January/February 2018 – Vol. 31 No. 2

Learning to Teach in 3D

Monday, March 13th, 2017

by Joseph Calmer

Probably like you, NGSS has been at the forefront of many department meetings, lunch conversations, and solitary lesson planning sessions. Despite reading the original NRC Framework, the Ca Draft Frameworks, and many CSTA writings, I am still left with the question: “what does it actually mean for my classroom?”

I had an eye-opening experience that helped me with that question. It came out of a conversation that I had with a student teacher. It turns out that I’ve found the secret to learning how to teach with NGSS: I need to engage in dialogue about teaching with novice teachers. I’ve had the pleasure of teaching science in some capacity for 12 years. During that time pedagogy and student learning become sort of a “hidden curriculum.” It is difficult to plan a lesson for the hidden curriculum; the best way is to just have two or more professionals talk and see what emerges. I was surprised it took me so long to realize this epiphany. (more…)

Apply Now Through Feb. 1 for Edison International’s $1.2 Million Scholarship Program

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

It pays to dream big and Edison International, the parent company of Southern California Edison, through its $1.2 million Edison Scholars Program, is helping high school seniors with a passion for science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) achieve their academic goals.

Each year, Edison International awards $40,000 scholarships, paid over four years, to 30 high school students planning to major in STEM fields at four-year colleges and universities. Scholarship applications are now being accepted through Feb. 1.

Eligible students must live or attend a public or private high school in SCE’s service territory or attend an eligible high school surrounding SCE’s San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Visit scholarsapply.org/edisonscholars for a list of designated high schools.    (more…)

Getting Started with Engineering

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

by Meredith Casalino

Having been in the classroom for nine years, I have seen all sorts of crazy things. One of those things is that kids will rise to virtually any challenge you give them, and if you let them build something you will have them completely hooked!  For the last three years I have had the incredible privilege to work on a strong 9th grade team at Da Vinci Communications, dedicated to interdisciplinary project based learning. Through this experience I was given the freedom, guidance, and support to integrate engineering into my physics classroom and have seen the power of this practice first hand.

Teaching kids processes to use in order to think and create like an engineer is a great way to get started. In my classroom I used the Project Lead the Way engineering design process, but there are lots of different takes on the engineering design process out there. I do recommend teaching your kids an engineering design process and sticking to it in order for them to have a richer, more meaningful engineering experience. Many schools or districts have one that they prefer so you many not even have to find one on your own. An engineering design process should include lots of flexibility, as well as ways to generate, evaluate, test, and revise multiple solutions to a single problem. (more…)

Preparing for New School Year: Supporting High School Students’ Science Motivation

Friday, August 19th, 2016

by Sandra Simpkins and Yangyang Liu

When science teachers prepare for a new school year, they often think about how they can teach their students science concepts and principles in an interesting way. Not only is it important to spark students’ initial interest in science, but is also key to help maintain students’ interest in science. Without that continued support, students who were once interested in science run the risk of losing that interest (Renninger & Hidi, 2016). In fact, 45% of 10th grade students interested in pursuing a STEM career (that is, a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics career) lost that interest by the end of high school (Aschbacher, Li, & Roth, 2010) – making high school a critical time for science. High school is often the first time when students can opt out of science coursework as most states require less than four years of science coursework to graduate. When students lose interest in science, they are less likely to take elective science courses – which hinders their college science prospects. (more…)

High School Questions About NGSS – A Statewide Conversation

Monday, June 20th, 2016

by Christie Pearce and Marian Murphy-Shaw

The California Science Teacher’s Association is made up of a wide range of individuals and institutions passionate about promoting and supporting science teachers and high quality resources for science education at all levels. It is well known that TK-12 teachers are CSTA members, you may also know that local science centers are members, along with private and Community College, CSU and UC faculty, but did you know that many of your local County Offices of Education have staff who are members?

In this collaboratively composed article, two county office of education colleagues, from opposite ends of the state have combined forces to connect California science teachers with one more resource; your local county office, or county department, of education. While CSTA has 4 identified regions in CA, the 58 counties are part of an 11-region public education system. At these offices your county STEM or Science Coordinators, Educational Services Directors, Curriculum Specialists, Grant Directors and more often serve in multiple roles, many working directly with teachers, TOSA’s, coaches, principals and science education partnerships. Across the 11 regions these “county folks” collaborate, share resources and work directly on projects such as the CA NGSS Rollouts with statewide entities such as the California Department of Education, Curriculum and Instruction Steering Committee (CISC), CA Science Project, and West Ed’s K-12 Alliance. (A listing of key science contacts at each of these entities has been compiled by Anthony Quan at the Los Angeles County Office of Education and is available here.)

Questions about what high schools can and should be doing with NGSS seem to be ever increasing- both in number and complexity. CSTA asked if we could compile what the counties are hearing, both the questions and the answers. We started by connecting with our colleagues across the state and asking what questions and concerns they hear most often. If it makes our high school teachers feel any better, you are certainly not alone in wondering about NGSS. Below we have compiled questions and responses. We have tried to replicate the best information we have on hand as of this writing, but also acknowledge that the most important thing to remember is that all of this is still a work in progress. The UC has not finished updating “a-g,” CA science credentialing is being revised, NGSS “content” in 9-12 will look different over time, but that is not going happen in all CA high schools for several years at least. (more…)

Common Assessments Using Science Practices

Friday, April 8th, 2016

by Janet Lee

It can be difficult to develop common assessments for one group of teachers, even harder for a group of teachers from the same department. However, thanks to NGSS, teachers can teach around a science practice and assess that as an entire department to help students grow as they develop a skill over many years. NGSS looks at not just course content, but concepts and practices that can be used at any level.

The Gilroy High School Science department has used professional learning communities (PLC’s) to help students grow around two science practices. The first is analyzing and interpreting data (SEP 4) and the second is writing and communicating scientific information using claim, evidence, reasoning (SEP 8). Both of these were selected due to their overlap with CCSS in English and Math and can be found in Appendix F. (more…)

Review the High School Draft of the K-12 Computer Science Framework

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

The first review period for the K-12 Computer Science (CS) framework – developed by Code.org, the Computer Science Teachers Association, and the Association for Computing Machinery, along with more than 100 advisors within the computing community – begins February 3 with the release of the high school (grades 9-12) layer of concepts and descriptions of K-12 practices. We invite you to review the framework and participate in the opportunity to shape a vision for K-12 CS education. (more…)

Considerations for Equitable NGSS High School Curriculum Implementation

Monday, February 8th, 2016

by Jenna Porter & Rich Hedman

Over the next few years, school districts throughout California will need to decide which curriculum course model to adopt for high school science.  Unlike middle school, for which there are two relatively straightforward course models (preferred integrated and alternative discipline specific), high schools will have more than 4 distinct course model options (see Table 1).  Which model would be best for high schools in your district?  To assist you in answering that question, we offer some resources and points to consider, and make a recommendation for providing equitable opportunities for all students to access the new science curriculum. (more…)

Teaching Physics Through the Crosscutting Concepts

Monday, February 8th, 2016

by Joseph Calmer

I have been teaching science for 10 years. During that time I have taught biology, anatomy/physiology, chemistry, and physics. When the NGSS began to trickle down to us teachers, I began to see the light at the end of the science education tunnel. The authors of the NGSS seemed to grasp the interrelatedness of the different disciplines of science and were trying to explicitly demonstrate that interconnectedness through the new standards. As a science teacher and a person who has studied science for a long time, the connections between science fields are painfully obvious, but to a new learner, the obvious may not be so obvious. (more…)

Creating Lessons–NGSS Style

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

by Jeff Orlinsky

As the new school year approaches, it is time to begin thinking about our science lessons. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) require a different approach to lesson planning. It is my goal in this article to show you one way to approach designing a lesson. It is important to know there are other techniques and lesson models that incorporate the NGSS model. I am going to share how I approach designing a lesson using a model developed by Achieve to support NGSS implementation. I used the chart provided to set up my lesson. You could also develop whole units using a similar approach. (more…)

Shifts in Types of Assessment with NGSS

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

by Heather Wygant

With NGSS, we are rewriting our curriculum and reevaluating how we teach and assess our students. Many of us are looking at more Project-Based Learning and incorporating more engineering projects into what we already do. But what about the way we assess our students? (more…)

Supporting Common Core ELA Standards in the High School Science Classroom

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

by Jeff Orlinsky

Hello CSTA Members, my name is Jeff Orlinsky and I am the CSTA High School Director. I am a biology teacher and have been teaching at the same school for the last 27 years. During that time, I have watched a lot of “educational reforms,” and the roll out of the Common Core Standards is just the next chapter in my career. My science department is just beginning to feel the impact of the Common Core language arts standards in the science classroom. (more…)

Understanding Global Change August 4–8, 2014

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

by Minda Berbeco

A NEW Summer Institute for environmental science, earth science, and biology middle and high school teachers!

The University of California Museum of Paleontology, together with the National Center for Science Education, will launch a new web resource — Understanding Global Change — at the end of 2014. The resource will provide vetted scientific content, teaching resources, and strategies for K-16 educators to effectively incorporate the complex and critically important topic of global change into existing curricula. (more…)

Bio-Boot Camp

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

by Eric Lewis

The Bay Area is full of opportunities and resources for life sciences. While we have great institutions that highlight the natural world around us, there are also amazing opportunities to enjoy nature at our numerous parks and beaches. Last summer, I helped develop a summer school course for SFUSD students that focused on physiology and leveraged expertise and resources from our local medical school (UCSF), our local CSU (SFSU) and our city college (CCSF). We even included a trip to UC Berkeley during the school year to further reinforce a college-going culture for our students. (more…)

New Grant Opportunity for High School Teachers Working with Robots and STEM Education

Friday, October 11th, 2013

Aldebaran Robotics and Kids Talk Radio would like to help you become the recipient of up to $50,000 from a Specialized Secondary Programs (SSP) grant being offered by the California Department of Education.

Eligibility for this grant is limited to all comprehensive public high schools, continuation high schools, county offices of education, consortium of school districts, and theme-based public high schools. The SSP is expected to develop new standards-based model curriculum and provide varied instructional methodologies or organizational structures that promote advanced in-depth study of STEM subject areas. Programs selected for funding are structured so that participating students explore areas of study in a deeper way while developing knowledge and skills that will prepare them for post-secondary education and careers. The SSP funds must be spent for a new program or school rather than for maintenance of an existing program at a high school.  (more…)

Book Review: Napolean’s Buttons

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

by Walter O’Brien

Napoleon's Buttons Book CoverThe history of witch-hunts throughout Europe and North America during the 17-century has been well documented. Students across the United States have been taught that witch-hunts stem from a gamut of reasons such as religion and land acquisition. Yet in reality, witch-hunts served as a scapegoat for illnesses and/or natural disasters that were inexplicable at the time. Individuals accused of witchcraft included men, women and children, outcasts or prominent members of society and they consequently faced great danger and were often tortured. In certain recorded situations, those accused of witchcraft were tossed into a body of water and if the accused drowned, they would be deemed innocent; however, if the accused managed to float they would be pronounced guilty and punished further. (more…)

Reconstructing a Fossil Lesson and Lab

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

by Jeff Orlinksy

This month’s lab focuses on inference and evolution.  I use this activity after our lessons in evolution.  I incorporate this activity after CST testing as well.

Grades: 9th – 12th (more…)

Recruiting Students into High School STEM Classes

Monday, April 1st, 2013

by Laura Henriques

It’s that time of year when students start to think about which high school classes they will take next year, and teachers and professional organizations are joining in the effort to help recruit students to take physics. Dean Baird, an award winning physics teacher from the Sacramento area, has put together some fliers and the AAPT has created a poster, “Top 10 Reasons to Take Physics,” which can be useful for recruiting students. For those students who are already thinking about college admission and college readiness, the A-G requirements help guide their planning and guidance counselors, teachers and parents also play a role in helping students decide whether to take a fourth year of math or a third (or fourth) year of science. Intuitively we already know that taking more math or science will help students be successful, and there is much data to support this idea. More high school math and science correlate with increased success in college, regardless of major, and STEM fields are employing candidates at higher rates (and the pay is pretty good!). These can be strong selling points when trying to convince students and their parents that a year of physics or another year of math really will be good for them. (more…)

Focus Speaker Feature – Paul Doherty

Monday, October 1st, 2012

by Laura Henriques

Learning Physics by Doing Physics

As California science teachers we’ve all heard of the Exploratorium, and I am hoping that most of us have had the pleasure of spending some time there. The Exploratorium is the Grand Dame of hands-on science museums. In addition to the wonderful facility, The Exploratorium hosts workshops for teachers, and publishes books. Their vision includes a focus on learners exploring and making sense of their world through inquiry. A key contributor to that exciting edifice of science education is 2012 California Science Education Conference Focus Speaker Paul Doherty. (more…)

Introduction to the Scientific Method Lesson Plan

Saturday, September 1st, 2012

by Jeff Orlinsky

It is the start of a new year and you are looking for new way to start your class.  How about introducing the scientific method with this simple (more…)

Inverted or Flipped Classrooms: What are they and how do they work?

Sunday, July 1st, 2012

by Laura Henriques and Meredith Ashbran

What is a flipped or inverted classroom?

Classrooms at the K-12 and college level normally include the direct instruction portion of the instructional sequence. Students listen to a lecture, take notes, and may participate in discussions. There might be some demonstrations or lab activities, but the bulk of classroom time is often spent with the teacher doing lots of work and the students passively receiving the information. Students then go home to solve problems, answer homework questions, and try to apply the information they “learned” during class. It is often at this point where the lessons, which seemed to make so much sense during school hours, seem confusing and the students need help from us. Sadly for them, we aren’t there to help! (more…)

Technology for the Classroom: An Examination of YouTube Education

Friday, June 1st, 2012

by Donna Ross

In the last installment of Technology for the Classroom, I considered the value of TED-Ed for classroom use.  This issue will examine several uses of YouTube.  Among people with computers and smart-phones, YouTube has become ubiquitous. Even late-night comics mine YouTube videos for humorous gems.  Most students, including those at the elementary grades, have searched for YouTube videos and many have posted their own creations.  However, as I watch those funny cat videos I inevitably seem to be bombarded with material that makes me question the appropriateness for a school setting.   For example, I searched for a video on DNA replication and I was faced with thousands of videos, many with comments that definitely were not school-friendly. Along with some reasonable choices, I also was presented with “popular videos” that, based on the content and the number of views, caused me to despair for the future of our society. But, before despair takes over, let me share some ways to make better use of YouTube for educational purposes. (more…)

Exam Reviews and Games!

Friday, June 1st, 2012

by Heather Wygant

I found a cool website that teachers can use as a tool in any subject review for exams.  This site can help you make Jeopardy, Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, and Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader? games that can be used for reviewing content. Just before STAR testing, I used the Jeopardy game to review the kids on material that would be covered on the STAR test. They loved the game, and it made them feel prepared and confident going into the STAR testing. I am going to try this method again for final exam reviews next week!

Using games is great not only as a review tool to re-teach and remind, but it can also be used as an extension tool, to go beyond the basics with students who have mastered the material. I ask students who have mastered the material to generate questions for the games for extra credit. There are several sites that allow you to generate games for free.  The one I am using is: http://www.wolfescience.com/byojeopardy/#. Here is the Jeopardy game I created for my high school geology class: http://jeopardylabs.com/play/chs-geology-review-jeopardy  Check it out and make your own versions for your students!  Or browse the games already created, you might find one already made covering the subject you want!

Heather Wygant  teaches CP geology at Sobrato High School in Morgan Hill and is CSTA’s high school director.

Technology for the Classroom: An Examination of TED-Ed

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

by Donna Ross

Technology has become a central component of the science classroom, but it can be overwhelming to consider the vast array of resources. During the next few months I will review a few of my favorite free or low-cost options for teachers. This month I am starting with TED-Ed. In case you haven’t used TED talks, I will start with a brief overview before exploring their new educational initiative.

TED is a nonprofit that began nearly 30 years ago as a conference. The underlying goal was that there are some ideas so important that they are worth sharing. People were invited to come and give a brief talk that would be shared with others. Since then, the conferences have continued, generally two per year with up to 100 presenters sharing talks that last from six to eighteen minutes. Eventually, the goal became even bigger. It seemed that if the ideas were worth sharing, they were worth sharing even more widely. For the past five years, many of the talks have been shared with the world on the TED website http://www.ted.com/talks. (more…)

Absolute Dating for Geology/Earth/Environmental Science

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

by Heather A. Wygant

Here is a virtual lab I found to use in my AP Environmental Class this year.  (more…)

Secondary Science Teachers: Updates and Opportunities

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

by Heather Wygant

  • You can find an Honors Earth Science course that was accepted by the University of California as a “d” lab course at honorsearthscience.com.  Also included is some information about Honors Geology and offering a dual-credit course by partnering with a neighboring university.
  • High school teachers!  We need your input!  Please go to the following link and take the short survey about your experiences with CSTA.  Please pass on this survey to non-CSTA members as well.  We would like to know what high school science teachers need and want in a professional organization!  So please go here: http://goo.gl/9W8yB to complete the survey!

Summer Opportunities for Secondary School Teachers:


Teacher Burn-Out and Ensuring a Safe Classroom

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

by Heather A. Wygant

I read two blog articles over Thanksgiving break that struck a chord with me so I had to share them with fellow CSTA members. (more…)

Open Letter to High School Earth Science Educators

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

by Wendy Van Norden, Tom Traeger, Ray Ingersoll, Bruce Luyendyk, and Eldridge Moores.

Dear Earth Science Educators:

We are pleased to announce that the UC Academic Senate Board on Admissions and Relations with Schools (BOARS), and the UC Office of the President have approved a high school course entitled Honors Earth Science that will meet the UC Area “d” Laboratory Science admissions requirement. The course was designed principally by high school teacher Wendy Van Norden with help from the rest of us.  It is listed on https://doorways.ucop.edu/list/, under the listings for Harvard-Westlake School, North Hollywood, CA.  The  Honors Earth Science course outline, appears on the Honors Geology website of Harvard Westlake School, at http://www.hwscience.com/Geology/Honors/index.html. (more…)

Program Highlights for High School Teachers

Friday, September 30th, 2011

by Heather Marshall

While setting up my schedule for the California Science Education Conference (October 21-23), I was looking at the variety of high school workshops being offered this year.  I was impressed by how many different categories there were!  This year, there are workshops geared toward every major science taught in secondary schools, plus environmental science, marine biology, technology, biotechnology, and even classroom organization. Some of these workshops will provide new ideas for experienced teachers and others will offer experienced ideas for new teachers. What ever your level if experience, there is something here for you. A few of the workshops or sessions that caught my eye are. (more…)

Challenge Your Students to Develop “Clean Technology” with Cash Prizes Totaling $17,000

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

For middle and high school students, ages 13-18, who attend school in the San Francisco/Bay area-the NSTA/Applied Materials Clean Tech Competition offers a real-world problem to solve that demonstrates the powerful potential of clean technology. The inaugural year’s challenge will involve students in two of the world’s most historic centers of innovation-the San Francisco/Bay Area and Xi’an, China. The competition will engage youth of all skill, ability and interest levels in a common challenge to highlight the roles that science and technology and the strategy of design play in solving problems that transcend national boundaries and to help prepare students for success in life.  Teams in each region will compete for $17,000 in cash prizes. (more…)

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