September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Finding New Resources in a Changing Science Education Landscape

Posted: Friday, August 19th, 2016

by Amity Sandage

Field studies at Santa Cruz County Outdoor Science School

Field studies at Santa Cruz County Outdoor Science School

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.

CCSAdBValuable 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 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 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

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:

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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

It’s that time of year when CSTA is looking for dedicated and qualified persons to fill the upcoming vacancies on its Board of Directors. This opportunity allows you to help shape the policy and determine the path that the Board will take in the new year. There are time and energy commitments, but that is far outweighed by the personal satisfaction of knowing that you are an integral part of an outstanding professional educational organization, dedicated to the support and guidance of California’s science teachers. You will also have the opportunity to help CSTA review and support legislation that benefits good science teaching and teachers.

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

California Science Teachers Association

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

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2017 Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Posted: Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated eight exceptional secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“These teachers are dedicated and accomplished individuals whose innovative teaching styles prepare our students for 21st century careers and college and develop them into the designers and inventors of the future,” Torlakson said. “They rank among the finest in their profession and also serve as wonderful mentors and role models.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partners annually with the California Science Teachers Association and the California Mathematics Council to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program—the highest recognition in the nation for a mathematics or science teacher. The Science Finalists will be recognized at the CSTA Awards Luncheon on Saturday, October 14, 2017. 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.

Thriving in a Time of Change

Posted: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

by Jill Grace

By the time this message is posted online, most schools across California will have been in session for at least a month (if not longer, and hat tip to that bunch!). Long enough to get a good sense of who the kids in your classroom are and to get into that groove and momentum of the daily flow of teaching. It’s also very likely that for many of you who weren’t a part of a large grant initiative or in a district that set wheels in motion sooner, this is the first year you will really try to shift instruction to align to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a challenging year – change is hard. Change is even harder when there’s not a playbook to go by.  But as someone who has had the very great privilege of walking alongside teachers going through that change for the past two years and being able to glimpse at what this looks like for different demographics across that state, there are three things I hope you will hold on to. These are things I have come to learn will overshadow the challenge: a growth mindset will get you far, one is a very powerful number, and it’s about the kids. Learn More…

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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.

If You Are Not Teaching Science Then You Are Not Teaching Common Core

Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn 

“Science and Social Studies can be taught for the last half hour of the day on Fridays”

– Elementary school principal

Anyone concerned with the teaching of science in elementary school is keenly aware of the problem of time. Kids need to learn to read, and learning to read takes time, nobody disputes that. So Common Core ELA can seem like the enemy of science. This was a big concern to me as I started looking at the curriculum that my district had adopted for Common Core ELA. I’ve been through those years where teachers are learning a new curriculum, and know first-hand how a new curriculum can become the focus of attention- sucking all the air out of the room. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Tools for Creating NGSS Standards Based Lessons

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Elizabeth Cooke

Think back on your own experiences with learning science in school. Were you required to memorize disjointed facts without understanding the concepts?

Science Education Background

In the past, science education focused on rote memorization and learning disjointed ideas. Elementary and secondary students in today’s science classes are fortunate now that science instruction has shifted from students demonstrating what they know to students demonstrating how they are able to apply their knowledge. Science education that reflects the Next Generation Science Standards challenges students to conduct investigations. As students explore phenomena and discrepant events they engage in academic discourse guided by focus questions from their teachers or student generated questions of that arise from analyzing data and creating and revising models that explain natural phenomena. Learn More…

Written by Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke teaches TK-5 science at Markham Elementary in the Oakland Unified School District, is an NGSS Early Implementer, and is CSTA’s Secretary.