May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

The Next Generation of California Science Standards

Posted: Friday, March 1st, 2013

by Rick Pomeroy

What will California science standards look like at this time next year? At present, we really don’t know. As we saw with the number of changes between the first and second public drafts of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and with the large number of reviews received by Achieve (thank you to those who were able to take time of out your busy lives to submit a review), this means we  still can’t be sure what the final NGSS will be until they’re released later this month. Even if we knew now, we still do not necessarily know what the California science standards will look like. As explained in last month’s president’s column, the NGSS release by Achieve, Inc. only starts the process. At this time, there is no guarantee that the State Board of Education (SBE) will adopt the NGSS, in their final form. Before the SBE’s final adoption of new standards occurs, State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SSPI), Tom Torlakson, must recommend new science standards that are based on the NGSS between the release of the final version of the NGSS and the presentation of the recommended science standards to the SBE the Superintendent will collect public comment and hear testimony from stakeholders. The SBE will then have four months to review the SSPI’s recommendation and make their own decision to adopt, amend, or reject the SSPI’s proposal. In the end, the version of science standards that will manifest in California is still unknown.

Given this uncertainty, what can we do to prepare for the changes that are bound to occur?  First, we can take a lesson from the standards that have already been adopted – both Mathematics and English-Language Arts have the Common Core State Standards. Though the California implementation of those standards is just beginning, there are several lessons we can already take from them. In math, there is a major emphasis on the practices and applications of mathematics, and it will no longer be sufficient to memorize formulas for solving difficult problems or “find the right answer” without being able to explain what it means. Instead, greater emphasis is placed on the practices associated with using mathematics to understand real world problems. In the same vein, we already know that, regardless their final format, the new science standards will emphasize the realities of science, engineering, and technology and the practices and applications that tie all those subjects together. With this in mind, we can begin engaging our students in modeling and thinking critically. We can work to incorporate real world technology and engineering examples in our classes. We can help our students learn to create mental models of the phenomena that they observe everyday and pursue a deeper understanding of how those models work. For example, rather than just requiring student to memorize the stages of meiosis we must begin to help them build understanding of the connections those processes share with biodiversity, understanding cancer, and disease heritability. In the process, we will better engage our students and may motivate them to pursue further studies in the STEM fields.

Similarly, the ELA Common Core standards contain specific expectations for including more non-fiction reading and technical writing in science classes. Already, their implementation is having a significant impact in our science classes. More and more, teachers are including technical writing in their lessons by setting higher expectations for linking evidence to conclusions. These are excellent tools for improving students’ scientific reasoning and communication skills, which we know will be central to any new science standards that strive to prepare students for college and career. As science educators, we can help improve these skills by incorporating authentic reading and writing as part of the science curriculum to demonstrate the importance of context. By making literacy a key part of the science curriculum instead of a subject all its own, science will be seen as an integral part of the core curriculum.

Although we don’t know what the next generation of science standards will be in California there is no reason to sit idly by waiting for a bolt of lightning from on high to define them for us. There are many things we can already do within the context of the already-adopted Common Core Standards that will support and ease the implementation of new science standards.  Any task that engages our students in critical thinking, problem solving, and the general practices of science, technology, engineering, and math can only serve to better prepare them for the college and careers of their futures.

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Written by Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy is science education lecturer/supervisor in the School of Education, University of California Davis and is a past-president of CSTA.

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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 zi@cascience.org.)

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: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

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.