July/August 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 8

Science Education in Primary Classrooms

Posted: Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

by Michelle French

I would like to begin by sharing where the “Photo of the Month” found in this issue of the eCCS came from. Last year, I received one of the best presents I will ever get. Paulina, a first grader in my class, walked into my room first thing in the morning and said, “Mrs. French, I have something for you.” She proudly presented her display of painted Styrofoam and toothpicks, and in a grand gesture, handed it to me. She said, “It’s the solar system. I stayed-up until 10:00 last night, and I made it all by myself for you.” The attached note stated, “Planits is a grat way to lern about siens.” I was blown away by her attention to detail and amount of effort she put into her childlike representation of the solar system.

This gesture by Paulina not only warmed my heart, but it strengthened my resolve to provide my students with the highest quality science education I can offer. Young children crave to explore, ask questions, and begin to make sense of the world around them. It is my job as an educator to provide meaningful experiences in which this happens for my students. I know from talking with people from around the state, that for various reasons, not all teachers, administrators, and districts are able to make this happen. Please understand, I am not pointing fingers. I am in the trenches every day, and I know the pressures and stresses that occur with our job.

In order to fix a problem, we must first identify it. CSTA Region I Director and second grade teacher, Valerie Joyner, discusses in her eCCS article this month, the recently released study High Hopes-Few Opportunities-The Status of Elementary Science Education in California. This study identifies specific concerns of teachers, administrators, and districts. I would like to “piggy-back” on the points that Valerie covers in her article and highlight the key points that are found in WestEd’s Summary Report and Recommendations:

  • Less than half of principals (44%) believe it is likely that a student would receive high-quality science instruction in his or her school,
  • Nine in ten principals say science education is very important and should start early,
  • 85% of teachers say they have not received any professional development in science during the last three years,
  • 40% of elementary teachers say they spend 60 minutes or less teaching science each week, and
  • Only one third of elementary teachers say they feel prepared to teach science.

As the Primary (K-2) Director for CSTA, I feel compelled to say that we cannot continue to ignore this data. I also need to say that we are at critical crossroads. We can let this data continue to be the norm, or we get off of our rear-ends and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! I know times are financially tough, but this is no excuse for the state of science education in California. I know that we cannot allow our students to fail in language arts and mathematics, but we cannot continue to focus on these areas to the exclusion of science (or other curricular areas). I do not see how we can continue to deny students equal access to science, history, or the arts simply because they cannot pass a test on language or math.

Where there is a will, there is a way. This report provides some solid ideas for teachers, administrators, and districts with ways to enact change in schools. Also, as CSTA members, we are part of a network replete with expertise in both science content and pedagogy. In addition to thousands of science teacher/members, Valerie and I are here for you. If you ever have any questions, you may contact us through the CSTA website. I encourage you to reach out to teachers within your school and your district. It is amazing how much help you may find in your backyard. You will find a “comment” section at the bottom of this page. This is a great place to start asking questions. For those that are regularly teaching science, feel free to post ideas and suggestions on how you deal with the common themes of lack of time, materials, support, and personal competency in science.

Valerie also sites another study entitled “A Priority for California’s Future: Science for Students.” This study clearly states that parents and the public believe all students should receive a high-quality science education.

  • 65% of respondents believe that students should receive more science education than they received when they were in school, and
  • 47% of respondents believe that science education should begin in grades K-2.

Clearly, we have the support of our parents and the public. They mirror the concerns and desires that we do as professional educators. Reach out to them. There are financial resources available through public and private grants and websites like www.donorschoose.org. This site links potential donors with teachers expressing a need for materials. Many of the items we need to perform elementary science activities are found in the home. Parents may be willing to provide those materials and provide time to help with science activities.

For those of you that are regularly teaching science in K-2, keep it up. For those of you that are hesitant, take baby-steps. No one is expecting you to go from 0 to 100 minutes this week. Start off by looking for read-alouds and guided reading materials to expose your students to science content and its wonderful language. Try writing an expository paragraph on students’ hands-on observations of a plant. Dissect one lesson from your adopted science materials, and teach that one lesson well. Make plans to attend the 2012 California Science Educators Conference in San Jose. Valerie and I would love to hear from you on the comments section of this page regarding specific needs that we might address for K-2 teachers during the conference.

All students should receive a high quality education in all curricular areas. Fellow primary teachers, please, know that we provide the foundation for our students, and this includes science instruction. Don’t let the creativity and inquisitiveness of the “Paulinas” of the world slip through our fingers.

Resource links:

High Hopes – Few Opportunities Summary Report: http://www.cftl.org/documents/2011/StrengtheningScience_summ.pdf

High Hopes – Few Opportunities Full Report: http://www.cftl.org/documents/2011/StrengtheningScience_full.pdf

A Priority for California’s Future: Science for Students: http://www.cftl.org/Spotlight__On.htm?prodid=8

Michelle French is a first-grade teacher at Wilson Elementary School in Tulare and is CSTA’s primary director.


Written by Michelle French

Michelle French is a STEM Curriculum Specialist at the Tulare County Office of Education and is a member of CSTA.

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CTC Seeking Educators for Science Standard Setting Conference

Posted: Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

The Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) and Evaluation Systems group of Pearson are currently seeking California science educators to participate in a Science Standard Setting Conference for the California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET) program. Each standard setting panel is scheduled to meet for one-day, in Sacramento, California. The fields and dates are listed below:

Multiple Subjects Subtest II (Science), Monday, October 2, 2017
Science Subtest II: Physics, Monday, October 2, 2017
Science Subtest II: Chemistry, Tuesday, October 3, 2017
Science Subtest II: Life Sciences, Wednesday, October 4, 2017
Science Subtest II: Earth and Space Sciences, Thursday, October 5, 2017
Science Subtest I: General Science, Friday, October 6, 2017

The purpose of the conference is for panel members to make recommendations that will be used, in part, by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) in setting the passing standard, for each field, in support of the updated California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET).

Click here to nominate educators. If you are interested in participating yourself, complete an application here for consideration.


Public school educators who are:

• Certified in California
• Currently practicing (or have practiced within the last school year) in one or more of the fields listed above. 

College faculty who are:

• Teacher preparation personnel (including education faculty and arts and sciences faculty)
• Practicing (or have practiced within the last school year) in one or more of the fields listed above, and
• Preparing teacher candidates in an approved California teacher preparation program.

 Benefits of Participation Include:
• Receive substitute reimbursement for their school (public school educators only),
• Have the opportunity to make a difference in California teacher development and performance,
• Have the opportunity for professional growth and collaboration with educators in their field,
• Be reimbursed for their travel and meal expenses, and
• Be provided with hotel accommodations, if necessary.

For more information, visit their website at www.carecruit.nesinc.com/cset/index.asp

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.

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.