Explore how increasing student engagement can help students successfully engage with the Iowa science standards and make sense of the world around them.

Online Sessions

  • Dates: Nov 14th, Dec 12th, Jan 23rd, & Feb 13th
  • All sessions 4:00-5:30 PM CT
  • Registration form


Helping Students Critique and Communicate in Science

In this course, participants will explore the Critiquing Practices of the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs) of Iowa Core Science Standards (NGSS) which include Engaging in Argument from Evidence and Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information.

Participants will gain a deeper understanding of these practices, connect to instructional strategies that engage students in these SEPs, and practice implementing them through a Plan-Do-Study-Act cycle.

  • Registration: Course #216083
  • Time: 4-5:30 pm
  • Location: Zoom/Virtual
  • Audience: K-12 educators and instructional coaches
  • Dates: (must attend each of the dates listed below): Jan. 4, Feb. 8, Mar. 5, Apr. 11, Apr. 30


UNI Physics Department Updates

We are focused on preparing students for careers in science and technology after graduation and providing teachers with courses and resources to prepare their students for future success. Here are the highlights:


*SAVE THE DATE* Standards-Based Grading Conference

A Collaborative Assessment Conference for Iowa Schools 

  • Date: June 18, 2023
  • Location: University of Northern Iowa Campus, Cedar Falls

The conference will take place at the University of Northern Iowa and is sponsored by the Institute for Educational Leadership. Participants will have the option to select break-out sessions under two different tracks: SBG1: Getting Started and SBG2: Moving Forward and Sustaining. Registration will begin in February. Click here to learn more.


Engineering Machine Design Contest

The Engineering Machine Design Contest is hosted by Minnesota State Engineering Center for Excellence and is open to  teams of 3-12 students.

Each year a competition theme is chosen to guide the machine build and allow for whimsical creativity to flourish. Students are able to explore science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) principles while having fun in a collaborative environment. This year’s contest theme is “Advancing technology by reverse engineering the body.” Check out the theme introduction video here.

During the competition, student teams design and build a complex machine using everyday objects with the guidance of a coach. There are two divisions: Junior Division (grades 5-8) and Senior Division (grades 9-12)

The completed machine will use multiple steps to complete a simple task. Teams showcase and exhibit their machine at a regional contest with the opportunity to advance to the Engineering Machine Design Championship. Teams are scored on a Team Journal, Team Presentation, and Machine Design and Operation. Click here for more information


Iowa PBS Educator Online Resources Survey

Iowa PBS wants to continue offering meaningful resources, events and initiatives for Iowa's educators. We invite you to take a short survey about your online education resource use in order to better serve you. This survey has 6 questions and will take less than 10 minutes to complete. Your answers will be kept anonymous. Click here to complete the survey


Contact: Jason Martin-Hiner

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Jason Martin-Hiner

School Improvement Facilitator