May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

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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Participate in Chemistry Education Research Study, Earn $500-800 Dollars!

Posted: Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

WestEd, a non-profit educational research agency, has been funded by the US Department of Education to test a new molecular modeling kit, Happy Atoms. Happy Atoms is an interactive chemistry learning experience that consists of a set of physical atoms that connect magnetically to form molecules, and an app that uses image recognition to identify the molecules that you create with the set. WestEd is conducting a study around the effectiveness of using Happy Atoms in the classroom, and we are looking for high school chemistry teachers in California to participate.

As part of the study, teachers will be randomly assigned to either the treatment group (who uses Happy Atoms) or the control group (who uses Happy Atoms at a later date). Teachers in the treatment group will be asked to use the Happy Atoms set in their classrooms for 5 lessons over the course of the fall 2017 semester. Students will complete pre- and post-assessments and surveys around their chemistry content knowledge and beliefs about learning chemistry. WestEd will provide access to all teacher materials, teacher training, and student materials needed to participate.

Participating teachers will receive a stipend of $500-800. You can read more information about the study here:

Please contact Rosanne Luu at or 650.381.6432 if you are interested in participating in this opportunity, or if you have any questions!

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.

2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption Reviewer Application

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

The California Department of Education and State Board of Education are now accepting applications for reviewers for the 2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption. The application deadline is 3:00 pm, July 21, 2017. The application is comprehensive, so don’t wait until the last minute to apply.

On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson forwarded this recruitment letter to county and district superintendents and charter school administrators.

Review panel members will evaluate instructional materials for use in kindergarten through grade eight, inclusive, that are aligned with the California Next Generation Science Content Standards for California Public Schools (CA NGSS). 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.

Lessons Learned from the NGSS Early Implementer Districts

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

On March 31, 2017, Achieve released two documents examining some lessons learned from the California K-8 Early Implementation Initiative. The initiative began in August 2014 and was developed by the K-12 Alliance at WestEd, with close collaborative input on its design and objectives from the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education, and Achieve.

Eight (8) traditional school districts and two (2) charter management organizations were selected to participate in the initiative, becoming the first districts in California to implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Those districts included Galt Joint Union Elementary, Kings Canyon Joint Unified, Lakeside Union, Oakland Unified, Palm Springs Unified, San Diego Unified, Tracy Joint Unified, Vista Unified, Aspire, and High Tech High.

To more closely examine some of the early successes and challenges experienced by the Early Implementer LEAs, Achieve interviewed nine of the ten participating districts and compiled that information into two resources, focusing primarily on professional learning and instructional materials. 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.

Using Online Simulations to Support the NGSS in Middle School Classrooms

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

by Lesley Gates, Loren Nikkel, and Kambria Eastham

Middle school teachers in Kings Canyon Unified School District (KCUSD), a CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative district, have been diligently working on transitioning to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) integrated model for middle school. This year, the teachers focused on building their own knowledge of the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs). They have been gathering and sharing ideas at monthly collaborative meetings as to how to make sure their students are not just learning about science but that they are actually doing science in their classrooms. Students should be planning and carrying out investigations to gather data for analysis in order to construct explanations. This is best done through hands-on lab experiments. Experimental work is such an important part of the learning of science and education research shows that students learn better and retain more when they are active through inquiry, investigation, and application. A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2011) notes, “…learning about science and engineering involves integration of the knowledge of scientific explanations (i.e., content knowledge) and the practices needed to engage in scientific inquiry and engineering design. Thus the framework seeks to illustrate how knowledge and practice must be intertwined in designing learning experiences in K-12 Science Education” (pg. 11).

Many middle school teachers in KCUSD are facing challenges as they begin implementing these student-driven, inquiry-based NGSS science experiences in their classrooms. First, many of the middle school classrooms at our K-8 school sites are not designed as science labs. Learn More…

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the NGSS Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

Celestial Highlights: May – July 2017

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

May Through July 2017 with Web Resources for the Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graphs of planet rising and setting times by Jeffrey L. Hunt.

In spring and summer 2017, Jupiter is the most prominent “star” in the evening sky, and Venus, even brighter, rules the morning. By mid-June, Saturn rises at a convenient evening hour, allowing both giant planets to be viewed well in early evening until Jupiter sinks low in late September. The Moon is always a crescent in its monthly encounters with Venus, but is full whenever it appears near Jupiter or Saturn in the eastern evening sky opposite the Sun. (In 2017, Full Moon is near Jupiter in April, Saturn in June.) At intervals of 27-28 days thereafter, the Moon appears at a progressively earlier phase at each pairing with the outer planet until its final conjunction, with Moon a thin crescent, low in the west at dusk. You’ll see many beautiful events by just following the Moon’s wanderings at dusk and dawn in the three months leading up to the solar eclipse. Learn More…

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Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.