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.
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!
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 http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/ai/infomeeting.asp.) Learn More…
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. https://www.engadget.com/2016/08/25/google-offers-360-degree-tours-of-us-national-parks/. Learn More…
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
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…
Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
by Peter A’hearn
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…
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…