January/February 2018 – Vol. 31 No. 2

Science Safety for Educators

Friday, January 15th, 2016

Are you a Next Generation Science Teacher? Have the science teachers at your school participated in current science safety professional development? Did you know that training in science safety is required by CALOSHA to keep employees safe? Do you know what documentation is required to reduce an individual teacher, administrator, and/or the school’s liability?

The Science Safety for Educators Online Course will provide participants with information to build a solid foundation to create a safe science environment for employees and students. It is recommended that schools, districts, and organizations have as a goal to prepare 100% of all science teachers and other related personnel for the ever-changing environment of safety for themselves, others, and students. (more…)

Advocating for Access to Financial Support of Science in Your School and District

Friday, January 15th, 2016

revised 9/1/2016

by Jill Grace

Teachers, the moment is NOW for you to take action to influence how your district supports science education.

I often get inquiries by teachers as to how they can gain access to financial support as they transition to instruction in the California Next Generation Science Standards (CA NGSS). This includes funding to attend professional learning opportunities (like the state-wide CA NGSS Roll Outs or CSTA’s California Science Education Conference which has a heavy CA NGSS emphasis) or sub-release time for teacher collaborative planning. The lack support in some districts and schools for these activities appears to be a “lost in translation” issue; many principals and district leaders are financially supporting these activities as they relate to English language arts and math, but not science. One of the reasons why we have a lengthy period of time leading to full implementation of the CA NGSS is to give teachers time to prepare: time to refresh on science concepts that are new at your grade-level and time to wrap your head around the shifts in instruction that the CA NGSS call for. The need for this time to prepare for the implementation of the CA NGSS is recognized at the state-level.

Dr. Michael Kirst, President, California State Board of Education

Dr. Michael Kirst, President, California State Board of Education

“We encourage local districts to begin implementation of the science standards now. The recently released draft of the new California NGSS curriculum framework can serve as an invaluable resource at all grade levels. We recognize the time required to build capacity among teachers and students for these new science standards,” said Mike Kirst, president of the California State Board of Education.

Trish Williams, member and NGSS Liaison on the California State Board of Education (SBE) added: “the State Board of Education knows that the NGSS represent a very different way of teaching from the 1998 California science standards, and knows that change takes time; teachers of science will need professional learning support from their district to explore and become comfortable teaching science with an NGSS three-dimensional approach.” (more…)

The Beauty and Wonder of Science

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

by Lisa Hegdahl

“The overarching goal of our framework for K-12 science education is to ensure that by the end of 12th grade, all students have some appreciation of the beauty and wonder of science …”

A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas*

In 1985, I graduated from the University of California at Davis, with a Bachelor of Science in Zoology. In 1991, I began teaching 8th grade science in Galt, where our school’s science department determined the topics I taught which, for 7 years, were genetics, sound, astronomy, and body systems. In 1998, the CA Science Content Standards arrived and the 8th grade science curriculum became exclusively physical science – physics, astronomy, and chemistry – a far cry from my Zoological roots. As are many of you, I am now in the process of transitioning to the CA Next Generation of Science Standards (NGSS) 6-8 Integrated Model which means, once again, changing the core ideas I teach my 8th graders. Instead of strictly physical science, I will now teach Integrated Life Science, Earth and Space Science, and Physical Science (along with the Science and Engineering Practices, SEPs, and the Crosscutting Concepts, CCCs). (more…)

The Power of Storytelling in the NGSS Classroom

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

by Anna Van Dordrecht, MA and Adrienne Larocque, PhD

Storytelling, which is fundamental to humanity, is increasingly being used by scientists to communicate research to a broader audience. This is evident in the success of scientists like Neil deGrasse Tyson. Capitalizing on this, in our classrooms we both tell stories about scientists under the banner of People to Ponder. Benefits of storytelling for students are numerous, and many align with NGSS. Specifically, Appendix H states that, “It is one thing to develop the practices and crosscutting concepts in the context of core disciplinary ideas; it is another aim to develop an understanding of the nature of science within those contexts. The use of case studies from the history of science provides contexts in which to develop students’ understanding of the nature of science.”

A Person to Ponder – Frances Kelsey

Frances Kelsey was born in 1914 in British Columbia, Canada. She graduated from high school at 15 and entered McGill University where she studied Pharmacology. After graduation, she wrote to a famous researcher in Pharmacology at the University of Chicago and asked for a graduate position. He accepted her, thinking that she was a man. While in Chicago, Kelsey was asked by the Food and Drug Administration to research unusual deaths related to a cleaning solvent; she determined that a compound, diethylene glycol, was responsible. This led to the 1938 passage of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, which gave the FDA control to oversee safety in these categories. In 1938, Kelsey received her PhD and joined the Chicago faculty. Through her research, she discovered that some drugs could pass to embryos through the placental barrier. (more…)

Students Apply NGSS Science Practices in Environmental Stewardship

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

by Deborah Tucker, Bill Andrews, and Kathryn Hayes

Regardless of the grade level(s) you teach and the ability levels of your students, if you are looking for collaborative projects that get your students excited about learning while applying the NGSS science practices, read on! We surveyed California teachers who participated in a 4-month Environmental Education (EE) Professional Development (PD) institute in Spring 2015 and found they were re-energized and truly inspired as they facilitated student-driven environmental stewardship projects that encouraged student use of NGSS science practices. Based on participating teacher feedback, your passion for teaching may also be renewed and your students will be proud that they made a difference for the environment!

EE Professional Development Institute

Science practices can be taught at all grade levels in a variety of environment-based projects, as evidenced by 28 teachers (K-12) from the Los Angeles area with an average of 13.5 years of teaching experience. The teachers participated in a 4-month environmental education professional development institute and received in-depth content instruction from experts provided by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and the California Environmental Education Foundation (CEEF) in partnership with the CA Department of Water Resources, Sandia National Laboratories, and the Los Angeles Metropolitan Water District. The institute also focused on effective pedagogy (including the 5Es), required teacher facilitation of a student-driven environmental stewardship project, and provided follow-up support from both the local California Regional Environmental Education Community (CREEC) Network Coordinator and a Regional Director with the K-12 Alliance. The teachers were asked to incorporate two NGSS science practices (#6 explaining and #8 communicating) into the student work. (more…)

An Early Implementer Teaching Learning Collaborative: Connecting Science and Literature

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

by Karen Cerwin

“I used to let myself get stuck on what my students don’t know instead of asking how I connect with what they do know. Every student has his or her own understanding and knowing where each student is at is challenging. Now I know that I have a responsibility in orchestrating student understanding. Working with my colleagues increases the effectiveness of my lesson design, my teaching practice, and my student learning.” — TLC participant

The Teaching Learning Collaborative (TLC), a K-12 Alliance professional development strategy for lesson study, began 20 years ago as a way for teams of teachers who attended institutes to apply their learning in the classroom. TLCs focus on identifying specific learning goals (content) that students should know and understand, and designing a learning sequence which helps students produce quality work. (more…)

Celestial Highlights, January Through Early February 2016

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller

From March into August 2016, the bright planets, one by one, will enter the evening sky. But now, for a few weeks in January-February, early risers can enjoy all five bright planets before dawn. The waning Moon sweeps past four bright planets Dec. 31-Jan. 7, and past all five bright planets Jan. 27-Feb. 6.

One hour before sunrise, find brilliant Venus in SE, with Saturn nearby to its upper right Jan. 1-8 and lower left thereafter. These two planets are 8° apart on Jan. 1, closing to 5° on Jan. 4. On two spectacular mornings, they’ll appear in the same telescopic field, within 0.7° apart on Jan. 8, and 0.5° on Jan. 9. They’re still within 4° on Jan. 12, widening to 7° on Jan. 15, then to 15° on Jan. 22, and 25° on Jan. 31. Each day, Venus goes E against background stars by just over 1.2°, Saturn by only 0.1°, while Mars goes E about 0.5°. Watch Venus pass 6° N of first-magnitude Antares, heart of the Scorpion, on Jan. 7, and 3° N of Lambda in Sagittarius, the 3rd-mag. star marking the top of the Teapot, on Jan. 28. Steady Saturn is 6.3° to 7.5° from reddish twinkling Antares this month, and stays 6°-9° from that star throughout Saturn’s current apparition, ending when the planet sinks into evening twilight in November 2016. (more…)

Recognizing and Shining a Light on Excellence

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

by Laura Henriques

CSTA President Lisa Hegdahl presents the 2015 Future Science Teacher Award to Justin Fournier.

CSTA President Lisa Hegdahl presents the 2015 Future Science Teacher Award to Justin Fournier.

The CSTA Board of Directors likes to recognize excellence and significant contributions. There are many ways that CSTA recognizes contributions of our members. For example, the President publicly acknowledges member contributions to committees and authorship in California Classroom Science at the CSTA California Science Education Conference and in press in CCS. We know that the work of our organization is done by many and we like to recognize and acknowledge your contributions.

Another way that CSTA recognizes and highlights excellence to our field is via the awards program. (more…)

Speak up Survey! Be Heard!

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

by Jenny Hostert

We would like to invite all CSTA members to share your thoughts on education issues through the annual Speak Up survey. Speak Up is a large-scale research initiative that provides a unique way for school and district leaders to learn about the views and aspirations of students, parents and educators around digital learning. (more…)

New CSTA 2-year College Director Introduction

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

Marcus Tessier

Marcus Tessier, CSTA’s 2-Year College Director

by Marcus Tessier

I hope all of you had a relaxing winter break. My name is Marcus Tessier and I’ve just been appointed as the new 2-year College Director for the California Science Teachers Association.  As I begin my duties, I want to provide you with my background and goals for my new position. Since 2001, I’ve been teaching science in an affluent and demographically diverse schools in Northern California. I am a graduate of U.C. Davis with a B.S. in Wildlife Biology and earned a M.A. in Education Leadership from CSU Chico. Currently I teach Middle School Science for Benicia Unified School District and serve on the District’s Curriculum Council advising efforts to implement the Next Generation Science Standards. I’ve also served Twin Rivers Unified School District as a Teacher on Special Assignment where I led the curriculum coordination of K-12 Science, Physical Education, and Health content areas. Most recently, I’ve developed and now present the Next Generation Science Standards professional development series for the Solano County Office of Education. (more…)

What’s Happening in Region 2!

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

Happy New Year, Bay Area!

Hey CSTA members – it’s the new year and there are so many incredible things happening this coming year around the Bay Area that I am excited to share! First, if you haven’t already signed up for the Council for Math/Science Educators of San Mateo County’s annual STEM conference on February 6, 2016, make sure you do! I’ll be there with my friends from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific to be talking about the Big Bang(!), as well as conducting my own session on teaching about climate change. It should be a great time. (more…)

11th GCSN Conference for STEM Education

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

by Shawna Metcalf

Looking for ready-to-use lessons, materials, or ideas for teaching science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)? Or maybe you are looking for a reason to meet other local science teachers and representatives from STEM organizations. You are in luck. On Saturday, February 27, 2016 the Gold Coast Science Network (GCSN) will be holding the 11th GCSN Conference for STEM Education in Oxnard, CA. This one day event will feature two keynote speakers and four breakout sessions. Participants will have over 30 workshops on a variety of STEM topics from which to choose. (more…)

What’s Happening in the New Year in Region 1?

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

by Marian Murphy-Shaw

As we move through winter keep in mind spring will have a variety of opportunities for professional learning including the first NGSS Rollout Phase 3 at the San Joaquin County Office in April. Watch CSTA online and future CCS editions for details. January is not too early to be thinking about what you will attend or share with colleagues this spring. When you get back refreshed from your winter break it is a good time to talk with colleagues and site administration about spring plans for ongoing learning to support your K-12 science classrooms.


Sacramento Area Science Project
Science in the River City (SIRC) is an outstanding standards-based professional development program for 3rd-12th grade science teachers. The program is designed to deepen teachers’ understanding of science (through hands-on, minds-on labs and activities) and provide innovative ideas, lessons, and strategies for teachers to use in their classrooms.

Science in the River City (SIRC) #4 – January 26, 2016

Science in the River City (SIRC) #5 – February 23, 2016 (more…)

Make 2016 a Year of Service – Join the CSTA Board of Directors

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

by Laura Henriques

As we look forward to 2016 I hope you’ll consider sharing your talents, time, and expertise with your colleagues. There are so many ways you can do that through your involvement with CSTA.

Post great ideas to the various CSTA Facebook Groups – anytime

CSTA has Facebook Groups for elementary, middle school high school and university faculty plus a group for Coaches/District Leaders. Some groups are more active than others, but all of them are venues for sharing exciting teaching ideas, seek input from colleagues, and ask questions about implementing NGSS. We are happy to have you lurk but consider sharing.

Write articles for California Classroom Science – articles due the 1st of the month for the following issue

As a CSTA regular, you know that CCS comes out each month. We try to have a wide range of articles. We update you on policy and NGSS related issues, we share lesson and unit ideas, updates and information from the NGSS Early Implementing Districts, technology tidbits, fieldtrip ideas and more. You have some great things you do in your classroom or informal site. Write for us and share them with the field. Find details about upcoming issues, submission guidelines and deadlines. Submissions are due on the first of the month preceding publication. While the Publishing Committee has selected themes for the year, you are not obligated to write to those themes. (more…)

PORTS – Virtual Field Trips

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

PORTS is a free distance learning program that uses the power of interactive videoconferencing to help K-12 schools teach common core state standards in the context of California State Parks.

PORTS Programs include:

  • Fully developed units of study to prepare and assess learning.
  • Live, interactive videoconference presentations on science, history, language arts and other academic topics.

PORTS bridges the socio-economic gap in California’s educational system by providing meaningful interactions – regardless of race, economic status or location.

Emery Classrooms Without Limits Virtual Field Trips from Buena Park School District on Vimeo.


Thursday, January 14th, 2016

Congress Moves to Foster Youth Computer Science Skills, District by District

WASHINGTON, DC – The Congressional App Challenge, a congressional initiative to improve student engagement in coding and computer science, is launching today and will run through January 21, 2016.

Representatives Mimi Walters and Hakeem Jeffries co-chair the 2015 Congressional App Challenge (CAC). Over a quarter of the House of Representatives have signed up to host student app contests in their districts. Currently, 116 Representatives from 37 states have signed up, and more are expected to do so in the coming days. (more…)

Don’t miss out on the fun! CSLA State Conference 2016

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016

logo_2inCSTA is pleased to announce that it is partnering with the California School Library Association in their 2016 annual conference. CSTA past president Laura Henriques will be presenting a workshop on Sunday, February 7. The conference runs February 4-7 and will take place at the Bahia Resort and Hotel in San Diego. The theme for the Sunday of the conference is STEAM. CSTA members can enjoy a discounted one-day registration for Sunday of only $69! Simply use the the code partnerCSTA2016 to take advantage of this special rate. For more information view the conference flyer or visit their website and register today!

Sunday, February 7 Conference Schedule: (more…)

NGSS Rollout #3 – Registration Opens 2/19/16

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016

RegisterNowMedUpdated February 22, 2016, 11:33 AM

Registration will open for the next round of professional learning events designed to help teachers and administrators implement the California Next Generation Science Standards on February 19. Session offerings for Rollout #3 are available below. Registration is now available online at Registration is now online at https://www.regonline.com/NGSS2016Training.

April 13-14: San Joaquin County

April 26-27: Riverside and San Bernardino Counties

May 17-18: Orange and Los Angeles Counties (more…)

2016 CSTA Conference to Feature New Workshop Format and Schedule

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016

For those of you familiar with the California Science Education Conference, there is a change to our workshop that you need to know. Just as California NGSS is changing science instruction and learning in the classroom, CSTA recognizes that 60-minute workshops are no longer sufficient to provide professional learning about lesson sequences and how they fit into larger lesson segments. As a result, CSTA has modified our conference format to feature 90-minute workshops along with the traditional 3- and 6-hour short courses. This means you will have more time to go in-depth and reflect on  your learning with fellow workshop attendees. No other conference in the state offers the breadth and depth of high-quality workshops presented by and for California science educators. A conference schedule at-a-glance is available on the CSTA website.

That is not the only change.  The 2016 Conference proposal form will now ask you to share more information about what you and participants will be doing during the course of the workshop or short course; how your session demonstrates what NGSS looks like in the classroom; how the three dimensions of NGSS are integrated into your lesson; and how you see the session fitting into a classroom setting. A complete list of proposal fields is available online, as is the scoring rubric. (more…)

Elementary Educators Being Recruited to Participate in Grant to Help Teachers Improve Science Learning

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016

California State University, Chico is now recruiting teams of elementary teachers and their principals to participate in Project Experience Science, Technology, Engineering, Electronics and Math (ESTEEM), a two-year professional science learning grant recently secured by the University.

The grant aims to improve instructional practice and leadership in elementary science in northeastern California through the development of locally focused standards-aligned curriculum. It also aims to create partnerships among schools, the University, and science and technology resources in the region such as those in industry and agriculture. (more…)

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