May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Middle School Matters

Posted: Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

by Jill Grace

Welcome back middle school science teachers! I hope you had a nice relaxing summer.  Although, come to think of it, most teachers I know spend their whole summer working, taking classes, revamping content, figuring out how to squeeze in that Common Core thing… the list goes on.  Personally, I find “summer” to be an illusion to get me through the school year, but at least that works well enough to help me muster up the strength to teach all of our excitable, distracted, goofy, and hormonal quasi-teens.  This is an age group that most run away screaming from and, yet, we somehow wouldn’t trade it for anything because we know that deep down inside they are amazing young people with whom we get to share a year with and, hopefully, help start to navigate their path in life.

As it turns out, while we were “on vacation,” a lot was going on in middle school science.  The State released the proposed arrangement for NGSS in middle school.  I have to admit, even I paused in my tracks when I saw them.  The more information I got, however, the more I could see the vision that was being laid out and the opportunity that was there.  Further, I started to ask my own questions and tried to help answer questions from others.  Hopefully you were able to attend one of the three NGSS information meetings across the state in August.   We owe a debt of gratitude to the teachers, school officials, county office leaders, Science Expert Panel members, and CSTA representatives who helped make these happen (all of whom volunteered their time to do so).  In addition, the CSTA website now has an awesome NGSS link with tons of information to help you get informed.  There is no question the proposed alignment between NGSS and the Common Core Standards will require strong innovative curriculum and professional development for teachers.  The CSTA, County Offices of Education, science professional development groups, informal science centers, and industry leaders are already setting their sights on resource development.  Science teachers in California WILL be supported!

I decided to run for the CSTA board this year because I knew NGSS was coming and I wanted to be involved.  I wanted to help the CSTA board understand what middle school science teachers are going through and be a resource to support those teachers.  One thing I quickly realized is that the middle school science teachers I am in contact with represent a very small demographic of California and I want to make sure there is a forum for all of us across the state to be able to communicate with each other.  To this end, I’ve started a Facebook group and I invite all California middle school science teachers to join – just submit your “join group” request and you will be added to the group.  This can be a valuable place where we all can disseminate information and resources as well have a forum for all of us across the State to dialogue.

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Perhaps even more so than with elementary or high school, the NGSS provides us with a very rare opportunity to completely revamp how we teach science in middle school.  Now, mind you, this will take a lot of strength and courage on our parts.  It will mean becoming learners ourselves.  There’s a chance we might find some new passions in our teaching we never knew we had.  BUT the prospects of what this change will mean to those crazy aliens we call middle school students is tremendous.  We have a chance to think about these kids, their learning, and how they will perceive science by the end of middle school.  How novel and wonderful!

Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is the President of CSTA.

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CSTA Annual Conference Early Bird Rates End July 14

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

Teachers engaged in workshop activity

Teachers engaging in hands-on learning during a workshop at the 2016 CSTA conference.

Don’t miss your chance to register at the early bird rate for the 2017 CSTA Conference – the early-bird rate closes July 14. Need ideas on how to secure funding for your participation? Visit our website for suggestions, a budget planning tool, and downloadable justification letter to share with your admin. Want to take advantage of the early rate – but know your district will pay eventually? Register online today and CSTA will reimburse you when we receive payment from your district/employer. (For more information on how that works contact Zi Stair in the office for details – 916-979-7004 or zi@cascience.org.)

New Information Now Available On-line:

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.

Goodbye Outgoing and Welcome Incoming CSTA Board Members

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Jill Grace

Jill Grace, CSTA President, 2017-2019

On July 1, 2017 five CSTA members concluded their service and four new board members joined the ranks of the CSTA Board of Directors. CSTA is so grateful for all the volunteer board of directors who contribute hours upon hours of time and energy to advance the work of the association. At the June 3 board meeting, CSTA was able to say goodbye to the outgoing board members and welcome the incoming members.

This new year also brings with it a new president for CSTA. As of July 1, 2017 Jill Grace is the president of the California Science Teachers Association. Jill is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, a former middle school science teacher, and is currently a Regional Director with the K-12 Alliance @ WestEd where she works with California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative districts and charter networks in the San Diego area.

Outgoing Board Members

  • Laura Henriques (President-Elect: 2011 – 2013, President: 2013 – 2015, Past President: 2015 – 2017)
  • Valerie Joyner (Region 1 Director: 2009 – 2013, Primary Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Mary Whaley (Informal Science Education Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Sue Campbell (Middle School/Jr. High Director: 2015 – 2017)
  • Marcus Tessier (2-Year College Director: 2015 – 2017)

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.

Finding My Student’s Motivation of Learning Through Engineering Tasks

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Huda Ali Gubary and Susheela Nath

It’s 8:02 and the bell rings. My students’ walk in and pick up an entry ticket based on yesterday’s lesson and homework. My countdown starts for students to begin…3, 2, 1. Ten students are on task and diligently completing the work, twenty are off task with behaviors ranging from talking up a storm with their neighbors to silently staring off into space. This was the start of my classes, more often than not. My students rarely showed the enthusiasm for a class that I had eagerly prepared for. I spent so much time searching for ways to get my students excited about the concepts they were learning. I wanted them to feel a connection to the lessons and come into my class motivated about what they were going to learn next. I would ask myself how I could make my class memorable where the kids were in the driver’s seat of learning. Incorporating engineering made this possible. 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 California NGSS k-8 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.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Unveils Updated Recommended Literature List

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson unveiled an addition of 285 award-winning titles to the Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list.

“The books our students read help broaden their perspectives, enhance their knowledge, and fire their imaginations,” Torlakson said. “The addition of these award-winning titles represents the state’s continued commitment to the interests and engagement of California’s young readers.”

The Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list is a collection of more than 8,000 titles of recommended reading for children and adolescents. Reflecting contemporary and classic titles, including California authors, this online list provides an exciting range of literature that students should be reading at school and for pleasure. Works include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama to provide for a variety of tastes, interests, and abilities. Learn More…

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

Teaching Science in the Time of Alternative Facts – Why NGSS Can Help (somewhat)

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn

The father of one of my students gave me a book: In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood by Walt Brown, Ph. D. He had heard that I was teaching Plate Tectonics and wanted me to consider another perspective. The book offered the idea that the evidence for plate tectonics could be better understood if we considered the idea that beneath the continent of Pangaea was a huge underground layer of water that suddenly burst forth from a rift between the now continents of Africa and South America. The waters shot up and the continents hydroplaned apart on the water layer to their current positions. The force of the movement pushed up great mountain ranges which are still settling to this day, resulting in earthquakes along the margins of continents. This had happened about 6,000 years ago and created a great worldwide flood. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.