May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

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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Participate in Chemistry Education Research Study, Earn $500-800 Dollars!

Posted: Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

WestEd, a non-profit educational research agency, has been funded by the US Department of Education to test a new molecular modeling kit, Happy Atoms. Happy Atoms is an interactive chemistry learning experience that consists of a set of physical atoms that connect magnetically to form molecules, and an app that uses image recognition to identify the molecules that you create with the set. WestEd is conducting a study around the effectiveness of using Happy Atoms in the classroom, and we are looking for high school chemistry teachers in California to participate.

As part of the study, teachers will be randomly assigned to either the treatment group (who uses Happy Atoms) or the control group (who uses Happy Atoms at a later date). Teachers in the treatment group will be asked to use the Happy Atoms set in their classrooms for 5 lessons over the course of the fall 2017 semester. Students will complete pre- and post-assessments and surveys around their chemistry content knowledge and beliefs about learning chemistry. WestEd will provide access to all teacher materials, teacher training, and student materials needed to participate.

Participating teachers will receive a stipend of $500-800. You can read more information about the study here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HappyAtoms

Please contact Rosanne Luu at rluu@wested.org or 650.381.6432 if you are interested in participating in this opportunity, or if you have any questions!

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.

2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption Reviewer Application

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

The California Department of Education and State Board of Education are now accepting applications for reviewers for the 2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption. The application deadline is 3:00 pm, July 21, 2017. The application is comprehensive, so don’t wait until the last minute to apply.

On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson forwarded this recruitment letter to county and district superintendents and charter school administrators.

Review panel members will evaluate instructional materials for use in kindergarten through grade eight, inclusive, that are aligned with the California Next Generation Science Content Standards for California Public Schools (CA NGSS). 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.

Lessons Learned from the NGSS Early Implementer Districts

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

On March 31, 2017, Achieve released two documents examining some lessons learned from the California K-8 Early Implementation Initiative. The initiative began in August 2014 and was developed by the K-12 Alliance at WestEd, with close collaborative input on its design and objectives from the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education, and Achieve.

Eight (8) traditional school districts and two (2) charter management organizations were selected to participate in the initiative, becoming the first districts in California to implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Those districts included Galt Joint Union Elementary, Kings Canyon Joint Unified, Lakeside Union, Oakland Unified, Palm Springs Unified, San Diego Unified, Tracy Joint Unified, Vista Unified, Aspire, and High Tech High.

To more closely examine some of the early successes and challenges experienced by the Early Implementer LEAs, Achieve interviewed nine of the ten participating districts and compiled that information into two resources, focusing primarily on professional learning and instructional materials. 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.

Using Online Simulations to Support the NGSS in Middle School Classrooms

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

by Lesley Gates, Loren Nikkel, and Kambria Eastham

Middle school teachers in Kings Canyon Unified School District (KCUSD), a CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative district, have been diligently working on transitioning to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) integrated model for middle school. This year, the teachers focused on building their own knowledge of the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs). They have been gathering and sharing ideas at monthly collaborative meetings as to how to make sure their students are not just learning about science but that they are actually doing science in their classrooms. Students should be planning and carrying out investigations to gather data for analysis in order to construct explanations. This is best done through hands-on lab experiments. Experimental work is such an important part of the learning of science and education research shows that students learn better and retain more when they are active through inquiry, investigation, and application. A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2011) notes, “…learning about science and engineering involves integration of the knowledge of scientific explanations (i.e., content knowledge) and the practices needed to engage in scientific inquiry and engineering design. Thus the framework seeks to illustrate how knowledge and practice must be intertwined in designing learning experiences in K-12 Science Education” (pg. 11).

Many middle school teachers in KCUSD are facing challenges as they begin implementing these student-driven, inquiry-based NGSS science experiences in their classrooms. First, many of the middle school classrooms at our K-8 school sites are not designed as science labs. 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 NGSS 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.

Celestial Highlights: May – July 2017

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

May Through July 2017 with Web Resources for the Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graphs of planet rising and setting times by Jeffrey L. Hunt.

In spring and summer 2017, Jupiter is the most prominent “star” in the evening sky, and Venus, even brighter, rules the morning. By mid-June, Saturn rises at a convenient evening hour, allowing both giant planets to be viewed well in early evening until Jupiter sinks low in late September. The Moon is always a crescent in its monthly encounters with Venus, but is full whenever it appears near Jupiter or Saturn in the eastern evening sky opposite the Sun. (In 2017, Full Moon is near Jupiter in April, Saturn in June.) At intervals of 27-28 days thereafter, the Moon appears at a progressively earlier phase at each pairing with the outer planet until its final conjunction, with Moon a thin crescent, low in the west at dusk. You’ll see many beautiful events by just following the Moon’s wanderings at dusk and dawn in the three months leading up to the solar eclipse. 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.