September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

California Student Teams Win National Challenge

Posted: Friday, October 1st, 2010

Two California students teams were named the grand prize and third place winners for the elementary level, grades 3-5 division for the 2010 Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge.

The grand prize winners, Team “Planet Blue and Green” from Watsonville, CA, focused their project on limiting the consumption of non-biodegradable materials as a means to reduce marine debris.  After seeing a presentation on what trash does to our oceans and the animals that live in them, these students decided to do a project on limiting consumption of material sources as a means to reduce marine debris.  They started by researching marine debris, where they found out about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and talking to experts in the field.  They then created and sold an educational DVD (in a non-plastic case) to educate other kids about the problem with ways to help, the proceeds of which were invested in a non-profit organization that helps small businesses in third world countries.  They also organized a community beach clean-up.  Their petition to city council was reported by local newspapers and the team is working with a private donor to distribute the DVD to more schools and outlets.

Third place winners, Team “Green Allowance” from Glendale, CA, focused their project on teaching other students how to save as much energy and water as possible by using an interactive website.  After learning that water shortage is a global issue, Team Green Allowance wanted to do a project on educating others about conserving water and power.  They created a commercial that they shared with other students to teach them about conserving water and power and then visited classrooms to speak with fellow students directly.  They distributed DVDs to classrooms and other schools and posted the commercial on YouTube.  They also brought the DVD to the city council and passed out flyers at public events where media interviewed them on their project and expressed interest in sharing the DVD further.  The team discovered that their program had a positive impact on both the school and their community, increasing awareness of the importance of conserving water and power and changing peoples’ habits to help the environment.

The Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge encourages all students from kindergarten through twelfth grade to team up with their classmates to create replicable solutions to environmental issues in their schools (grades K-5), community (grades 6-8), and world (grades 9-12).  Student and teacher/mentor prizes, which vary according to grade level, include savings bonds, school grants, exciting trips, and much more.  Entries for the 2011 Siemens Challenge are being accepted now through March 15, 2011.  Find out more at

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.