July/August 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 8

Human Impacts, Human Solutions: Engaging Elementary School Children in Solution-Based Science

Posted: Monday, April 1st, 2013

by Minda Berbeco

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are scheduled for release this spring and already many teachers and administrators are abuzz with questions about the anticipated changes. How will core topics be addressed? Will teachers need to rethink their lesson plans? Are students going to be overwhelmed? Many folks were startled by the inclusion of human impacts on natural systems in the standards, even at younger ages – leading them to ask how we can address such issues without making children fearful and despondent? This last question is one I received long before drafts of the NGSS were even released, but now that it appears it will be a core component of several of the standards, the question has become all the more relevant. How, indeed, can we talk about human impacts on natural systems without frightening or depressing students? 

Although some well-meaning parents and teachers might want to try to protect their children and students from these realities, it is unrealistic to think that children haven’t already heard about many of them. If you ask even young students about polar bears and ozone layer depletion, for example, you’ll probably find that they have heard something about these topics from family, friends, or even media like television or movies. Rather than evade the subject and risk letting possible misconceptions stand, the challenge is to teach the climate science behind these issues so that students don’t find them quite so terrifying. A good way of doing so is to emphasize potential solutions and teach students about possible ways to mitigate or adapt to climate change. This is an extraordinarily broad challenge for teachers, so the question is where we must start.

A good starting place is with a federal organization you can trust for quality scientific information and a solutions-focused approach to management, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). They have a core curriculum centering on coral reefs: their biology, human impacts, and management. Unlike many lessons around human impacts on natural systems, these lessons start in younger years (third grade) where students begin to learn about coral reefs and their inhabitants. After understanding reef system basics, students can then start to learn about human impacts on coral reefs and how they can be managed in a thoughtful manner. The curricula and lesson plans are located at http://coralreef.noaa.gov/education/educators/resourcecd/lessonplans/.

Although many students easily make connections between themselves and ocean systems, others do not – coral reefs just seem too far away even though California is a coastal state. Another way for teachers to help students frame human impacts on natural systems in a solutions-focused manner is to first connect them to their immediate landscape by looking at the schoolyard itself or the urban ecosystem that students live in. The Cary Institute has developed very clever lesson plans encouraging teachers to take advantage of their own schoolyard to teach about basic scientific questions regarding human impacts on systems. Through these lessons, elementary school students learn about the natural, physical, and social elements of their environment and how they interact and affect one another. In a lesson demonstrating human impacts on soils, for example, students are asked to compare schoolyard soils with high and low student traffic.  They can measure soil temperature, percolation, and even critters in these different locations to understand how humans impact their environment. From there, teachers can engage students in conversations about how people affect their environments, and ways in which students can work to manage those impacts.

The lesson plans are located at: http://www.caryinstitute.org/educators/teaching-materials.

Sometimes taking students outside of the classroom can be difficult, and having an easy-to- access media source at their fingertips can be a good alternative for teaching children about scientific issues. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has done a nice job putting together an informative and interactive website with videos demonstrating not only the science of climate change but also the challenges and potential solutions. The videos take students on virtual expeditions around the globe to examine human impacts in different locations, discussing how we know what we know about climate change and the human connection. It’s a colorful, inviting website that teachers can use to support classroom activities or ask students to visit on their own. The website is located at: http://www.epa.gov/climatestudents/.

Learning about human impacts on natural systems can be emotionally challenging for students, particularly at the elementary school age. However, the effects of climate change are becoming increasingly more visible and there are great resources available to help teachers address these issues. Students are already hearing about the challenges. It is up to their science teachers to put them into context, explain the science in an age-appropriate manner, and help them to develop their understanding and skills for the future.

Minda Berbeco is the Programs and Policy Director at the National Center for Science Education.

Written by Minda Berbeco

Minda Berbeco

Minda Berbeco was the Programs and Policy Director at the National Center for Science Education and is now the Director of the Sierra Club San Francisco Chapter.

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CTC Seeking Educators for Science Standard Setting Conference

Posted: Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

The Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) and Evaluation Systems group of Pearson are currently seeking California science educators to participate in a Science Standard Setting Conference for the California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET) program. Each standard setting panel is scheduled to meet for one-day, in Sacramento, California. The fields and dates are listed below:

Multiple Subjects Subtest II (Science), Monday, October 2, 2017
Science Subtest II: Physics, Monday, October 2, 2017
Science Subtest II: Chemistry, Tuesday, October 3, 2017
Science Subtest II: Life Sciences, Wednesday, October 4, 2017
Science Subtest II: Earth and Space Sciences, Thursday, October 5, 2017
Science Subtest I: General Science, Friday, October 6, 2017

The purpose of the conference is for panel members to make recommendations that will be used, in part, by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) in setting the passing standard, for each field, in support of the updated California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET).

Click here to nominate educators. If you are interested in participating yourself, complete an application here for consideration.

Eligibility:

Public school educators who are:

• Certified in California
• Currently practicing (or have practiced within the last school year) in one or more of the fields listed above. 

College faculty who are:

• Teacher preparation personnel (including education faculty and arts and sciences faculty)
• Practicing (or have practiced within the last school year) in one or more of the fields listed above, and
• Preparing teacher candidates in an approved California teacher preparation program.

 Benefits of Participation Include:
• Receive substitute reimbursement for their school (public school educators only),
• Have the opportunity to make a difference in California teacher development and performance,
• Have the opportunity for professional growth and collaboration with educators in their field,
• Be reimbursed for their travel and meal expenses, and
• Be provided with hotel accommodations, if necessary.

For more information, visit their website at www.carecruit.nesinc.com/cset/index.asp

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.

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 zi@cascience.org.)

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: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.