July/August 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 8

Science Literacy and Civic Engagement Go Hand in Hand

Posted: Wednesday, November 16th, 2016

by Emily Schoenfelder, Martin Smith, Steven M. Worker, Andrea Ambrose, Lynn Schmitt-McQuitty, and Kelley M. Brian 

Introduction

Science is an integral part of the most complex social and political issues of our time. Concerns such as global warming, food and water security, and medical research show that science must be a driving force in addressing the environmental, economic, and social problems of our society. As such, members of this society must be prepared with sufficient scientific literacy to responsibly engage with such issues (Committee on Prospering in the Global Economy, 2007). Today’s youth are in need of tools, experience, and scientific knowledge to face these challenges. While classroom education provides core knowledge, informal science programs may be well-placed to help make the connections between science and civic engagement (Fenichel & Schweingruber, 2010)

Benefits of Linking Science Education with Civic Engagement

It is important that science education programming be relevant and useful to learners, providing them a context for understanding and using scientific information (Millar, 2008). For instance, service learning projects allow youth the opportunity to identify problems and provide solutions. Issues of poverty may lead youth to develop food-producing gardens that double as living laboratories. Campus litter may inspire new recycling projects that provide lessons in natural resources and climate change. Furthermore, encouraging students to keep up on current events provides endless fodder for thoughtful discussions on a plethora of science-related topics.

Linking societal issues to fields of science also has the potential to peak interest in related careers. A recent report by Sparks and Honey, a marketing firm, stated that 60% of Generation Z want jobs that have a social impact, compared to 39% of Millennials (Kingston, 2014). Civic engagement in science education provides students the chance to connect the dots between their interest in science and their desire to change the world. For example, the young person in class who likes looking at bugs may learn the possibilities in medical entomology and grow to research the cure for the Zika Virus.

Moreover, civic engagement not only benefits the youth, but communities as a whole. Involving youth in service opportunities results in contributions to the community and advances the young persons’ development (Brennan et al., 2007). Ideally, the aforementioned garden will yield crops for the local food bank and the recycling project will keep the school grounds spotless. By engaging youth fully in community-based change efforts, they also learn to function effectively in society (Nitzberg, 2005).

The Role of Nonformal Education

Twenty-first-century society requires a scientifically literate citizenry (Committee on Prospering in the Global Economy, 2007). However, it has been shown time and time again that scientific literacy among youth populations is low, and informal science programs can help attend to this issue. One example of this is the 4-H Youth Development Program – a national, nonformal education organization for individuals aged 5–19. Programmatically, 4-H focuses on advancing positive youth development through experiential educational opportunities that include civic engagement. Complementing its century-long history of offering science projects and programs ranging from geology to animal science, forestry to computer science, National 4-H established the 4-H Science Mission Mandate in an effort to expand and strengthen 4-H science education efforts through state-based 4-H programs (Schmiesing, 2008).

The University of California 4-H Youth Development Program responded to the National 4-H Science Mission Mandate by commencing a statewide 4-H Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Initiative. Organizationally, California 4-H science programming is grounded in constructivist-based pedagogical strategies. Specifically, learning opportunities utilize guided inquiry-based instruction embedded in a five-step experiential learning cycle that places an emphasis on the authentic application of new knowledge and skills—the point where civic engagement intersects with 4-H science programming. In fact, in defining scientific literacy, the California 4-H STEM initiative included a basic component of “Contribution through Applied Participation” (Smith, Worker, Ambrose, & Schmitt-McQuitty, 2015) This component seeks to provide application of knowledge and skills in authentic contexts to help individuals gain a deeper understanding of scientific concepts and develop their abilities to think critically (Jones, 2012). This is particularly relevant to the development of citizenship and life skills through civic engagement opportunities. Specifically, youth apply new knowledge and skills in ways that help address authentic community needs they have identified as important. This takes shape in many ways: teens teaching younger students robotics; community outreach about zoonotic diseases; educational mentoring for students within the juvenile justice system; and many more.

Programs like these intentionally include the social aspects of science by engaging youth directly in relevant community issues. Such civic engagement is essential to helping develop an informed public that is faced ever more frequently with decisions on science-related public policy issues.

Read the full paper at Science Education and Civic Engagement at https://seceij.net/seceij/summer15/including_civic.html. 

References

Brennan, M. A., R.V. Barnett, &E. Baugh. (2007). Youth Involvement in Community Development: Implications and Possibilities for Extension. Journal of Extension 45(4).

Committee on Prospering in the Global Economy of the 21st Century& Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy. (2007). Rising above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

Fenichel, M., &H.A. Schweingruber. (2010). Surrounded by Science: Learning Science in Informal Environments. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

Jones, R.A. (2012). What Were They Thinking? Instructional Strategies That Encourage Critical Thinking. The Science Teacher, 79(3), 66–70.

Kingston, A. (2014, July). Get Ready for Generation Z. MacLean’s. Retrieved from: http://www.macleans.ca/society/life/get-ready-for-generation-z/.

Millar, R. (2008). Taking Scientific Literacy Seriously as a Curriculum Aim. Asia-Pacific Forum on Science Learning and Teaching 9(2), 1–18.

Nitzberg, J. (2005). The Meshing of Youth Development and Community Building. Putting Youth at the Center of Community Building. New Directions for Youth Development, 106, 7–16.

Schmiesing, R.J. (2008). 4-H SET Mission Mandate. Washington, DC: United States Department of Food and Agriculture.

Smith, M.H., S.M. Worker, A.P. Ambrose, and L. Schmitt-McQuitty. (2015). ‘Anchor Points’ to Define Youth Scientific Literacy within the Context of California 4-H. California Agriculture 69(2), 77–82.

Emily Schoenfelder is the 4-H Youth Development Adviser, and Martin Smith is a Specialist in Cooperative Extension. Steven Worker is a 4-H Youth Development Adviser, and Andrea Ambrose, Director of Development Services. Lynn Schmitt-McQuitty is a 4-H Youth Development Adviser & County Director, and Kelley Brian is the Youth, Families and Communities Adviser. All are a part of the University of California, Agricultural and Natural Resources, 4-H Youth Development Program. In addition, Steven, Martin, and Lynn are members of CSTA.

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.

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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.

Eligibility:

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.