September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

Conference Deadline Proposal Approaches! Short Courses due January 31, Workshops March 4

Posted: Friday, January 4th, 2013

by Rick Pomeroy

Have you ever wondered how many workshops are really offered at a California Science Education Conference, or what the grade or subject distribution is? I do. Over the years, I have come to realize that there are a lot of workshops at each conference that I never get to see. In fact, there are things at every conference for people with vastly different teaching assignments than I have that I have never realized even existed. For example, this year at the 2012 conference in San Jose, there was a dedicated short course specifically for primary teachers. Since the majority of my work is with secondary science teachers, I would never have even thought about attending any of those sessions. I also missed most of the biology workshops, not because I have anything against biology but simply because there was something else at those times that I was more interested in.

After ruminating about my lack of knowledge about the overall picture of workshops at this year’s conference, I decided to do a bit of an analysis of what was proposed and what was offered.  Besides my curiosity, I did this as a way of encouraging you to submit workshop proposals for the 2013 conference in Palm Springs. I am hoping that by seeing what was proposed and what was accepted this year, that more members will be interested in submitting their own workshop proposal.

The data for this analysis is the list of submitted proposals. The list includes the subject matter as entered by the proposer, the grade level(s) that the session was targeted for, the subject area, and the results of the blind review (accept, decline, withdrawn). During the submission process, the proposer could select from eight subject areas. In addition, each proposer could select the grade level(s) that the workshop would apply to. Unfortunately, this data is a bit confusing with some proposers picking all grade levels from K-13 while others would select a single grade.

Subject Area Submissions: There were a total of 252 proposals submitted. Of those, 173 were accepted with the results as follows (submitted/accepted): Chemistry (16/14), Earth/Space Science (42/30), Environmental Science (25/18), Integrated Science (14/8), Multidisciplinary Science (75/56), Physical Science (31/20), and Physics (9/5). In an effort to offer a content-balanced conference, it appears that more submissions in the areas of chemistry and physics would help the conference planning committee offer something for every teacher during each of the workshop time slots.

Grade Level Submissions: As stated above, the analysis of submissions by grade level was a bit more difficult. I could have analyzed the number of proposals that listed 1st grade then the number that listed 2nd grade …… but that would have yielded a Mole of data (okay, I may be exaggerating a bit but I put this in to see if anyone is really reading this far) that would have been difficult to make sense of and which would probably not inform the general nature of this article. Instead, I tried to count the number of proposals submitted/accepted at the elementary grade level (PreK-6) the middle/junior high school Level (6-9) and the high school level (9-12).  As I said before, this data was not quite as clean as the subject matter and so I had to categorize some of the proposals into one group or another based on the grades listed by the proposer as well as the trend in the grades. For example, something listed for grades 5,6,7,8 would be counted as middle/junior high school where as something that was listed as K, 1,2,3,4,5 would be counted for elementary. The proposals were counted multiple times to check my assumptions. The results of that analysis (submitted/accepted) are elementary (45/42), middle/junior high school (42/27) high school (42/30) and other where the typical grade span included at least two and in some cases all three grade ranges (123/74). The catch-all grade span made it difficult to categorize and evaluate proposals and may have contributed to the fact that almost 50 of those proposals were not accepted.

What can we learn from this simple analysis?  First, look for those areas that appear to have low numbers of submissions. If you have a good idea in any of those areas, please consider submitting a proposal for the 2013 conference. Likewise, if you want to do something in one of the more heavily impacted subject areas (Earth/Space Science, Multidisciplinary Science) pay special attention to the grade levels that your workshop applies to as well as crafting a proposal that reviewers can’t wait to accept. Finally, when proposing a workshop, try to identify the target audience that you really want to attract. Many attendees will see a workshop listed for grades K-12 and wonder how valuable it can be for my grade level if it covers everyone.

In closing, I encourage you to take some time to craft your proposals so that they are clear on their content and the grade level standards that they address. Pay particular attention, for at least one more year, to the California Standards. We hope that these will be changing, but for now they are the rules we have to play by. Finally, think of something you have to offer that is unique, that you are passionate about, and that you have found to be successful in supporting high quality learning for your students. Take a risk and submit a proposal. If this is your first time, feel free to contact me, or any of your science colleagues for support. The goal of the conference chair and the entire conference committee is to provide you with three days of awesome sessions that you can’t wait to go home and try.

The deadline for Short Course submissions is January 31, 2013 and for workshop submissions March 4, 2013. The conference will be held at the Palm Springs Convention Center, October 25-27, 2013.


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Written by Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy is science education lecturer/supervisor in the School of Education, University of California Davis.

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California Science Assessment Update

Posted: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

by Jessica Sawko

In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.

At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at 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.

Some ways to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in your classroom

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

by Carol Peterson

1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. 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.

2016 Award Recipients – Join CSTA in Honoring Their Accomplishments

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference  on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!

Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award

John Keller

John Keller

The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well into the future.” 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.

NGSS: Making Your Life Easier

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Peter A’hearn

Wait… What?

NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?

The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Celestial Highlights, September 2016

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt 

Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. 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.