September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

President’s Picks

Posted: Friday, July 1st, 2011

by Rick Pomeroy

This column will appear regularly with a selection of some of my favorite science activity ideas gleaned from over 35 years of classroom teaching and classroom observations. I take no credit for the creation of most of these activities. Any similarity to activities included in copyrighted material, texts, or online media is coincidental. These activities simply represent lessons that I have seen or taught that engaged students and promoted critical thinking or problem solving. A common philosophy of the activities presented here will be the use of data, scenarios or story problems, or simply asking questions instead of providing information. If you have questions or comments, please feel free to contact me at president@cascience.org.

The “e” Alternative

One of the most popular activities that I have observed at many grade levels is the “e” lab. Used as an introduction to microscopes, the lab, as normally presented, asks students to look at a letter “e” under a microscope at low, medium, and high power, drawing what they see. Typically, students notice that the “e” is upside down and backwards, and, if they pay attention to detail, their drawings show some representation of the changing size of the “e” at higher and higher magnification. In most cases, students calculate total magnification for each slide.

The “e” Alternative offers all of these same opportunities but the focus is not on looking at the “e” for the sake of the “e” but as a way to answer a question. In this case, a scenario is set up where students must look at letters printed with different types of inks, on different types of paper, by different types of printers and draw some evidence-based conclusions about which sample matches a note provided by the instructor. In my case, I set up the scenario that one of my students finds my coffee cup and writes me a note offering to give it back to me. Unfortunately, they forget to put their name on the note so I look at assignments that they have turned in, matching the ink, paper, and printer type with the note to identify who has the cup. (The “assignments” are really samples prepared by the teacher as a source of data to compare to the note.) A key difference between this and the traditional “e” activities is that the students are asked to look at the samples for a reason. They have to draw conclusions about which students’ papers most closely match the note and they have to write a justification about their decisions based on what they see under the microscope.

Though the above scenario sounds relatively contrived to teachers, students enjoy the challenge of matching the correct sample to the note and they have to develop the ability to write an explanation that focuses on observations and avoids inference (the new Common Core Standards for English/Language Arts require this type of technical writing at many grade levels.) A side benefit of this activity is that students see that different types of paper look much different under a microscope and different types of ink and printing are distinctly different when viewed under the microscope.

When I set up this activity, I print the student samples on a variety of cotton bond, standard copier paper, ink jet paper, and photo papers using ink jet or laser printers, a typewriter, and a photocopier. Given four types of paper and four printing options yields up to 16 combinations, which may be too many to complete in one class period. There is no magic combination as long as you make sure that there are discernible differences between the papers you choose and the printer types selected.

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

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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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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

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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

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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.

News and Happenings in CSTA’s Region 1 – Fall 2017

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Marian Murphy-Shaw

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This month I was fortunate enough to hear about some new topics to share with our entire region. Some of you may access the online or newsletter options, others may attend events in person that are nearer to you. Long time CSTA member and environmental science educator Mike Roa is well known to North Bay Area teachers for his volunteer work sharing events and resources. In this month’s Region 1 updates I am happy to make a few of the options Mike offers available to our region. Learn More…

Written by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw is the student services director at Siskiyou County Office of Education and is CSTA’s Region 1 Director and chair of CSTA’s Policy Committee.