May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

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

Posted: Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

by Rick Pomeroy, with Sara and Ellen

Sara and Ellen: California Science Education Conference Reflections

Now that the 2010 California Science Education Conference has been put to bed, I thought it would be informative to ask Sara and Ellen about their experiences in Sacramento.  Both attended the conference in Sacramento, and both have some important things to say about their experiences.

Rick: What was the most beneficial thing you gained by attending?

Ellen: The most beneficial part of the CSTA conference was the resource room.  The workshops are also amazing, but to have hundreds of resource tables in rows ready, willing, and able to help all science teaching disciplines was wonderful.  I was able to get many free gifts such as: class sets of periodic tables, maps and posters, lesson plans, and lab equipment.  I also came in contact with many vendors who could help suggest different laboratories for classrooms and email lists to join.

Sara: I really enjoyed walking through the exhibit hall and getting a bunch of free and informative resources.  I walked away with class sets of periodic tables, posters, and lesson plans.  It’s so nice to be able to get these types of things without paying for them.  I feel like I am always spending money for my classroom, and it’s a relief to get a bit of it for free.  I also like looking at the commercial vendors because, though I am not really in a position to buy anything, I could still adapt their ideas to my own classroom.

Rick: Was there one workshop that you found most helpful for your first year of teaching?

Ellen: Although many were helpful, the most helpful workshop was the keynote speaker on evolution.  Evolution is the part of the biology curriculum that is difficult to teach for many reasons.  Students still do not grasp the conceptual knowledge needed to fully understand evolution and the science behind the evidence of evolution.  Also, many students have so many misconceptions before the unit, it can be a hard instructional unit to plan.  The speaker gave great tips on how to teach evolution and showed teachers how to focus on the macroevolution versus the microevolution that is most common in public schools today.  Overall, he was a great speaker, gave great resources, and had incredible ideas.

Sara: The workshop that I found most helpful was “Bell to Bell Engagement” by Maryanne Tornquist.  She gave us a lot of short and simple strategies for reviewing material and increasing participation.  I really needed that because I needed some fresh ideas that I could turn to for my natural science classes.  It was also beneficial because the attendees had a group discussion to get even more ideas.

Rick: As the conference committee for 2011 begins planning sessions, what suggestions can you make for the kinds of workshops or presentations that would be most helpful to new teachers?

Ellen: There were already so many helpful workshops offered this year! However, if I could add more workshops or presentations, I would like to have more laboratory or demonstrations for the classroom.  I feel I have seen so many repetitive ones over the years, and it would be great to have new, fresh ideas.  Also, more presentations and workshops that are designed to aid ELL students would be great.  There are probably many great techniques that I have not encountered yet, and I would love the help!

Sara: Personally, I would have liked to have seen some more demonstrations and laboratory activities in the workshops.  Ideally, I would like to see  someone show me one good (and fairly unique) demonstration for each major topic in chemistry.  New teachers don’t need to go to a workshop on how to teach English Language Learners; they just learned that in their credential program.  New teachers need good ideas for lesson plans on specific topics.

Rick: How can we reach out to new teachers to encourage them to attend the conference and participate in CSTA?

Ellen: I think the best way to communicate with new teachers is by email or flyers for the schools.  Being a new teacher is so difficult and busy, you feel like there is no way you can sacrifice your limited time.  I think new teachers need to be reminded that it is good to work on their practice by interacting with other teachers and developing their teaching techniques.  Finally, I think a friendly reminder of the resources (equipment, lesson plans, etc) available is a great way to target new teachers

Sara: Many of the teachers in my department did not even seem to know what CSTA was.  I think sending out flyers to schools would be the best method of reaching out.  E-mails can be easily deleted or redirected to spam, but a flyer is always looked at.  Because I am in southern California, I am definitely planning on attending next year’s conference in Pasadena, and I think I may be able to get some of my department to attend as well.  I think CSTA would be wise to focus on the geographical region that the conference will be held in because, obviously, it will be easier for those teachers to attend.

Rick: As new teachers, it is easy to think that conferences are places to get new ideas, but as the 2010 conference chair, I would encourage new teachers to get involved from the very start of their careers by submitting proposals for workshops of their own.  It might be a new strategy that they are using or something that would support other new teachers.  The most important thing is that it is teachers offering professional development opportunities for other teachers.  If you are considering submitting a proposal for the Pasadena conference, now is the time.  Short course proposals are in January, with workshop proposals due in mid-March.

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

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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:

Please contact Rosanne Luu at 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.