September 2015 – Vol. 28 No. 1

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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More Than 1,400 Science Educators Prepare to Convene in Sacramento

Posted: Thursday, September 17th, 2015

by Deb Farkas

As we get ready to go full steam ahead with implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards and eagerly await the new California Science Framework, there is no better place to be in early October than here in Sacramento, where you will find workshops, speakers, field experiences, short courses and more to inspire and re-energize your teaching. If you are not one of the more than 1,000 teachers to have registered, I invite you to do so today.

Don’t miss opening speaker, Ainissa Ramirez. Author, engineer and science evangelist, Dr. Ramirez will encourage us to ignite the spark of curiosity in all of our students and get them excited about science. Former astronaut José Hernández will close our conference with an account of his journey from migrant farm worker to engineer to mission specialist on the Space Shuttle Discovery, and his work inspiring children to “reach for the stars.” We are also pleased to offer you a variety of highly regarded focus speakers in science and education. Learn about a strength-based approach to early science education, bringing deep sea data to the classroom, ZomBees, engaging students in engineering, and literacy, non-verbal communication patterns and social justice in the science classroom. 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.

Trying NGSS with Paper Clips and Gummy Worms

Posted: Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

by Joanne Michael

By now, most teachers have heard of NGSS, know that it is not going away, and have realized they will be teaching this new set of standards within the next few years. While some are excited at the possibility of new happenings, others are terrified at the prospect of having to change curriculum that they have spent years fine-tuning and tweaking. A few districts are implementing NGSS early, working out the kinks and creating guides for the rest of the state, but what about the teachers that want to venture out and try the new curriculum without the support of the entire district? It seems daunting, but there are some ways to ease into the NGSS world. 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.

High School Teachers – We Need Your Help!

Posted: Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

CSTA and its partners are trying to get a sense of what high school science looks like across the state. We are interested in knowing how many years of science your district requires for graduation, what the typical course taking patterns are, and a sense of the high school science teaching workforce. If you are in a position to answer these questions please take the survey. If you can’t provide that information we ask that you share this link with your district science leader or other appropriate administrator. It should not take very long to complete (less than 5 minutes) and the information will help CSTA and our partners as we plan NGSS activities and support. Thank you for filling out the survey yourself or for directing it to the appropriate person.

Take Survey

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.

CSTA Honors Rising Stars, Advocates, and Distinguished Contributors to Science Education in 2015

Posted: Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2015 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Legislator of the Year, Future Science Teacher, Honorary Memberships, and the new Bertrand Advocacy Award. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2015 California Science Education Conference on October 2 – 4 in Sacramento. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them! 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.

Northern Happenings for September–Region 1

Posted: Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

September already – allow me to add my welcome back wish to the others you are hearing across all 29 counties that make up CSTA Region 1!


CSTA Regions Map

It has certainly been a busy summer with California Science Project events across the region, and lots of activity at Math Science Partnership Grant projects as well. As you come back to class this fall, consider your summer learning, and think about how you might share it at a future CSTA conference! This year you will no doubt be trying out what you learned in your classes. By next spring you will know what you could share with colleagues at the 2016 Science Educators Conference to be held in Palm Springs. It seems a long time from now, but if you have the idea in mind as you teach your students, you can be on the lookout for what would be wonderful to share with other K-12 teachers in California. Learn More…

Written by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw is the student services director at Siskiyou County Office of Education and is CSTA’s Region 1 Director and chair of CSTA’s Policy Committee.