September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

Science Geek Vacation – Be There!

Posted: Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

by Rick Pomeroy

In the last issue of CCS, Greg Potter shared some ideas about how to become the best science teacher that you can be. His recommendation that you attend professional conferences is a great one and, luckily, the next opportunity is right around the corner. On October 25-27, CSTA will be hosting the California Science Education Conference in Palm Springs. If you have never been to a science teachers’ conference, this one is going to offer you more in three days than many methods classes can offer in a full quarter or semester. To sweeten the deal, there is a special reduced price for CSTA Student Member conference registration.

The California Science Education Conference will be three days of non-stop workshops, field courses, short courses, exhibitors, and events all focused on science education. As a supervisor of science education, I encourage my students to attend. Despite the fact that it is a full day’s drive from Northern California, it is worth every minute of the experience. There are very few opportunities so close to home where you can immerse yourself in science education as completely as you can while attending this conference.

Everything at the conference will have a California focus. For the price of registration there will be workshop sessions, focus speakers on special topics, and keynote speakers on hot topics in science education. There are evening events and an exhibit hall with many of the top vendors of science equipment, supplies, text materials and enrichment opportunities. When you check the online conference program, you will see workshops and session on integrating the California Common Core Standards, both Math and English Language Arts in science classes, as well as sessions about NGSS. There will be strands of workshops focused on life science, physical science, environmental science, biology, chemistry, physics, earth and space science. There is a good mix of sessions focused on science teaching in primary grades and upper elementary, middle school, and high school. There are even a few sessions that will appeal to college or university faculty. If that is not enough, there are workshops focused on engineering, cross-disciplinary teaching, pedagogy, classroom management, teaching with data, and even project-based learning.

Short courses (three-hour programs) and field courses (off-site programs), are both available for an extra charge. All in all, the California Science Education Conference is your go-to place for a booster shot on science and science education. While you are there, watch for special events specifically for preservice teachers and opportunities for preservice teachers to meet and greet. My students have found that one of the very best things that they take away from the conference is their interactions with preservice teachers from other programs. Meeting others in the same situation that you are is a great way to gain a better understanding of your place in the future of science education in California.

My students often ask for advice on what to do or how to negotiate the conference. Having attended this conference for many years, I always make the following recommendations: Wear comfortable walking shoes and comfortable clothing. The conference is a reasonably relaxed atmosphere where everyone is on a science “geek” vacation. Make sure that you bring business cards or stickers with your name, school address, and email address on them. There will be many opportunities to enter drawings and request information from exhibitors, presenters, and speakers during the conference and it is much easier to have a card or mailing sticker with this information than to have to write it out every time. Look at the program and plan your experience in advance.

When you plan your schedule, try to have two or three possible choices for each session time. Go to the session that interests you the most. If after you arrive you find that it is not what you were expecting, it is ok to get up and leave and go to another session. If you do this, leave quietly and enter quietly. Put your cell phone on silent and if you get a call, go out in the hall to talk. Take an extra duffle bag or suitcase to pack your swag for the trip home. There will be lots of samples and cool things that new teachers can use. If you are driving, you might consider bringing a mailing tube about 1 meter long. This will be great for making sure that any posters or maps that you get arrive back at home without being squished or folded. Don’t feel obligated to sign up for and pay for short courses this first time you attend the conference. There are plenty of free workshops for you to attend this year. Next year when you have a paid teaching position, sign up for some of those (of course if your school or some other organization is paying for our attendance, go ahead and sign up if you want). Try to make it to the evening events. These will be great places to socialize with lots of other preservice and in-service teachers alike. On Friday night, there will be a ticketed event at the Renaissance. It is a combination pool party and cardboard boat contest. This one is definitely worth the price of admission ($10 – and includes $10 worth of food). Finally, go and have a good time. I tell my students that this is a very acceptable reason for taking a day off from student teaching. Attendance at professional conferences is sign of a committed educator and an opportunity that should not be missed.

I am looking forward to the conference. Feel free to find me while you are there and let me know about your conference experience. As past president of CSTA and a member of the conference planning committee, I am very interested in hearing your opinions.

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Written by Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy is science education lecturer/supervisor in the School of Education, University of California Davis.

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California Science Assessment Update

Posted: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

by Jessica Sawko

In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.

At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at 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.

Some ways to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in your classroom

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

by Carol Peterson

1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. 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.

2016 Award Recipients – Join CSTA in Honoring Their Accomplishments

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference  on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!

Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award

John Keller

John Keller

The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well into the future.” 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.

NGSS: Making Your Life Easier

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Peter A’hearn

Wait… What?

NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?

The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Celestial Highlights, September 2016

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt 

Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. 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.