May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

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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CSTA Annual Conference Early Bird Rates End July 14

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

Teachers engaged in workshop activity

Teachers engaging in hands-on learning during a workshop at the 2016 CSTA conference.

Don’t miss your chance to register at the early bird rate for the 2017 CSTA Conference – the early-bird rate closes July 14. Need ideas on how to secure funding for your participation? Visit our website for suggestions, a budget planning tool, and downloadable justification letter to share with your admin. Want to take advantage of the early rate – but know your district will pay eventually? Register online today and CSTA will reimburse you when we receive payment from your district/employer. (For more information on how that works contact Zi Stair in the office for details – 916-979-7004 or

New Information Now Available On-line:

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.

Goodbye Outgoing and Welcome Incoming CSTA Board Members

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Jill Grace

Jill Grace, CSTA President, 2017-2019

On July 1, 2017 five CSTA members concluded their service and four new board members joined the ranks of the CSTA Board of Directors. CSTA is so grateful for all the volunteer board of directors who contribute hours upon hours of time and energy to advance the work of the association. At the June 3 board meeting, CSTA was able to say goodbye to the outgoing board members and welcome the incoming members.

This new year also brings with it a new president for CSTA. As of July 1, 2017 Jill Grace is the president of the California Science Teachers Association. Jill is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, a former middle school science teacher, and is currently a Regional Director with the K-12 Alliance @ WestEd where she works with California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative districts and charter networks in the San Diego area.

Outgoing Board Members

  • Laura Henriques (President-Elect: 2011 – 2013, President: 2013 – 2015, Past President: 2015 – 2017)
  • Valerie Joyner (Region 1 Director: 2009 – 2013, Primary Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Mary Whaley (Informal Science Education Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Sue Campbell (Middle School/Jr. High Director: 2015 – 2017)
  • Marcus Tessier (2-Year College Director: 2015 – 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.

Finding My Student’s Motivation of Learning Through Engineering Tasks

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Huda Ali Gubary and Susheela Nath

It’s 8:02 and the bell rings. My students’ walk in and pick up an entry ticket based on yesterday’s lesson and homework. My countdown starts for students to begin…3, 2, 1. Ten students are on task and diligently completing the work, twenty are off task with behaviors ranging from talking up a storm with their neighbors to silently staring off into space. This was the start of my classes, more often than not. My students rarely showed the enthusiasm for a class that I had eagerly prepared for. I spent so much time searching for ways to get my students excited about the concepts they were learning. I wanted them to feel a connection to the lessons and come into my class motivated about what they were going to learn next. I would ask myself how I could make my class memorable where the kids were in the driver’s seat of learning. Incorporating engineering made this possible. 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 California NGSS k-8 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.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Unveils Updated Recommended Literature List

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson unveiled an addition of 285 award-winning titles to the Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list.

“The books our students read help broaden their perspectives, enhance their knowledge, and fire their imaginations,” Torlakson said. “The addition of these award-winning titles represents the state’s continued commitment to the interests and engagement of California’s young readers.”

The Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list is a collection of more than 8,000 titles of recommended reading for children and adolescents. Reflecting contemporary and classic titles, including California authors, this online list provides an exciting range of literature that students should be reading at school and for pleasure. Works include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama to provide for a variety of tastes, interests, and abilities. Learn More…

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy:

Teaching Science in the Time of Alternative Facts – Why NGSS Can Help (somewhat)

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn

The father of one of my students gave me a book: In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood by Walt Brown, Ph. D. He had heard that I was teaching Plate Tectonics and wanted me to consider another perspective. The book offered the idea that the evidence for plate tectonics could be better understood if we considered the idea that beneath the continent of Pangaea was a huge underground layer of water that suddenly burst forth from a rift between the now continents of Africa and South America. The waters shot up and the continents hydroplaned apart on the water layer to their current positions. The force of the movement pushed up great mountain ranges which are still settling to this day, resulting in earthquakes along the margins of continents. This had happened about 6,000 years ago and created a great worldwide flood. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.