September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Region 2 News and Events

Posted: Thursday, March 1st, 2012

by Eric Lewis

Spring is in the air; a time to start getting excited about longer days and warmer weather.  It’s also a wonderful time to be thinking about all that you’ve accomplished this year with your students and to reflect upon what you’d like to do different (or the same) in your next year of teaching.

It’s been a few years since my first year of teaching.  I remember thinking that I was doing OK my first year.  Sure, I had plenty of students failing my class, but that was because they were absent too much and didn’t do any homework or study for exams.  I had pretty good classroom management and had a handle on what I wanted to teach when.  Of course, five years later, I would look at what I taught and think, “What was I doing??? This is HORRIBLE!”   Of course, I threw out much of my old curriculum and started to stitch together the best parts.  By then I had uncovered a huge number of resources to use: snacks and lessons from the Exploratorium, resources from the UC Museum of Paleontology, SEP’s Lesson Library (UCSF), and a myriad of online sites.   Soon the question became WAY more refined:  “How do I craft lessons and experiences to move MY students where they need to go?”  And even further – “How can I support these three students who are new to speaking English and these two students with special needs?”

Unfortunately, I think that too many of us sometimes get content with what we’ve done and get in the mindset that students need to reach our high expectations with whatever content we provide them.  While I don’t think that’s a bad thing in itself, I do think that we need to be clear that our job is to TEACH – even when students are coming to us WAY under prepared and unable to access the grade level content that is our responsibility for the year.  So, the question is really, do we have the right resources to support our students to access our curriculum – both the content AND the language?  This is challenging, especially for new teachers.  But, often our experience in the classroom prevents us from making assumptions that ALL our students CAN learn; we end up designating our students as failures or successes from the start of the year and frequently – unwittingly – we make these designations stick.  How can we turn that on it’s head and make it common to see EVERY student as a possible success?

I hope that many of you take up the opportunity to attend the California Science Education Conference in San Jose this year.  And, if some of you have great ideas and strategies to help teachers meet the diverse needs of their students PLEASE apply to lead a workshop to share your experience.  All of us can use more tools to ensure that we’re doing the best that we can to craft lessons that give students a good chance to meet high expectations in our classrooms.  Workshop proposals are due March 6, so please get them in ASAP.  You can find out more about proposal requirements right here.

Please let me know if there are things that you’d like to add to our Region’s offerings!  Also, encourage your colleagues to join CSTA.  I’m hoping that we’ll have the opportunity to grow our organization and expand to meet your needs and your colleagues’ needs.  To that end, please feel free to email me directly so that I can represent your questions and concerns with the CSTA board as a whole.

Eric Lewis,

Click here to view the calendar of events in Region 2 – Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Benito, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and Solano Counties

Eris Lewis is high school area science support in the San Francisco Unified School District LEAD office and is CSTA region 2 director.

Written by Eric Lewis

Eric Lewis

Eris Lewis is high school area science support in the San Francisco Unified School District LEAD office.

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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

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.

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

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Marian Murphy-Shaw


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.