September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Climate Citizen Science for K-12 Students

Posted: Friday, February 1st, 2013

By Minda Barbeco

Engaging students in science can be tricky. Time is limited, the material can be stifling, and students are not always the most willing participants. Moreover, running students through the same experiments with known results doesn’t really demonstrate what science is like in the real world; often, when researchers conduct scientific experiments, the organismsdon’t behave, the chemicals don’t react, the balls don’t roll down the inclined plane at the right speeds. The fact that in actual laboratory work the results don’t always support the hypotheses no doubt comes as a sad realization to many a new researcher – “But my experiments always worked in high school science classes!”

So how can science teachers working with students of all ages engage students in real life science? Citizen science, a new model of enlisting the public in scientific research, has gained recent popularity. If you are science teacher inCalifornia, there are several projects that can get your students involved and most importantly, engaged in science.

Studying Plants and Climate Change

Project BudBurst is a program run by the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) for both formal and informal educators. Through this program, teachers take their students out of the classroom to monitor plant development in their schoolyard or neighborhood. This requires students to learn about different stages in plant development, where plants grow, and how climate affects their development. The data from Project BudBurst is available online as well, allowing teachers to use data collected from all over the country to teach students about how a changing climate affects plants all across the U.S. Courses on how to collect and use the data in your classroom are available through the NEON citizen science academy.

Tracking Test Gardens

As schoolyard gardens are gaining popularity across California, there are many ways to use them to develop hypotheses to learn about how microclimates affect plant life. Students can create their own notebooks to observe field conditions and how they change through the school year, analyze microclimates, make predictions for the season, and track developmental events. As flowers start to pop out this spring, they can also observe pollinators visiting their plots to understand more about biotic relationships and plant development. For suggestions on creating your own hypothesis-generating science notebook, check out: http://www.learner.org/jnorth/tm/tulips/observe.html

Study Animal Migration

As your students are huddled in the classroom, animals outside are scuttling, soaring, or swimming around, migrating up and down the coast with the changing seasons. An hour of time collecting population data on these critters could be the jumping-off point for abundant investigations into animal physiology and behavior. Through the organization Journey North, you can investigate the movement of robins, the appearance of earthworms, and the migration of monarchs as these animals respond to changing seasons. The data can then be used to chart changes in population density through the year, track short-term migration patterns or incorporated into larger datasets to see how migration has changed over recent years with a changing climate. More information on Journey North’s program is available at: http://www.learner.org/jnorth/

Engaging students in citizen science teaches them, in real-life settings, how experiments are designed, data are collected, and information is analyzed. Taking students through the different steps in a field setting helps them build their understanding of how science works, how researchers study organisms, and about the organisms themselves. There are ample opportunities to use these investigative techniques to teach students about the world around them, while supporting the larger scientific community as a whole. And who knows, maybe some of your students will one day become researchers who look back at the data they collected as citizen scientists as the bedrock of their scientific studies.

Minda Barbeco is the Programs and Policy Director at the National Center for Science Education.

Written by Minda Berbeco

Minda Berbeco

Minda Berbeco was the Programs and Policy Director at the National Center for Science Education and is now the Director of the Sierra Club San Francisco Chapter.

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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.