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:

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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Participate in Chemistry Education Research Study, Earn $500-800 Dollars!

Posted: Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

WestEd, a non-profit educational research agency, has been funded by the US Department of Education to test a new molecular modeling kit, Happy Atoms. Happy Atoms is an interactive chemistry learning experience that consists of a set of physical atoms that connect magnetically to form molecules, and an app that uses image recognition to identify the molecules that you create with the set. WestEd is conducting a study around the effectiveness of using Happy Atoms in the classroom, and we are looking for high school chemistry teachers in California to participate.

As part of the study, teachers will be randomly assigned to either the treatment group (who uses Happy Atoms) or the control group (who uses Happy Atoms at a later date). Teachers in the treatment group will be asked to use the Happy Atoms set in their classrooms for 5 lessons over the course of the fall 2017 semester. Students will complete pre- and post-assessments and surveys around their chemistry content knowledge and beliefs about learning chemistry. WestEd will provide access to all teacher materials, teacher training, and student materials needed to participate.

Participating teachers will receive a stipend of $500-800. You can read more information about the study here:

Please contact Rosanne Luu at or 650.381.6432 if you are interested in participating in this opportunity, or if you have any questions!

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.

2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption Reviewer Application

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

The California Department of Education and State Board of Education are now accepting applications for reviewers for the 2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption. The application deadline is 3:00 pm, July 21, 2017. The application is comprehensive, so don’t wait until the last minute to apply.

On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson forwarded this recruitment letter to county and district superintendents and charter school administrators.

Review panel members will evaluate instructional materials for use in kindergarten through grade eight, inclusive, that are aligned with the California Next Generation Science Content Standards for California Public Schools (CA NGSS). 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.

Lessons Learned from the NGSS Early Implementer Districts

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

On March 31, 2017, Achieve released two documents examining some lessons learned from the California K-8 Early Implementation Initiative. The initiative began in August 2014 and was developed by the K-12 Alliance at WestEd, with close collaborative input on its design and objectives from the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education, and Achieve.

Eight (8) traditional school districts and two (2) charter management organizations were selected to participate in the initiative, becoming the first districts in California to implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Those districts included Galt Joint Union Elementary, Kings Canyon Joint Unified, Lakeside Union, Oakland Unified, Palm Springs Unified, San Diego Unified, Tracy Joint Unified, Vista Unified, Aspire, and High Tech High.

To more closely examine some of the early successes and challenges experienced by the Early Implementer LEAs, Achieve interviewed nine of the ten participating districts and compiled that information into two resources, focusing primarily on professional learning and instructional materials. 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.

Using Online Simulations to Support the NGSS in Middle School Classrooms

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

by Lesley Gates, Loren Nikkel, and Kambria Eastham

Middle school teachers in Kings Canyon Unified School District (KCUSD), a CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative district, have been diligently working on transitioning to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) integrated model for middle school. This year, the teachers focused on building their own knowledge of the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs). They have been gathering and sharing ideas at monthly collaborative meetings as to how to make sure their students are not just learning about science but that they are actually doing science in their classrooms. Students should be planning and carrying out investigations to gather data for analysis in order to construct explanations. This is best done through hands-on lab experiments. Experimental work is such an important part of the learning of science and education research shows that students learn better and retain more when they are active through inquiry, investigation, and application. A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2011) notes, “…learning about science and engineering involves integration of the knowledge of scientific explanations (i.e., content knowledge) and the practices needed to engage in scientific inquiry and engineering design. Thus the framework seeks to illustrate how knowledge and practice must be intertwined in designing learning experiences in K-12 Science Education” (pg. 11).

Many middle school teachers in KCUSD are facing challenges as they begin implementing these student-driven, inquiry-based NGSS science experiences in their classrooms. First, many of the middle school classrooms at our K-8 school sites are not designed as science labs. 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 NGSS 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.

Celestial Highlights: May – July 2017

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

May Through July 2017 with Web Resources for the Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graphs of planet rising and setting times by Jeffrey L. Hunt.

In spring and summer 2017, Jupiter is the most prominent “star” in the evening sky, and Venus, even brighter, rules the morning. By mid-June, Saturn rises at a convenient evening hour, allowing both giant planets to be viewed well in early evening until Jupiter sinks low in late September. The Moon is always a crescent in its monthly encounters with Venus, but is full whenever it appears near Jupiter or Saturn in the eastern evening sky opposite the Sun. (In 2017, Full Moon is near Jupiter in April, Saturn in June.) At intervals of 27-28 days thereafter, the Moon appears at a progressively earlier phase at each pairing with the outer planet until its final conjunction, with Moon a thin crescent, low in the west at dusk. You’ll see many beautiful events by just following the Moon’s wanderings at dusk and dawn in the three months leading up to the solar eclipse. Learn More…

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Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.