May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Conversation with a Leader in Science Education: Maria Chiara Simani

Posted: Tuesday, July 7th, 2015

by Minda Berbeco

Maria Simani, Physicist and Executive Director, California Science Project

Maria Simani, Physicist and Executive Director, California Science Project

CSTA promotes and supports leadership in science education as part of its mission to promote high quality science education. This newsletter regularly features contributions from emerging and established leaders in our CSTA community. For my article this month, I elected to spotlight a leader in California science education to share with our readers about the path of leadership. Teachers are inherent leaders, so it’s no surprise that I was able to find a really great person to chat with about her leadership positions. Maria Simani is the Executive Director of the California Science Project, a statewide network that provides professional learning to science teachers. If you are a science teacher in California, chances are high that you have been involved in one of Simani’s programs, or know someone who has. A tough job, but an incredibly importance one, Simani sat down with me a few weeks ago to talk about how she got into science education leadership and what makes her love every minute of it.

Minda: Briefly tell me about the California Science Project (CSP) – what do you do, how long has it been around and how long have you been involved?

Maria: The California Science Project is a statewide network of regional sites (currently 14) that provide professional learning to teachers of science. The leadership team in all our sites comprises educators as well as science faculty. Our goal is to develop systemic partnerships with regional schools and districts to provide sustained professional learning support for K-12 teachers. The California Science Project has been established by the California legislation in 1988, together with other discipline-specific network (arts, reading, writing, history and social science, international studies, world languages, physical education and health, and mathematics). These networks are also known as the California Subject Matter Projects.

I have been the Executive Director of CSP since July 2011. My major role is to oversee all the programs provided by our sites, monitor fiscal resources, and assist our regional teams to have the highest impact possible on teachers and students.

Minda: How did you end up in that leadership position, did you always want to be in a leadership role in science?

Maria: I have always been interested in the process of learning in particular and education in general. I was introduced to the CSP as a post-doctoral researcher at UC San Francisco. At that time I was doing research on learning at the neural level. When you learn something new, your neurons do change their activation patterns, very cool.

Throughout my professional career, I always ended up at some point being the main contact person and leading projects. This started early for me as an undergraduate student in physics when you become responsible for complex laboratory experiments. Subsequently, as a graduate student in high-energy physics, you need to become responsible for a piece of our large detectors. This means that you will be responsible for coordinating repairs and maintenance and supervising others working on that device. Step by step the responsibility becomes larger and the team to manage becomes larger too. I personally trust the people I am working with very much and truly appreciate all the experiences that they bring to the table. My role is to leverage those talents

Minda:  What would you like to see happen in the next ten years in science education

Maria: I would like every student to have an opportunity to experience science at every grade level. There are many barriers for students to learn what science is about. Sometimes it’s poorly prepared teachers, but most often it’s the school system and the assessment system that constrain the educational opportunity of students. I would like all the teachers to try out teaching according to the vision of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Students will become true critical thinkers and more involved in science and engineering

Minda: What is it like to be a leader in science STEM?

Maria: It is a great experience because I get the opportunity to share ideas with many other thoughtful thinkers that have more experience than me. It feels good that our thinking is coordinated in the best interest of students and in our willingness to assist teachers to transition to the NGSS.

Written by Minda Berbeco

Minda Berbeco

Minda Berbeco is the Programs and Policy Director at the National Center for Science Education and is CSTA’s Region 2 Director.

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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.