March/April 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 6

California Science Teacher Wins “Genius Grant”

Posted: Monday, November 1st, 2010

Amir Abo-Shaeer, a high school physics and engineering teacher at Dos Pueblos High School in Goleta, has been named one of this year’s 23 MacArthur Fellows by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Fellows receive a “no strings attached” award of $500,000 over five years to use at their discretion.

This is apparently the first time that a public school science teacher has received the MacArthur award, often referred to as a “genius grant.”

In an interview with Education Week, Abo-Shaeer said he was “stunned” when he learned that he was a recipient of the honor. “I feel a sense of responsibility to really try to do the award justice,” he said.

Abo-Shaeer began his professional career as a mechanical engineer before moving into education in 2001. Recognizing the potential for programs at the secondary level to encourage students to pursue science and engineering degrees, Abo-Shaeer left industry to become a teacher. In 2002, he created the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy (DPEA), a school within a school with a rigorous applied science curriculum that integrates physics, engineering, and mathematics courses; hands-on building projects; and specialized competitions. The program culminates in the design and construction of a robot by the academy’s senior class and its entry into the FIRST Robotics Competition.

According to the MacArthur Foundation, “Abo-Shaeer’s ability to motivate students and his enthusiasm for science education have transformed the culture at his high school. DPEA participants are highly regarded by other students, and young women now comprise approximately half of the academy’s students—a proportion considerably above the national average in advanced high school science courses.”

Abo-Shaeer is currently developing plans to expand the curriculum to accommodate students at different academic levels, as well as to establish a training program for educators interested in undertaking similar efforts at other schools. “Abo-Shaeer’s novel and effective model of science education is instilling a passion for the physical sciences in young men and women and is contributing to the preparation of the next generation of scientists and engineers for the twenty-first century,” states the MacArthur Foundation.

“This group of fellows, along with the more than 800 who have come before, reflects the tremendous breadth of creativity among us,” MacArthur Foundation President Robert Gallucci said in a press release announcing the 2010 winners. “They are explorers and risk takers, contributing to their fields and to society in innovative, impactful ways.”

Abo-Shaeer tells Education Week he’s unsure exactly how he’ll spend his award, but he said the money is “intended to free me up to do creative things, allowing me … to act quickly on creative ideas that I have that we can try out in education.” And that’s what he intends to do.

“I’ve been doing a lot of things that are creative by any means necessary,” he said. “I’d really rather, if we have a good idea, implement it effectively.”

At the same time, he cautioned that he has no immediate plans to stop teaching. “I absolutely will stay a teacher for right now,” he said. “This award hasn’t changed my trajectory. … I absolutely feel very strongly about what we have in the community to creating this [engineering] program, and if something is not done, moving on before something is completed is not my style.”

Even if he eventually stops teaching, Abo-Shaeer told Education Week he expects to stay engaged in efforts to improve public education. “The core thing I’m trying to figure out how to do,” he said, “is offer students unique educational experiences that they cannot replicate in an online experience, so when they’re there, they see the intrinsic value.”

“I’m trying to change the way we deliver curriculum to students,” he said. “There is so much focus on information and not as much on the experience. … You can’t build a robot by reading about it online.”

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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CSTA Endorses March for Science

Posted: Monday, March 27th, 2017

The California Science Teachers Association (CSTA) stands with our science and science education colleagues in endorsing the March For Science and its associated activities.

The decision by the CSTA Board of Directors to support the March for Science was based on the understanding that this is an opportunity to advocate for our mission of high quality science education for all and to advance the idea that science has application to everyday life, is a vehicle for lifelong learning, and the scientific enterprise expands our knowledge of the world around us. The principles and goals of the March for Science parallel those of CSTA to assume a leadership role in solidarity with our colleagues in science and science education and create an understanding of the value of science in the greater community. CSTA believes that the integrity of the nature of science and that the work of scientists and science educators should be valued and supported. We encourage your participation to stand with us.

There are over 30 satellite marches planned for the April 22, 2017 March for Science in California (to find a march near you, click on “marches” in the upper right of the main page, select “satellite marches” and use the search feature). We encourage members who participate in the March for Science to share their involvement and promotion of science and science education. Feel free to promote CSTA on your signs and banners. For those on social media, you may share your involvement via Twitter, @cascience and our Facebook groups.

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.

California Science Curriculum Framework Now Available

Posted: Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

The pre-publication version of the new California Science Curriculum Framework is now available for download. This publication incorporates all the edits that were approved by the State Board of Education in November 2016 and was many months in the making. Our sincere thanks to the dozens of CSTA members were involved in its development. Our appreciation is also extended to the California Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Instructional Quality Commission, and the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee and their staff for their hard work and dedication to produce this document and for their commitment to the public input process. To the many writers and contributors to the Framework CSTA thanks you for your many hours of work to produce a world-class document.

For tips on how to approach this document see our article from December 2016: California Has Adopted a New Science Curriculum Framework – Now What …? If you would like to learn more about the Framework, consider participating in one of the Framework Launch events (a.k.a. Rollout #4) scheduled throughout 2017.

The final publication version (formatted for printing) will be available in July 2017. This document will not be available in printed format, only electronically.

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.

Call for CSTA Awards Nominations

Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017

The 2017 Award Season is now open! One of the benefits of being a CSTA member is your eligibility for awards as well as your eligibility to nominate someone for an award. CSTA offers several awards and members may nominate individuals and organizations for the Future Science Teacher Award, the prestigious Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, and the CSTA Distinguished Contributions Award (organizational award). May 9, 2017 is the deadline for nominations for these awards. CSTA believes that the importance of science education cannot be overstated. Given the essential presence of the sciences in understanding the past and planning for the future, science education remains, and will increasingly be one of the most important disciplines in education. CSTA is committed to recognizing and encouraging excellence in science teaching through the presentation of awards to science educators and organizations who have made outstanding contributions in science education in the state and who are poised to continue the momentum of providing high quality, relevant science education into the future. 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.

Call for Volunteers – CSTA Committees

Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017

Volunteer

CSTA is now accepting applications from regular, preservice, and retired members to serve on our volunteer committees! CSTA’s all-volunteer board of directors invites you to consider maximizing your member experience by volunteering for CSTA. CSTA committee service offers you the opportunity to share your expertise, learn a new skill, or do something you love to do but never have the opportunity to do in your regular day. CSTA committee volunteers do some pretty amazing things: 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.

A Friend in CA Science Education Now at CSTA Region 1 Science Center

Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017

by Marian Murphy-Shaw

If you attended an NGSS Rollout phase 1-3 or CDE workshops at CSTA’s annual conference you may recall hearing from Chris Breazeale when he was working with the CDE. Chris has relocated professionally, with his passion for science education, and is now the Executive Director at the Explorit Science Center, a hands-on exploration museum featuring interactive STEM exhibits located at the beautiful Mace Ranch, 3141 5th St. in Davis, CA. Visitors can “think it, try it, and explorit” with a variety of displays that allow visitors to “do science.” To preview the museum, or schedule a classroom visit, see www.explorit.org. 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.