May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

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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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.

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.