May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

One Year Ends, Another Begins!

Posted: Thursday, September 15th, 2016

By Lisa Hegdahl

June 30, 2016 was the end of my first full year as President of the California Science Teachers Association (CSTA).  During that time, I have learned a tremendous amount, worked with amazingly talented and passionate people, and had the opportunity to participate in events that would not have been available to me if I were not president.  While there is still much to do, I feel compelled to express what an honor it is to be part of an association that has accomplished so much in the past 12 months.

2015/16 California Science Teachers Association Highlights and Next Steps for 2016/17

State Board of Education – California State Accountability System


Within 10 days of my presidency, I was before the California State Board of Education (SBE) speaking on behalf of the California Science Teachers Association regarding agenda Item 1: Developing a New Accountability System: Update on the Local Control Funding Formula Evaluation Rubrics. CSTA urged the board to consider how it would incorporate into its policy frame additional outcome measures, to those that were initially provided that give an early indication of a student’s scientific literacy and if they are meeting or exceeding grade-level science standards in the early years of their education, both elementary and middle school. Much discussion and thoughtful consideration followed throughout the year, and while there is still much work to be done, in May 2016, the California State Board of Education voted to include the results for the new Science Assessment as a state indicator in the State’s Accountability System Evaluation Rubrics when the assessment results become available.



Next Steps

  • Staff will provide an update to the SBE in July about how to include data on college and career readiness, school climate, and a composite measure of English learner proficiency in the new accountability system. The SBE will continue its work through this summer and early fall in order to meet the statutory October 1, 2016 deadline for the new accountability system.

California Science Education Conference in Sacramento, October 2015 – Chair of 2015 planning committee, Deb Farkas

  • 1529 attendees
  • Keynote speakers – Anissa Ramirez, Ph.D. and Astronaut, Jose Hernandez provided messages of inspiration for the beginning and closing of the conference.
  • Primary Pathways – the California Science Teachers Association created a conference within the conference. This compact and powerful nine hour professional development course was specially designed for teachers of TK-2 to help them integrate NGSS, CCSS, and ELD standards into their daily curriculum. The course provided thorough grounding in science instruction and fortified teachers with an understanding of the three-dimensional learning associated with NGSS.
  • CSTA took full advantage of the Sacramento location and solicited workshops from the California Department of Education to present at the conference.

Next Steps

  • NEW, Longer, 90-Minute Workshops so participants can delve more deeply into the 3-dimensions of the Next Generation Science Standards.
  • Primary Pathways and NEW Intermediate Pathways. As California educators strive to provide a twenty-first-century education for all students, there are few missions more urgent to long-term educational goals than equipping primary and upper elementary grade teachers with science content knowledge and pedagogical strategies to kindle the love of science in their students and set a course for lifelong learning.
  • Keynote Speakers – Chip Yates is one of the world’s most recognized green technology innovators and has set 18 World Records in electric vehicles of his own design. Recently nicknamed “The Rockstar of Science” by an inspired audience after witnessing his electrified speech, Yates has an endless supply of up-to-the-minute stories to share from his inspiring ongoing World Record activities.
Dianna Cowern Pic 2
  • Dianna Cowern – Physics Girl – is an award-winning science communicator and educator. She is the primary content creator for her YouTube channel, Physics Girl with PBS Digital Studios. Dianna received her BS in physics from MIT before researching low-metallicity stars at the Harvard CfA and designing an iPad app as a software engineer at GE. She then pursued her career in STEM outreach working as an educator at the Reuben H Fleet Science Center and as a physics outreach coordinator at UCSD. Her work on Physics Girl has been featured on the Huffington Post, Slate Magazine, and Scientific American blogs.
  • The first 60-day public review of the CA Science Curriculum Framework took place November 17, 2015–January 19, 2016. Through work of the NGSS Committee, co-chaired by Past President, Laura Henriques and Region 4 Director, Peter A’Hearn, CSTA supported 30 review Sessions across the state with more than 625 people participating in the sessions. Feedback from each session was sent directly to the state and the top five comments per chapter were shared with CSTA’s NGSS Committee. Committee members selected a chapter to oversee. They were responsible for synthesizing the comments submitted related to their chapter. As CSTA President, I was able to use the raw data and the synthesis for my letter, on behalf of CSTA, to the CDE and for public comment during the Instructional Quality Commission (IQC) and Science Subject Matter Committee (Science SMC) meetings.

Next Steps

  • The second 60-day public review of the CA Science Curriculum Framework is tentatively scheduled to begin in late June 2016. CSTA members will receive notification when the chapters are available for review. The State Board of Education is scheduled to approve the final draft of the framework in November 2016.

State Board of Education – California Science Assessment – In March, 2016, the CDE recommended that the State Board of Education approve the grades for which the CA NGSS summative assessments will be administered and recommended that the SBE approve the development of three online CA NGSS summative assessments to meet the requirements of the Every Student Succeeds Act and Education Code. The grade five assessment will consist of grade five performance expectations and matrix sampling of performance expectations from kindergarten through grade four; The grade eight assessment will consist of middle school (grades six through eight) performance expectations; The grades ten, eleven, or twelve assessment, will consist of high school performance expectations.

Next Steps

  • June 13, 2016, at 1:00-2:30PM, there will be a joint meeting between the California Department of Education, the California Science Teachers Association, and the California Alliance for Next Generation Science Standards. The meeting will be an opportunity for the CDE and its testing contractor (ETS) to share information on the recommended assessment approach for the CA-NGSS alternate assessment (the replacement for CAPA). There will be opportunities to provide input on the recommended approach as well as administration of the 2017 alternate assessment pilot test
  • Current CA Science Assessment Timeline:
  • CA NGSS Pilot Test, 2016/17
  • CA NGSS Field Test, 2017/18
  • CA NGSS Operational Test, 2018/19 and beyond

CSTA Volunteers – In the spring of 2015, a record number of 50 volunteers signed up to serve on CSTA Committees. In the spring of 2016, the record was broken once again with 115 non-board members volunteering! The all-volunteer CSTA Board of Directors is working to place all these dedicated professionals on committees.

Next Steps
If you volunteered – THANK YOU! You will be notified in July of your committee assignment. These larger committees will enable CSTA to do even more to Promote High-Quality Science Education in California. If you did not volunteer, consider getting involved next year!


After School Special, May 26, 2016 – Yearlong NGSS Planning Using Phenomena

  • After School Specials are designed to connect members locally while gaining current, innovative information – FREE to CSTA Members/ $10 for non-members.
  • Attended by 23 educators at the Sacramento County Office of Education

Next Steps

  • A toolkit is being created to assist members who would like to host their own After School Specials.
  • CSTA’s Membership/Marketing Committee (co-chaired by Mary Whaley, CSTA’s Informal Science Director and Lisa Hegdahl, President) is actively seeking members to host After School Specials around the state.

Social Media Groups continue to grow under the leadership of the CSTA Communications Committee – Chair, Jill Grace:

Next Steps

  • Continue to connect California educators with information that is helpful and inspirational, and be a resource for quality networking. Plans in the works to better support higher education professionals.
  • California Classroom Science (CCS) – online publication of CSTA, Publication Committee co-chairs Minda Berbeco and Val Joyner. With 16,979 subscribers, the focus last year was on monthly themes related to the implementation of NGSS in California. There was also an increase in the number of articles written by the California NGSS Early Implementers as the second year of NGSS implementation continued, and 44 non-Board members submitted articles.

Next Steps

  • In 2016/17, monthly themes will be replaced by a focus on lesson plans and ideas for using NGSS in the classroom.  CSTA Membership appreciation and recognition will make a stronger appearance. CSTA will continue to encourage non-Board members and CA NGSS Early Implementers to contribute articles to California Classroom Science.

Thank you to CSTA’s dedicated members, Board of Directors, volunteers, staff, and partners for all you do to contribute to the mission of Promoting High Quality Science Education.

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Written by Lisa Hegdahl

Lisa Hegdahl

Lisa Hegdahl is an 8th grade science teacher at McCaffrey Middle School in Galt, CA and is President for CSTA.

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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.