September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

Exciting Times for Science Education

Posted: Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

by Laura Henriques

These are exciting times for science education in California! On September 4, 2013 the California State Board of Education approved the adoption of Next Generation Science Standards for our K-12 classrooms. In a couple of weeks science educators from around the state will be gathering together in Palm Springs for CSTA’s 2013 California Science Education Conference. CSTA is actively involved in helping articulate how NGSS will come to fruition in our schools and classrooms and throughout the process we will do our best to keep you informed, gather input from our members, and share that information with the appropriate parties. We want to help ensure that you have the information and professional development you need to make a smooth transition from our current standards to Next Generation Science Standards. Additionally, we will continue to share opportunities for you to be more personally involved (e.g. providing feedback to the State Board of Education, applying for positions on committees and commissions, joining NGSS listserv, etc.).

One of the best things you can do to support your own transition to NGSS is to attend the conference at the end of the month! The Conference Committee has diligently worked to create a program that will meet your needs in both your current classroom and your NGSS classroom to come. Among the NGSS-related sessions planned is our opening Keynote General Session speaker, Dr. Stephen Pruitt. Dr. Pruitt is the Vice President for Content, Research, and Development for Achieve and led the development of the Next Generation Science Standards. His talk will follow the CSTA General Meeting on Friday morning. There will also be multiple sessions provided by the California Department of Education. These will span a variety of topics from a general overview of NGSS (on Friday and Saturday), to implementation issues and timelines, and an informational workshop related to the soon-to-be developed California Science Curriculum Framework (pending confirmation). There will also be several sessions that showcase activities and strategies featuring critical aspects of NGSS that you can use in your classroom. A quick search will show you that there are lots of NGSS-related workshops scheduled.

Beyond NGSS-themed sessions, you will also be able to learn new science content – take a look at some of the articles in this issue of CCS to find out about some of the speakers who will share cutting edge scientific research. There will be new ideas for your classroom teaching including sessions which provide explicit linkages between science and Common Core (both math and ELA), pedagogy-focused sessions which will provide you with new ways to think about how you work with students, and sessions about how non-verbal communication influences classroom management. You can also discover new labs, demos and activities which make content come alive for your students. There will even be a chance for you to try out some fun STEM activities at the Friday evening pool party. Of course, there is also the exhibit hall to provide you with the chance to meet with vendors and check out the latest science teaching equipment and supplies. I always leave the exhibit hall with something new to use in my classes.

Finally, we will close the conference with Dr. Laurence Smith, a climate scientist who will share his research about how the world is changing and what it will look like in the future. As educators we are trying to envision our educational world with Next Generation Science Standards, his work will help us understand the next generation of our planet.

I hope to see you in Palm Springs! It promises to be a great conference.

Advance registration ends on October 7th. On-site registration is available at the Palm Springs Convention Center starting Thursday, October 24, 4:00 pm – 8:00 pm.

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.