September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

California Science Project Announces New Executive Director

Posted: Friday, April 1st, 2011

by Jim Postma and Jean Treiman

We are very pleased to announce the appointment of Maria C. Simani, Ph.D. as the executive director of the California Science Project (CSP) effective July 1, 2011. The central mission of the California Science Project is to develop and enhance teachers’ content knowledge and to support teaching practices to improve science learning for students in grades K-12. Dr. Simani brings a wealth of experience in research science, professional development for teachers, and in establishing partnerships with the educational and private sectors.

Prior to joining CSP, Dr. Simani served as the Director of the P-20 Regional Alliances program working at the ALPHA Center at the University of California, Riverside since 2007. There, she served as the lead for establishing intersegmental partnerships, leveraging resources between educational segments, including grant writing efforts, and establishing herself across campus as an advisor for the design and implementation of professional development in science for secondary school teachers.

Dr. Simani became an active part of the campus outreach efforts by working as a physical science instructor for the Copernicus Project where she provided professional development to primary and secondary school teachers during summer institutes and assisted with follow-up during the academic year. Additionally, she is a partner on several projects with faculty from the sciences and engineering colleges and with local county offices of education. She developed her own inquiry-based summer science academy for teachers, and collaborated with the Ontario-Montclair Unified School District to deliver research based professional development incorporating state science standards for K-8 teachers as part of the California Science and Mathematics Partnership grant.

In 2009, Dr. Simani became the lead manager and Co-PI on the implementation of a National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded program to provide advanced preparation to pre-service secondary teachers in mathematics and science to serve in high-need school districts.

Prior to her work at UC Riverside, Dr. Simani served as an associate research scientist at the Particle Physics Division at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, analyzing data from the BaBar experiment at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. In 2004, Dr. Simani moved to the Sabes Laboratory at UC San Francisco to support the development of experiments aiming at identifying the neural basis of sensory-motor learning and adaption in the brain.

While conducting her research, Dr. Simani became involved as a volunteer scientist for the UC San Francisco Science and Health Education Partnership and developed several classroom activities for K-2 students in local public schools with the goal of exposing them and their teachers to authentic science learning experiences. This program led Dr. Simani to learn about science education and pedagogy in K-12 schools as well as the power that well prepared teachers have in fostering students’ interest in science.

Dr. Simani received her bachelor of science degree in physics from the University of Ferrara, Italy, and her doctor of philosophy in experimental high energy physics from the Department of Natural Sciences at the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, in 2002.

Please join us in welcoming Dr. Maria Simani to her new role as executive director for the California Science Project.

Jim Postma is the chairman of the advisory board for the California Science Project and a chemistry professor at CSU, Chico. Jean Treiman is the executive director of the California Subject Matter Project.

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.