September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

California Science Education Conference – The Total Cure for the Teaching Profession: Support, Improvement, and Inspiration

Posted: Thursday, November 1st, 2012

by Yilmaz Kara

Today, many teachers find themselves in hard situations. They may want to have some outdoor activities or field courses with their students but do not know where to start. They have heard lots about the new standards but nobody has explained how they are different or new. It would be good to know cool and engaging activities being done by the teachers who have the admiration of their students. Maybe they are searching for educational materials to use in the classroom or laboratory, but they don’t know where to find them. Some teachers are just burned out, having taught for so many years that they have can’t find the inspiration that brought them to the classroom in the first place. You can find cures to all these kinds of situations and more than others at the CSTA conference.

The CSTA conference was an amazing educational conference with a wide variety of participants ranging from teachers, teacher candidates, school district administrators, academicians, producers of educational materials, and professionals from other educational organizations like NSTA or ASTE, and even a visiting researcher like me. You can enjoy many workshops including activities that can be easily transferred from the classrooms or laboratories of the experienced teachers to your classrooms and all the professional events are linked to each other. For example, you can meet with the experts who produce different educational materials and get informed on how to adapt them for your classroom. Useful handouts, books, CDs or DVDs, and many other instructional materials are available, some for free. In addition to the workshops, many educational resources await you at the large exhibit hall. If you get bored from the indoor activities, field courses are just for you. Focus speakers are waiting to share their opinions on hot topics of science education. Information sessions are available for pre-service and beginning teachers about support programs and scholarship information. The conference even included meal events to enable the participants to meet and talk and find new friends. Conference attendees were friendly and welcoming. There was a warm, family feel and it was exciting to see this vibrant group of professionals.

This was my first science teacher conference. In my country, teacher professional development is rare. Some teachers are able to volunteer to do inservice with university faculty, but most are left on their own. It was amazing to me to see so many science teachers paying their own money to come to this conference.

Incidentally, I need to warn you about some of the side effects of the conference. For example, you could forget how much effort you exerted while getting from one presentation to another. It was so much fun and you learned so much that you probably did not notice your tiredness. You will also have to become familiar with the bewildered but eager looks on your students’ faces when you start to do the fun and cool activities that you learned at the conference. And, you will start to hear from parents about how their children keep talking about the new activities. Your friends will not understand why you are looking to some “chemical free” or “organic” products on the market with a waggish smile after the Jeff & Jeff show (handouts available online – follow the link), “Using the Misuse of Science to Teach Chemistry and Biology.” You will be preoccupied and wistful after the conference because of all the sessions that you wanted to attend but you could not. Unfortunately, there is no way other than waiting until next year’s CSTA conference!

Yilmaz Kara is a visiting scholar at CSU Long Beach. He is a scholar of the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey, assistant researcher and  Ph.D. student at the department of secondary science education in Karadeniz Technical University, and member of CSTA.

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.

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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.