September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

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.

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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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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.