September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Increasing Technology and Engineering Practices School-wide and in the Science Classroom

Posted: Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

by Jeanine Wulfenstein

Our science classrooms are in a state of transition as we move closer toward the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core Standards.  A major part of this shift is the integration of technology and engineering practices that is infused throughout the new standards.  As part of this change it is vital that we educate students to be proficient and build the 21st century skills they are going to need to be successful. Now is the time for educators to review and refine current instructional practices to ensure proficiency not only in core science content, but also in overarching skills required to be part of a technologically literate society. 

The Common Core Standards emphasize the “Four-Cs” of collaboration, critical thinking, communication, and creativity.  These components are also at the core of engineering and scientific practice. Practicing scientists and engineers must be able to conduct background research, gather data, collaborate, and utilize technological resources to come to conclusion to push the boundaries of science and technological advancement. Several ways to embrace the technology resources are by utilizing computer based modeling software with students to simulate changes occurring over time, or by requiring students to complete web-based scavenger hunts (“web quests”) to gather data or research a given topic.  Teachers could also help students use pressure plates, force sensors, pH sensors, and/or motion sensors to collect real-time data for analysis and graphing via computer data management software.  By requiring students to utilize technology, not only will students be increasingly engaged in their learning and learn material in a more meaningful way, but they will also be better prepared with desired workplace skills.

We must broaden our vision of when and where science happens if we are to meet the learning needs of the 21st century. There is still room for expansion of data gathering and processing outside of the core science classroom.  Schools could implement Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) or “STEAM” (including integration of the arts) elective courses into the school day (like the one described in this month’s issue of CCS) to reinforce concepts learned in science through hands-on project based learning in other disciplines.  Programs such as this have inspired learning beyond the confines of the brick and mortar of the school, and have been successful with exceptional needs students since the project based elective setting can be a perfect venue for success for students with varying abilities

Time outside of the traditional “science class” could also be used to support scientific inquiry and scientific skills.  Schools could even teach data reporting and creation of science-based simulation using computer coding techniques.  Courses like this could be taught as part of a PLC intervention/enrichment model where computer coding would be offered to enrichment students or to students during a designated technology period.  Free programs like Scratch created by MIT teach programming and computer commands, and could be used to teach students to create content-related games or storyboards to reinforce and explain scientific concepts while at the same time utilizing computer coding skills.

By opening up the possibilities of student technology use and integrating engineering practices into the curriculum, educators are preparing the next generation of scientists and engineers to solve the problems of today, ward off the problems of tomorrow and catapult our society to new levels.  It is our responsibility as science educators to support this movement and to inspire our students to go out and accomplish great things!  Together we can do just that!

Written by Jeanine Wulfenstein

Jeanine Wulfenstein

Jeanine Wulfenstein taught science at Gardner Middle School and is now assistant principal at Bella Vista Middle School in Temecula. She is a member of CSTA. You can reach her by emailing jwulfenstein@tvusd.k12.ca.us.

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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

Cal

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.