September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

Focus on Physical Science

Posted: Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

by Laura Henriques

As a former physics/physical science teacher, the California Classroom Science (CCS) issue focusing on physical science is always one of my favorites. I enjoy reading about lessons, labs and teaching ideas that my colleagues share in each month’s CCS, but I really enjoy reading physics and physical science lesson ideas as those apply most directly to what I teach. As with past issues of CCS, we have some great articles written by a wide variety of members on a range of topics. Sadly (for me), only a couple of them focus on physical science.

One of the physical science highlights is Padma Haldar’s article that has students doing ‘mythbuster’ activities to help them better understand the Nature of Science. This project requires students to engage in many of the science and engineering practices (they ask questions, plan and carry out investigations, analyze and interpret data, and evaluate and communicate information) and Ms. Haldar seems to be explicit in helping students understand the nature of science throughout the process. Another article in this month’s issue is Valerie Joyner’s where she shares a primary activity which focuses on the crosscutting concept of patterns. Her lesson links patterns with properties of plastic lids. As is the case with crosscutting concepts, she shares how this activity about patterns could be linked to other patterns in nature and science.

I think one of the reasons I like this particular issue of CCS so much is because I was usually the only person at my school teaching physics. Unlike my biology teacher friends, I didn’t have the opportunity to walk down the hall to talk content or teaching strategies with my peers. I think it was that professional isolation that started my involvement in regional, state, and national science teacher organizations. Through my involvement in these groups I got to share and learn with colleagues. It has been important to me throughout my career and I’ve maintained professional membership in these organizations for the past 25 years.

One of the things I have noticed over my years of involvement in CSTA and other organizations is that conferences and publications tend to have fewer physics, chemistry and physical science workshops and articles than biology, earth/space science or environmental science. I can understand why that is the case since we have so many more people teaching the earth and life sciences but that doesn’t mean I have to like it!

Issues of CCS like this one, focusing on the physical sciences, is one of CSTA’s efforts to help highlight the physical sciences and help us share with colleagues since physical science teachers don’t have many colleagues ‘down the hall’. As you read this issue of CCS did you find yourself thinking that reminds me of a really successful lesson that I do? If so, I really hope you will consider sharing with us. CSTA encourages our members to write for CCS and to submit proposals for our conferences. While we have monthly themes for CCS, we accept articles on a range of topics each month. That means you don’t need to wait until next year to write about physical science.

Similarly, when we put out a call for proposals for our conferences we are seeking proposals for all content areas but we really need to increase the number of physical science submissions. The 2015 conference will be in Sacramento, October 2-4 and the call for proposals will be available soon. Please help our physical science-minded colleagues by sharing your expertise with us. We tend to have a shortage of chemistry and physics sessions, so we really need you to step up to the challenge.

I have a plea and a promise to you physical science teachers out there. Please share with us. Write for CCS (click here for author guidelines) or submit a proposal to do a workshop at the Sacramento conference. If you have never done something like this before and you want some guidance about how to get started with an article or writing a proposal to present at CSTA, I volunteer to help you with that. You can contact me by clicking on the link below this article.

Written by Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques is a professor of science education at CSU Long Beach and past-president of CSTA. She serves as chair of CSTA’s Nominating Committee and is a co-chair of the NGSS Committee.

Leave a Reply


California Science Assessment Update

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 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.

Some ways to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in your classroom

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. 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.

2016 Award Recipients – Join CSTA in Honoring Their Accomplishments

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

John Keller

John Keller

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…

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.

NGSS: Making Your Life Easier

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Peter A’hearn

Wait… What?

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…

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Celestial Highlights, September 2016

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…

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.