September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

Looking Forward Towards the Future of Science Education

Posted: Thursday, November 1st, 2012

by Rick Pomeroy

The following is the text of the President’s address at the opening session of the 2012 California Science Education Conference:

These are exciting times to be in science education. Since the last time we talked, a lot has happened in our schools that will fundamentally change our teaching, science education, and, most importantly, the learning and lives of our students.

The child born today will begin school in 2017. He or she will graduate high school in 2029, college in 2035, and work as a productive citizen through 2070. Given the trends in life expectancy, the child born today will be alive in 2100. The decisions we make today will impact choices and opportunities for a significant period of time.

This conference has been planned as one of the first steps in beginning that long road to a new understanding of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math and how it impacts our lives. To understand the content of this conference, from our opening keynote speaker, Dr. Helen Quinn, to our closing speaker, Josh Tickell, you have to know what has been happening behind the scenes. Since we last met about a year ago, in Pasadena, Common Core Standards have been adopted and implemented in your schools. Many of you have attended and participated in strategy meetings, professional development, and implementation conferences to make this transition happen. This process has not been without its challenges and it will continue to be a hot topic among teachers and pundits alike. Though focused primarily on English language arts and math, there are significant parts of the Common Core Standards that influence your science teaching. Math includes greater emphasis on practices such as computational modeling and reasoning and English language arts contains specific expectations for reading and writing in technical subjects like science and history. In my visits to classrooms, I can already see these expectations in place. There is a greater emphasis placed on the academic writing in lab reports and the use of evidence to support conclusions. We see increases in graphing, mathematical reasoning, and yes, even in the use of algebra.

Fortunately, Common Core Standards are only the beginning. Things are changing in science as well. Common Core has opened the door for a fresh new look at what can be done when California decides to work with other states towards a common goal of better student understanding and learning.

In a few minutes, our keynote speaker will tell you about the vision for science education through the lens of the Conceptual Framework for K-12 Science Education and the Next Generation Science Standards.

To give you some context of how we got to this point, I think it is important to know what CSTA has been doing on your behalf. There have been countless information meetings, task force conferences, legislative sessions, and school board meetings, all focused on the new vision for science education that will engage and inspire students and prepare them for college or career in STEM fields. Just this past week, I attended the final meeting of the STEM Task Force, the STEM Summit in San Diego, and the National Implementation meeting in Indianapolis. In the weeks and months since our Pasadena conference, we have all had a chance to review the first public draft of NGSS and in a few weeks, you will have a chance to review the second and FINAL public draft of the NGSS. Early next year, the final version of those standards will be released after which you will have two additional chances for public comment. Finally, roughly thirteen months from today, the State Board of Education will make a decision on the content of the Standards for California.

When I opened, I described how decisions we make now will have a lasting impact into the 22nd Century. It is imperative that you, the leaders in science education, take part in this process. You must make your voices heard if you want to have a say in the future of science education.

Now, you may be asking yourself, how much can my one voice matter? With the national election coming soon, we hear that comment a lot. So let me tell you about one concrete example where your voice made the difference. This past May, our Governor, in an effort to fix the State budget, proposed decreasing the science requirements for high school graduation from two years to one. Given all of the efforts and discourse about strengthening science and technology as a cure for a stagnant economy this ides seemed ridiculous. But the Governor argued that in tough times, you had to make tough decisions. We did not agree! Instead, CSTA, along with other science organizations, mounted a successful campaign that mobilized you to contact your representative, legislators, and the Governor himself with the message that in this case, Less is not More! Clearly, Less is Less. At CSTA we were proud of your efforts to stand up and say No! Through that process, you demonstrated your voice in maintaining the two-year requirement.

In the coming year, you need to raise your voices again. Through CSTA, and other professional organizations such as the California Science Projects, K-12 Alliance, CISC and CSLNet, you need to participate in the review and adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards and the implementation of a new STEM empowered way of teaching and learning. We must realize that we are making decisions that will have impact well into the 22nd Century.

In closing, I would like to paraphrase Linda Darling-Hammond who described our task as teachers as preparing the children of today, to use the tools of tomorrow, to answer the questions that haven’t yet been asked.

The speakers and the conference can and should be your first step down the road to making this happen.

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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.

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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.