January/February 2018 – Vol. 31 No. 2

Events in Region 1

Friday, April 1st, 2011

Science in the River City, April 12, 2011, Sacramento, CA

Science in the River City is an outstanding standards-based professional development program for 3rd to 12th grade science teachers. SIRC is held approximately once a month at Sacramento State during the academic year. The program is designed to deepen teachers’ understanding of science (through hands-on, inquiry-based labs and activities) and provide innovative ideas, lessons and strategies for teachers to use in their classrooms. The workshops are taught by university faculty or teacher leaders from the Sacramento Area Science Project.

For more information or to register on-line visit:http://www.csus.edu/mase/sem_inst/sirc.htm

Project WET Workshop, April 29, 2011, Incline Village, NV

The California Project WET program in partnership with the Tahoe Center for Environmental Research, Sierra Watershed Education Partnerships, Nevada and Hawaii Project WET programs, and the Association for Experiential Education invite you to register for this action-packed, pre-conference water education workshop at the Tahoe Center for Environmental Research. The workshop will be focused on the use of Project WET activities to integrate knowledge of local water resources and issues, as well as methods to bring experiential education into the classroom. All participants will receive lunch and walk away with their own Project WET guide. Registration details will be available after February 1, 2011 at: http://west.aee.org/conferences.

Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education Spring Statewide Conference 2011, April 29 – May 1, 2011, Occidental, CA

“Fusion: Bringing It All Together,” held at Westminster Woods Outdoor School in Occidental, features 60+ educational workshops, keynotes, entertainment, job fair, networking. Full conference registration includes conference fees, 5 meals, and lodging or camping option. Day rate also available. Featured speaker Steve Van Matre, the founder of the Institute for Earth Education and author of The Earth Speaks and many other titles, will inspire us to rethink our roles and techniques as environmental educators and interpreters. Saturday night Talent Show followed by a musical performance of Belle Monroe and her Brewglass Boys. For more information visit www.aeoe.org. The Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education supports and inspires educators in their quest for the knowledge, skills, and attitudes essential to help all learners understand, appreciate, and care for their environment. Contact: Tom Drake, Member, AEOE Board of Directors,tom.drake@aeoe.org, Tel: 714) 474-1377.

Events in Region 3

Friday, April 1st, 2011

Water Pollution Prevention Workshop, April 9, 2011, Beverly Hills, CA

Have you ever felt like watershed issues are complex and difficult to grasp? Does the size of your watershed inhibit you from taking action to improve it? When working to improve the health of your watershed, a combination of small modifications can add up to make a big difference. Come learn about three specific watershed restoration projects you can do on your campus or the surrounding community.Click here to register. Or check out the workshop flyer for more details.
At this Water Pollution Prevention Workshop you will learn how to:
• Understand the dynamics of urban watersheds in Los Angeles County
• Utilize watershed management techniques to restore your watershed
• Survey water flow across your campus

Click here to register. Registration Deadline: April 7, 2011
Contact Loyda Ramos at: lramos@treepeople.org or (818) 623-4856.

Paleontology for Educators Workshop – Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology, April 14 – 15, 2011, Claremont, CA

The Paleontology for Educators Workshop is a two-day workshop providing K-12 teachers with a hands-on introduction to paleontology, the study of past life. Each session includes a short course on paleontology, evolution, and earth science, with the aim of illustrating how to present this material in an interactive way to students. Each participant will gain experience in paleontological museum methods, within the setting of an accredited museum. A “Paleontology in the Classroom” book of activities and teaching kit will be given to each participant and made available online. The museum will also make available “classroom kits” for check-out, including real and replica fossils for use in activities in the classroom.

The workshop is hosted at the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology (www.alfmuseum.org), located 30 miles east of Los Angeles in Claremont, in the only accredited natural history museum on a secondary school campus. There is *no cost* to attend this workshop (including all materials, lunch, and snacks), and funding is provided to reimburse school districts for the cost of hiring substitute teachers for workshop participants. For registration information or other questions, please contact museum curator Andy Farke (afarke@webb.org).

Ed Begley, Jr. to Present Keynote Address

Friday, April 1st, 2011

CSTA is pleased to annouce that Ed Begley, Jr. will be the closing keynote speaker for the 2011 California Science Education Conference.

For years Ed Begley, Jr. has been known not only for his acting talent but also for his passion for “living green”. Currently, he is the co-star of the hit Planet Green series Living with Ed, a look at the day-to-day realities of “living green” with his wife Rachelle Carson, who’s not quite as enthusiastic about a rain barrel as he. The series has just finished airing its 3rd season. (more…)

Board of Directors Election 2011-2013 Term

Friday, April 1st, 2011

Voting has begun for the CSTA Board of Directors 2011 – 2013 term. The following board positions are up for election this year: President-Elect, Secretary, Middle/Jr. High Director, Primary Director, Informal Science Education Director, Region 1 Director and Region 3 Director. Click here to view the slate of candidates. (more…)

State of Science Education in California

Friday, April 1st, 2011

The following is a reasonable accounting of the content of my presentation at the Science Matters Town Hall Meeting at the NSTA Conference in San Francisco in early March.

In science, we often talk of things in pairs, action-reaction, oxidation-reduction, dominant and recessive, predator and prey, S-waves and P-waves, Adenine and Thymine, Guanine and Cytocine, and I guess, when asked to comment on the state of science education in California, from the teachers’ perspective, I would have to say that it could be better and it could be worse.

In California, we have a desire and a goal to prepare more students to enter science and, or STEM related fields in college, yet our state only requires two years of science for graduation from high school. This lack of commitment to the importance of science as a part of the core curriculum results in a wide range of science achievement amongst high school students. For example, The Sacramento Bee recently reported dramatic gains in test scores for students in some California schools, yet statewide CST and NAEP test data clearly show that many California students are lagging behind in science proficiency. That same NAEP data reveals that there is no longer a significant difference in the performance of males and females on national assessments, yet African American and Latino students as well as students of poverty score as much as 32 points lower than their white and Asian peers on these same tests. Clearly, dramatic gains in test scores are not universal. There are still large populations of students struggling to achieve in science.

Part of the discrepancy in achievement levels lies in the structural treatment of science as a component of the curriculum. With the onset of the State Assessment Program, California developed a set of gold-level science content standards outlining the content for all grade levels. Unfortunately, in the implementation of those standards, we only assess science for all students in grades 5, 8, and 10. The implication of this testing format is that little science is taught in elementary schools before grade 5. At a critical, formative time in their developmental lives, many children in California are not receiving any science instruction or, at best, woefully inadequate instruction for a few minutes each week. In essence, the statewide focus on math and literacy, both in curricula and assessment, results in an early childhood curricula that is devoid of the rich, thought-provoking experiences that science provides.  This dearth of quality science instruction at an early age robs students of the foundational knowledge and curiosity necessary for accessing more advanced studies in science and technology.

As science teachers, we want our students to propose experiments, collect and analyze data, and draw evidence based conclusions – yet the policy makers increase class size, decrease budgets, and expect teachers to cover all of the standards associated with content-rich areas and to do this in less than 85% of the instructional days in any given academic year.

To say that science teachers in California are confused and perplexed by the mixture of messages that they are receiving about what, how much, and how to teach science would be an understatement. When the California science content standards were adopted and implemented in 1998, teachers’ first comments focused on the number of standards to be covered, the age appropriateness of the content, and the vast amount of detail that students were expected to “know”.  Their sense of being overwhelmed was only exacerbated when teachers realized, and in many cases were told, that science instruction was not considered a core content area. The significance of this decision lay in the fact that that if science was not considered part of the core curriculum, and if it was not going to be tested at every grade level, then it would not be taught at those levels. Unfortunately, this is exactly what we are seeing in many, if not most, elementary schools today. Science has been de-emphasized or eliminated from the core curriculum due to the fact that science test scores represent only 7 percent of an elementary school’s measure of Academic Progress Indicators (API).

The ultimate result of these factors is only now becoming clear. Students are beginning their first real exposures to science in the seventh grade. By this late date, they universally lack the six years of foundational science that is described in the standards, and that would engage students in thinking critically about the world, how it works, and how it applies to their lives.

In California, we talk about our technology-based economy. Our leaders promote the idea that a reinvestment in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics will encourage more people to pursue STEM-based studies and careers, and that this reinvestment will ultimately return California and the nation to a leadership role in new and emerging fields of science, medicine, and technology. Yet current policies and practices have resulted in exactly the opposite effect. Enrollment in STEM majors, and the pursuit of science or STEM-based careers has failed to keep up with the national and worldwide demand for a scientifically literate population.

In California, we must explore ways to challenge the status quo and to promote more science instruction in schools. We must work to convince the decision makers and stakeholders that science is a key part of our future. We must be ready to invest the time and energy to promote high-quality instruction and assessment of science at all grade levels. Finally we must be willing to make the sacrifices that will be necessary to ensure that this vision of a return to a leadership role for California, and the nation, happens. To quote a friend, “The current emphasis on STEM careers and the emerging conversation about the need to regain our economic vigor has opened the door for science education by just a crack. As science education professionals, we can push the door open and enter the new age of science education in California or we can let the door shut. One moves us forward into the 21st century and the other will maintain a status quo born in the 1990s.”

A Year in the Life of Two First Year Teachers: Part Seven

Friday, April 1st, 2011

by Rick Pomeroy, with Sara and Ellen

It has been a busy few months for Sara and Ellen. Both have been enrolled in a masters of arts in education program as a continuation of their teaching credential programs.  That program wrapped up on the first weekend in March with Sara and Ellen presenting their research along with nine other first or second year science teachers. Listening to their presentation was inspiring and provided me with lots of ideas for my State of Science Education in California presentation at NSTA in San Francisco.  All of the students investigated ways to improve student learning by looking at their own teaching techniques.  The overwhelming finding, regardless of subject matter or grade level, was that students have become skilled at answering simple, formulaic problems but almost totally incapable of applying that same knowledge to the same questions when it was asked as part of a word problem or a scenario questions. Whether calculating density, speed, or molar masses, or connecting chemistry concepts to real life examples, the students in their studies struggled tremendously with applying their rote knowledge to problem solving situations.  As a way of honoring the effort that Sara and Ellen put into their projects and to give them a little breathing room at the end of their M.A. program, I have included their research questions and a summary of their findings, conclusions, or implications here for you to enjoy. (more…)

The Search Is Over, Full Speed Ahead!

Friday, April 1st, 2011

by Tim Williamson

When Christine Bertrand, our wonderful executive director, announced her retirement last fall, I appointed a search/transition committee to fulfill the difficult task of replacing her. The committee members were Rick Pomeroy (chair), Dean Gilbert, Meg Burke, and I. We spent numerous hours discussing the restructuring of our CSTA office in Sacramento and finding a new executive director. Included in these discussions were the financial stability of the association (past, present, and future), the number of staff members needed to meet the present and future needs of the association, and of course, the qualifications and responsibilities of a new executive director. (more…)

Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Lesson Plans

Friday, April 1st, 2011

by Heather A. Marshall

We have all heard by now about the recent 9.0 earthquake off the coast of Japan and the resulting tsunami. (more…)

If Dr. Phil were a Science Educator…

Friday, April 1st, 2011

by Donna L. Ross

My friends, let’s call them John and Karen, are a couple in their late 30s who have been married for ten years. For the past three years, Karen has felt ready to have a child;  John does not believe they are financially ready. He wants to wait until they have saved enough for all likely contingencies.

Another couple, Paul and Susan, friends of my parents, plan to retire in seven to eight years. Paul would like to begin traveling now, taking one trip each year. Susan says there will be plenty of time to travel when they retire; but for now, there is just too much work at the office.  She doesn’t feel comfortable taking any of her vacation time.

At the risk of sounding like Dr. Phil, here are some things I imagine saying after I listen to my friends.

To John and Karen: you’ll never be completely ready. You should plan as well as you can, but ultimately you just have to jump in, knowing you might need to work a little longer or harder down the road.  Somehow, with just a little planning it seems to work out and be worth the effort.

To Susan and Paul: don’t live just for the future.  There will always be demands on your time and an increasing number of expectations.  By putting off the things you want to try, you risk losing the opportunity. Or, consider this question, is there a reason you don’t want to do it?  If you value something, you will find a way to fit it into your busy schedule now, instead of putting it off until that magical time when you are “caught up” with everything.

To the readers:  if you’ve stuck with me this far, you are probably asking…what does this have to do with science education?  I spend a lot of time considering these same responses as I listen to teachers in different districts, schools, and grades.

I think of my advice to Susan when I hear elementary teachers say “I am going to teach science as soon as I have more time” or “I am going to teach science as soon as I finish the math and language arts standards my students need for the tests.”

I think of my advice to Susan when I hear secondary teachers say “I want to do more labs and student-centered activities, but I can’t until after the state tests.”

I think of my advice to John and Karen when I hear all teachers say “I read about inquiry, but my students aren’t ready for it” or “I’ll try some inquiry labs as soon as I know a little more about how to engage my students.” or “Our school doesn’t have enough equipment to do labs.”

Try it.  Go back and read my responses to my friends. Substitute the family challenges with science teaching issues. You might be surprised how well the same advice fits both scenarios.

I think if Dr. Phil were a science educator, he might say the following:  We find a way to do the things we value. Even without enough time or resources, we figure out a way to embrace the aspects of our lives that are most important to us.  Teachers do the same thing every day.

The instructional choices you make with each lesson reflect your values about science education. Imagine Dr. Phil is watching your class, what do your actions say about your beliefs?

Donna Ross is associate professor of science education at San Diego State University and is CSTA’s 4-year college director.

California Science Project Announces New Executive Director

Friday, April 1st, 2011

by Jim Postma and Jean Treiman

We are very pleased to announce the appointment of Maria C. Simani, Ph.D. as the executive director of the California Science Project (CSP) effective July 1, 2011. The central mission of the California Science Project is to develop and enhance teachers’ content knowledge and to support teaching practices to improve science learning for students in grades K-12. Dr. Simani brings a wealth of experience in research science, professional development for teachers, and in establishing partnerships with the educational and private sectors. (more…)

Region 2 News and Events

Friday, April 1st, 2011

by Eric Lewis

It’s been another fantastic time for us in our region.  The NSTA conference in San Francisco just finished up and science educators from throughout California, in addition to the rest of the U.S., were joined with science educators from China, Chile and other countries from around the world.  Generally, the conference was really well received, though I personally, was both frustrated and pleased that we had so many folks attending from California that were not members of CSTA. (The pleased part was that many folks signed up to join CSTA during the convention–including teachers from out of state!) (more…)

Grade Level Curriculum for K-5 Available from CDE

Friday, April 1st, 2011

CDE is offering a new online publication entitled, A Look at Kindergarten Through Grade Five in California Public Schools. The publication is in an easy-to-reference format where all subjects are grouped together by grade levels, highlighting each content area and adopted California standards. (more…)

What is it?

Friday, April 1st, 2011

Photo of the Month


Cordyceps: Attack of the Killer Fungi

Friday, April 1st, 2011

Sir David Attenborough and the Planet Earth team discover the weird world of the Cordyceps; killer fungi that invades the body of an insect to grow and diminish the insect population. Fascinating animal and wildlife video from the BBC epic natural world masterpiece ‘Planet Earth’.

Skywatching Activities, April and May 2011

Friday, April 1st, 2011

by Robert Victor

Several bright stars of April evenings will depart by the end of the school year. Watch them go! The April Sky Calendar and Evening Skies star map are available at www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/ABDNHAMar-AprSkies/.

Each year in the April evening sky, a large oval of bright stars, called the Winter Ellipse, or Winter Hexagon, heads toward the western horizon. Rigel, in the foot of Orion, the Hunter, will be the first of these stars to depart near the end of April. Next, in order of disappearance from mid-northern latitudes, are: (more…)

What is it March explanation

Friday, April 1st, 2011

Photo of the Month“Blue Button”

Credit: Robert Krampf, the Happy Scientist

Explanation: This is a Blue Button (Porpita porpita), a type of colonial hydrozoan related to the Portuguese Man-o-War. While it looks like a jellyfish, it is actually a colony of tiny creatures attached to the chitinous disc, which is hollow and filled with air to let the colony float. It does have stinging cells, which can be irritating, but are not dangerous to people. It is very similar to Velella velella, the by-the-wind sailor, but it does not have the small sail like the sailor.

Responses from readers:

Dawn Upsidedown By-the-wind sailor jellyfish, Velella velella
Jeff I agree – V. vella, a hydrozoan jellyfish.
Vicki Wawerchak Porpita porpita, blue button jellyfish. Not a true jelly.
Paul Porpita, a neustonic jelly.

CSTA LogoJoin Today!

Not a member of CSTA? Join/Renew today:

CSTA One Year Membership ($50)

Joint NSTA/CSTA Membership ($114 – a $129 value)