September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

How You Can Become a Leader in California Science Education

Posted: Thursday, August 1st, 2013

by Laura Henriques

Two years ago you, the CSTA membership, elected me to serve as President-Elect. Time has flown by and I have now taken over as President. As I start my presidency I am anxious to help you grow as a science education leader at your site, district, region or state. I know that people don’t go from being a solitary classroom teacher to Board Member/President in a single step – there are lots of smaller steps along the way. Especially in light of all of the opportunities and changes facing California science educators at this time, I want to encourage you to consider moving one step forward on your leadership journey.

  • Start Locally. Don’t think about jumping into a huge leadership position right away, start small! Maybe you are ready to serve as a mentor teacher for preservice students doing fieldwork, for a student teacher, or for a teacher in the BTSA program. Perhaps you could lead a workshop for your grade-level team. If you’ve been actively involved in reading and reviewing NGSS you could help folks at your site understand how NGSS and Common Core align. Maybe there is a newer teacher at your school with whom you could co-plan or mentor. It doesn’t have to be a formal mentor arrangement, but you can be a supportive colleague, share your expertise and help move them to the next level. Think of something that is small and discrete in scope.  For example, rather than agreeing to take on placing all student teachers at your school, have a student teacher for a semester. Or, instead of signing up to do an entire year’s worth of workshops, help prep and lead a single workshop (or co-lead a workshop).  These approaches allow you to focus your energy and succeed with a doable task at hand.
  • Ready for the next step? Think about getting involved beyond your own classroom or school site. How could you get involved at the district level and beyond? Are there task forces in your district looking at how Common Core overlaps with science? Could you be involved in helping others understand what that looks like (while recognizing that simply reading and writing about science is not synonymous with doing science)? Are there projects or professional development opportunities at the local university or informal science education sites near you? Are you interested in contributing to CSTA? We are always looking for members to serve on committees, write articles for California Classroom Science (CCS), present at the CSTA conference, or volunteer to be nominated for state level committees. In fact, one of the benefits of membership is that CSTA is often asked for names of candidates to serve on state educational committees. We just submitted names to serve on the Instructional Quality Commission and several CSTA members served on the California NGSS Science Expert Panel. As the new standards role out there will be other opportunities for CSTA to nominate members to serve.
  • Why this matters. California science education is in a different place today than we were two years ago. We are on the precipice of adopting new science standards. Once that happens we will begin to see the development of a California Science Framework, new science assessments, development of curriculum materials and lots of opportunities for professional learning. As with any change, there will be some periods of disequilibrium. Together as a science teaching community we can help each other with the transition. We have some time, as the new standards probably won’t be fully implemented in classrooms with high stakes tests until 2016-17 at the earliest. This means we can work together with colleagues on-site, in our district and region, through social media, and at professional development events (like the CSTA conference or other area PD events) to learn from each other, discuss challenges, get new information, share successful strategies, and more.

I am encouraging you to step up and get involved. Grow as a leader, yourself, and help us build leadership capacity in the state. You can also be a talent scout for us – find colleagues who you think are ready to move forward.  Please contact me if you would be willing to serve on a committee, write for CCS, or to find other ways to get involved with CSTA. Becoming a leader happens over time, but it starts with a single step.

Written by Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques is a professor of science education at CSU Long Beach and 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


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.