April 2016 – Vol. 28 No. 8

Apply Today to Assist in New Science Assessment Item Writing

by Jessica Sawko

One of the number one questions that has been posed by teachers since the adoption of the California Next Generation Science Standards in 2013 is: “What about the assessments?” (or some version of that question). Last month, we reported the most recent information available on that topic and since then work has launched to being writing and reviewing assessment items for the new science summative assessment.

Many of you may have already put your names “into the hat” to participate in this process. For those of you who have not and would like to be considered for such an opportunity, I urge you to submit your application today: http://caaspp.org/reviewers.html. CDE’s testing contractor Educational Testing Services (ETS) is soliciting applications for content reviewers for the new CA NGSS assessment and alternate assessment.

This is your opportunity to participate in the implementation of the California NGSS and the new science summative assessment. Seize the moment and apply today!

Hitting the Wall: When Your District Isn’t Behind NGSS

by Joanne Michael

It’s coming…NGSS implementation. You’ve been going to the CSTA conferences to learn more, reading articles, following the “Early Implementers” twitter handle (@earlyimplement), and are excited to start trying out all of the new standards and lessons. One hiccup… your district isn’t ready to begin implementing-in fact, is telling you directly to NOT begin transitioning your lessons for at least another year. What’s a motivated, focused science teacher to do?

This exact situation is what I am in right now. To be fair, my district is beginning to implement in the middle school level and preparing for implementation at the high school level, but we were given direct instructions to not begin implementing any lessons at the elementary level for a bit longer (to give the classroom teachers a chance to adapt to the new Common Core math and ELA curriculum and standards). While frustrating, there are some things that can be done in the interim before getting the go-ahead to begin implementation. Learn More…

Is NGSS the End of Science Fair?

by Peter A’Hearn

It’s science fair season again and time for my annual love/hate relationship with the science fair.

I love science fair because it gets some kids really excited about doing science and going deep into a topic which is where the real learning occurs. I love that families get excited and do science together—how powerful for kids and parents to work together to learn something new! I love talking to kids who are excited about their projects and what they did. My own daughters’ science fair projects have been among the most powerful learning they have done in their school years. Not just in science, but in reading, writing, learning how to do research, applying math, and being able to present themselves. Learn More…

Activity Mania, This Is Not!

by Terry Shanahan

In preparation for the summer 2015 Southern California K-8 NGSS Early Implementation Institute in Vista, our grade 2 cadre of science educators from elementary, secondary, and the university, planned a week of science investigations around matter and its interactions. Of course, we began our planning with the question, “What would you expect a second grader to know about matter?” After our quick write, we began our conceptual flow, using post-its for each of our statements. We then checked our conceptual flow against “A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Cross-Cutting Concepts, and Core Ideas”. Had we left out any important concepts? Our biggest idea became: Matter is observable and it is not created or destroyed even as it changes form. Our conceptual flow moved from left to right: concrete to abstract. Our smaller ideas and the concepts we found in the Framework document later became the guiding statement for each day of our institute: Learn More…

Continuous Assessment Through Questioning

by Sue Campbell

At the beginning of my teaching career I believed that I could tell how well students understood the concepts I was teaching by their test scores. I equated tests with assessments and limited my view of assessments to tests or quizzes. Little did I know or understand how ineffective that view was! At some point I was introduced to formative assessments, which broadened my view of assessments considerably. Good formative assessments require that the students explain their thinking. Page Keeley’s Formative Assessment books published by NSTA are a good source. It was enlightening. It was also disconcerting to discover that some students could pass tests but when faced with a formative assessment, they could not explain their thinking or their reasoning was faulty. Learn More…

Common Assessments Using Science Practices

by Janet Lee

It can be difficult to develop common assessments for one group of teachers, even harder for a group of teachers from the same department. However, thanks to NGSS, teachers can teach around a science practice and assess that as an entire department to help students grow as they develop a skill over many years. NGSS looks at not just course content, but concepts and practices that can be used at any level.

The Gilroy High School Science department has used professional learning communities (PLC’s) to help students grow around two science practices. The first is analyzing and interpreting data (SEP 4) and the second is writing and communicating scientific information using claim, evidence, reasoning (SEP 8). Both of these were selected due to their overlap with CCSS in English and Math and can be found in Appendix F. Learn More…

Conservation and Primary Students

by Joey Noelle Lehnhard

As an educator at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, I think about conservation a lot. The mission of the Aquarium is “to inspire conservation of the ocean,” and that straight-forward principle is at the center of everything we do. For teacher professional development, we host workshops that focus on current marine issues, such as ocean acidification, biodiversity, overfishing, oil spills, and ocean plastic pollution. However, my focus is on elementary education, and inspiring conservation in 2nd graders requires something very different.

Sometimes, as educators who care deeply about the environment, we think that our elementary students can handle these dense topics. We want our curriculum to be rigorous and so we boil down complex concepts into something that they can relate to and understand. Sometimes that works out, but, in the case of conservation education, it can backfire. Learn More…

Experience the Wonders of California Marine Life

by Laura O’Dell

Now at CSTA discounted rates!


If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.” –Loren Eiseley

There is no other place full of wonder and possibilities than our oceans. What better place to explore the wonder of marine life than California’s own Monterey Bay Aquarium? If your summer travel plans include a trip to the Central Coast of California, a stop at the Aquarium is a must. Located in Monterey’s historic Cannery Row waterfront, the Aquarium is the gold-standard for marine life exhibits. Not only will a visit remind you of the sense of wonder that led you to become a science teacher, the Aquarium can provide you with resources that enhance your knowledge and skills as you navigate the NGSS. Learn More…

Celestial Highlights for April and May 2016

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Planet rising and setting graphs by Jeffrey L. Hunt.

Jupiter, and Sirius until it departs, continue to dominate evening sky (April and May). This year’s best evening appearance of Mercury in mid-April precedes its transit across the Sun on May 9. Mars kindles to its brightest and closest since 2005. Mars-Saturn-Antares triangle, prominent in morning, rises earlier in evening as weeks pass. “Blue Moon” and Red Mars team up on May 21. Don’t miss this spring’s chances to get close-up telescopic views of other planets!

Apr. 7–New Moon 4:24 a.m. PDT. Moon at perigee 11 a.m. Large tides!

Apr. 8–Young crescent Moon, age 39 hours, easy to see in twilight. Look for Mercury to Moon’s lower right, and earthshine on dark side of Moon.

Apr. 10–Moon occults Aldebaran in daytime (use telescope). In evening, find this star and Hyades cluster closely lower right of Moon, a spectacular sight for binoculars!

Apr. 12–Spica at opposition, visible all night. Learn More…

Join K-12 Schools in Energy Conservation!

PG&E is kicking off their 2016 Energize Schools Energy Conservation Competition and calling on you to help us find our next champions! This April 13th-May 3rd, students and faculty in schools throughout northern California will compete to save electricity in a competition sponsored by PG&E. Registration is free and is open to all K-12 schools in PG&E territory now!

All you need is one student or faculty member to sign up their K-12 school and the impact can be huge: on average schools save 5-10% on their utility bill while reducing their school’s carbon footprint and increasing their environmental awareness. Once they sign up, participants receive a full suite of educational and planning materials, performance updates, an Energy Advisor to answer questions and support their team’s goals. Cash prizes are available for competition winners! Learn More…

Do I hear 51?

by Lisa Hegdahl

Who is the California Science Teachers Association (CSTA)?

If you ask someone, they may answer this question by saying, “They are the people who organize the California Science Education Conference” or “They are advocates for state policies and legislation that support me in inspiring my students” or “As a statewide organization, they provide me with leadership opportunities.” While all of these are correct answers to the question, perhaps a more complete answer would be: 

You are the California Science Teachers Association.

CSTA is a statewide organization that is made up of over 3,000 members, and aside from a small (albeit amazing) office staff, CSTA is run entirely by member volunteers. While sixteen of these volunteers make up the CSTA Board of Directors, the remainder are members at large who give of their valuable time and expertise to make CSTA the leading science educator membership organization in the state of California. It is therefore fitting that the programs and services offered by CSTA exist in large part due to the support of its member volunteers.  Learn More…

Save the Date: 2016 CSTA Conference. Oct. 21-23, Palm Springs

A Few Upcoming Events in Region 1

by Marian Murphy-Shaw

April 14, 2016 – 9am -3pm NGSS Awareness to Practice at the Siskiyou County Office of Education

TK-12 teachers and their principals will be provided time and resources to work with grade-alike colleagues to work on local transition to the 2013 California Science Standards.

or contact 842-8436/e-mail: hjankowski@siskiyoucoe.net

May 10, 2016 – Project WET – EEI Workshop for K-8 Teachers
Registration will close Friday, April 29, 2016 Learn More…

Update from Region 2

by Minda Berbeco

Hey Greater Bay Area,

Being stuck inside due to the rain this winter has been both a blessing (hurray for rain!) and a curse (what do we do inside all day!!) I personally can’t wait to get out this spring, connect with teachers and spend some time with the science of the outdoors! I’m kicking off this month with travel to Nashville for NSTA. If you are planning on being there, send me a note! I love to meet my teachers in Region 2. For those who are going, I’ll be at my organization’s booth: the National Center for Science Education. I’ll also be giving a workshop on the Big Bang (yeah!) with Brian Kruse from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Be sure to come by our workshop. Learn More…

Call for Presenters: Northwest Nevada Math & Science Conference

Looking to take your NGSS presentation on the road? Consider submitting an application to present in the fellow NGSS-adoption state of Nevada!

You are invited to submit a proposal for a 90 minute presentation at the first annual Northwest Nevada Math & Science Conference on Saturday August 27, 2016.  Take this opportunity to share your ideas and enthusiasm and to highlight your successes and challenges with fellow attendees at the inaugural conference. The deadline to submit a proposal is April 22. Learn More…

Don’t Miss Your Chance to Present at an NSTA Conference

The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) is currently accepting proposals for speakers to present at the 2017 National Conference on Science Education in Los Angeles, March 30–April 2. Strands can be viewed here and focus on the Next Generation Science Standards, STEM, science and literacy, and equity. To submit, please click here. The deadline to submit is April 15, 2016. Learn more about NSTA conferences. Questions? Please e-mail conferences@nsta.org. Learn More…

Upcoming Events

8:30 am Project WET Workshop: Modesto
Project WET Workshop: Modesto
May 3 @ 8:30 am – 3:30 pm
STANISLAUS REGION MIDDLE & HIGH SCHOOL EDUCATORS! The Stanislaus County Office of Education and the Water Education Foundation invite you to join us for a Project WET workshop aimed at supporting Common Core & Next[...]
8:30 am Supporting Common Core & Next Ge...
Supporting Common Core & Next Ge...
May 4 @ 8:30 am – 3:30 pm
STANISLAUS REGION ELEMENTARY EDUCATORS! The Stanislaus County Office of Education and the Water Education Foundation invite you to join us for this exciting hands-on workshop highlighting the ability of Project WET activities to help connect[...]
7:00 pm The East Bay Science Cafe @ Cafe Valparaiso
The East Bay Science Cafe @ Cafe Valparaiso
May 4 @ 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Held the first Wednesday of every month in the Cafe Valparaiso on Solano Avenue in Albany from 7 to 9pm. 1403 Solano Ave., Albany, California 94706. The East Bay Science Cafe is an informal forum[...]
1:00 am Cafe Inquiry @ Cafe Borrone
Cafe Inquiry @ Cafe Borrone
May 5 @ 1:00 am – 3:00 am
Meet up with rationalists, skeptics, and freethinkers south of San Francisco.  Cafe Inquiry is a social event hosted by the Center for Inquiry. We’ll meet at Café Borrone between Kepler’s Books and the British Banker’s[...]
8:00 am ‘Getting a GRIP on Groundwater’:...
‘Getting a GRIP on Groundwater’:...
May 7 @ 8:00 am – 4:00 pm
LOS ANGELES BASIN EDUCATORS!  Join us for a groundwater workshop and a teacher field trip as we weave Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs) and Cross Cutting Concepts into the engaging content (DCIs) already featured in[...]
8:00 am Understanding Climate Change in ...
Understanding Climate Change in ...
May 7 @ 8:00 am – 4:00 pm
SACRAMENTO REGION EDUCATORS! Climate change is having a profound impact on California water resources, as evidenced by changes in snowpack, sea level and river flows. Join the Department of Water Resources (DWR) Climate Change team[...]
8:30 am Next Generation Science Saturday @ Sacramento State University Union
Next Generation Science Saturday @ Sacramento State University Union
May 7 @ 8:30 am – 4:40 pm
Next Generation Science Saturday @ Sacramento State University Union | Sacramento | California | United States
Register Now! Our fourth annual Super SIRC: Next Generation Science Saturday is back and bigger than ever with more workshops! By popular request are now offering two Elementary strands, one for K-3rd grade teachers and[...]
9:00 am TEACHER WORKSHOP: The Science an... @ San Diego County Office of Education, Room 402
TEACHER WORKSHOP: The Science an... @ San Diego County Office of Education, Room 402
May 7 @ 9:00 am – 1:00 pm
Project Cornerstone is offering a workshop for elementary and middle school teachers on the science and economics of the natural resources used in producing concrete. These materials are the second most consumed commodities in the[...]
9:00 am Project WET Workshop: Chico @ Chico Creek Nature Center
Project WET Workshop: Chico @ Chico Creek Nature Center
May 14 @ 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
BUTTE COUNTY EDUCATORS! An exciting workshop will focus on ways to enhance water, science, and mathematics education using the hands-on activities of Aquatic WILD and Project WET combined with a unique Nature Center twist. This[...]
8:00 am Next Generation Science Standard... @ Excelsior High School
Next Generation Science Standard... @ Excelsior High School
May 17 @ 8:00 am – May 18 @ 4:30 pm
Rollout #3 Agenda Day 1  7:30 – 8:00 Registering and Continental Breakfast 8:00 – 8:30 Plenary Session, Welcome, and Set-up for the 2 Days 8:30-9:15 CA NGSS Assessment Update 9:15-9:30 Environmental Principles and Concepts 9:45-12:15[...]

Top Posts & Pages

Archived Issues

Subscribe to California Classroom Science
(monthly email)