May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

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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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.