September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

CSTA and NSTA Team Up to Provide Professional Development for California Science Educators

Posted: Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

by Laura Henriques

The end of the school year is almost upon us! As we finish teaching our last units, pack up our classrooms, and send students out to do exciting science and STEM adventures it is time to think about our own professional learning.

The theme for this month’s California Classroom Science is related to summer opportunities for educators and kids. Summertime brings opportunities for us to be in the role of student, letting us learn new things. We have time to reflect on our practice, work with colleagues, and improve what we do. We can read for our own professional growth (if you have not yet read the K12 Framework for Science Education or the NGSS and related appendices summer could be a perfect time for that). We can attend workshops and institutes. Museums and informal science institutions run a wide range of programs. As you peruse the articles in this issue you’ll find just a few of the options available. Look around your area to see what’s offered. You will be surprised to find so many exciting opportunities. County Offices, California Science Projects and other support providers will be hosting workshops and professional learning opportunities to help us become more familiar with NGSS, linkages between Common Core and science, and the role of engineering in our classrooms. See what you can find to help you begin to transition NGSS into your teaching practice.

CSTA has been actively involved in helping create and provide learning opportunities as well. In May we co-led three NGSS Rollout Workshops with colleagues from California Science Project, K12 Alliance/WestEd, County Offices of Education, and the California Department of Education. More than 700 science teacher leaders and administrators from San Joaquin, LA, Orange, Riverside, and surrounding counties attended these workshops. The workshops will be repeated in the fall in other parts of the state (San Diego, Fresno, Redbluff, and the San Francisco Bay Area). You can find out more about the fall workshops on the NGSS Rollout Website.


As part of CSTA’s professional development plan leading up to the Long Beach NSTA Area Conference on Science Education – in Collaboration with CSTA, we are offering webinars and a summer professional development program around NGSS and Common Core. Educators will have the opportunity to participate in a webinar on June 17, a day-long workshop in July (July 21st in Foster City/San Mateo and July 25th in Anaheim). There will be additional webinars in the fall and a culminating experience at the joint conference in December. There are multiple ways for you to participate in these learning experiences. It’s our hope that you’ll be able to do the webinars, the summer workshop and the follow-up at the conference but we know that some of you will only be able to do the summer components (workshop and/or webinars) while others will only be able to attend the workshop in Long Beach. The intention of creating the extended learning opportunity is to allow you time to learn new things, practice them in your classroom and then come back together to expand upon what you learned. The workshops and webinars will be led by Kathy DiRanna and Cynthia Passmore. These two women are fantastic presenters and I know you’ll learn lots by attending! Kathy will help you dig into NGSS and Common Core integrations while Cynthia will be help you explore Science & Engineering Practices and Crosscutting Concepts during the face-to-face workshops.

Speaking of the December Conference…. Registration is now open! I know that many of us are able to encumber funds from this year to pay for next year’s conference or we need to know about the costs in order to have it built into the school professional learning plan for next year. You can find information about registration and housing options at the conference website. One thing you will notice is that your conference registration is reduced by $90 if you are a CSTA or NSTA member. If you are not yet a member of CSTA now is the time to join! By joining CSTA for $50 you’ll end up with a net savings of $40 on conference registration. This year only, you can join both NSTA and CSTA for a 20% discount. All the various membership options are available on the CSTA membership website.

Finally, a quick reminder about the Superintendent’s STEM Symposium: The 2nd annual event will take place in San Diego, September 22-23, 2014. This event will also offer a variety of workshops and speakers to help us consider STEM education in California. Another offering of the Statewide NGSS Rollout Workshop will be held in conjunction with this event. Registration for the STEM Symposium is now available. If you have a great workshop to present consider submitting a proposal as they are still seeking a few more sessions (you need to do it quickly though).

Have a great summer. I hope we all have at least one really great science education learning opportunity that impacts what and how we do our jobs each day!

Written by Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques is a professor of science education at CSU Long Beach and past-president of CSTA. She serves as chair of CSTA’s Nominating Committee and is a co-chair of the NGSS Committee.

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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.