May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

My First Science Conference…How Did I End Up Here? Reflections of a Non-Science Person Teaching Elementary Science

Posted: Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

by Cheryl Romig

OK, so here’s my dirty laundry. I actually chose my major in college based on the number of science classes I would have to take. I can vividly remember lying on the dorm floor, college course catalog spread out in front of my freshman year, counting science classes and crossing off potential majors if I had to take more than two. That was my limit… two classes in four years would surely send me over the edge. 

Fast forward to my first year teaching in Elk Grove. In walks the elementary science specialist to tell me he’d be teaching my 5th grade class once a week. Here’s me doing the happy dance and having that feeling that my students would be OK… Superman Science Guy was going to save us all!

But then, somewhere along the way I had two kids and there is nothing that becomes more obvious when raising children than their natural curiosity about ALL things. They wanted to know STUFF. They wanted to touch it and smell it and eat it and talk about it.

So, when I reentered the teaching profession last year as a third grade teacher sans the science specialist on call, I knew I had to do better. I knew that I had to make my curriculum more interesting for students and that by making it relevant, we would all learn more. But what does someone who’s scared of science do? I started small. Really small. And, since I knew nothing, I did what anyone in my shoes would do: I attended a science workshop – my first science anything ever! It was fun, it was engaging, and I had no idea what the science behind any of it was. But I learned something really motivating: I learned that I don’t have to know everything. I just have to know a little and the rest of my job is to make my kids want to know more! I have to take the risk of losing a bit of control over my classroom while my students engage, explore, and create their own explanations for whatever phenomenon is presented.

I returned to my classroom, Zippo lighter in hand, and popped some regular air-filled balloons. Then I filled one with water and practically set the thing on the flame, nothing happened! The kids were amazed. They couldn’t believe it. They clapped and cheered and oohed and aahed and I was hooked. These precious little eight year olds actually thanked me… thanked ME for teaching science.

The crazy thing was that it happened again. We made Insta-snow and this time I added a hypothesis. What did they think would happen if we added water to these little flakes? It was literally Christmas in October, more cheers, and more thank yous. The next month we tried science journals… adding procedures, then conclusions, then variables. We grew plants using all manner of things… cola, Tabasco sauce, dad’s multivitamins… and made predictions about what would happen.

I was hooked on how much fun we were having and how excited students were about school. So, when I saw the announcement for the California Science Education Conference I thought three things: 1) I wonder what I could learn, 2) I cannot believe I am even considering this! and 3) Why didn’t I do this before??

The California Science Education Conference was just what I needed to keep my enthusiasm going. It was another way for me to connect with others who are also trying to figure out science in our own little classroom worlds. It made me realize that I am not alone! What I loved most, though, was seeing just how many scientists and mentors are out there wanting to help all of us do a great job! All we have to do is take those first few steps. It’s been such a transforming journey, but I now know that I can teach science, and it has most definitely become the highlight of my school day!

Cheryl Romig is a CSTA member. She teaches 3rd grade at Sutter’s Mill Elementary School in the Gold Trail Union School District. 

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.

6 Responses

  1. Bravo for her to take the leap! Kids love science and after the initial risk, the teacher becomes as hooked as the kids!

  2. I wish my kids had Ms. Romig as their teacher. She sounds phenomenal!! Keep up the good work and enthusiasm….

  3. I enjoyed reading this article. Wish I had this science teacher when I was going to school. Brava to you for making science fun and interesting to your students.

  4. Exceptional story from an exceptional teacher. No exceptions.

  5. Ms. Romig’s enthusiasm for science is palpable! Thank you for sharing your journey.

  6. Recalling my time with Mrs. Romig as one of her former principals, I could see the excitement bubbling around her from just reading her article. Sharing her honest and delightful experiences about teaching science will surely inspire other teachers to want to venture out into more science in their classrooms. Hip, Hip, Hooray for you Cheryl!

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LATEST POST

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.