September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Amazon Rain Forest – An Amazing Summer Opportunity for Teachers!

Posted: Monday, October 19th, 2015

By Jennifer Weibert and Kirsten Franklin

Are you looking for an exciting and amazing professional development opportunity for next summer? One, which includes boat trips on the Amazon, night walks, birding and…NGSS?!? Yes, it exists and it is available to all California teachers!

It’s the Educator Academy in the Amazon. This academy will provide you with an unprecedented opportunity to engage in hands-on, NGSS-based investigations, citizen science research projects, and inquiry-based learning activities designed to deepen understanding of the rain forest ecosystems and its global significance.

This past summer, as science coordinators and TOSA, we attended the ten day, cross-curricular Educator Academy in the Amazon rainforest along with 28 other science education leaders and classroom teachers. This academy provided an unprecedented opportunity to engage in hands-on, NGSS-based investigations, citizen science research projects, and inquiry-based learning activities designed to deepen understanding of the rainforest ecosystems and its global significance.

We all gathered in Lima, Peru at the start, where we flew to Iquitos, and travelled, by boat, 240 kilometers upriver on the Amazon to the first of four camps owned by Explorama Lodges. There we had access to all levels of the rainforest ecosystem – even the tree canopy which we explored utilizing one of the world’s most extensive walkway systems. We went on daily hikes led by research scientists including Drs. David Pearson, Director of Amazon Conservatory for Tropical Studies, and Randy Morgan, former Director of Entomology for the Cincinnati Zoo, as well as other local guides. As we traveled through the rainforest, we collected data for analysis and utilized Project Learning Tree curriculum and equipment supplied by Vernier Software and Technology.

Through this academy, we developed a deeper understanding of the effects of human impact on the global ecosystem and the interconnectivity of human actions, regardless of their locations around the world. By utilizing 21st century learning tools in a unique setting, we were able to more fully understand how to use these educational strategies in our classrooms. Close personal and professional bonds were created among many of the teachers as we remain in post-trip contact sharing resources, experiences, ideas and photographs. Untamed Science has posted a video on Youtube that illustrates many of the same activities we experienced during our time in the Amazon- 10 Things to Do in the Amazon. To top it all off, the teachers with us were able to gain professional development hours through Arizona State University for completing the pre-academy course. Who would have guessed that professional development could be so fun?!

Jennifer Weibert is the Science Coordinator for Fresno County Office of Education. Kirsten Franklin is a TOSA for Science and Common Core Support for Petaluma City Schools. Both are members of CSTA.

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.