May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Preservice Resources

Posted: Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

by Donna Ross

For many of you reading this column, this begins the school year when you make the shift from studying science to teaching science.  Welcome to an exciting new career!  Teaching is one of the most rewarding and exhausting jobs imaginable.  Most teacher education programs include useful readings, video examples and assignments, but there is never enough time to prepare people for the complexities of teaching.  Many additional resources are available to dedicated beginning teachers.  Some are even free, including math and science education books published by The National Academies Press.  The National Academies Press publishes reports issued by the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Research Council.  To access these books, go to and select a book, then scroll down to free resources to view an electronic copy of the book.  Which book to choose?

Secondary science teachers might choose to read America’s Lab Report:  Investigations in High School Science,  This book reviews the history of lab experiences in high school classes and describes effective labs.  In addition, it includes results from studies that suggest most modern science classes conduct one lab experience per week, but those labs frequently are not well embedded into the curriculum or are rote exercises that students do not connect to the deeper content.  In addition, lower-income areas tend to have schools with fewer effective lab experiences.  For the labs to be meaningful, the content and processes should be well integrated and sequenced with clear objectives, and the students should have structured opportunities to reflect and discuss their learning.  This book also provides guidance on laboratory safety, design, and equipment.

Elementary and middle school science teachers might choose to read Ready, Set, Science!: Putting Research to Work in K-8 Science Classrooms,  This book examines the need for strong science instruction in our elementary and middle schools.  Using vignettes and research summaries, curriculum and pedagogical recommendations are provided.  For example, the use of  “science talk” or “academically productive talk” in K-8 classrooms is outlined and the benefits, including deeper engagement, scientific reasoning, and critical thinking, are explained.  Science instruction is divided into four primary strands: understanding scientific explanations, generating scientific evidence, reflecting on scientific knowledge, and participating productively in science.  Those of you with a strong science background will probably recognize this as similar to the threads in the nature of science.  This is because science education should help students understand the nature of the discipline itself.

Biology teachers, wondering how to respond the first time a parent questions the teaching of natural selection, might choose to read Science, Evolution, and Creationism,  This book reviews the scientific research but also examines the common arguments the public puts forth against the teaching of evolution.  The differences in the fields of science and religion are discussed with an explanation of how each field addresses different types of questions.  In addition, the book provides language to discuss the reality that many scientists are also religious individuals.

We should all be interested in connecting what we know about how students learn with their teaching of science.  To that end, any science teacher might choose to read How Students Learn: Science in the Classroom,  This book explores the research on the importance of activating prior knowledge, providing experiences to directly face evidence of misconceptions, understanding the cultural context of science, and increasing discussion and community participation in science classes.

As we strive to increase the use of inquiry in science classrooms and to meet standards, we should read Inquiry and the National Science Education Standards: A Guide for Teaching and Learning,  This book provides vignettes and practical examples of how to incorporate inquiry into science teaching while meeting the national standards.  In addition, it provides continua and explanations to demonstrate the different levels of inquiry to make informed decisions about the best level of inquiry for particular units of study.

These are a sampling of the books, podcasts, and videos available from the National Academies Press.  Other sources, including websites, university faculty members, school colleagues, and the California Science Teachers Association, all offer additional resources.  One of the greatest opportunities and responsibilities for teachers is to continue their own learning.

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.

One Response

  1. Donna, This is a great article!

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CSTA Annual Conference Early Bird Rates End July 14

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

Teachers engaged in workshop activity

Teachers engaging in hands-on learning during a workshop at the 2016 CSTA conference.

Don’t miss your chance to register at the early bird rate for the 2017 CSTA Conference – the early-bird rate closes July 14. Need ideas on how to secure funding for your participation? Visit our website for suggestions, a budget planning tool, and downloadable justification letter to share with your admin. Want to take advantage of the early rate – but know your district will pay eventually? Register online today and CSTA will reimburse you when we receive payment from your district/employer. (For more information on how that works contact Zi Stair in the office for details – 916-979-7004 or

New Information Now Available On-line:

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.

Goodbye Outgoing and Welcome Incoming CSTA Board Members

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Jill Grace

Jill Grace, CSTA President, 2017-2019

On July 1, 2017 five CSTA members concluded their service and four new board members joined the ranks of the CSTA Board of Directors. CSTA is so grateful for all the volunteer board of directors who contribute hours upon hours of time and energy to advance the work of the association. At the June 3 board meeting, CSTA was able to say goodbye to the outgoing board members and welcome the incoming members.

This new year also brings with it a new president for CSTA. As of July 1, 2017 Jill Grace is the president of the California Science Teachers Association. Jill is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, a former middle school science teacher, and is currently a Regional Director with the K-12 Alliance @ WestEd where she works with California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative districts and charter networks in the San Diego area.

Outgoing Board Members

  • Laura Henriques (President-Elect: 2011 – 2013, President: 2013 – 2015, Past President: 2015 – 2017)
  • Valerie Joyner (Region 1 Director: 2009 – 2013, Primary Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Mary Whaley (Informal Science Education Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Sue Campbell (Middle School/Jr. High Director: 2015 – 2017)
  • Marcus Tessier (2-Year College Director: 2015 – 2017)

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.

Finding My Student’s Motivation of Learning Through Engineering Tasks

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Huda Ali Gubary and Susheela Nath

It’s 8:02 and the bell rings. My students’ walk in and pick up an entry ticket based on yesterday’s lesson and homework. My countdown starts for students to begin…3, 2, 1. Ten students are on task and diligently completing the work, twenty are off task with behaviors ranging from talking up a storm with their neighbors to silently staring off into space. This was the start of my classes, more often than not. My students rarely showed the enthusiasm for a class that I had eagerly prepared for. I spent so much time searching for ways to get my students excited about the concepts they were learning. I wanted them to feel a connection to the lessons and come into my class motivated about what they were going to learn next. I would ask myself how I could make my class memorable where the kids were in the driver’s seat of learning. Incorporating engineering made this possible. 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 California NGSS k-8 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.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Unveils Updated Recommended Literature List

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson unveiled an addition of 285 award-winning titles to the Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list.

“The books our students read help broaden their perspectives, enhance their knowledge, and fire their imaginations,” Torlakson said. “The addition of these award-winning titles represents the state’s continued commitment to the interests and engagement of California’s young readers.”

The Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list is a collection of more than 8,000 titles of recommended reading for children and adolescents. Reflecting contemporary and classic titles, including California authors, this online list provides an exciting range of literature that students should be reading at school and for pleasure. Works include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama to provide for a variety of tastes, interests, and abilities. 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:

Teaching Science in the Time of Alternative Facts – Why NGSS Can Help (somewhat)

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn

The father of one of my students gave me a book: In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood by Walt Brown, Ph. D. He had heard that I was teaching Plate Tectonics and wanted me to consider another perspective. The book offered the idea that the evidence for plate tectonics could be better understood if we considered the idea that beneath the continent of Pangaea was a huge underground layer of water that suddenly burst forth from a rift between the now continents of Africa and South America. The waters shot up and the continents hydroplaned apart on the water layer to their current positions. The force of the movement pushed up great mountain ranges which are still settling to this day, resulting in earthquakes along the margins of continents. This had happened about 6,000 years ago and created a great worldwide flood. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.