May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Preparing for a Student Teacher

Posted: Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

by Megan McKenzie, Corey Lee, Yukako Kawakatsu, and Rick Pomeroy

As the beginning of the school year approaches, teachers begin to think of all of the things they have to do to be ready for the first day of school. Ordering supplies, mapping the curriculum, developing that perfect opening day activity, and arranging the room to reflect this year’s focus on STEM or science and engineering practices all dominate the planning process. But what should you do if you are hosting a student teacher for the first time this year? Recently, I asked three early career teachers what they would do when planning for a student teacher. By their own admissions, their answers are a blend of what they would have wanted when they started student teaching and the things they plan to do for the new teachers they will be working with this year.

MM: I will develop a yearlong calendar to provide my student teacher with an overview of the experiences my students will have this year. I am planning to make sure that he has access to the campus computer systems. He will need a school email address, and a login to the grading and data system. The email will allow him to communicate professionally with parents and the login will facilitate his monitoring of student learning. I want to make sure that I set aside some personal space so my student teacher feels he has a place in the classroom. Finally, because our school uses a project based learning approach to instruction, I will be sure to provide him with some background information about our teaching philosophy.

CL: I think that providing the student teacher a place in the classroom is important. They need to feel like they are a part of the class and the school. I want to do anything I can to ensure that they don’t feel like an itinerant teacher or a substitute. They need personal space for their own stuff as well as a place to keep student work, materials for upcoming classes, and simply a place to work while they are on campus. Next, I want to introduce my student teacher to the culture of the school and the wide range of students who will be in their classes. I think it is important to tell the student teacher about the student population. Yes, they can gather much of the demographic information from public records and the school website but it is hard to know about the various schools that our students come from. The student teacher needs to know how their class will fit in the students’ overall science experience, the content that the students have covered in their prior classes or schools, and the variety of neighborhoods and cultural groups that the students come from. I also want to give them an overview of the extra-curricular activities that their students might be involved in and any school traditions such as class spirit competitions, homecoming activities, or pep rallies that form the foundations of the fall term. In short, I want them to have a good grasp of their students’ out-of-class experiences. I want to encourage them to participate in some of these activities while maintaining their professional image and stance for students. Specifically, what are the expectations for faculty participation in the culture of the school and how should they balance that with their growing instructional obligations. Finally, I want to give them an overview of the curriculum for the year and a detailed but not overwhelming explanation of the first unit of instruction. This will provide context to their early observations in the classroom and give some structure to their developing roles as a new teacher.

YK: I agree with everything that has been mentioned so far. In addition, I want to spend some time thinking about how I will introduce my student teacher to the students, parents, and other teachers in my department. For many student teachers, this will be one of their first experiences talking to “large” groups of people. Achieving confidence when talking about themselves and what they bring to the class and to teaching can go a long way in establishing their persona for the rest of the year.

It is clear that these young professionals have learned from their recent experiences as new teachers. Their ideas about preparing to host a student teacher speak powerfully of the things that their mentor teachers did for them and suggest things that they feel might have helped them on their journeys into teaching. All of these new teachers recognized the importance of understanding the curriculum that they are expected to teach but even more clear are their thoughts about the importance of becoming part of the school culture, of developing relationships with their students, and transitioning from their roles as students to their new roles as professional educators. As a teacher educator, the biggest challenge I face is facilitating student teachers’ growth in these non-curricular areas. Facility with the content is not nearly as big an issue as understanding what it means to be a teacher. For many, this is their first real professional job. It is a time when they should stop asking someone else “how much, how many, or how often” and instead begin to ask themselves “what just happened, why did it happen that way, and how can I change this outcome?”

As you prepare to host a student teacher, whether it is your first or your twentieth, consider ways to introduce these new teachers to the whole profession of teaching, not simply the act of conveying and assessing information.

Megan McKenzie teaches 9th grade biology in a charter school focused on project based learning; Corey Lee teaches AP Chemistry and Biotechnology in Northern California; Yukako Kawakatsu teaches environmental science and chemistry in a high school in Southern California; Rick Pomeroy is a lecturer at UC Davis School of Education and CSTA’s past president. All four are members of CSTA.

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:

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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.