September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Informal Science Education and Preservice Teachers

Posted: Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

by Rick Pomeroy

Despite the hours of lesson planning, methods classes, student teaching, and high stakes testing, every pre-service teacher eventually comes to the conclusion that their students learn science in a variety of ways and a variety of places, not always in the classroom. Learning the power of these informal science experiences is important for any teacher but particularly for teachers who will be entering the profession in the next few years.

Commonly referred to as informal science education, these out of the classroom experiences have a powerful impact on students’ curiosity, enjoyment and engagement in more formal science settings. Learning to harness and incorporate this engagement can be a challenge for pre-service and early career teachers. It takes time and effort to learn what excites the students, but it is time well spent.

One of the first things that every new teacher should do when starting at a new school is learn the lay of the science landscape by getting to know the informal science resources in the community. These can be museums, zoos, animal parks, day camps or after-school clubs. They can be organized educational events such as science fairs, competitions or contests, or they can be unstructured experiences such as make-it fairs or hobby groups. Whatever form they take, informal science experiences have a powerful impact on students’ engagement and interest in science. Informal science resources in a community can provide a much wider range of experiences for children without the constraints of school organization, assessments, and regimented time schedules. Children’s participation in these informal experiences is most often voluntary and not required by policy or school regulations.

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So how do new teachers learn about these opportunities? Start by asking. Ask the students, parents, and the other teachers at your school. Call the Chamber of Commerce or the visitor’s bureau and check with the parks and recreation departments or local youth organizations. Whichever strategy is used, new teachers should find out what, when, and where these opportunities exist, and then go for a visit. Many of these organizations would welcome volunteer help on weekends or evenings and might even exchange volunteer hours for discounts or passes for students. Or, if it is impossible for students to visit the informal site, a teacher can invite a speaker or special program from the organization to their classes. Regardless of how they access it, new teachers will benefit by the increased engagement of their students as well as a wealth of new ideas to make formal science instruction more engaging.

As teachers, we might like to believe that the lessons in our classes are the key factors in our students’ science learning but this view of our roles as teachers ignores one significant piece of the science learning puzzle: real life!

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Written by Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy is science education lecturer/supervisor in the School of Education, University of California Davis and is 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

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.