September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

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 Is Now Accepting Nominations for Board Members

Posted: Friday, November 17th, 2017

Current, incoming, and outgoing CSTA Board of Directors at June 3, 2017 meeting.

Updated 7:25 pm, Nov. 17, 2017

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 are time and energy commitments, 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 interested 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.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2017 Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Posted: Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated eight exceptional secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“These teachers are dedicated and accomplished individuals whose innovative teaching styles prepare our students for 21st century careers and college and develop them into the designers and inventors of the future,” Torlakson said. “They rank among the finest in their profession and also serve as wonderful mentors and role models.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partners annually with the California Science Teachers Association and the California Mathematics Council to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program—the highest recognition in the nation for a mathematics or science teacher. The Science Finalists will be recognized at the CSTA Awards Luncheon on Saturday, October 14, 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.

Thriving in a Time of Change

Posted: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

by Jill Grace

By the time this message is posted online, most schools across California will have been in session for at least a month (if not longer, and hat tip to that bunch!). Long enough to get a good sense of who the kids in your classroom are and to get into that groove and momentum of the daily flow of teaching. It’s also very likely that for many of you who weren’t a part of a large grant initiative or in a district that set wheels in motion sooner, this is the first year you will really try to shift instruction to align to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a challenging year – change is hard. Change is even harder when there’s not a playbook to go by.  But as someone who has had the very great privilege of walking alongside teachers going through that change for the past two years and being able to glimpse at what this looks like for different demographics across that state, there are three things I hope you will hold on to. These are things I have come to learn will overshadow the challenge: a growth mindset will get you far, one is a very powerful number, and it’s about the kids. Learn More…

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Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is President of CSTA.

If You Are Not Teaching Science Then You Are Not Teaching Common Core

Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn 

“Science and Social Studies can be taught for the last half hour of the day on Fridays”

– Elementary school principal

Anyone concerned with the teaching of science in elementary school is keenly aware of the problem of time. Kids need to learn to read, and learning to read takes time, nobody disputes that. So Common Core ELA can seem like the enemy of science. This was a big concern to me as I started looking at the curriculum that my district had adopted for Common Core ELA. I’ve been through those years where teachers are learning a new curriculum, and know first-hand how a new curriculum can become the focus of attention- sucking all the air out of the room. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

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

Tools for Creating NGSS Standards Based Lessons

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Elizabeth Cooke

Think back on your own experiences with learning science in school. Were you required to memorize disjointed facts without understanding the concepts?

Science Education Background

In the past, science education focused on rote memorization and learning disjointed ideas. Elementary and secondary students in today’s science classes are fortunate now that science instruction has shifted from students demonstrating what they know to students demonstrating how they are able to apply their knowledge. Science education that reflects the Next Generation Science Standards challenges students to conduct investigations. As students explore phenomena and discrepant events they engage in academic discourse guided by focus questions from their teachers or student generated questions of that arise from analyzing data and creating and revising models that explain natural phenomena. Learn More…

Written by Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke teaches TK-5 science at Markham Elementary in the Oakland Unified School District, is an NGSS Early Implementer, and is CSTA’s Secretary.