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: 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 http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/ai/infomeeting.asp.) Learn More…
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. https://www.engadget.com/2016/08/25/google-offers-360-degree-tours-of-us-national-parks/. Learn More…
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
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…
Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
by Peter A’hearn
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…
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…