September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

Leaning In and Leading by Example

Posted: Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

by Laura Henriques

The retirement of Phil Lafontaine from the California Department of Education has me thinking again about leadership in science education, particularly in California. In addition to hiring Phil’s replacement, CDE’s STEM Office was also hiring. As I think about science educators around the state who might apply for these positions I fear we are not doing a good enough job of helping foster our future leaders. I recognize that lean budgets and multiple years of teacher lay-offs contribute to an environment that is not conducive to building leadership. However, times are changing and there is a renewed focus and energy around STEM education. As a community, we need to take advantage of this opportunity and help develop a pipeline of science education leaders.

Those of you who read this column regularly know that this is not the first time I have encouraged you to get involved beyond your classroom. In my first column as President of CSTA, I wrote of my desire to see more CSTA members take steps towards becoming leaders in science education. I urged you to get involved at your school site, to become more active in CSTA, and to mentor colleagues to help them become engaged. The processes during which the state adopted the Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core Standards provided multiple opportunities to make your voices heard. In the months and years ahead there will be more chances to do so.

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, wrote a popular book entitled Lean In. Sandberg focused on the lack of women in leadership positions and provided suggestions on how to empower women to achieve their potential. While her book addresses the problem of too few women in leadership positions, the lessons and suggestions are valuable for everyone regardless of gender. The title of the book encourages us to refrain from the habit of sitting back and withholding ideas and opinions. While Sandberg writes about women who hold back and don’t lean in, I think it is safe to say that almost all of us have moments where we sit back and watch instead of getting actively involved. I want to take space in this column to give a shout out to those of you who have leaned in (you know who you are) and encourage the rest of us to do what we can to make moves towards leadership positions and more engagement with the science education community.



Share Your Classroom Expertise. Many of you have written for California Classroom Science (CCS) this past year. While your CSTA Board members have great things to share, we also know that our members have a wealth of expertise and experience. To that end, each board member has invited at least one colleague to write an article for CCS this year. This is something we will continue in the future, but know that any member can write for CCS…you don’t need to wait for an invitation! For example, consider writing about a great lesson or lab, a teaching strategy that worked well, results of action research that could be helpful to others, or resources you think other teachers would find useful. You probably also know of colleagues who are doing really wonderful things in their classrooms…ask them to write an article. One of the suggestions Sandberg writes about is the importance of mentoring and encouraging people to get involved. Maybe you can help someone on their professional path by asking them to write for CCS. Click here for CCS themes, deadlines, and author guidelines.

State Level Opportunities to Lean In. With the adoption of NGSS and CCSS there have been multiple ways for science teachers to lean in and lead. Already acknowledged are the numerous CSTA members who contributed to the Science Framework Focus Groups and the regional focus groups that provided feedback about the ELA/ELD Framework to the Instructional Quality Commission. The work of those individuals and groups will affect all of us. The feedback from the science framework focus groups has provided direction to the IQC for the science framework. Meanwhile, the ELA review teams provided more than 40 pages of input about the ELA Framework that have strengthened and shaped the final draft of that document. I know that 171 of you applied to serve on the Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Commission, and the IQC and SBE will be selecting as many as 20 to serve on that commission soon. Thank you for taking the time to apply to serve and for those of you selected, we are indebted to the time and effort you will devote to the task.

Districts Lean In. The S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation has teamed up with WestEd to support a handful of districts (K-8) who will be early implementers of NGSS. The districts will serve as models for the rest of the state, sharing lessons on building capacity, implementation, and strategies for success. Lessons from these fast-start adopters will provide guidance for the rest of the state. It is exciting to know we’ll have schools and districts paving the way and sharing their results to help ease the implementation for the rest of us. In a few instances, it has been a CSTA member who urged their district to apply for this opportunity. Talk about science teachers making a difference and helping shape their destiny! Way to go!

Serve CSTA. Beyond writing for CSTA’s newsletter, CCS, you can also serve on a working committee. Initial appointments for CSTA’s committees will be made at the June 14, 2014 board meeting. If you are interested in serving in this capacity, please contact me. The committees that need your energy, expertise, and innovations are the NGSS, publications, membership, legislative oversight, and conference committees. The committees do most of their work electronically and via conference calls.

CSTA members have already received ballots to vote for new CSTA Board Members. Our entire organization will benefit from the work the soon-to-be elected board members will do on our behalf. I am thrilled that we have such strong candidates on the ballot and I truly appreciate them stepping up to serve. I am saddened, however, that in a state of our size we don’t have numerous CSTA members applying to run for the various board positions. Please vote; balloting closes on May 15.

Mentor the Next Generation. For you more seasoned veterans out there, do what you can to support your colleagues’ professional development. Sandberg speaks of the importance of having a mentor; perhaps you can serve that role. We can all look around and find at least one science educator who has potential. Find that person and make it your goal to help them reach their potential. Encourage them to apply for opportunities and be available to guide them as they take steps towards leadership.

We need to have a pipeline of strong science education advocates who will lead us forward. Lean in. Support your colleagues and encourage them to get involved. Do something together. CSTA needs you; California needs you.

Written by Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques is a professor of science education at CSU Long Beach and past-president of CSTA. She serves as chair of CSTA’s Nominating Committee and is a co-chair of the NGSS Committee.

One Response

  1. Laura,
    Thank you for your well-written, inspiring article. As a past president of CSTA, it is safe to say that it is a continual, long-term process to “grow” new leaders in science education. Readers of this newsletter may be interested to know there is a national organization devoted to building leadership expertise for current and emerging science leaders… the National Science Education Leadership Association ( I am currently on the board of NSELA and encourage science educators to consider the opportunities NSELA offers. Thank you for your service to CSTA and for your inspiring us to mentor new leaders!
    Deborah Tucker

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California Science Assessment Update

Posted: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

by Jessica Sawko

In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.

At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at 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.

Some ways to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in your classroom

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

by Carol Peterson

1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. 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.

2016 Award Recipients – Join CSTA in Honoring Their Accomplishments

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference  on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!

Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award

John Keller

John Keller

The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well into the future.” 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.

NGSS: Making Your Life Easier

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Peter A’hearn

Wait… What?

NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?

The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Celestial Highlights, September 2016

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt 

Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. Learn More…

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Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.