January/February 2018 – Vol. 31 No. 2

Move Fast or Move Slow?

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

by Peter A’Hearn

The CST tests are now well on their way out. There are science tests at grades 5, 8, and 10 set to take place at the end of the 2014 school year, but they will not affect a school’s AYP (they never have) and most likely will not affect a school’s API, which will likely be frozen for two years. Even when testing was still an issue, there was plenty that teachers eager to shift toward NGSS could do and now that the testing pressure is off, more teachers are looking at making the real changes that NGSS will require. (more…)

New CSTA Membership Benefits Ring in the New Year!

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

by Lisa Hegdahl

The California Science Teachers Association works diligently to serve science educators across the state. We do this by providing:

  • timely content of California Classroom Science 12 times per year
  • up-to-date information concerning California’s adoption of NGSS provided through, among other forums, town hall meetings, NGSS resource page on the CSTA website, California Classroom Science, and e-mail blasts
  • reduced registration fees to the annual California Science Education Conference (and the 2014 NSTA Long Beach Area Conference – in Collaboration with CSTA)
  • exclusive, member-only e-mail alerts on hot topics and issues
  • representation for members at the state level to influence state policies that enhance the profession

It is no wonder thousands of California science teachers are proud CSTA members. And now, with the 2014 New Year, CSTA has added additional membership benefits! (more…)

CSTA Election Time

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

by Rick Pomeroy

Like the dropping of the crystal ball in Times Square and singing Auld Lang Syne, certain things happen at this time every year. January is the month that you and I should consider nominating our colleagues (and CSTA Members) for positions on the CSTA Board of Directors. This year, nominations are open for Treasurer, Grade Level Directors for Four-Year College, High School, and Intermediate (grades 3-5) and Regions 2 and Region 4. All nominations must be postmarked, faxed, or emailed no later than January 31, 2014. (more…)

Using Beach Cleanups to Enhance Science Curriculum

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

by Lori Walsh

Visiting an aquarium can be a powerful learning experience for students, providing them with opportunities to see first-hand the characteristics, adaptations and even habitats of marine animals. But as residents of California, you have an opportunity to help students experience such ecosystems first hand–and even improve them–through a beach cleanup activity. Environmental events happen frequently along the California coastline, offering opportunities to make authentic curriculum connections. Organizations, such as “I Love a Clean San Diego” (ILACSD) and “Heal the Bay” in the Los Angeles area, sponsor monthly cleanups at particular sites and larger, countywide events. Linking a volunteer event with science curriculum has the potential to show students the power of small efforts that can combine to create a massive environmental force. (more…)

More Than a Just Field Trip

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

by Mary Whaley and Lacey Moore

Image courtesy of the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Image courtesy of the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Museums, zoos, aquariums, parks, even that local field or stream are engaging sites with which to deepen your science curriculum. Informal science education (ISE) centers and settings offer educators a variety of professional development (PD) and curriculum resources. From field sites for authentic science investigations to resource-rich environments with tools, equipment, live animals, science experts, and technology, these sites offer teachers what the classroom often cannot. (more…)

Mobile Tech Helps Aquarium Programs Dig Deeper

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

by Katy Scott

One high school student stands knee-deep in water, a probe in her hand.

“Is it working?” she yells to a partner on shore. He’s looking at an iPad, watching a graph instantly form. “Got it!” he answers.

Three other students encircle a crab trap a few meters away; as one holds up a green crab, another photographs it with a phone. Then, he uses his finger to annotate over the image, labeling the parts that serve as evidence for species identification. (more…)

What Is CSTA Doing for You?

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

by Laura Henriques

Last month I challenged you to think about what you could do for CSTA and for science education. While I boldly channeled my inner JFK and wrote ask not what CSTA can do for you…, this month I want to spend some time letting you know exactly what CSTA can and has done for you.

January 2014 marks the 50th anniversary for CSTA. Incorporated on January 3, 1964, CSTA has been the largest and most consistent voice of science educators in California. We have a long history of advocating for quality science education and this is something we take seriously. While California State Board of Education meetings often have lots of representatives testifying, other equally important meetings take place where CSTA is the only voice for science education. As members, we are lucky to have an organization that keeps abreast of policy and educational issues that impact science education. CSTA tries to involve you, our members, in this process as well.

Recent examples of how we have worked to involve you in advocating for quality science education include:


Share Your Thoughts on Reading in Middle School Science

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

by Christina Morales

Signaled by the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), the movement to integrate reading and other disciplinary literacy instruction is rapidly gaining momentum. Take, for example, this long list of workshops and short courses offered at this year’s Science Education Conference aimed at helping teachers prepare for the implementation of the CCSS and NGSS. The prominence and popularity of sessions like these reflect the urgency with which literacy instruction is being incorporated in science classrooms all over California. (more…)

So You’re Going on a Field Trip. What Will the Students Accomplish?

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

by Jeff Orlinsky

Field trips can be a great learning experience for everyone. Most museums, zoos, aquariums, or “parks” have lesson plans or activities. Some have developed thematic lessons for use on site, as well as in the classroom. These are tried and true lessons, almost foolproof, and may already fit your lesson plan completely. You may also choose to use a teacher-created lesson; these are our pride and joy. Most teachers have been to the field trip destination previously and developed a lesson that may be a better fit with what they’re doing in the classroom. (more…)

Informal Science Education and Preservice Teachers

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

by Rick Pomeroy

Despite the hours of lesson planning, methods classes, student teaching, and high stakes testing, every pre-service teacher eventually comes to the conclusion that their students learn science in a variety of ways and a variety of places, not always in the classroom. Learning the power of these informal science experiences is important for any teacher but particularly for teachers who will be entering the profession in the next few years. (more…)

Making the Most of Museums

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

by Jim Kisiel

Be honest. If you’re a science teacher, and you read the title of this column, chances are the first thing you thought of was a field trip. Sure, you may have reminisced about that cool third grade field trip to the natural history museum, where you saw a real fossilized Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton for the first time and finally understood just how big they were. Or perhaps a painful reminder of the last class trip to the zoo that you attempted came to mind—an experience involving forgotten lunches, disgruntled parents, and a skeptical administrator convinced that your test scores would drop due to lost instructional time. (more…)

(In)formal Partnerships: Building District Capacity for Supporting the Convergence of the Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core State Standards

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

by Vanessa Lujan

This is a critical and historic time for education – nationally and regionally. California districts, schools, and teachers are in the midst of implementing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and with the recent state adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), these players find themselves at a critical juncture where they must have a clear understanding on how to connect the two initiatives and communicate this connection to their stakeholders that include district leaders, principals, teachers, students, parents, and community. With a framework for the relations and convergences CCSS to NGSS (see Stage, et al., 2013), educators and leaders have a clearer sense of these connections. One of the unique opportunities of the common standards movement is the ability for states to develop a guiding framework. At the same time, one of the unique challenges is the ability for districts to further tailor the implementation. (more…)

Learning for All Ages Through Informal Science!

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

by Jeanine Wulfenstein

Region 4 is full of opportunities for local informal science education experiences. Whether you are a resident of region 4 or visiting the region on vacation, a multitude of learning opportunities await. I encourage you to broaden your horizon with new content and enjoy some of the best educational institutions in the nation. (more…)

Heading to the Aquarium? A Chance to Chat About Climate Change

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

by Minda Berbeco

If you, like many other educators, are considering a trip to an aquarium or the coast this winter, don’t miss the opportunity to talk to your students about the ocean and climate change. There are so many intersections with climate change when talking about marine systems, it is hard to figure out where to start. You could address the impact that warming waters have on species ranges or phenology, or you could talk about how ocean acidification will impact shelled organisms. Sea level rise is another option for addressing climate change, and if you have a really bright set of students you can connect sea level rise to shoreline species management. There are a lot of really great lessons and activities for working with your students to connect the classroom activity to the field trip. I’ve listed a few below: (more…)

The California 4-H Science, Engineering, and Technology (SET) Initiative: Using and Informing Best Practices for Science Education in Non-formal Settings

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

by Steven Worker, Martin Smith, Andrea Ambrose, and Lynn Schmitt-McQuitty

4-H is the nation’s largest non-formal youth education program. As part of the land-grant university system, 4-H reaches over six million youth annually through science, healthy living, and civic engagement programs. In 2008, 4-H introduced the 4-H Science Mission Mandate to strengthen non-formal science education targeting improved scientific literacy among U.S. youth. This national effort provides strategic direction to state 4-H programs for science programming grounded in a positive youth development framework and utilizing experiential education and inquiry-based learning. (more…)

Zachary Spain Science Video

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

CSTA is very excited about this month’s science video! It was submitted by Zachary Spain, a 6th grade student from Petaluma. (more…)

Informal Science Learning with Space Shuttle Endeavour – California Science Center / Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

by Kenneth E. Phillips, Ph.D

Learning inside and outside the classroom:

Museums and science centers offer a unique opportunity for learning across generations and age groups. Unlike formal classroom environments in which 5th graders, 10th graders, and graduate students learn separately, great exhibits engage people of all ages around a topic of common interest. Rather than being an exception, learning together is the rule in science centers! This means that informal learning (or free choice learning) involves entire families that encompass a wide range of interests and familiarity with the subject matter. This presents both an opportunity and a challenge with the former being the chance for entire families to explore the world of science together and the latter being the challenge that confronts curators, exhibit designers, A/V specialists and others to create something that is both challenging and accessible by everyone—no small order, indeed! (more…)

The IISME Summer Fellowship Program for Teachers Is Now Accepting Applications

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

by Eric Lewis

Are you ready to experience a summer of innovation, collaboration, renewed energy and professional growth? Apply for an IISME Summer Fellowship! The IISME Summer Fellowship Program places eligible K-16 teachers from all disciplines into high-performance industry and research environments for the summer. Teachers work full-time for eight weeks, complete a project for their Host organization, and receive $8,200 for their work. Teachers devote 10% of their paid time to focus on how they will transfer their Summer Fellowship experience back to their students and colleagues. (more…)

Let’s Give Them Science to Talk About

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

by Dana Goldberg

Think back to when you first learned about magnets, bubbles, and reflections in school. Describing what you saw and experienced could be exciting, but also challenging. Now imagine trying to do it in a new language.

Nearly 60 percent of all students in Sonoma Valley Unified School District (SVUSD) are English-language learners, almost all of them native Spanish speakers. Integrating English Language Development and Science, a program created in partnership with the Exploratori­um’s Institute for Inquiry, is building a bridge between learning science and acquir­ing English language skills. This professional development program operates with teachers from all five elementary schools in SVUSD. (more…)

Gray Lodge Wildlife Area

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

by David Pummill

Gray Lodge Wildlife AreaThere are so many opportunities for science learning outside of the classroom, this month’s issue of CCS is devoted to informal science education. Most of us conjure images of museums, zoos, aquariums or science centers when we hear informal science education. You don’t have to go to a building, however, for science learning to take place. The great outdoors can be a wonderful classroom! (more…)

Celestial Highlights for January 2014

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

by Robert Victor and Robert D. Miller

Jupiter up all night as students return in January. Venus, passing Earth, leaves evening sky, joining Mars and Saturn in morning. Consider a morning sky watch!

Morning and evening twilight charts for each month through the end of 2014, along with charts for plotting the positions of planets in their orbits, and exercises to help students visualize the motion of Spaceship Earth and understand and enjoy the changing visibility of planets and stars, are available online. (more…)

NanoSpace® Requests Your Feedback!

Monday, January 6th, 2014

by Patrice Harris

Many science teachers have already started using NanoSpace, the free interactive website designed to teach kids about the nanoscale world of atoms and molecules, in their classrooms. The renowned professors and scientists from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, who created The Molecularium® Project and NanoSpace® are eager to hear your feedback! (more…)

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