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New state science standards equip students with skills to pursue opportunities within and beyond STEM fields

Upwards of 3,000 Popsicle sticks and 1,000 ping pong balls were just some of the materials packed into science experiment kits for our K-5 graders for this trimester.

Teachers and library resource specialists assemble hundreds of boxes containing new science unit developed for Sunnyvale students by Sunnyvale teachers.

Sunnyvale School District staff and teachers have been hard at work adapting science lessons to meet California’s new state standards for science, called the Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS).

The new standards are based on research about how students best learn science and connects scientific principles to real-world situations. Students are asked to think and behave like scientists and engineers, allowing for more engaging and relevant instruction to explore complicated topics. The standards call for teachers to facilitate more hands-on, student-centered learning that empowers students to think on their own, problem solve, communicate, and collaborate—in addition to learning important scientific concepts.

While the standards have been established, the actual instructional materials have not and likely won’t be adopted by the state until the fall of 2018. So in the meantime, local districts, schools, and classroom teachers have been in the process of determining their own lesson plans, including what is taught throughout the year and how it is taught.

A core team comprised of a dozen K-5th-grade Sunnyvale School District teachers spent the summer and fall designing a physical science unit to be aligned with the standards. In planning the lessons for this year, the team of teachers pulled from a variety of existing science curricula from across the country and customized it to meet the needs of Sunnyvale students.

On Dec. 9, representatives of the science team alongside district library resource specialists took over the District Office board room to assemble boxes and boxes of science materials for Upwards of 3,000 Popsicle sticks and 1,000 ping pong balls were just some of the materials packed into science experiment kits for our K-5 graders for this trimester.elementary teachers. The unit kits assembled by the science team contained upwards of 3,000 Popsicle sticks and 1,000 ping pong balls to name just a few of the materials.

The curriculum for this year is inquiry-based with a lot of hands-on components such as lessons about energy that have students build cars using rubber bands for propulsion, and explore kinetic energy through roller coaster design. While there are a variety of science kits already in circulation, Jane Chen, Sunnyvale School District instructional coach said she and other teachers in the district wanted to create something with their own stamp on it.

“We wanted to come out with a unit that was more teacher developed,” Chen said. “We’ve known that the NGSS curriculum standards were out but not the curriculum, so we embodied the key concepts and got to work.”

During summer and fall professional development, Sunnyvale School District middle school science teachers also came together to develop one NGSS unit for this school year. The curricula incorporates physical, life, and earth science in all three grade levels for the first time. Previously, sixth graders studied earth science, seventh graders studied life science and eighth graders studied physical science.

During this transition, the district has also partnered with the Santa Clara County Office of Education. Science Coordinators co-facilitated Elementary and Middle School Science Leadership Teams.

For more information about the new standards, please visit, or


Shout out to the District Science Unit Writing Team!

Kindergarten and First Second and Third Fourth and Fifth
Lindsay Jacobson Heather Willhalm Cheryl Miyake
Anna Miller Jamie Torrano Joe Gabent
Faith Manundo Allyson Guida Brittany Jansen
Francesca Gutierrez Heather Willhalm

Article by Sunnyvale School District Communications Coordinator Alia Wilson and Instructional Coach Jane Chen.

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