September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Forward Looking Retrospective

Posted: Saturday, September 1st, 2012

by Rick Pomeroy

Every year, about mid August, I start to get this funny, unsettled feeling. As I drive around town, I see more and more cars in school parking lots, lawns around school get mowed more regularly, large piles of boxes appear by the front doors of schools, and the lights at the local football stadium are on late in the evening. Like the first leaves in spring or the smell of freshly mowed grass on a warm summer day, these images of the reopening of schools signal a start of yet another school year.  These are inspiring to me and the excitement and anticipation that comes with every new school year are the feelings I look forward to and cherish.

After 37 first days of school, you would think I would get used to this but, alas, I have not. Each year, I rethink past lessons asking myself how I might make them a little better. How can I relate concepts to my students’ lives, and how can I inspire students to push themselves to new heights and new successes? These are questions that teachers everywhere share. Despite what some may perceive, we are not factory workers doing the same thing year after year. We don’t reuse the same lessons we used five years ago, and we can’t use the same examples we have used in the past. Just as the recent Mars landing brought back the joy I felt when I watched the Eagle land on the moon, I also realized that most of my students had not even been born in 1969. Since that time, entire space programs have been launched and retired and most students carry around more computing power in their cell phones than was available to the astronauts that landed on the moon. Diseases that were unknown when I started teaching have ravaged millions of lives but are now readily (but perhaps only temporarily) controlled through drugs or therapies that have been developed by the very same people I may have taught as 7th graders in my first year of teaching.

It is not just the content of science that has changed. The entire culture and environment of teaching has changed and yet our dedication to inspiring our students to be successful remains the same. We are preparing them to take their places in a society that is significantly different than that of their parents, but we are also preparing them to be successful in a society that will be significantly different than that of their children. To say that change is inevitable is almost cliché. A better view would be to say that to survive we must embrace the fact that change will happen and prepare our students to deal with those changes. We can no longer rest on the notion that possessing scientific knowledge is the key to success, but rather, must equip our students with the tools, skills, knowledge, and habits of mind to react appropriately to change, and to embrace and make that the most of opportunities that changes bring.

As I have said in previous editions of California Classroom Science, we are entering a period of rapid change in science education. Standards, assessments, technology, and even the content of science will be changing rapidly in the coming year. As we begin this new academic year, I challenge you to rethink the things you do each day. Begin to engage in the conversations surrounding the metamorphosis of science education as we have done it for fifteen years, into a science education that prepares our students for college and careers, to enter a more technologically dependent world, and to find solutions to questions not yet asked using tools not yet developed.

As you start back to school or embark on a new career as a science teacher, I would like to wish a successful start to the new year, a renewed energy to champion the importance of science education for all students, and the satisfaction to know that what you do makes a difference.

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Written by Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy is science education lecturer/supervisor in the School of Education, University of California Davis and is a past-president of CSTA.

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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.

News and Happenings in CSTA’s Region 1 – Fall 2017

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Cal

This month I was fortunate enough to hear about some new topics to share with our entire region. Some of you may access the online or newsletter options, others may attend events in person that are nearer to you. Long time CSTA member and environmental science educator Mike Roa is well known to North Bay Area teachers for his volunteer work sharing events and resources. In this month’s Region 1 updates I am happy to make a few of the options Mike offers available to our region. Learn More…

Written by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw is the student services director at Siskiyou County Office of Education and is CSTA’s Region 1 Director and chair of CSTA’s Policy Committee.