September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

Science Is in the Air – So Much Going On!

Posted: Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

by Laura Henriques

It’s May and with that comes AP exams, science fair, science Olympiad, NGSS Rollout Symposium, plans for summer professional development opportunities for us and our students. There are so many things happening in our regions and around the state. It’s hard to keep up on everything, but try we must!

Springtime is when our students show us what they’ve got!

Springtime is the culmination for a wide range of year-long or semester-long science activities. Congratulations and thank you to all of our members and science friends who helped with Science Olympiad, Science Fairs, academic decathlon, AP exams, robotics competitions, science or STEM fairs and more. We all recognize that it takes a lot of time, work, energy and passion from teachers and kids to get to the point where kids are able to share what they know, apply their knowledge and skills, be competitive, and shine. Those long after-school sessions, Saturday work sessions, the time away from family, the extra hours… they are worth it. You do make a difference and the opportunities that you are providing to your students will be remembered long after the event(s) are over. 

NGSS Professional Learning Opportunities


At press time, there is one NGSS Rollout I symposium still to come – June 1-2 in Ventura. The first NGSS Rollout II symposium took place April 27-28 at the San Joaquin County Office of Education. Two hundred science educators from around the state took part in two packed days of NGSS learning. Evaluation data from the rollout was positive. There was lots of learning, good connections and networking, and a sense that we can do this. There are two additional NGSS Rollout II sessions this spring and a half-dozen more in the fall. For details and to register visit CSTA was part of the team that planned, wrote and presented at the rollout. Thanks to CSTA members who participated in these roles. Sessions include NGSS 103, The Tool (a tool to help with planning lessons), A Lesson (participation in grade level lessons so you can feel what a NGSS 3D learning sequence is like), Practices, and the opportunity to pick a session from Engineering, Administration Strand, Crosscutting Concepts and High School (course sequence discussions). It was great to see so many CSTA members in San Joaquin. I look forward to seeing more CSTA members at future rollouts. Stop by the CSTA table to see the latest NGSS timeline, get a membership ribbon or just visit.

CSTA and NSTA are teaming up again for a summer institute about NGSS on July 9th in Anaheim. CSTA members get a discounted registration rate for this full-day event. In addition to a keynote there will be breakout sessions for elementary and secondary science. Presenters include some national names associated with NGSS and California Science Project’s Maria Simani. Find out more and register online.




The 2015 California Science Education Conference (October 2-4 in Sacramento) will have ~200 workshops, presentations, field courses and talks to help you continue on the journey from awareness to transition to implementation of NGSS. Registration opens soon. The conference committee, under the leadership of Deb Farkas, is putting together a great event. Check out the site to find out some of the unique programs we have planned for you.

Our Regional Directors find out what’s happening in their region and share that with all of us. As we learn about new summer opportunities they get posted to the CSTA events calendar. Check out the opportunities listed within each region.

Framework Update This month the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee will see the final draft of the CA Science Framework. This group of dedicated individuals will have read more than 3,000 pages this school year, providing input to the writers. After the May 20-21 meeting the framework will go to the Subject Matter Committee then to the Instructional Quality Commission and then to all of us for the public input period. A big thanks to the writing team (headed up by the California Science Project) and to the CFCC members. You should also know that the CSTA NGSS Committee has read all the drafts and provided feedback along the way as well. The entire membership owes them a debt of thanks for their contributions to the process.

Earth/Space Science ad-hoc committee getting started

Maria Simani (California Science Project) and I (CSTA) have been engaged in conversations around the dilemma of earth/space science not being a D-lab course for UC/CSU A-G requirements. We know that this is a concern for many of our members, especially geoscience teachers at the high school level. We figure that the adoption of NGSS might be a good time for us to re-examine the issue and see what we can do about getting a change in thinking. A small ad-hoc committee has been formed to develop a working plan. The committee will meet in early June. Once we have a plan we will call for wider participation and input from the CSTA membership.

And finally …. CSTA will be holding its quarterly Board of Directors meeting on June 6th in Long Beach. Just as the state is busy determining how to transition and implement NGSS, CSTA continues to support you through the process. Our board members and committee members serve in a variety of ways to help support science education in California. We’ll spend some of our time at the June board meeting determining how best to do that. Please let me know if you have suggestions or questions.

Written by Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques is a professor of science education at CSU Long Beach and past-president of CSTA. She serves as chair of CSTA’s Nominating Committee and is a co-chair of the NGSS Committee.

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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.