September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Getting Ready for Student Teaching

Posted: Monday, October 19th, 2015

By Susan Gomez Zwiep

Your credential classes have prepared you for this! You are ready to begin your apprenticeship into one of the most important professions out there, teaching. During student teaching you have the support of expert teachers to guide you into your first full teaching experiences. Your time as a student teacher is an opportunity to find your own style as you develop your science teaching expertise. Here are some suggestions for how to make the most of this time.

Keep a journal or notebook. There is a great deal to capture during your student teaching – lesson ideas, methods of facilitating discussions about natural phenomena, classroom environment or management that support science exploration, how to manage materials for scientific investigations- all are just a few possible areas to keep track. You need a place to capture your ideas before they are lost in the chaos of day-to-day teaching. Use your journal to jot down ideas quickly during the day and then set aside time each week to go through your notes and reflect on things more carefully. At the end of student teaching, this notebook will be full of valuable insights and ideas for your own science classroom.

Look for opportunities to engage with students. Even before you begin teaching lessons on your own, start listening to your students. What types of things are they saying to their teacher? What are they saying to each other? This will give you some insight into the age group you are working with and how they see the natural world. If the lesson involves working in small groups, try asking groups a few questions to find out how they are interpreting science concepts and their ideas about what is happening in the investigations, what science ideas, concepts or practices they seem to grasp easily and what ideas are still developing. Expert teachers have great questioning skills. This is your opportunity to develop your ability to motivate and push student thinking about the natural world through the questions you ask. Keep track of what types of questions seem to work to reveal student thinking.

Expert teachers can make it all look effortless, but quality teaching is always grounded in preparation and planning. Talk to your Master Teacher about the way they planned a lesson, the materials they used during science investigations, their moves during the lessons like the questions they asked, materials they passed out, or even the time of day they chose to place the lesson. Once you start to teach your own lessons, ask for specific feedback. There is a wide range of skills to science teaching. Rather than trying to be great at everything from the beginning, focus on one area at a time. Then, ask your Master Teacher to provide feedback on that set of skills.

Gather some good science teaching resources such as the National Research Council’s Framework for K-12 Science Education and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). These documents provide a roadmap for what science students should know and be able to do. They can be downloaded free as a PDF or purchased in paper version. The first draft California Science Framework is about to be released for public review this October. Be ready to provide input during the public review time. Even though you have not been teaching long, you still can provide valuable input into the new science framework. You can also check out the CSTA and NSTA websites for new webinars, publications and conference opportunities.

Written by Susan Gomez-Zwiep

Susan Gomez-Zwiep serves an an Associate Professor of Science Education at California State University, Long Beach. She is also a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance in the Southern California area, and is CSTA’s 4-Year College Director.

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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


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.