May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Raising the Prestige of Teaching STEM

Posted: Friday, May 20th, 2016

by Lisa Hegdahl

What makes a career prestigious?  Is it the power it wields? The number of people it impacts? The required number years of training? The amount of the monthly paycheck? According to dictionary.com, prestige is defined as:

“…reputation or influence arising from success, achievement, rank, or other favorable attributes.”

Space Shuttle Independence Houston Space Center Photo by Lisa Hegdahl

Space Shuttle Independence
Houston Space Center Photo by Lisa Hegdahl

At the Houston Space Center, control site for 17 Apollo missions, 275 representatives gathered for the 5th Annual 100Kin10 Partner Summit to explore the question of how to continue to go above and beyond in taking on the grand challenges of training and retaining great STEM teachers.   One of those challenges is identified as –  “teaching lacks prestige and is not widely perceived as a top career choice for STEM graduates”.  Small group sessions allowed partners to examine the issue from a variety of perspectives and experiences.

What is 100Kin10?

In his 2011 State of the Union Address, President Obama “announced a national goal to prepare 100,000 new teachers in science, technology, engineering, and math over the next decade.”

100Kin10 is an expanding network of more than 230 partner organizations, each taking on a piece of work to contribute to the goal of 100,000 excellent STEM teachers.  CSTA became a member in 2013 joining the nation’s top academic institutions, nonprofits, foundations, companies, and government agencies, among others, that contribute to the goal by recruiting stronger STEM teachers, transforming how STEM teachers are hired, supported, and developed, or changing policy, sharing the STEM story with the wider world, and contributing funds towards the 100Kin10 goal.

STEM Teacher Image

Hegdahl2According to Zachary Levine of TEACH, there are several contributing factors to the current image of STEM teachers.  Most people believe that teachers primarily deliver instruction, administer quizzes, and assign homework.  However the STEM classroom of 2016 looks much different than the classrooms of our grandparents, parents, and even those of my 23 year old nephew.   The Next Generation of Science Standards, Common Core, and advancements in technology have transformed classrooms into problem solving and sense making environments that have in turn required changes in the role of STEM teachers and how they interact with their students.

Do these skills look familiar?

  • Public speaking that can captivate a room and inspire interest in any topic
  • Thinking on one’s feet and showing poise under pressure
  • Setting long term goals for people and then mapping out steps that lead to that goal
  • Motivating people and earning their trust
  • Analyzing data to drive decisions
  • Having an incredibly strong work ethic

Hegdahl3While teachers may readily recognize them as skills they use daily in their classrooms, it might be surprising to know that they are also skills developed at Stanford’s School of Business.  Turning the focus from what teachers do to the expertise needed to carry out the role of a teacher, is critical when attempting to update the image of STEM teaching.

Melanie Narish, a Talent Officer for Great Hearts Academies, believes there are three ways to increase STEM teacher prestige.

  1. Change the language about why we teach STEM –
    1. STEM teaching is a noble tradition that is not all about the answers, but about the questions.
    2. Teachers teach these subjects because the subjects are amazing. STEM content allows us to have awe of the world around us.
  2. Cultivate teachers who exude wonder and inquiry.
    1. Professional development should invigorate teachers as well as students.
  3. Veteran teachers should interact with college students who show an interest in STEM teaching.
    1. Determine which teachers would represent the profession well.
    2. Go out to the students and meet them in person.
    3. Share the true vision of the life of STEM teachers.
      1. Share the joy and nobility of the profession through stories.
      2. Have students reflect on what will make them happy in a lifelong profession.

100kin10The 100Kin10 organization identified the root causes of low STEM Teaching prestige as:

  • Insufficient incentives to join the profession
  • Cultural norms devalue teaching
  • Lack of diversity in the STEM teacher workforce
  • Poor teaching conditions
  • Lack of support and understanding from higher education

Although I participated in several discussions around this topic over the two day Summit, I would be dishonest if I said that we reached a consensus about the reasons for the lack of STEM teaching prestige or the next best course of action.  I did, however, receive a new awareness of the concerns of the larger 100Kin10 partnership around the issue and how it will affect the goal of cultivating 100,000 new STEM teachers in, now, five years.  CSTA is committed to the 100Kin10 goal and continues to move forward to promote high quality science instruction by highly skilled science teachers.

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Written by Lisa Hegdahl

Lisa Hegdahl

Lisa Hegdahl is an 8th grade science teacher at McCaffrey Middle School in Galt, CA and is President for CSTA.

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Participate in Chemistry Education Research Study, Earn $500-800 Dollars!

Posted: Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

WestEd, a non-profit educational research agency, has been funded by the US Department of Education to test a new molecular modeling kit, Happy Atoms. Happy Atoms is an interactive chemistry learning experience that consists of a set of physical atoms that connect magnetically to form molecules, and an app that uses image recognition to identify the molecules that you create with the set. WestEd is conducting a study around the effectiveness of using Happy Atoms in the classroom, and we are looking for high school chemistry teachers in California to participate.

As part of the study, teachers will be randomly assigned to either the treatment group (who uses Happy Atoms) or the control group (who uses Happy Atoms at a later date). Teachers in the treatment group will be asked to use the Happy Atoms set in their classrooms for 5 lessons over the course of the fall 2017 semester. Students will complete pre- and post-assessments and surveys around their chemistry content knowledge and beliefs about learning chemistry. WestEd will provide access to all teacher materials, teacher training, and student materials needed to participate.

Participating teachers will receive a stipend of $500-800. You can read more information about the study here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HappyAtoms

Please contact Rosanne Luu at rluu@wested.org or 650.381.6432 if you are interested in participating in this opportunity, or if you have any questions!

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.

2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption Reviewer Application

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

The California Department of Education and State Board of Education are now accepting applications for reviewers for the 2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption. The application deadline is 3:00 pm, July 21, 2017. The application is comprehensive, so don’t wait until the last minute to apply.

On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson forwarded this recruitment letter to county and district superintendents and charter school administrators.

Review panel members will evaluate instructional materials for use in kindergarten through grade eight, inclusive, that are aligned with the California Next Generation Science Content Standards for California Public Schools (CA NGSS). 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.

Lessons Learned from the NGSS Early Implementer Districts

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

On March 31, 2017, Achieve released two documents examining some lessons learned from the California K-8 Early Implementation Initiative. The initiative began in August 2014 and was developed by the K-12 Alliance at WestEd, with close collaborative input on its design and objectives from the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education, and Achieve.

Eight (8) traditional school districts and two (2) charter management organizations were selected to participate in the initiative, becoming the first districts in California to implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Those districts included Galt Joint Union Elementary, Kings Canyon Joint Unified, Lakeside Union, Oakland Unified, Palm Springs Unified, San Diego Unified, Tracy Joint Unified, Vista Unified, Aspire, and High Tech High.

To more closely examine some of the early successes and challenges experienced by the Early Implementer LEAs, Achieve interviewed nine of the ten participating districts and compiled that information into two resources, focusing primarily on professional learning and instructional materials. 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.

Using Online Simulations to Support the NGSS in Middle School Classrooms

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

by Lesley Gates, Loren Nikkel, and Kambria Eastham

Middle school teachers in Kings Canyon Unified School District (KCUSD), a CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative district, have been diligently working on transitioning to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) integrated model for middle school. This year, the teachers focused on building their own knowledge of the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs). They have been gathering and sharing ideas at monthly collaborative meetings as to how to make sure their students are not just learning about science but that they are actually doing science in their classrooms. Students should be planning and carrying out investigations to gather data for analysis in order to construct explanations. This is best done through hands-on lab experiments. Experimental work is such an important part of the learning of science and education research shows that students learn better and retain more when they are active through inquiry, investigation, and application. A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2011) notes, “…learning about science and engineering involves integration of the knowledge of scientific explanations (i.e., content knowledge) and the practices needed to engage in scientific inquiry and engineering design. Thus the framework seeks to illustrate how knowledge and practice must be intertwined in designing learning experiences in K-12 Science Education” (pg. 11).

Many middle school teachers in KCUSD are facing challenges as they begin implementing these student-driven, inquiry-based NGSS science experiences in their classrooms. First, many of the middle school classrooms at our K-8 school sites are not designed as science labs. 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 NGSS 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.

Celestial Highlights: May – July 2017

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

May Through July 2017 with Web Resources for the Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graphs of planet rising and setting times by Jeffrey L. Hunt.

In spring and summer 2017, Jupiter is the most prominent “star” in the evening sky, and Venus, even brighter, rules the morning. By mid-June, Saturn rises at a convenient evening hour, allowing both giant planets to be viewed well in early evening until Jupiter sinks low in late September. The Moon is always a crescent in its monthly encounters with Venus, but is full whenever it appears near Jupiter or Saturn in the eastern evening sky opposite the Sun. (In 2017, Full Moon is near Jupiter in April, Saturn in June.) At intervals of 27-28 days thereafter, the Moon appears at a progressively earlier phase at each pairing with the outer planet until its final conjunction, with Moon a thin crescent, low in the west at dusk. You’ll see many beautiful events by just following the Moon’s wanderings at dusk and dawn in the three months leading up to the solar eclipse. Learn More…

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Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.