Conversation with a Leader in Science Education: Maria Chiara Simani
Posted: Tuesday, July 7th, 2015
by Minda Berbeco
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.
Posted: Monday, March 27th, 2017
The California Science Teachers Association (CSTA) stands with our science and science education colleagues in endorsing the March For Science and its associated activities.
The decision by the CSTA Board of Directors to support the March for Science was based on the understanding that this is an opportunity to advocate for our mission of high quality science education for all and to advance the idea that science has application to everyday life, is a vehicle for lifelong learning, and the scientific enterprise expands our knowledge of the world around us. The principles and goals of the March for Science parallel those of CSTA to assume a leadership role in solidarity with our colleagues in science and science education and create an understanding of the value of science in the greater community. CSTA believes that the integrity of the nature of science and that the work of scientists and science educators should be valued and supported. We encourage your participation to stand with us.
There are over 30 satellite marches planned for the April 22, 2017 March for Science in California (to find a march near you, click on “marches” in the upper right of the main page, select “satellite marches” and use the search feature). We encourage members who participate in the March for Science to share their involvement and promotion of science and science education. Feel free to promote CSTA on your signs and banners. For those on social media, you may share your involvement via Twitter, @cascience and our Facebook groups.
Posted: Tuesday, March 14th, 2017
The pre-publication version of the new California Science Curriculum Framework is now available for download. This publication incorporates all the edits that were approved by the State Board of Education in November 2016 and was many months in the making. Our sincere thanks to the dozens of CSTA members were involved in its development. Our appreciation is also extended to the California Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Instructional Quality Commission, and the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee and their staff for their hard work and dedication to produce this document and for their commitment to the public input process. To the many writers and contributors to the Framework CSTA thanks you for your many hours of work to produce a world-class document.
For tips on how to approach this document see our article from December 2016: California Has Adopted a New Science Curriculum Framework – Now What …? If you would like to learn more about the Framework, consider participating in one of the Framework Launch events (a.k.a. Rollout #4) scheduled throughout 2017.
The final publication version (formatted for printing) will be available in July 2017. This document will not be available in printed format, only electronically.
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
The 2017 Award Season is now open! One of the benefits of being a CSTA member is your eligibility for awards as well as your eligibility to nominate someone for an award. CSTA offers several awards and members may nominate individuals and organizations for the Future Science Teacher Award, the prestigious Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, and the CSTA Distinguished Contributions Award (organizational award). May 9, 2017 is the deadline for nominations for these awards. CSTA believes that the importance of science education cannot be overstated. Given the essential presence of the sciences in understanding the past and planning for the future, science education remains, and will increasingly be one of the most important disciplines in education. CSTA is committed to recognizing and encouraging excellence in science teaching through the presentation of awards to science educators and organizations who have made outstanding contributions in science education in the state and who are poised to continue the momentum of providing high quality, relevant science education into the future. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
CSTA is now accepting applications from regular, preservice, and retired members to serve on our volunteer committees! CSTA’s all-volunteer board of directors invites you to consider maximizing your member experience by volunteering for CSTA. CSTA committee service offers you the opportunity to share your expertise, learn a new skill, or do something you love to do but never have the opportunity to do in your regular day. CSTA committee volunteers do some pretty amazing things: Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Marian Murphy-Shaw
If you attended an NGSS Rollout phase 1-3 or CDE workshops at CSTA’s annual conference you may recall hearing from Chris Breazeale when he was working with the CDE. Chris has relocated professionally, with his passion for science education, and is now the Executive Director at the Explorit Science Center, a hands-on exploration museum featuring interactive STEM exhibits located at the beautiful Mace Ranch, 3141 5th St. in Davis, CA. Visitors can “think it, try it, and explorit” with a variety of displays that allow visitors to “do science.” To preview the museum, or schedule a classroom visit, see www.explorit.org. Learn More…