Finding New Resources in a Changing Science Education Landscape
Posted: Friday, August 19th, 2016
by Amity Sandage
After two decades in education, I still love the natural rhythm of the school year. It is the teacher’s turn in the learning cycle. Reflections at the end of each school year spark new ideas that then flow and percolate throughout the summer. And I know come August I always find myself excited and apprehensive in equal measure. Excited to improve and try new approaches, and apprehensive because I need some concrete resources to accomplish the goals that began as visions floating around in my head and morphed and settled over summer into real plans. But where and how to find these resources when fall is fast approaching and NGSS is changing the landscape?
There is a network of resource professionals ready to help teachers connect science instruction with unique field experiences, grants, local experts, citizen science projects and more. CREEC (the California Regional Environmental Education Community) is a statewide network set up by the California Department of Education to help teachers find environmental education resources connected to instructional goals. Every region of California offers unique environmental education resources—State and National Parks programs, marine sanctuaries, outdoor science schools, open space preserves, natural history museums, and more. California has hundreds of organizations providing thousands of environmental education programs and resources across the state—many of them free and designed to support state education standards. But many of these resources are underutilized. This is not because teachers and the education system do not value environmental education. On the contrary, the Next Generation Science Standards, the new Blueprint for Environmental Literacy and an increasing emphasis on STEM and career readiness require more connections to environmental topics than ever. Students will need to understand natural resources management, environmental systems, environmental engineering and science-based decision making processes to face future challenges. Schools need environmental education resources now more than ever before, and CREEC is set up to help teachers access them.
Valuable environmental science resources and programs may surround schools, but many teachers still face imposing barriers to taking advantage of them: time to find what resources are available and to align them to instructional goals and new standards, and funding for transportation and program fees.
The CREEC Network is designed to help address these barriers. CREEC maintains an online hub at www.creec.org for environmental education throughout California. This enables teachers to find grants, sign up for professional development opportunities and use a searchable database to quickly find resources and programs for their students to build strong connections to the environment, apply science practices, and advance them along the path to environmental literacy.
The network also provides a CREEC Coordinator, an expert advisor, in each region. The CREEC Coordinator in each of California’s 11 administrative regions serves as a conduit for information flowing between the school system and the non-formal environmental education sector. They alert teachers and administrators to opportunities for teacher professional development or grant funding. They help schools find programs that fit the needs of teachers and students. And they work closely with environmental education program providers to communicate the priorities of the schools so that environmental education organizations can design and offer programs that are accessible and support classroom instruction.
I serve as CREEC Coordinator for Region 5, a four-county region spanning the South San Francisco and Monterey Bay Areas. Environmental education providers in Region 5 and many other regions have been delving deep into NGSS in order to begin shifting their programs to support the new standards. As someone who loves teaching in the classroom and who also treasures the unique learning opportunities that take place outside of the classroom, I am passionate about my role in the CREEC Network. I feel fortunate to be in the position to connect the work of teachers and environmental education program providers around NGSS. It is an exciting time in science education, with new standards that encourage teachers and students to reach beyond classroom walls to accomplish their goals.
You may have already been familiar with CREEC; the network has been in place for well over a decade. But in this time of transition to NGSS, I encourage teachers to reconnect with the network often, as CREEC is evolving along with state education priorities. As a project of the California Department of Education, CREEC sits on the pulse of our education system. Our system has been going through sweeping changes in our education standards, and all educators are struggling to adapt and keep up. As teachers transition to Next Generation Science Standards, environmental topics provide meaningful opportunities for weaving together scientific and engineering practices, cross-cutting concepts and disciplinary core ideas as well as for testing integrated science models in real-world, relevant contexts. Cycles of matter and energy transfer in ecosystems, the roles of water in Earth’s surface processes, human impacts of Earth systems…these and other NGSS Disciplinary Core Idea progressions intersect naturally with programs and resources outside the classroom. CREEC can help make these connections.
How do you connect with CREEC? It’s simple—go to www.creec.org and find your region. Subscribe to your region’s quarterly newsletter to get word of local opportunities. Follow CREEC on Facebook to keep up with exciting news. Search the Resource Directory for local programs. And don’t be shy! Share your challenges during the transition to NGSS. Use the network, and head into Fall with some new resources and connections to support your journey into the new education landscape.
Amity Sandage is the CREEC Coordinator for Region 5 (South San Francisco and Monterey Bay Areas), and is a part of the Santa Cruz County Office of Education. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted: Tuesday, March 14th, 2017
The pre-publication version of the new California Science Curriculum Framework is now available for download. This publication incorporates all the edits that were approved by the State Board of Education in November 2016 and was many months in the making. Our sincere thanks to the dozens of CSTA members were involved in its development. Our appreciation is also extended to the California Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Instructional Quality Commission, and the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee and their staff for their hard work and dedication to produce this document and for their commitment to the public input process. To the many writers and contributors to the Framework CSTA thanks you for your many hours of work to produce a world-class document.
For tips on how to approach this document see our article from December 2016: California Has Adopted a New Science Curriculum Framework – Now What …? If you would like to learn more about the Framework, consider participating in one of the Framework Launch events (a.k.a. Rollout #4) scheduled throughout 2017.
The final publication version (formatted for printing) will be available in July 2017. This document will not be available in printed format, only electronically.
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
The 2017 Award Season is now open! One of the benefits of being a CSTA member is your eligibility for awards as well as your eligibility to nominate someone for an award. CSTA offers several awards and members may nominate individuals and organizations for the Future Science Teacher Award, the prestigious Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, and the CSTA Distinguished Contributions Award (organizational award). May 9, 2017 is the deadline for nominations for these awards. CSTA believes that the importance of science education cannot be overstated. Given the essential presence of the sciences in understanding the past and planning for the future, science education remains, and will increasingly be one of the most important disciplines in education. CSTA is committed to recognizing and encouraging excellence in science teaching through the presentation of awards to science educators and organizations who have made outstanding contributions in science education in the state and who are poised to continue the momentum of providing high quality, relevant science education into the future. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
CSTA is now accepting applications from regular, preservice, and retired members to serve on our volunteer committees! CSTA’s all-volunteer board of directors invites you to consider maximizing your member experience by volunteering for CSTA. CSTA committee service offers you the opportunity to share your expertise, learn a new skill, or do something you love to do but never have the opportunity to do in your regular day. CSTA committee volunteers do some pretty amazing things: Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Marian Murphy-Shaw
If you attended an NGSS Rollout phase 1-3 or CDE workshops at CSTA’s annual conference you may recall hearing from Chris Breazeale when he was working with the CDE. Chris has relocated professionally, with his passion for science education, and is now the Executive Director at the Explorit Science Center, a hands-on exploration museum featuring interactive STEM exhibits located at the beautiful Mace Ranch, 3141 5th St. in Davis, CA. Visitors can “think it, try it, and explorit” with a variety of displays that allow visitors to “do science.” To preview the museum, or schedule a classroom visit, see www.explorit.org. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Joseph Calmer
Probably like you, NGSS has been at the forefront of many department meetings, lunch conversations, and solitary lesson planning sessions. Despite reading the original NRC Framework, the Ca Draft Frameworks, and many CSTA writings, I am still left with the question: “what does it actually mean for my classroom?”
I had an eye-opening experience that helped me with that question. It came out of a conversation that I had with a student teacher. It turns out that I’ve found the secret to learning how to teach with NGSS: I need to engage in dialogue about teaching with novice teachers. I’ve had the pleasure of teaching science in some capacity for 12 years. During that time pedagogy and student learning become sort of a “hidden curriculum.” It is difficult to plan a lesson for the hidden curriculum; the best way is to just have two or more professionals talk and see what emerges. I was surprised it took me so long to realize this epiphany. Learn More…