May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Reflections on Elementary Science

Posted: Friday, June 1st, 2012

by Valerie Joyner

Today marked the end of my classroom teaching career.  It is hard for me to believe I have been teaching K-6 for over 37 years.  I fondly remember the early days of my career when there were no state standards or federal mandates, and each of us constructed most of our own curriculum for our students. Every elementary teacher had his/her favorite science units they had developed and used year after year.  My science curriculum was no different. I developed exciting, and sometimes not so exciting activities, explorations, and experiments with kits, books, realia, and a few outdated textbooks. There were no Smartboards, computers, or internet websites to go to.  No state adopted texts or testing of science in 5th grade.  It was a simpler time.

In many ways teaching in the 70’s was a free-for-all, lacking scope and sequence, but it was also a wonderful time when teachers were able to share their passion for a particular subject.  My passion was always science, and dated back to my early childhood and my own father’s passion for science.

My classroom was always filled with science stuff.  You know, animals and plants from a boa constrictor to geckos, and cacti to Venus fly traps on every counter. There were the usual magnets, rocks, pulleys, microscopes, and magnifying glasses for students to explore. And of course the posters, student projects and work on display everywhere.   These diverse, and slightly chaotic collections gave the classroom a special feeling, a feeling of excitement, exploration, and adventure.

I believe these simpler times brought about the necessity to reign in education and provide our students with a more cohesive and structured K-12 curriculum. After all, there was no guarantee that students had had any physical science before they hit junior or senior high. If a child had happened on three teachers in a row that all “loved” their butterfly or geology units, then that child was probably proficient in metamorphosis and sedimentary rocks, but may never have had the opportunity to learn about weather, force and motion, or ocean currents. And guess what? Along came state frameworks and standards and testing.

I look back at my classroom in the past decade or two and wonder when that sense of excitement, exploration, and adventure began to change and make way for the greater emphasis and focus on English, Language Arts (ELA), and math.  That’s not to say my curriculum was boring and uninviting, but I found myself fighting the system and wanting to spend more time on science, not less. I went to great lengths to teach science in every subject area I possibly could.  I developed math lessons around science activities and experiments and non-fiction reading units so I could always be sure to have science in the forefront of my student’s minds. As you know, this is not always an easy task when your district mandates certain materials be used and specific time allotted to ELA and math. Nonetheless, I was able to find peace with the structures and mandates and yet allow myself permission to always do what I knew was best for my students.

And here we are, in 2012, the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and Common Core Curriculum are on the starting blocks. Some districts have already begun talking about and trying to implement Common Core which will again change the course of education. Hopefully most of us have been able to review NGSS and realize the profoundly positive effects this will have on our students and science education. As I move out of the classroom and into new possibilities, I am excited to see the new direction science education will be taking.

A special thanks to all our retirees and their dedication to science education and their years of experience and dedication to our science education and out students. Have a wonderful summer!

Valerie Joyner is a retired district science lead teacher for Petaluma City Schools and is CSTA’s region 1 director.

Written by Valerie Joyner

Valerie Joyner

Valerie Joyner is a retired elementary science educator and is a member 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.