September 2016 – Vol. 29 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!

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California Science Assessment Update

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 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.

Some ways to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in your classroom

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. 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.

2016 Award Recipients – Join CSTA in Honoring Their Accomplishments

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

John Keller

John Keller

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…

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.

NGSS: Making Your Life Easier

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Peter A’hearn

Wait… What?

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…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Celestial Highlights, September 2016

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…

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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.