January/February 2018 – Vol. 31 No. 2

Family Science Nights

Posted: Saturday, January 1st, 2011

by Pete A’Hearn

Kids love to share what they are learning  in science with their parents, and they love making new discoveries with their families.  Hosting a family science night is a great way to encourage kids and their families to do hands-on science together.

A basic family science night consists of hands-on science stations with simple instructions set up in tables in the cafeteria or outside in a common area.  Teachers cover one to three stations, depending on how complex they are, to help families do the activities.  Older students can also be enlisted to run a station, and kids love to show off the science they have learned.

Stations can often be easily made using the hands-on materials in your science curriculum.  I have found that FOSS experiments are particularly ready to use.  Write up some simple instructions with some good open-ended questions to foster inquiry.  In my district, I try to get as many of them translated into Spanish as I can.  At the end of this article I’ve provided some examples of instruction sheets.

Some examples of hands-on stations I have used are:

  • Stream tables to experiment with erosion.
  • What types of things stick to a magnet?
  • Electromagnets with various extra circuit components and questions about how to make them stronger.
  • Make the phases of the moon with a chart, a bright light, and Styrofoam balls on as stick.
  • Observing living things with hand lenses and various supplies to investigate behavior—mealworms, land snails, sow bugs.
  • Minerals and supplies to observe their properties—scratch test, streak plate, magnet, vinegar.
  • Telescopes outside—invite members of your local astronomical society.
  • Microscopes with pond water, compost in water, fermenting yeast.  If you have a microscope camera and a projector, then participants can share their discoveries.
  • Light up a bulb with a battery and two wires.
  • Van De Graff generator.
  • How many drops of water can you fit on a penny and what variables can you change and test?
  • Break open rocks with rock hammers (safety goggles provided) and identify the minerals inside.
  • Use magnets in plastic bags to find magnetite in the playground sand.
  • Food Web card concentration—pay a version of concentration in which the first player to build a five step food web wins.
  • Human body systems floor puzzle.
  • Identifying animals by their skeletons.
  • Building tops and timing how long they stay up.
  • Generating electricity with a wind turbine and testing changes to the blades.
  • Straw rocket design and testing.
  • Finding the focal length of different lenses by projecting images.

There is money in Title I for parent involvement, both at the site and district levels.  Some schools might choose to use some of these funds for family nights.  This might be used to purchase supplies or to pay teachers for time in setting up the event.

You can organize a family science night with different themes or purposes.   Some events we have held are:  STEM Careers Night, Science Fair Night,  Family Astronomy Night, 4th and 5th Grade CST Science Night, and just good ol’ Science Night.  In a future issue, I’ll discuss some of the different kinds of Family Science Nights we have had in Palm Springs Unified School District and how they are organized.

The San Joaquin County Office of Education has some great ideas for Family Science Nights: http://imeet.sjcoe.net/familyscienceevents/Welcome.html.

(Instruction sheets for some of the activities can be found on the CSTA website at www.cascience.org/csta/pdf/FamilyScienceNightDirections.doc.)

Pete A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is region 4 director for CSTA.

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.

2 Responses

  1. […] too structured.  For younger students, I set up many hands-on stations like those described in the January CCS, but add a […]

  2. For those of you who were trying to access the Family Science Night Directions document, our apologies that the link above was broken, it has now been fixed.

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California Science Test Academy for Educators

Posted: Thursday, February 15th, 2018

California Science Test Academy for Educators

To support implementation of the California Science Test (CAST), the California Department of Education is partnering with Educational Testing Service and WestEd to offer a one-day CAST Academy for local educational agency (LEA) science educators, to be presented at three locations in California from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. As an alternative to traveling, LEA teams can participate virtually via WebEx on one of the dates listed below.

The dates and locations for the CAST Academy are as follows:

  • Monday, April 23, 2018—Sacramento
  • Wednesday, April 25, 2018—Fresno
  • Thursday, April 26, 2018—Irvine

The CAST Academy will help participants develop a deeper understanding of the assessment design and expectations of the CAST. The academy also will provide information and activities designed to assist educators in their implementation of the California Next Generation Science Standards and three-dimensional learning to help them gain an understanding of how these new science assessment item types can inform teaching and learning. The CAST Academy dates above are intended for school and district science instructional leaders, including teacher leaders, teacher trainers, and instructional coaches. Additional trainings will be offered at a later date specifically for county staff. In addition, curriculum, professional development, and assessment leaders would benefit from this training.

A $100 registration fee will be charged for each person attending the in-person training. Each virtual team participating via WebEx will be charged $100 for up to 10 participants through one access point. Each workshop will have the capacity to accommodate a maximum of 50 virtual teams. Each virtual team will need to designate a lead, who is responsible for organizing the group locally. Registration and payment must be completed online at http://www.cvent.com/d/6tqg8k.

For more information regarding the CAST Academy, please contact Elizabeth Dilke, Program Coordinator, Educational Testing Service, by phone at 916-403-2407 or by e‑mail at caasppworkshops@ets.org.

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.

Accelerating into NGSS – A Statewide Rollout Series Now Accepting Registrations

Posted: Friday, January 19th, 2018

Are you feeling behind on the implementation of NGSS? Then Accelerating into NGSS – the Statewide Rollout event – is right for you!

If you have not experienced Phases 1-4 of the Statewide Rollout, or are feeling behind with the implementation of NGSS, the Accelerating Into NGSS Statewide Rollout will provide you with the greatest hits from Phases 1-4!

Accelerating Into NGSS Statewide Rollout is a two-day training geared toward grade K-12 academic coaches, administrators, curriculum leads, and teacher leaders. Check-in for the two-day rollout begins at 7:30 a.m., followed by a continental breakfast. Sessions run from 8:00 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. on Day One and from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Day Two.

Cost of training is $250 per attendee. Fee includes all materials, continental breakfast, and lunch on both days. It is recommended that districts send teams of four to six, which include at least one administrator. Payment can be made by check or credit card. If paying by check, registration is NOT complete until payment has been received. All payments must be received prior to the Rollout location date you are attending. Paying by credit card secures your seat at time of registration. No purchase orders accepted. No participant cancellation refunds.

For questions or more information, please contact Amy Kennedy at akennedy@sjcoe.net or (209) 468-9027.



MARCH 28-29, 2018
Host: San Mateo County Office of Education
Location: San Mateo County Office of Education, Redwood City

APRIL 10-11, 2018
Host: Orange County Office of Education
Location: Brandman University, Irvine

MAY 1-2, 2018
Host: Tulare County Office of Education
Location: Tulare County Office of Education, Visalia

MAY 3-4, 2018
Host: San Bernardino Superintendent of Schools
Location: West End Educational Service Center, Rancho Cucamonga

MAY 7-8, 2018
Host: Sacramento County Office of Education
Location: Sacramento County Office of Education Conference Center and David P. Meaney Education Center, Mather

JUNE 14-15, 2018
Host: Imperial County Office of Education
Location: Imperial Valley College, Imperial

Presented by the California Department of Education, California County Superintendents Educational Services Association/County Offices of Education, K-12 Alliance @WestEd, California Science Project, and the California Science Teachers Association.

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.

The Teaching and Learning Collaborative, Reflections from an Administrator

Posted: Friday, January 19th, 2018

by Kelly Patchen

My name is Mrs. Kelly Patchen, and I am proud to be an elementary assistant principal working in the Tracy Unified School District (TUSD) at Louis Bohn and McKinley Elementary Schools. Each of the schools I support are Title I K-5 schools with about 450 students, a diverse student population, a high percentage of English Language Learners, and students living in poverty. We’re also lucky to be part of the CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative with the K-12 Alliance. Learn More…

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

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.

2018 CSTA Conference Call for Proposals

Posted: Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

CSTA is pleased to announce that we are now accepting proposals for 90-minute workshops and three- and six-hour short courses for the 2018 California Science Education Conference. Workshops and short courses make up the bulk of the content and professional learning opportunities available at the conference. In recognition of their contribution, members who present a workshop or short course receive 50% off of their registration fees. Click for more information regarding proposals, or submit one today by following the links below.

Short Course Proposal

Workshop Proposal 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.

CSTA’s New Administrator Facebook Group Page

Posted: Monday, January 15th, 2018

by Holly Steele

The California Science Teachers Association’s mission is to promote high-quality science education, and one of the best practice’s we use to fulfill that mission is through the use of our Facebook group pages. CSTA hosts several closed and moderated Facebook group pages for specific grade levels, (Elementary, Middle, and High School), pages for district coaches and science education faculty, and the official CSTA Facebook page. These pages serve as an online resource for teachers and coaches to exchange teaching methods, materials, staying update on science events in California and asking questions. CSTA is happy to announce the creation of a 6th group page called, California Administrators Supporting Science. Learn More…

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: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.