January/February 2018 – Vol. 31 No. 2

Find Your Reason to Engage

Posted: Monday, January 15th, 2018

by Jill Grace

I was recently reflecting on events in the news and remembered that several years ago, National Public Radio had a story about a man named Stéphane Hessel, a World War II French resistance fighter, Nazi concentration camp survivor, and contributor to the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The story focused on a book he had published, Time for Outrage (2010).

In it, Hessel makes the argument that the worst attitude is indifference:

“Who is in charge; who are the decision makers? It’s not always easy to discern. We’re not dealing with a small elite anymore, whose actions we can clearly identify. We are dealing with a vast, interdependent world that is interconnected in unprecedented ways. But there are unbearable things all around us. You have to look for them; search carefully. Open your eyes and you will see. This is what I tell young people: If you spend a little time searching, you will find your reasons to engage. The worst attitude is indifference. ‘There’s nothing I can do; I get by’ – adopting this mindset will deprive you of one of the fundamental qualities of being human: outrage.  Our capacity for protest is indispensable, as is our freedom to engage.”

His words make me take pause when I think of the status of science in the United States. A general “mistrust” of science is increasingly pervasive, as outlined in a New Yorker article from the summer of 2016. This mistrust manifests in concerning ways. Our current administration has broken the record for the longest delay in an appointment of a White House Science Advisor – to date, the position still has yet to be filled. General denial of evolution, climate change, and vaccines can have big impacts on families and communities. This fall, we learned that not only did the United States pull out of the Paris Climate Accord, it is now the only nation not to sign. Hessel’s writings reflect on the events of his youth, but they strike a chord with me today, especially as I almost become overwhelmed with a barrage of various stories I find disturbing in the news. His words illustrate the importance of not turning a blind eye and remind me of the importance of not sitting on the sidelines and, instead, engaging.

There is a great number of misunderstandings about what science is and what it does. This misunderstanding can manifest in interesting ways in our classrooms. As educators, we have the opportunity mediate much of this as one of the factors with the greatest impact on perceptions about science is learned in school. The experience kids will have with science in our classrooms is what they will hold on to as they move into adulthood. If science is elitist and only for the kids who can give us the answer we want quickly, or only for those students who work diligently; if science is a body of facts already known, taught dogmatically, or merely memorized — then students are not an authentic part of the scientific enterprise. They are not afforded the opportunity to engage. This results in the vast majority of these students growing to view science as some mysterious thing that other people do, not them, setting the stage for confusion and mistrust of science.

As educators, we must act; we must engage.

Fortunately, in 2012, we received our first guidance from a foundational document calling upon us to engage and set the stage for change in science education:

“The overarching goal of our framework for K-12 science education is to ensure that by the end of 12th grade, all students have some appreciation of the beauty and wonder of science; possess sufficient knowledge of science and engineering to engage in public discussions on related issues; are careful consumers of scientific and technological information related to their everyday lives; are able to continue to learn about science outside school; and have the skills to enter careers of their choice, including (but not limited to) careers in science, engineering, and technology.” (A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas, NRC, 2012, pg. 1)

This goal echoes our purpose as science educators and eventually birthed the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Now, I’ll admit that it is a beautiful day when I learn that a former student has chosen to enter into a STEM field. It’s every teacher’s dream to have a student “come back” and identify that they were the inspiration for majoring in nursing, engineering, etc. But the real purpose of science education in our schools is to empower future parents, citizens, employers, and consumers to make informed decisions in their lives. To do this, we need to consistently provide opportunities for students to engage as scientists, understand that science is important to their context, and have their sense of awe fostered – no matter how hidden and buried that awe may appear to their teachers. It is critical we shift our perspective from educators who disseminate information to master architects who build opportunities for student sense-making.

Let’s acknowledge the challenge in this. Shifting perspectives in how we view the nature of our work is difficult because we all hold such a strong identity as science educators. Asking us to consider building a classroom community where science is experienced in a way that approximates the nature of science may be different from what we have done in the past, and that can be unsettling. Further, it’s difficult because we may believe we have been successful because test scores are good, or we have had students who come back and tell us we inspired them, or parents have told us that their child was prepared for a college class.

Despite the challenges, we need the shift. Our world needs people who understand science. It influences our day-to-day decisions about our families’ health, the environment, and the many other scenarios that require the use of evidence-based decision making. Our job is to teach kids (not standards) – to prepare them for the world they will live in, a world we can’t predict, and foster their ability to be scientifically literate. The NGSS were developed and California adopted them because it’s time to make some meaningful changes in science education that will shift the tide for students. The vision is to make science accessible to ALL and in doing so everyone is a part of the scientific enterprise.

Returning to the words of Hessel, find your reason to engage.

In this context, my way to engage is to take to heart the need to begin shifting my practice. In another context, it is working alongside a colleague who is struggling and needs a little support for implementing the NGSS. It’s also attending community meetings to advocate for adequate support (time, people, funding) of science education for these changes to happen. Engaging also mean maintaining membership with my state science teachers’ association, volunteering to work on a committee, and later, running for and serving on the CSTA board of directors. While Hessel did not have science education in mind when writing his book, I think the message of the critical importance of engagement is relevant and is worth consideration.

Find your reason to engage. There is much at stake.

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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.

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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.