November/December 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 2

Expanding Your Definition of Informal Science Education

Posted: Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

by Lori Walsh

When deciding on a field trip, zoos, aquariums and science centers typically come to mind. These facilities offer students hands-on opportunities to make science observations using inquiry. Teachers can schedule standards aligned workshops or self-guided visits. If your students have already visited these facilities, you can broaden your options by exploring the larger world of Informal Science Education. Nature centers, non-profits, and environmental groups often also offer NGSS aligned programs in the natural setting. Your students can discover the local environment while making memorable experiences.

Do you need field trip curriculum changed slightly to specifically highlight your thematic unit? Informal Science Centers offer citizen science opportunities that often accommodate flexible programming. Trish Boaz from the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy says that is just what sets their programs apart. They have structured and unstructured programs that allow students to explore using inquiry skills. The experiences approach science from a holistic perspective, showing how individual actions lead to community stewardship. Many non-traditional ISIs have instructors with science degrees and backgrounds that provide high-quality instruction. An outdoor program might encompass a different kind of field trip for your students.

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Looking for a way to give your students an active experience that will create memories and inspire future conservation? Many outdoor education programs immerse kids in the natural environment. H2O Trash Patrol, based in Encinitas, offers marine education programs where kids learn about conservation while collecting trash from local waterways on Stand Up Paddleboards. They also offer land cleanup options for kids that are not ready to venture into the water. This is a highly engaging way to reach even the most skeptic student. Patti Diaz, Executive Director for H2O Trash Patrol, uses her background in climate research to discuss how humans are changing the landscape. Students learn why harbor and jetty locations are chosen, take water samples and study mitigation strategies. This immersion approach completely uses the “floating classroom” to inspire conservation behavior change.

Do you have time to take a longer trip? Some institutions have overnight programs, such as the Environmental Living Programs through California State Parks. Not only do these programs cover science concepts, but cultural topics can be included as well, to cover subjects across the curriculum. While you are probably near one of the over 250 state parks, logistics may prevent an offsite field trip. Fortunately, your students can experience free virtual trips through video conferencing. The California State Parks programs focus on Marine Protected Areas and can focus on six topics, ranging from a particular species to habitats. These programs are correlated with NGSS standards to easily complement your instruction.

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The wide variety of choices for informal science learning gives flexibility for your instruction. Field trips are not a one size fits all program, you are the expert on your students’ needs and best methods to implement the curriculum. Taking a few minutes to research field trip opportunities in your area can help find a program that adds to your students’ knowledge and creates lifelong memories.

Written by Lori Walsh

Lori Walsh

Lori Walsh is the Education/Operations Supervisor at SEA LIFE Aquarium at LEGOLAND California Resort and Informal Science Director for CSTA.

One Response

  1. For high school teachers interested in a full immersion forestry program, check out the Forestry Challenge. These multi-day events are held each fall in various parts of the state. A few quotes from teachers:

    “This is an amazing program that takes academic studies like biology and geometry and glues them together and is a chance for students to apply those subjects in real life.”

    “There is no better event to give students real world science and career education than the Forestry Challenge program.”

    “All of my students were completely engaged in every activity and learned much more than in a traditional school setting. Great experience for all!”

    “These three days give more education and skills, and with better retention, than a month or two in the classroom.”

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Priority Features of NGSS-Aligned Instructional Materials

Posted: Wednesday, November 29th, 2017

Recommendations for Publishers, Reviewers, and Educators. The California Science Teachers Association and the science teachers associations of three other Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) west-coast states, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, have co-authored a white paper on priority features of NGSS instructional materials. This is the first time our states have collaborated to convey a common vision on an issue of great importance for the implementation of the NGSS. We understand all too well that for meaningful shifts to happen and to support the full vision of the NGSS, strong K-12 Instructional materials are required. Learn More…

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State Board Moves Forward Two Key Pieces Supporting CA NGSS Implementation

Posted: Wednesday, November 29th, 2017

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CSTA President Jill Grace provides public comment at the November 8, 2017, California State Board of Education meeting.

On November 8, 2017, the California State Board of Education (SBE) took action on two items of import relating to the implementation of the California Next Generation Science Standards (CA NGSS). One item was relating to the California Science Test (CAST) and the other to instructional materials. CSTA provided both written and oral comments on both items along with providing input on what CSTA and many other advocates view as a critical component of our state’s emerging accountability system – student access to a broad course of study. Learn More…

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NGSS – Early Attempts and Later Reflections from an Early Implementer Teacher

Posted: Thursday, November 23rd, 2017

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In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the California NGSS k-8 Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

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

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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

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CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Expanding Your Definition of Informal Science Education

Posted: Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

by Lori Walsh

When deciding on a field trip, zoos, aquariums and science centers typically come to mind. These facilities offer students hands-on opportunities to make science observations using inquiry. Teachers can schedule standards aligned workshops or self-guided visits. If your students have already visited these facilities, you can broaden your options by exploring the larger world of Informal Science Education. Nature centers, non-profits, and environmental groups often also offer NGSS aligned programs in the natural setting. Your students can discover the local environment while making memorable experiences. Learn More…

Written by Lori Walsh

Lori Walsh

Lori Walsh is the Education/Operations Supervisor at SEA LIFE Aquarium at LEGOLAND California Resort and Informal Science Director for CSTA.