November 2015 – Vol. 28 No. 3

Opening Keynote Speaker Spotlight: Dr. Helen Quinn

Posted: Monday, October 1st, 2012

by Bethany Dixon

Google “genius,” and you’ll get pictures of Albert Einstein. However, to bring genius into your classroom, attend the CSTA Opening Session and listen to Dr. Helen Quinn speak at the Marriot San Jose on October 19, at 9:15 a.m. Dr. Quinn is one of the few to have shared Einstein’s job title: as a theoretical physicist she proposed the near-symmetry of the universe and explained quark-hadron duality. You might say she has a proclivity for solving both large and small problems. To our great fortune she has also channeled her energy into improving science education. Dr. Quinn served as the Chairperson of the 18-member super-team (equally split between science and education experts and including two Nobel Prize winners) responsible for developing, “A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas.” 

Dr. Quinn’s speech at the 2012 CSTA Conference will focus on the Framework as the basis for the Next Generation Science Standards, and while 26 states including California work to revise and release the second draft of the NGSS, teachers have the opportunity to change science education well before states can determine how to adopt and assess the new standards. “There is nothing in the framework that hasn’t happened in classrooms where people have paid attention to research about learning for the last few years,” says Dr. Quinn. This is good news for the CSTA: members will recognize that the California experimentation and investigation standards (also written by Dr. Quinn) have given teachers experience in implementing core concepts of the Next Generation Science Standards even prior to their official adoption.  Have a burning question you would like Dr. Quinn to address? Let us know, email your question to and we will share your questions with Dr. Quinn. Your questions can help to shape her presentation, making this a truly valuable experience for you.

Dr. Quinn is serious about engaging students: science practices are designed to provide students with a direct application of their learning. She explains that experimentation and critical thinking should be taught with content, not only cutting across scientific disciplines, but integrating math and language arts within the Common Core. This vision of education leads to a cohesive, three-dimensional format for science education that can be implemented within a curriculum, a course, or a lesson. Inquiry has been unpacked, with contextual, social, and experimental skills that would previously be taught separately or in different courses instead now aligned so that math and language arts classrooms support and reinforce each other.

Dr. Quinn says that drastically improving the education of all students requires a “connective tissue” between the disciplines, and she is committed to helping science students to develop the skills they need to succeed globally, and the lifeblood of our economy depends on it. Highly skilled professional scientists and technicians are in demand, and if we want to prepare students for a successful future, we need to increase their access to high-quality science education. The Framework provides what will be an internationally benchmarked solution for America’s decline in the STEM fields.

Although Dr. Quinn’s talk will give teachers a head start on what is coming next in science education, this shot in the arm from the National Academies isn’t a panacea. State standards, curriculum, and assessments need to be fully developed in order for the new vision to be fully implemented. The best hope for this includes science teachers, she explains. “If the people who are teaching you are excited about something, you’re more likely to be excited.” For Dr. Quinn, excitement with the building of the Stanford Linear Accelerator during her undergraduate years led to a career in particle physics. For your students it could be tomorrow’s lesson in your classroom. To implement the new science practices immediately, research the Framework at the National Academies website and come hear Dr. Quinn’s speech at the CSTA Conference.


Written by Bethany Dixon

Bethany Dixon is a science teacher at Western Sierra Collegiate Academy, is a CSTA Publications Committee Member, and is a member of CSTA.

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Your Chance to Review the California Science Curriculum Framework Is Here

Posted: Tuesday, November 17th, 2015

by Laura Henriques

The California Science Curriculum Framework & Evaluation Criteria document is now ready for its first 60 Day Public Feedback period.! This is a critical process for the review and vetting of the document. Anyone from around the state is invited to read the document and provide feedback. CSTA encourages its members to participate in this process.

Just to be clear, the California Curriculum Framework is different from the NRC Framework for K-12 Science Education. The NRC Framework is the document which guided the development of Next Generation Science Standards. The California Curriculum Framework is the document which will help us make sense of those standards in our classrooms. Learn More…

Written by Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques is a professor of science education at CSU Long Beach and past-president of CSTA. She serves as chair of CSTA’s Nominating Committee and is a co-chair of the NGSS Committee.

Call for Nominations for the 2016-2018 CSTA Board of Directors

Posted: Thursday, November 12th, 2015

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 is a time and energy commitment, 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 interesting 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.

Middle School Madness Part 2: Integrated Science Versus Coordinated Science

Posted: Thursday, November 12th, 2015

by Robert Sherriff

In my last article, I compared the integrated versus discipline-specific models of teaching science in middle school. In this article, I seek to dispel some misconceptions and refine the comparison of an integrated science program with a coordinated science program.

This past summer, I was honored to participate in presenting at the two Northern California NGSS Early Implementation Institutes. I was part of a science content cadre to which I brought both my 25 years of middle school teaching experience and my knowledge of NGSS (I was on the State Science Expert Panel and was Co-chair of the Curriculum Framework Criteria Committee – CFCC). Other members of the cadre included Bob Rumer, an innovative engineering professor who helped us incorporate the Engineering Standards, and an outstanding high school science teacher, Lesley Gates, who helped provide activities and pedagogy. 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:

The Tree Room: A New Online Resource for Teaching Evolutionary Relationships

Posted: Thursday, November 12th, 2015

by Anna Thanukos, Teresa MacDonald, David Heiser, and Robert Ross

Understanding evolutionary trees is important for students because trees visually represent the idea that all life is genealogically linked. This powerful idea, tied to Next Generation Science Standards MS-LS4-2 and HS-LS4-1, is one of those most fundamental concepts that biological evolution offers to explain the biological world. The implication is that any set of species, no matter how distantly related, share common ancestors at some point in evolutionary history. Evolutionary trees are an efficient way to communicate that idea. It turns out, however, that evolutionary trees are not quite as straightforward to interpret as they may at first appear — so where can a teacher turn for a user-friendly introduction to their use in the classroom? 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:

Ship That Chip: Teaching Engineering by Using Snacks

Posted: Thursday, November 12th, 2015

by Joanne Michael

When a new school year begins, almost every student (and teacher) is excited, motivated, and ready to work hard. Almost as quickly as it began, however, the “newness” of the school year wears off, and the students are in need of something new to recharge them. At the same time, teachers attempting to implement NGSS (even if not in full implementation mode) are getting tired, and may need a pick-me-up of their own. Enter the “Ship the Chip” challenge! Learn More…

Written by Joanne Michael

Joanne Michael is the K-5 science specialist at Meadows Elementary in Manhattan Beach, CA, and CSTA’s intermediate grades 3-5) Director.