September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

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:

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!

Leave a Reply


CSTA Is Now Accepting Nominations for Board Members

Posted: Friday, November 17th, 2017

Current, incoming, and outgoing CSTA Board of Directors at June 3, 2017 meeting.

Updated 7:25 pm, Nov. 17, 2017

It’s that time of year when CSTA is looking for dedicated and qualified persons to fill the upcoming vacancies on its Board of Directors. This opportunity allows you to help shape the policy and determine the path that the Board will take in the new year. There are time and energy commitments, but that is far outweighed by the personal satisfaction of knowing that you are an integral part of an outstanding professional educational organization, dedicated to the support and guidance of California’s science teachers. You will also have the opportunity to help CSTA review and support legislation that benefits good science teaching and teachers.

Right now is an exciting time to be involved at the state level in the California Science Teachers Association. The CSTA Board of Directors is currently involved in implementing the Next Generations Science Standards and its strategic plan. If you are interested in serving on the CSTA Board of Directors, now is the time to submit your name for consideration. 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.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2017 Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Posted: Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated eight exceptional secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“These teachers are dedicated and accomplished individuals whose innovative teaching styles prepare our students for 21st century careers and college and develop them into the designers and inventors of the future,” Torlakson said. “They rank among the finest in their profession and also serve as wonderful mentors and role models.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partners annually with the California Science Teachers Association and the California Mathematics Council to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program—the highest recognition in the nation for a mathematics or science teacher. The Science Finalists will be recognized at the CSTA Awards Luncheon on Saturday, October 14, 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.

Thriving in a Time of Change

Posted: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

by Jill Grace

By the time this message is posted online, most schools across California will have been in session for at least a month (if not longer, and hat tip to that bunch!). Long enough to get a good sense of who the kids in your classroom are and to get into that groove and momentum of the daily flow of teaching. It’s also very likely that for many of you who weren’t a part of a large grant initiative or in a district that set wheels in motion sooner, this is the first year you will really try to shift instruction to align to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a challenging year – change is hard. Change is even harder when there’s not a playbook to go by.  But as someone who has had the very great privilege of walking alongside teachers going through that change for the past two years and being able to glimpse at what this looks like for different demographics across that state, there are three things I hope you will hold on to. These are things I have come to learn will overshadow the challenge: a growth mindset will get you far, one is a very powerful number, and it’s about the kids. Learn More…

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

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

If You Are Not Teaching Science Then You Are Not Teaching Common Core

Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn 

“Science and Social Studies can be taught for the last half hour of the day on Fridays”

– Elementary school principal

Anyone concerned with the teaching of science in elementary school is keenly aware of the problem of time. Kids need to learn to read, and learning to read takes time, nobody disputes that. So Common Core ELA can seem like the enemy of science. This was a big concern to me as I started looking at the curriculum that my district had adopted for Common Core ELA. I’ve been through those years where teachers are learning a new curriculum, and know first-hand how a new curriculum can become the focus of attention- sucking all the air out of the room. Learn More…

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

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

Tools for Creating NGSS Standards Based Lessons

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Elizabeth Cooke

Think back on your own experiences with learning science in school. Were you required to memorize disjointed facts without understanding the concepts?

Science Education Background

In the past, science education focused on rote memorization and learning disjointed ideas. Elementary and secondary students in today’s science classes are fortunate now that science instruction has shifted from students demonstrating what they know to students demonstrating how they are able to apply their knowledge. Science education that reflects the Next Generation Science Standards challenges students to conduct investigations. As students explore phenomena and discrepant events they engage in academic discourse guided by focus questions from their teachers or student generated questions of that arise from analyzing data and creating and revising models that explain natural phenomena. Learn More…

Written by Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke teaches TK-5 science at Markham Elementary in the Oakland Unified School District, is an NGSS Early Implementer, and is CSTA’s Secretary.