May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

A Look Back with an Eye on Tomorrow

Posted: Friday, June 22nd, 2012

by Rick Pomeroy

As the school year rapidly draws to a close, I hope you are making plans to use the coming summer months to renew your zest for science teaching, exploring new and exciting manifestations of the content you teach, and thinking about all of the great lessons, activities, and “Ah-Ha” moments that you experienced this year. We all know that the financial situation in the state and our schools will continue to be challenging for the coming year but this is not a reason to deprive ourselves of the pleasure that those great classroom experiences can bring.

At this time, I like to look back and think about the things we have accomplished over the past year and the things we can still look forward to. The year started with the flurry of activity around the adoption of the Common Core Standards (CCS). Though only written for Math and English/Language Arts, there has been a huge new level of attention to science particularly in the technical reading and writing sections of the ELA-CCS. While our fellow teachers were scrambling around developing implementation plans, comparing old and new standards, and discussing how these new practices might be assessed, science educators were getting their first peek at the future of science education standards. Over the course of the ensuing eight months, those Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) have taken real form finally being released for public review on May 11th.  When the review period ends on June 1st, your comments and suggestions will be incorporated in the next draft to be released sometime in the fall of 2012.

In October, almost 1,500 science educators attended the California Science Education Conference in Pasadena. For three days, attendees enjoyed a wide variety of workshops, short courses, focus speakers and field courses designed to energize and inspire their teaching. We watched corny “B” Science Fiction movies, enjoyed inspiring comments from Wyland and Ed Begley Jr., used the time to renew friendships and shop the exhibit hall for the latest and greatest innovations for science teaching.

Finally, as the year draws to a close, your Legislative Oversight Committee is watching the comings and goings of bills and proposals in Sacramento. As of this writing, the most significant of these legislative actions include the Governor’s proposal to eliminate the mandate requiring a second year of science for high school graduation, and bills designed to restart the framework writing process and calling for the redesign of the state-wide assessment systems. As you close the doors of your classroom for the summer, I encourage you to stay connected with the Association and these legislative actions through the CSTA website and this newsletter to insure that the decisions made in Sacramento do not weaken our already embattled area of expertise.

Finally, as you wind down from this year, it is the perfect time to begin planning your science related activities for next year. In the fall, you will have yet another chance to review the NGSS. During that time, you will also have multiple opportunities to begin to engage in professional development on the NGSS and the Common Core Standards. I would encourage you to take advantage of as many of these experiences as possible. If timing is an issue, make plans now to attend the California Science Education Conference in San Jose on October 19-21.  One thread of that conference will be dealing with the NGSS, what it means to your teaching and your students’ learning. The current assessment system will expire by July 2014 and we want to demonstrate that we are ready for an authentic assessment that resonates with the expectations of the NGSS, with a goal of preparing students who are ready for college or careers.

Above all else, keep a positive mental attitude towards the progress you are making. Look for new ideas to breathe excitement in well-heeled activities and lessons.  By this time next year, the NGSS will be published in their final form; the State Superintendent of Public Instruction will have presented a proposal for new science standards for California; and we will be anxiously awaiting the final decision of the State Board of Education. Enjoy your summer and I look forward to meeting each of you at the conference in October.

Rick Pomeroy is science education lecturer/supervisor in the School of Education, University of California, Davis and is CSTA’s president.

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Written by Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy is science education lecturer/supervisor in the School of Education, University of California Davis.

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Participate in Chemistry Education Research Study, Earn $500-800 Dollars!

Posted: Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

WestEd, a non-profit educational research agency, has been funded by the US Department of Education to test a new molecular modeling kit, Happy Atoms. Happy Atoms is an interactive chemistry learning experience that consists of a set of physical atoms that connect magnetically to form molecules, and an app that uses image recognition to identify the molecules that you create with the set. WestEd is conducting a study around the effectiveness of using Happy Atoms in the classroom, and we are looking for high school chemistry teachers in California to participate.

As part of the study, teachers will be randomly assigned to either the treatment group (who uses Happy Atoms) or the control group (who uses Happy Atoms at a later date). Teachers in the treatment group will be asked to use the Happy Atoms set in their classrooms for 5 lessons over the course of the fall 2017 semester. Students will complete pre- and post-assessments and surveys around their chemistry content knowledge and beliefs about learning chemistry. WestEd will provide access to all teacher materials, teacher training, and student materials needed to participate.

Participating teachers will receive a stipend of $500-800. You can read more information about the study here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HappyAtoms

Please contact Rosanne Luu at rluu@wested.org or 650.381.6432 if you are interested in participating in this opportunity, or if you have any questions!

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption Reviewer Application

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

The California Department of Education and State Board of Education are now accepting applications for reviewers for the 2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption. The application deadline is 3:00 pm, July 21, 2017. The application is comprehensive, so don’t wait until the last minute to apply.

On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson forwarded this recruitment letter to county and district superintendents and charter school administrators.

Review panel members will evaluate instructional materials for use in kindergarten through grade eight, inclusive, that are aligned with the California Next Generation Science Content Standards for California Public Schools (CA NGSS). Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Lessons Learned from the NGSS Early Implementer Districts

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

On March 31, 2017, Achieve released two documents examining some lessons learned from the California K-8 Early Implementation Initiative. The initiative began in August 2014 and was developed by the K-12 Alliance at WestEd, with close collaborative input on its design and objectives from the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education, and Achieve.

Eight (8) traditional school districts and two (2) charter management organizations were selected to participate in the initiative, becoming the first districts in California to implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Those districts included Galt Joint Union Elementary, Kings Canyon Joint Unified, Lakeside Union, Oakland Unified, Palm Springs Unified, San Diego Unified, Tracy Joint Unified, Vista Unified, Aspire, and High Tech High.

To more closely examine some of the early successes and challenges experienced by the Early Implementer LEAs, Achieve interviewed nine of the ten participating districts and compiled that information into two resources, focusing primarily on professional learning and instructional materials. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Using Online Simulations to Support the NGSS in Middle School Classrooms

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

by Lesley Gates, Loren Nikkel, and Kambria Eastham

Middle school teachers in Kings Canyon Unified School District (KCUSD), a CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative district, have been diligently working on transitioning to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) integrated model for middle school. This year, the teachers focused on building their own knowledge of the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs). They have been gathering and sharing ideas at monthly collaborative meetings as to how to make sure their students are not just learning about science but that they are actually doing science in their classrooms. Students should be planning and carrying out investigations to gather data for analysis in order to construct explanations. This is best done through hands-on lab experiments. Experimental work is such an important part of the learning of science and education research shows that students learn better and retain more when they are active through inquiry, investigation, and application. A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2011) notes, “…learning about science and engineering involves integration of the knowledge of scientific explanations (i.e., content knowledge) and the practices needed to engage in scientific inquiry and engineering design. Thus the framework seeks to illustrate how knowledge and practice must be intertwined in designing learning experiences in K-12 Science Education” (pg. 11).

Many middle school teachers in KCUSD are facing challenges as they begin implementing these student-driven, inquiry-based NGSS science experiences in their classrooms. First, many of the middle school classrooms at our K-8 school sites are not designed as science labs. Learn More…

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the NGSS Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

Celestial Highlights: May – July 2017

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

May Through July 2017 with Web Resources for the Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graphs of planet rising and setting times by Jeffrey L. Hunt.

In spring and summer 2017, Jupiter is the most prominent “star” in the evening sky, and Venus, even brighter, rules the morning. By mid-June, Saturn rises at a convenient evening hour, allowing both giant planets to be viewed well in early evening until Jupiter sinks low in late September. The Moon is always a crescent in its monthly encounters with Venus, but is full whenever it appears near Jupiter or Saturn in the eastern evening sky opposite the Sun. (In 2017, Full Moon is near Jupiter in April, Saturn in June.) At intervals of 27-28 days thereafter, the Moon appears at a progressively earlier phase at each pairing with the outer planet until its final conjunction, with Moon a thin crescent, low in the west at dusk. You’ll see many beautiful events by just following the Moon’s wanderings at dusk and dawn in the three months leading up to the solar eclipse. Learn More…

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Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.