September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Professional Development Opportunity: Students Empowered to Help the Environment

Posted: Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

by Bill Andrews

In the Spring semester of 2013, 436 Northern California students in grades three through twelve completed dozens of remarkable school-based environmental stewardship projects. Facilitated by their teachers who were participating in a professional development institute, the students reported they not only “learned new information [about the environment] and were motivated to do new [stewardship] projects,” but also they “came away from their project with a sense of empowerment to help the environment.” The students’ attitudes and behaviors toward the environment were collected via surveys after they completed their stewardship projects. The survey results were compiled by the Los Angeles-based Evaluation and Training Institute (ETI), as part of an external evaluation plan coordinated by the California Environmental Education Foundation (CEEF).

The ETI research revealed that the “younger students in the third and fourth grades gained in environmental knowledge, had positive attitudes towards specific stewardship behaviors, and were willing to engage in these behaviors.” ETI found equally impressive results in the post-project surveys with the students in grades five through twelve. ETI reported the older students “experienced statistically significant impacts [in environmental knowledge, attitude and behavior] and they “demonstrated they were able to think through an environmental problem: identifying the problem, cause and solutions.” In all likelihood, the students’ acquired thinking skills and environmental knowledge will be very useful in helping them master the new “science and engineering practices” and “disciplinary core ideas” found in the recently adopted California Next Generation Science Standards.

Students pictured above clear brush to restore an over-grown nature trail

Students pictured above clear brush to restore an over-grown nature trail

The most promising evidence that the students benefitted from their stewardship projects is seen in ETI’s finding that two-thirds of the students indicated they “agreed or strongly agreed” that “the stewardship project taught me new information about environmental problems.” And one sixth-grade student proudly stated, “we know that we are going make a difference to pass this life-lesson on to the community,” after his class presented a water awareness campaign to other students and their parents. This student’s confidence was corroborated by 85% of the teachers who reported to ETI that they “saw student evidence of increased ecological content knowledge [e.g. through tests, classroom discussions, and reports].” These positive student results were exactly the desired outcomes of both CEEF and its outside supporters: the Saxton Family Foundation, The Department of Water Resources, and the Sandia National Laboratories.

Teachers role-playing sediment in a Project WET activity: "Just Passing Through”

Teachers role-playing sediment in a Project WET activity: “Just Passing Through”

The next CEEF teacher institute is planned for 2015 in Los Angeles. Prior to being accepted to the Institute the teachers will need to obtain their principal’s permission to conduct a stewardship project and agree to participate in action research. The Institute teachers receive a stipend, complimentary meals, 24 hours of professional development, and follow-up coaching from experts in pedagogy, environmental education and stewardship. The teacher institute application will be posted on the CEEF website in the fall at Questions regarding the Institute should be directed to Bill Andrews, CEEF Executive Director, via email at

Bill Andrews is the Executive Director at the California Environmental Education Foundation (CEEF)

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:

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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.