September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

California’s Science Curriculum Framework Revision and Education and the Environment Curriculum

Posted: Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

by Will Parish

As you may already be aware, California’s Science Curriculum Framework revision process is well underway. This topic is of keen interest to me on two levels: as a former high school Environmental Science teacher (and former member of California’s Instructional Quality Commission), and as current Executive Director of Ten Strands—a San Francisco based nonprofit whose mission is to ensure that all California’s K-12 students have access to high quality, standards-based environmental education.

The state laid out an inclusive process encouraging the public to comment on the final recommendations to the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee. Ten Strands has been an active participant through attendance at multiple focus groups, and by enabling Dr. Gerald Lieberman to play a key role in the process. We were pleased to see the Environmental Principles and Concepts (EP&Cs) that underpin the EEI Curriculum included in the draft guidelines for the Framework.

EEI Curriculum 1.2.a. Surviving and Thriving

EEI Curriculum 1.2.a. Surviving and Thriving

The EEI Curriculum, developed as a result of the Education and the Environment Initiative (AB 1548), is a landmark environment-based science and history-social science curriculum for California K-12 schools. It is a free resource, consisting of 85 state-adopted and approved units that complement existing instructional materials, allowing teachers to substitute curriculum units for portions of the textbooks they are currently using. This approach enhances student learning by bringing engaging environment-based lessons into the classroom and building student knowledge about human interdependency with the environment as they progress through the grades. The Curriculum cultivates an understanding of fundamental environmental issues, including where our food, energy, and water come from and the complicated decision-making processes related to climate change, green chemistry, and use of public lands.



Working closely with Cal Recycle’s Office of Education and the Environment (OEE), Ten Strands has greatly increased OEE’s ability to get the Curriculum into classrooms and train teachers in how to use it effectively. During the 2013-14 school year, 3,000 teachers taught 145,000 students EEI Curriculum units. We also provided support for showing the tight correlation of the Curriculum to the Common Core State Standards, and are currently supporting correlation to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

California’s adoption of the NGSS is a driver of the science revision process, and the Environmental Principles and Concepts are very timely and significant in this discussion. The goal of the EP&Cs is to examine the interactions and interdependence of human societies and natural systems and provide the framework of what California students should be learning to build environmental literacy. The substance of the EP&Cs are consistent with the conceptual shifts embodied in the K-12 Science Framework, and are embedded throughout the NGSS. Additionally, the EEI Curriculum (built around the EP&Cs) provides excellent support for many of the NGSS science and engineering practices, and for mastery of many of the NGSS performance expectations.

The NGSS Framework identifies seven crosscutting concepts that bridge disciplinary boundaries, whose purpose is to help students deepen their understanding of the disciplinary core ideas and develop a coherent and scientifically based view of the world. There appears to be an especially strong correlation of the EP&Cs and the EEI Curriculum with these crosscutting concepts, as well as with their guiding principles.

The goal that all students should learn about the relationships among science, technology, society, and the environment is also addressed, where the framework identifies two core ideas: the interdependence of science, engineering and technology, and the influence of science, engineering and technology on society and the natural world. It is the second core idea that the EEI Curriculum dovetails especially nicely with, specifically which scientific discoveries and technological decisions affect human society and the natural environment, and that people make decisions for social and environmental reasons that ultimately guide the work of scientists and engineers.

As a former teacher, I understand the importance of quality resources and materials to engage and educate students. When I began using the EEI Curriculum in my high school classes, I recognized it as an important tool. The response from teachers using the Curriculum indicates that opinion is shared—in a recent survey, 97% of teachers using it said they would use it again in the next school year.

Environment-based education is an effective way to teach students using a cross-disciplinary approach. Given West Ed’s findings around the challenges in science education at the elementary and middle school levels, published in High Hopes – Few Opportunities: The Status of Elementary Science Education in California and Untapped Potential: The Status of Middle School Science Education in California, identifying and supporting pathways into developing scientific thinking in students early in their education is especially critical. Using the EEI Curriculum in concert with suggested extensions, including inquiry-based and project-based activities, can help to fill the need for early science education.

Supporting such pathways and collaborating with teachers, state and local entities, community organizations, and informal education providers is how Ten Strands is helping to identify and achieve common goals. We share a vision where all California’s students have a solid foundation that encourages critical and scientific thinking with a strong component of environmental literacy as they strive toward a sustaining future.

If you are interested in getting involved with Ten Strands, visit their web pages at and/or

You can find out about upcoming EEI training opportunities at

Will Parish is the Executive Director at Ten Strands, and is a member of CSTA


Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy:

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CSTA Is Now Accepting Nominations for Board Members

Posted: Friday, November 17th, 2017

Current, incoming, and outgoing CSTA Board of Directors at June 3, 2017 meeting.

Updated 7:25 pm, Nov. 17, 2017

It’s that time of year when CSTA is looking for dedicated and qualified persons to fill the upcoming vacancies on its Board of Directors. This opportunity allows you to help shape the policy and determine the path that the Board will take in the new year. There are time and energy commitments, but that is far outweighed by the personal satisfaction of knowing that you are an integral part of an outstanding professional educational organization, dedicated to the support and guidance of California’s science teachers. You will also have the opportunity to help CSTA review and support legislation that benefits good science teaching and teachers.

Right now is an exciting time to be involved at the state level in the California Science Teachers Association. The CSTA Board of Directors is currently involved in implementing the Next Generations Science Standards and its strategic plan. If you are interested in serving on the CSTA Board of Directors, now is the time to submit your name for consideration. 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.

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.