September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

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 and is a past-president of CSTA.

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State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2017 Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Posted: Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated eight exceptional secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“These teachers are dedicated and accomplished individuals whose innovative teaching styles prepare our students for 21st century careers and college and develop them into the designers and inventors of the future,” Torlakson said. “They rank among the finest in their profession and also serve as wonderful mentors and role models.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partners annually with the California Science Teachers Association and the California Mathematics Council to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program—the highest recognition in the nation for a mathematics or science teacher. The Science Finalists will be recognized at the CSTA Awards Luncheon on Saturday, October 14, 2017. 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.

Thriving in a Time of Change

Posted: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

by Jill Grace

By the time this message is posted online, most schools across California will have been in session for at least a month (if not longer, and hat tip to that bunch!). Long enough to get a good sense of who the kids in your classroom are and to get into that groove and momentum of the daily flow of teaching. It’s also very likely that for many of you who weren’t a part of a large grant initiative or in a district that set wheels in motion sooner, this is the first year you will really try to shift instruction to align to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a challenging year – change is hard. Change is even harder when there’s not a playbook to go by.  But as someone who has had the very great privilege of walking alongside teachers going through that change for the past two years and being able to glimpse at what this looks like for different demographics across that state, there are three things I hope you will hold on to. These are things I have come to learn will overshadow the challenge: a growth mindset will get you far, one is a very powerful number, and it’s about the kids. Learn More…

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Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is President of CSTA.

If You Are Not Teaching Science Then You Are Not Teaching Common Core

Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn 

“Science and Social Studies can be taught for the last half hour of the day on Fridays”

– Elementary school principal

Anyone concerned with the teaching of science in elementary school is keenly aware of the problem of time. Kids need to learn to read, and learning to read takes time, nobody disputes that. So Common Core ELA can seem like the enemy of science. This was a big concern to me as I started looking at the curriculum that my district had adopted for Common Core ELA. I’ve been through those years where teachers are learning a new curriculum, and know first-hand how a new curriculum can become the focus of attention- sucking all the air out of the room. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Tools for Creating NGSS Standards Based Lessons

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Elizabeth Cooke

Think back on your own experiences with learning science in school. Were you required to memorize disjointed facts without understanding the concepts?

Science Education Background

In the past, science education focused on rote memorization and learning disjointed ideas. Elementary and secondary students in today’s science classes are fortunate now that science instruction has shifted from students demonstrating what they know to students demonstrating how they are able to apply their knowledge. Science education that reflects the Next Generation Science Standards challenges students to conduct investigations. As students explore phenomena and discrepant events they engage in academic discourse guided by focus questions from their teachers or student generated questions of that arise from analyzing data and creating and revising models that explain natural phenomena. Learn More…

Written by Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke teaches TK-5 science at Markham Elementary in the Oakland Unified School District, is an NGSS Early Implementer, and is CSTA’s Secretary.

News and Happenings in CSTA’s Region 1 – Fall 2017

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Marian Murphy-Shaw


This month I was fortunate enough to hear about some new topics to share with our entire region. Some of you may access the online or newsletter options, others may attend events in person that are nearer to you. Long time CSTA member and environmental science educator Mike Roa is well known to North Bay Area teachers for his volunteer work sharing events and resources. In this month’s Region 1 updates I am happy to make a few of the options Mike offers available to our region. Learn More…

Written by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw is the student services director at Siskiyou County Office of Education and is CSTA’s Region 1 Director and chair of CSTA’s Policy Committee.