September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Heat Up Science!

Posted: Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

by Sue Pritchard

I am sure you have noticed that education looks a bit different these past two years.  The recession has played havoc in how districts assign teachers, and fluctuating student populations make teacher placement even trickier. I would imagine most of us know at least one teacher who is now wondering, “How am I going to teach science without a science background?”  Right?

I am no different.  I know several teachers in that same situation.  I hope this article helps many of you start the year “on fire,” but not literally.  This collection of ideas focuses on the 6th grade science standards on heat (thermal energy).  The exciting part of this article for me is the new CSTA delivery system of CCS.  Now that we are eCCS, we can help you save steps by connecting directly to the outside links cited.  Read further for some fun suggestions to make your planning easier and your students engaged in science.

Heat transfer is a fascinating concept to teach.  It is possible to use very simple materials and still have a “wow” impact on the students.  Try the Jefferson Lab’s ideas found at  This site has a wonderful set of activities and formative assessments.  The first page gives a great way to assess students’ prior knowledge on conduction, convection, and radiation.  If an LCD projector is available in the classroom, project assessment pages to the class and have them take a few minutes to respond either individually or in small groups.  Since some of the terms are defined at the top of the page, this can be a great way to quickly monitor student focus and application abilities.

Once students’ knowledge levels are assessed, page through the site to find fun, inexpensive activities that can support the student-learned outcomes needed.  The “Cold Stuff” assessment tool is also reorganized into an activity.  Students can bring supplies from home and really expand on what they use for insulators.  It is possible to investigate the concepts within the descriptions given or to allow the students to think outside the box and enhance the activities with their “teacher approved” additions.

“The Cold Stuff” is but one resource at this site.  Click on the different buttons on the top right of the homepage: teacher resources, student zone, games & puzzles, etc., to read about other investigative opportunities provided.

Want more ideas on heat and thermodynamics?  Check out and click on the sixteen different choices for some good background information and activities.  Although the information on this site is good, the site does not have the kinds of graphics that some educators may expect.  Look beyond this aspect and enjoy the ideas presented.  Most of these activities can be the beginnings of inquiry science investigations.  Depending on how you approach the learning, you can simply follow the activities as they are listed, or you can increase the inquiry approach through the use of questioning.  For more information on changing recipe style science activities to inquiry approaches, refer to the site I have mentioned in previous articles,  Bookmark this site because you may want to refer to it often during the school year.

I would be remiss if I did not mention an excellent web resource that I use often.  When I searched the Exploratorium site for heat transfer ideas, a very long list appeared.  Check out to see what is available.  I highly recommend surfing the EXPLO.TV site where a library of podcasts, webcasts, and video clips are just waiting to be enjoyed.  Overall, though, the Exploratorium website is not only an excellent source of thermal activities but also contains some great ideas to help segue to the the 6th grade science standards on Shaping Earth’s Surface.  No matter how the site is used, it is an excellent resource.

I hope you enjoy our new form of delivery, the eCCS.  It is a great way for all of us to be “green” and still enjoy the great resources that YOUR CSTA offers to you.  Enjoy the beginning of your school year … and keep science in the forefront.  All of our students … all of society, deserve it.  Enjoy some hot heat transfer and share it with your students!  It is good for you … it is good for your students … and it is good for science.

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.

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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.