September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

CSTA Announces 2015 Keynote Speakers!

Posted: Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

by Deb Farkas


As chair of the 2015 California Science Education Conference Committee, I am pleased to announce that CSTA will be welcoming Dr. Ainissa Ramirez and former astronaut, José Hernández, as our Opening Session and Closing Session Keynote speakers, respectively. Dr. Ramirez will present in the morning on Friday, October 2, 2015 at the Hyatt Regency Sacramento and Mr. Hernández will address the CSTA audience the morning of Sunday, October 4. Both individuals are dedicated to making science accessible to all and encouraging young people to pursue careers in STEM. 

Dr. Ainissa Ramirez

Dr. Ainissa Ramirez

Dr. Ramirez, formerly a research scientist at Bell Laboratories – Lucent Technologies and an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at Yale University and director at Yale of the award-winning science lecture series for children, Science Saturdays, is a science evangelist who has a passion for making science fun, exciting and accessible to the general public.  Her current focus is getting the message out about the importance of STEM education and shattering the stereotyping of scientists by promoting STEM in underrepresented groups.  To quote Dr. Ramirez, “The 21st century requires a new kind of learner – not someone who can simply churn out answers by rote, as has been done in the past, but a student who can think expansively and solve problems resourcefully.  The traditional academic skills of reading, ‘riting, and ’rithmetic must be replaced with creativity, curiosity, critical thinking and problem solving, and collaborative and communication skills in order to solve the complex problems of tomorrow.” Dr. Ramirez is co-author of Newton’s Football: The Science Behind America’s Game with journalist Allen St. John, and author of Save Our Science: How to Inspire a New Generation of Scientists.

José Hernández

José Hernández

José Hernández is a former NASA astronaut who served as a mission specialist on the STS-128 Discovery mission in 2009, managing the transfer of more than 18,000 pounds of supplies and equipment between the shuttle and the International Space Station, assisting with robotics operation, and serving as flight engineer for launch and landing.  The son of migrant farm workers in California, he moved with his family annually from Mexico to central California while growing up.  After graduating high school in Stockton, Mr. Herandez pursued baccalaureate and graduate degrees in electrical and computer engineering, was selected as an astronaut candidate in 2004, and in 2006 received an honorary doctorate from the University of the Pacific. Earlier in his career, Mr. Hernández worked on signal and image processing applications in radar imaging, computed tomography, and acoustic imaging at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.  Mr. Hernández is also the co-developer of the first full-field digital mammography imaging system.  He co-authored Reaching for the Stars: The Inspiring Story of a Migrant Farmworker Turned Astronaut with Monica Rojas Rubin.  In 2005, José founded the Reaching for the Stars Foundation based on his belief that all children, despite challenges, should have the opportunities to fulfill their dreams.  Through the Foundation’s science conferences, events, summer academy and scholarships, he hopes to inspire young people to learn more about math and science, and help prepare and support them in pursuing careers in STEM.

For more information about the 2015 California Science Education Conference, please visit our conference website. I encourage you to submit a proposal to present a one-hour workshop at the conference, proposals are due February 13!

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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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.

News and Happenings in CSTA’s Region 1 – Fall 2017

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Marian Murphy-Shaw


This month I was fortunate enough to hear about some new topics to share with our entire region. Some of you may access the online or newsletter options, others may attend events in person that are nearer to you. Long time CSTA member and environmental science educator Mike Roa is well known to North Bay Area teachers for his volunteer work sharing events and resources. In this month’s Region 1 updates I am happy to make a few of the options Mike offers available to our region. Learn More…

Written by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw is the student services director at Siskiyou County Office of Education and is CSTA’s Region 1 Director and chair of CSTA’s Policy Committee.