January/February 2018 – Vol. 31 No. 2

187 Stakeholders Dive Deep into NGSS

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

by Lisa Hegdahl

The first of a series of statewide professional learning symposia to explore the philosophy, design, and initial implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) took place at the San Joaquin County Office of Education on April 28th and 29th.  The Symposium was a collaborative effort of the San Joaquin County Office of Education, Stanislaus County Office of Education, Sacramento County Office of Education, K-12 Alliance/West Ed, California Science Project, California Science Teachers Association, Curriculum and Instruction Steering Committee, and the California Department of Education.   (more…)

Governor Brown’s May Budget Revision Offers Funds for Teacher Pension and LCFF, but Not New Standards Implementation

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

by Jessica L. Sawko

updated 9:10 am, May 14, 2014

Governor Jerry Brown released his revised budget for 2014/2015 this morning. The summary of the budget is available now, the details are also available online. The revision includes $10 billion in new Proposition 98 resources for schools this year, including $4.5 billion to continue the implementation of the Local Control Funding Formula.

During the press conference Governor Brown talked about his decision to fund teacher pensions rather than “the string of needs” for education in general. He said “in order to get [students] what they need, they need teachers. Teachers get what they need by having a pension. The pension has to be paid for. You can’t fool people into saying ‘oh, we’re paying a salary, we’ve got health benefits, and you’ve got a pension in 30 years.’ Well you only have a pension in 30 years of you start laying aside money.” He said that his proposal is “taking a big bite” out of the state’s long term obligation.

The budget calls for paying down the debt the state owes to the teacher pension fund CalSTRS. The budget “sets forth a plan of shared responsibility among the state, school districts and teachers to shore up the teacher pension system. The first year’s increased contributions from all three entities are modest, totaling about $450 million. The contributions would increase in subsequent years, reaching more than $5 billion annually. Total contributions today equal 19.3 percent of teacher payroll and will rise to 35.7 percent. This would eliminate the unfunded liability in approximately 30 years.” (p. 4, Governor’s Budget May Revision 2014-2015) (more…)

California Legislature Holds Fast to Its Support for Common Core and Moves Forward Several Bills Relating to Computer Science

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

by Jessica L. Sawko

With several legislative deadlines in May, bills having been and will be moving quickly through their various committees and houses of origin. CSTA has been active this year in working to secure additional funding for NGSS implementation in the form of support for professional development, technology, and instructional materials. The money for the NGSS implementation would once again be included in a proposed one-time funding block grant to support new standards implementation, including Common Core, NGSS, and ELD standards. AB 2319 (Bonilla) proposes $2.2 billion in one-time funding to support the above mentioned standards implementation ($1.5 billion) and broadband internet investment ($700 million) for LEAs in need. AB 2319 is scheduled for hearing in the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, May 7, 2014. In the meantime, efforts are being made to encourage Governor Brown to include the language of AB 2319 in his May Budget Revision expected out later this month. CSTA has been working with Assemblywoman Bonilla’s office to insure that the language of AB 2319 is explicit in its support for NGSS. The current version of the bill does just that. (more…)

Leaning In and Leading by Example

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

by Laura Henriques

The retirement of Phil Lafontaine from the California Department of Education has me thinking again about leadership in science education, particularly in California. In addition to hiring Phil’s replacement, CDE’s STEM Office was also hiring. As I think about science educators around the state who might apply for these positions I fear we are not doing a good enough job of helping foster our future leaders. I recognize that lean budgets and multiple years of teacher lay-offs contribute to an environment that is not conducive to building leadership. However, times are changing and there is a renewed focus and energy around STEM education. As a community, we need to take advantage of this opportunity and help develop a pipeline of science education leaders. (more…)

Finding My Way Down the NGSS Path – One Step at a Time

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

by Lisa Hegdahl

I want to preface this article by saying that I am a proud member of the CSTA Board Directors. I am also an 8th grade science teacher and have been for the past 23 years. While I am excited about the changes coming with the Next Generation of Science Standards, I am also asking many of the same questions as other middle school teachers: What will NGSS look like in my classroom when it is fully implemented? How do I prepare for the NGSS Performance Expectations I have not taught before? What will the assessment look like? And, just like other middle school teachers, I don’t have all the answers to all the questions, but I do know that there is a great deal of support available as we implement the new standards together. CSTA will continue to be an irreplaceable source of information as implementation continues, as will all the organizations with which CSTA works. Teachers will not have to figure out how to implement the NGSS alone. (more…)

Ocean’s Music: Climate’s Dance

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

By Jill Grace

As a teacher beginning to explore how to move ahead with the Next Generation Science Standards, I’ve been challenging myself to see how I can transform some of my current content. For example, I’ve recently been teaching my 7th graders about how geology and climate drive biology (to support the 1998 California standard, 7.4.d). Previously as 6th graders, they explored concepts related to heat distribution in the oceans and atmosphere (6.4.d and 6.4.e). When I tease out just the climate piece of my instruction, and consider the relationship between ocean and climate, it’s easy to see how rich the topic is, that it easily supports many of the shifts called for in NGSS, and that the topic works well with either middle school progression of NGSS. (more…)

State Board to Get a Look at the State’s First Draft NGSS Implementation Plan

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

On Wednesday, May 7, 2014 the California State Board of Education (SBE) will receive a presentation of the first draft of the state’s NGSS Implementation Plan. The state’s Strategic Leadership Team (SLT) comprised of CDE staff, representatives from education organizations including K-12 Alliance of WestEd, CSTA, and California Science Project (CSP), business representatives, and representatives of each level of education pre-K – post-secondary.

What follows is text from the agenda item (Item 5) that will be presented to the SBE on Thursday. No action will be taken by the SBE at this meeting. A preliminary draft will be presented to the SBE in July 2014 for discussion; a revised draft, if appropriate, based on SBE input will be presented to the SBE for approval in September 2014. If you would like to view the presentation of the agenda item, you may do so in person by attending the meeting in Sacramento or watch the meeting online. A copy of the implementation timeline as presented in this document is available here. (more…)

NGSS: Storytellers Wanted

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

by Pete A’Hearn

Great teachers are great storytellers. They can take the dry facts and procedures in the standards or a textbook and weave them into a story that grips a kid’s attention. Stories are important. We know about some of humanity’s oldest ideas – The Illiad, The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Bible – because they were great stories worth remembering and repeating long before they were written down. In the right hands, science can be a great story too. In episode 7 of Cosmos, (spoiler alert!) Neil DeGrasse-Tyson told a gripping tale about how the quest to find the age of Earth led to the realization that leaded gasoline was poisoning us. Having a compelling mystery to solve is what drives science but for some reason often doesn’t drive science education. It certainly has never been part of the standards. (more…)

Take Advantage of Your Membership Benefit for Exhilarating Summer Fun at the Disneyland Resort

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014


Are you ready for an adrenaline rush this summer? From high-speed twists and turns to plunging dips and drops, the Disneyland® Resort offers plenty of excitement for thrill-seekers at two uniquely themed Disney Theme Parks. Even better, CSTA members can purchase discounted Disneyland tickets from the CSTA members-only discounts site. While you are there, note the codes or follow the links to reserve your discounted rental car for use during your summer vacation!

Discover a mountain range of adventure at Disneyland® Park. Hang on to your hats and climb aboard Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – the wildest ride in the wilderness. Blast off on a speeding rocket through the darkest reaches of outer space on Space Mountain. And, embark on a rollicking log flume ride featuring a thrilling 5-story splashdown on Splash Mountain. (more…)

CDE Posts Alternate Discipline Specific Middle Grades Learning Progression

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

On November 6, 2013 the State Board of Education approved both the the integrated learning progressions as proposed by the Science Expert Panel (SEP) as California’s preferred model AND a discipline specific model that to be developed by the same SEP based on Appendix K. Districts will have the option to choose what best meets the needs of their students. Both middle grade learning progressions are available below and on the CDE website along with supplemental explanatory documents.

The decision a district will have to make regarding which middle school learning progression will best meet the needs of their students will not be a simple one. CSTA recommends that districts consider the curriculum framework, instructional materials, and assessment are available. (more…)

First NGSS State Rollout Symposium – a Great Success!

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

by Lisa Hegdahl

The first NGSS State Rollout Symposium was held at the San Joaquin County Office of Education on April 28 -29, 2014.  The Symposium was a collaborative effort of the San Joaquin County Office of Education, Stanislaus County Office of Education, Sacramento County Office of Education, K-12 Alliance/West Ed, California Science Project, California Science Teachers Association, Curriculum and Instruction Steering Committee, and the California Department of Education. Nine workshops were presented by twenty-five state leaders to approximately 186 attendees with the goal of exploring the philosophy, design, and initial implementation of the NGSS.

Six additional Rollout Symposia are scheduled throughout California between now and the end of October. The dates and locations are: (more…)

Online California Tsunami Resources

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

by Cindy Pridmore

For many of our coastal counties, the month of March has become the month of tsunami awareness and preparedness, culminating with “National Tsunami Preparedness Week” the last week of March.

This year March 11 marked the third anniversary of the 2011 Tohoku, Japan earthquake and tsunami, followed by the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Great Alaska earthquake and tsunami on March 27. For many geologists and seismologists, the recognition of these events gave quiet pause and reflection about how far we have come in our understanding of the scientific origin of these types of catastrophic events, as well as how far we still have to go to become better prepared for them. Both events had far-reaching effects on California. (more…)

May 2014: Upcoming Events in the South

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

by Jeanine Wulfenstein

The southern part of the state is full of professional development opportunities for educators to learn more about Earth and Ocean Sciences, physics, as well as the Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core Standards. Field tests of the new Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessments are well underway in the region. The Smarter Balanced practice tests are an opportunity for schools and districts to become familiar with the format and testing procedures inherent with the shifts in the Smarter Balanced Assessments. With this in mind, there is much anticipation for what the future of assessment will look like for the sciences. (more…)

Region 2, May 2014

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

by Eric Lewis

For many of you, summer is nearly here! In the San Francisco Unified School District, our last day is May 30, so we can really feel summer’s approach. As I reviewed all of the amazing events that are happening in our region this month, I realized how many great opportunities there are to get more professional development for your personal science content knowledge AND your classroom pedagogy. This month, we are focusing California Classroom Science on earth and ocean sciences (and physics!). There are so many new and exciting science experiences to have in our region that can support your learning and your students’ experiences in your classroom. Be sure to share relevant opportunities with other teachers, students, and parents. (more…)

Jupiter, Saturn and More – Arrange a Sky-watch for Your Class!

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

by Robert Victor and Robert D. Miller

May 2014 is an excellent month for teachers to offer sky-watching sessions for their students. For most of the month, as many as four naked-eye planets and a large number of bright stars will be visible simultaneously during evening twilight. The Moon will be visible daily at dusk for two weeks, as it makes its way from a thin crescent low in WNW on April 30 to a Full Moon rising in ESE shortly after sunset on May 14. (more…)

A Capella Science – Bohemian Gravity!

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

Video Courtesy of acapellascience

Seven California Science Teachers are 2014 NSTA Teacher Award Recipients

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), the largest professional organization in the world promoting excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning, announced the winners of the 2014 NSTA Teacher Awards program, which honors K-12 teachers (including seven teachers from California), principals, professors and other science education professionals for their outstanding work and achievement in science education. The awards were presented at a special banquet and ceremony on Friday, April 4th, at NSTA’s National Conference on Science Education in Boston. (more…)

The Teaching Length Scale

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

by Galen T. Pickett

Physics can be organized by the size and duration of events. When we teach Newton’s mechanics, the examples we use typically are on length scales of meters and on time scales of seconds (tossing a ball, sliding into second base) and run up to solar system scales (tens of millions of kilometers for an Astronomical Unit, and tens of millions of seconds for a year). But, unless your classroom is equipped with technology at the extreme ends of the sophistication scale (chalkboards at the primitive end, and SmartBoards at the super-fancy end), you probably use ordinary whiteboards and erasable marker to make sketches and calculations for your students. (more…)

Earth Science in Your Backyard

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

by Liz Colvard

For any student of science, one of the most difficult tasks is making the leap from the abstract to reality. Why should I care about learning this? How does it impact me? The beauty of living in California is that we’re surrounded by earth science in action every day, and we’re constantly faced with the importance of understanding the world immediately around us. Making the leap isn’t all that difficult. As the Nation’s largest earth science agency, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is a rich source of materials for both learning and teaching about topics like plate tectonics, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, and landslides. (more…)

Register Now for the California STEM Symposium

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

The California Department of Education is hosting the second annual STEM Symposium to be held at the San Diego Convention Center on September 22 & 23, 2014. Early Bird Registration ends May 30, 2014.

Symposium will feature:

  • Inspiring Keynote Speakers and Interactive workshops and break out sessions
  • Best curriculum and classroom practice in implementing the new standards
  • Hands-on Student Teacher Demonstrations
  • A marketplace of education supporters offering new technologies and approaches

Symposium highlights will include:

  • Common Core Mathematics
  • Next Generation Science Standards
  • Engineering practices and programs
  • Technology as a foundation and focus
  • Integration of the STEM disciplines
  • College and career exploration and preparation
  • Engaging underrepresented youth in STEM


Newton’s Laws Rotation Activity

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

by Carolyn Peterson

For the chapter on Newton’s Laws, I designed a station-rotation activity following the introductory lesson. The introductory lesson explained the vocabulary, the different laws, and how to draw force diagrams. The rotations were created with the intent of making the subject approachable and relatable for the students. With this shared common experience from this activity, students were able to learn the deeper content in the following lessons by applying it to what they experienced in the rotations. Having a shared prior experience helped with class discussions and helped them relate concrete experiences to the new content. (more…)

Did You Feel It? and the Quake-Catcher Network: Gather and Contribute Data About Earthquakes in Your Front Yard and Schoolyard

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

by Robert de Groot

It is 9:09 pm on Friday March 28, 2014 in Southern California and all of a sudden a magnitude (M) 5.1 earthquake strikes in the northwest corner of Orange County near the cities of La Habra and Fullerton. The Southern California Seismic Network swings into action collecting data about the event. The event is widely felt and many people put into practice what they learned during the Great California ShakeOut the statewide earthquake drill held every third Thursday of October – Drop, Cover, and Hold On.


Book Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

by Maya Wildgoose

Note: The following book review was written for the language and literacy class in the teacher credential program at the University of California, Davis. The author, Maya Wildgoose, (MS Geology, SS Science Credential) is student teaching at an urban high school in the Greater Sacramento area. – Rick Pomeroy, CSTA Past-President

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (Crown Publishers, 2010, 330 pages) is a non-fiction book written by a biologist-turned-journalist who had a personal fascination with the woman behind the famous “HeLa” cells. HeLa cells are named after the woman from whom the cells came from, Henrietta Lacks, and are used in labs around the world to help scientists study human cells. (more…)

Bringing Marine Sciences into your Classroom to Talk About Climate Change

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

by Minda Berbeco

Almost 40% of people in America live on the coast, yet very few students are lucky enough to have a teacher bring marine sciences into their classroom. Talking about coastal issues and sciences can be tricky for many educators, as they try to bring these concepts into already a full curriculum. It may be harder still, to attempt to integrate these complex ideas with other scientific concepts such as climate change. This can quickly become all too overwhelming. I have a couple recommendations though for getting started. (more…)

For the Love of Physics

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

by Katie Beck

Whether it is the end of the semester or the end of the year, time seems to sneak up on us and we are always asking our students to review for something. While is it easy to pull out a list of review problems for students to do, it doesn’t always mean that they understand the concepts that were taught; just that they can follow a set of procedures to get an answer. Please don’t misunderstand; there may be merit in students being able to answer a set of questions, to know the correct equation to use or to sludge through calculations. However, do they always understand why they are using that equation, or what their answers mean and how they fit into the bigger picture? (more…)

Extreme Drought and Warmth of 2013-14 Across California – Looking Back to Forecast Our Summer

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

by Alex Tardy

The winter of 2013-14 will go into the record books in the top five warmest and driest for California. The record warmth is an average of low and high temperatures from October to April, which is typically the wet, cooler season for the West Coast. The lack of precipitation this past winter, and since January 2011, has led to the severe-to-extreme drought conditions in California. Precipitation deficits for most areas range from one to two seasons of missing precipitation, which equates to 12 to 30 inches below normal across southern California. For the period October to April 2014, the precipitation was between 25 and 50 percent of normal for most areas. (more…)

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