September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Advancing Student Engagement: One School’s Journey in Transforming Their School’s Culture for Sustainable Academic Achievement and College and Career Readiness Through Increased Student Engagement

Posted: Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

by Judi Hayes

As educators we know at the heart of creating sustainable academic achievement and ensuring the college and career readiness of our students, is the provision of a school culture where engagement is valued and maximized. Lake Canyon Elementary School’s administration, staff, and parents have joined together to make increased student engagement a reality. We are providing varied opportunities for students to discover and explore their areas of interest and talent.

Photo by Lake Canyon Staff

Photo by Lake Canyon Staff

There are a wide variety of innovative after-school clubs on our campus, each with a college readiness or career focus. In addition, we have service learning across every grade level, outdoor learning experiences, field trips, exciting all-school assemblies with expert guest speakers, academic competition opportunities, and the implementation of technology use through blended learning. We want to provide a world-class educational experience where students are engaged and informed, their interests, talents and strengths are valued, and knowledge of careers and professions are emphasized.

For example, Lake Canyon recently partnered with many local businesses and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Schoolyard Habitat Program to create four amazing pollinator gardens at the center of our campus. This project enabled students to learn about the plight of pollinators, which are rapidly disappearing, and the impact on the local agricultural community. Students

Photo by Lake Canyon Staff

Photo by Lake Canyon Staff

worked with local landscaping companies, master gardeners, and a beekeeping expert from the UC Davis Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on the creation of this outdoor learning space. This will now be a permanent outdoor classroom on Lake Canyon’s campus. Also, a popular after-school beekeeping club will expand the project, enabling our students to collaborate on continued community awareness initiatives regarding the plight of honey bees, including designing and building bee boxes, and visiting a local beekeeping facility.

Another exciting example of how Lake Canyon is creating opportunities for our students to broaden their learning experience and heightening their engagement took place recently as the school partnered with the Community Engagement Department of the Sacramento Municipal Utilities District (SMUD). Their utility company experts will guide and support the creation of student-designed solar powered water fountains. Through this strategic partnership, Lake Canyon students will gain first hand awareness of a wide variety of science applications as applied in a real world setting, and exposure to many connected professions in the local community.

The development of strategic community partnerships has played a vital role in Lake Canyon’s implementation of many opportunities to expand the overall engagement of students. Whether it is with local chefs sharing their culinary expertise in an after-school culinary arts club through the national Chefs Move to Schools program, or in the Computer Programming Club, creating their own video game avatars using Scratch programming, the students of Lake Canyon Elementary School are engaged, and participating in a multitude of experiences. This allows them to apply their strengths, interests, and talents in purposeful ways, which will surely lead to increased engagement, academic achievement and college and career readiness.

Lake Canyon’s efforts demonstrate that an elementary school can incorporate innovative experiences for their students leading to increased engagement and an awareness of professions, especially in science fields, with a little imagination and hard work.

Judith Hayes is the Principal at Lake Canyon Elementary in the Galt Joint Union Elementary School District

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy:

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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.