May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Great CSTA Conference! What’s Next?

Posted: Monday, November 4th, 2013

by Laura Henriques

What a wonderful CSTA conference in Palm Springs at the end of October! Conference Chairs Peter A’Hearn and Jim Jones and their conference committee did a fantastic job putting together an educational, engaging, and enjoyable event. The conference included 175 workshops, five field trips, six focus speakers, and a dozen short courses. We kicked off the entire conference with Dr. Stephen Pruitt of Achieve talking about NGSS. We had a Flinn Scientific Dynamic Demonstrations event on Friday evening.

Boat Race Team Photo

Team of teachers showing their team spirit during the construction phase of the Cardboard Boat Challenge.

This was followed by a STEM Pool Party, complete with cardboard boat competitions, stomp rockets, music and mingling. It was fun to see colleagues building boats, launching rockets, and enjoying each other.  For early birds and night owls we had both morning and evening star gazing events on Saturday. Our Awards Breakfast speaker, Dr. Stuart Sumida, gave a great STEM/STEAM talk as he shared his experiences as a biologist teaching animators about anatomy and physiology as he works alongside them when they create films. Closing session speaker, Dr. Laurence Smith from UCLA, gave an interesting integrated talk about global climate of the northern hemisphere in 2050.

Among the most popular sessions over the weekend were the many about NGSS. In his keynote Dr. Pruitt’s shared how NGSS and its three strands allow us to reconceptualize how we put instruction together. For example, we can bundle our curriculum around disciplinary core ideas or we could think about organizing curriculum around cross-cutting concepts or science and engineering practices. Dr. Pruitt shared updates on projects he and his colleagues are working on that will help California science teachers as we begin planning what NGSS instructional tasks might look like.

In addition to Dr. Pruitt, staff from the California Department of Education (CDE), K12 Alliance, California Science Projects and County Offices of Education hosted several NGSS workshops. CDE staff provided basic background information for those of us new to NGSS as well as information about implementation, timelines, and the Instructional Quality Commission and CA Framework process. (Please see last month’s CCS and e-blasts from CSTA. Applications to serve on the CA Framework Focus Groups are currently being accepted, as are applications to serve on the Instructional Quality Commission. Deadlines are fast approaching.) The K12 Alliance, CSP and COEs provided us with connections between NGSS and Common Core, discussions about NGSS in the elementary, middle and high school settings, and more. The message we heard over and over was that implementation is a process. Even though California adopted NGSS in September 2013, we will not be fully implemented for a while. Start taking baby steps towards implementation but don’t think that you need to dump everything you are doing right now. This should be a familiar message for loyal CCS readers.

It was exciting to see so many science teachers gathered together. The energy and commitment you all brought to the conference was palpable. As I overheard snippets of conversations I could tell that you were learning new things, getting ideas to bring back to your classrooms, beginning to get more comfortable with NGSS, and finding new technology ideas to use with kids. By the end of the weekend folks were tired but you were also still excited. There were still hundreds of you in Palm Springs at the last session on Sunday. Thank you for taking the time to be there!

By now you are back at school. I hope by the time you read this you have had the chance to get caught up on what you missed and that the enthusiasm you had in Palm Springs is still with you. So what’s next?

There are a few next steps for all of us to consider:

1)     I challenge you to take one thing you learned at the conference and act upon it. Whether it’s incorporating a new lab, activity or teaching strategy or talking with teachers and administrators about NGSS, take what you learned and do something. While it is a wonderful treat for us to be students and learn again, it’s incredibly powerful to be able to do something with our new knowledge.

2)     Think about what you do really well and consider sharing it with colleagues at next year’s conference. As you heard at the conference and have read in our CCS, in 2014 CSTA will be joining forces with NSTA to bring you a collaboratively sponsored conference. The 2014 NSTA Long Beach Area Conference in Collaboration with CSTA will bring together thousands of science educators and we are in need of good workshops. Please consider taking the next step in your professional journey by submitting a workshop proposal for the conference. Proposals are due January 15, 2014.  (Note that this is earlier than the usual deadline for the California Science Education Conference.)

3)     Don’t wait until next year to continue learning and exploring. There is the CDE’s STEM conference later this month (see related article). Additionally, there will be workshops and professional development opportunities from a variety of sources. Check out the CSTA Calendar, get onto your County Office of Education’s science listserv, check out CSTA Chapters and Affiliates for their events.

If you were one of the 1,800 people who joined us in Palm Springs, thank you again for being there!  Please take a moment to fill out the conference evaluation form. As a reminder, if a session you attended did not have enough handouts, check out the CSTA website. Jessica Sawko is posting workshop handouts online as they are submitted.

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.

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Participate in Chemistry Education Research Study, Earn $500-800 Dollars!

Posted: Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

WestEd, a non-profit educational research agency, has been funded by the US Department of Education to test a new molecular modeling kit, Happy Atoms. Happy Atoms is an interactive chemistry learning experience that consists of a set of physical atoms that connect magnetically to form molecules, and an app that uses image recognition to identify the molecules that you create with the set. WestEd is conducting a study around the effectiveness of using Happy Atoms in the classroom, and we are looking for high school chemistry teachers in California to participate.

As part of the study, teachers will be randomly assigned to either the treatment group (who uses Happy Atoms) or the control group (who uses Happy Atoms at a later date). Teachers in the treatment group will be asked to use the Happy Atoms set in their classrooms for 5 lessons over the course of the fall 2017 semester. Students will complete pre- and post-assessments and surveys around their chemistry content knowledge and beliefs about learning chemistry. WestEd will provide access to all teacher materials, teacher training, and student materials needed to participate.

Participating teachers will receive a stipend of $500-800. You can read more information about the study here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HappyAtoms

Please contact Rosanne Luu at rluu@wested.org or 650.381.6432 if you are interested in participating in this opportunity, or if you have any questions!

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.

2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption Reviewer Application

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

The California Department of Education and State Board of Education are now accepting applications for reviewers for the 2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption. The application deadline is 3:00 pm, July 21, 2017. The application is comprehensive, so don’t wait until the last minute to apply.

On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson forwarded this recruitment letter to county and district superintendents and charter school administrators.

Review panel members will evaluate instructional materials for use in kindergarten through grade eight, inclusive, that are aligned with the California Next Generation Science Content Standards for California Public Schools (CA NGSS). 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.

Lessons Learned from the NGSS Early Implementer Districts

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

On March 31, 2017, Achieve released two documents examining some lessons learned from the California K-8 Early Implementation Initiative. The initiative began in August 2014 and was developed by the K-12 Alliance at WestEd, with close collaborative input on its design and objectives from the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education, and Achieve.

Eight (8) traditional school districts and two (2) charter management organizations were selected to participate in the initiative, becoming the first districts in California to implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Those districts included Galt Joint Union Elementary, Kings Canyon Joint Unified, Lakeside Union, Oakland Unified, Palm Springs Unified, San Diego Unified, Tracy Joint Unified, Vista Unified, Aspire, and High Tech High.

To more closely examine some of the early successes and challenges experienced by the Early Implementer LEAs, Achieve interviewed nine of the ten participating districts and compiled that information into two resources, focusing primarily on professional learning and instructional materials. 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.

Using Online Simulations to Support the NGSS in Middle School Classrooms

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

by Lesley Gates, Loren Nikkel, and Kambria Eastham

Middle school teachers in Kings Canyon Unified School District (KCUSD), a CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative district, have been diligently working on transitioning to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) integrated model for middle school. This year, the teachers focused on building their own knowledge of the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs). They have been gathering and sharing ideas at monthly collaborative meetings as to how to make sure their students are not just learning about science but that they are actually doing science in their classrooms. Students should be planning and carrying out investigations to gather data for analysis in order to construct explanations. This is best done through hands-on lab experiments. Experimental work is such an important part of the learning of science and education research shows that students learn better and retain more when they are active through inquiry, investigation, and application. A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2011) notes, “…learning about science and engineering involves integration of the knowledge of scientific explanations (i.e., content knowledge) and the practices needed to engage in scientific inquiry and engineering design. Thus the framework seeks to illustrate how knowledge and practice must be intertwined in designing learning experiences in K-12 Science Education” (pg. 11).

Many middle school teachers in KCUSD are facing challenges as they begin implementing these student-driven, inquiry-based NGSS science experiences in their classrooms. First, many of the middle school classrooms at our K-8 school sites are not designed as science labs. Learn More…

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the NGSS Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

Celestial Highlights: May – July 2017

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

May Through July 2017 with Web Resources for the Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graphs of planet rising and setting times by Jeffrey L. Hunt.

In spring and summer 2017, Jupiter is the most prominent “star” in the evening sky, and Venus, even brighter, rules the morning. By mid-June, Saturn rises at a convenient evening hour, allowing both giant planets to be viewed well in early evening until Jupiter sinks low in late September. The Moon is always a crescent in its monthly encounters with Venus, but is full whenever it appears near Jupiter or Saturn in the eastern evening sky opposite the Sun. (In 2017, Full Moon is near Jupiter in April, Saturn in June.) At intervals of 27-28 days thereafter, the Moon appears at a progressively earlier phase at each pairing with the outer planet until its final conjunction, with Moon a thin crescent, low in the west at dusk. You’ll see many beautiful events by just following the Moon’s wanderings at dusk and dawn in the three months leading up to the solar eclipse. Learn More…

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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.