September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Science Resolutions

Posted: Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

by Donna Ross

It is that time of year again. A period of reflection and promise.  Many of us are examining our chocolate consumption, exercise regimes, spending habits, and closet organization. But, this can also be a chance to look beyond your personal habits. I encourage you to use this opportunity to think about your professional resolutions, too.  I’ve included some ideas and strategies to get you started, but you should adapt this to fit your own circumstances.


Resolve to include more science.

Consider how much instructional time you dedicate to science each week. Make a measureable commitment to increase it. For example: I will teach at least four hours of science each week.

Resolve to make science a priority.

Consider how to model a high value for science in your classroom. For example: I will teach science before 1:00 pm so that my instruction in science does not get postponed or rushed at the end of the day.

Resolve to help students see the connections between science and the real world.

Consider how to make the science lessons relevant to students’ lives. For example: I will listen to students’ questions about the everyday world and incorporate one of their questions into a science experiment each week.

Resolve to help students understand the nature of science.

Consider how well students understand that asking questions and gathering evidence are at the heart of the discipline. For example: I will design at least one science investigation each month in which students can modify the question they investigate to make it more meaningful.



Resolve to make the connection between class and careers obvious.

Consider how likely students are to understand how coursework relates to career opportunities. For example: In each unit, I will show a brief video montage of careers that use these science skills and concepts.

Resolve to include hands-on investigations, labs, and field experiences.

Consider how representative students’ understanding of the nature of the discipline will be, based on the balance of seatwork, lab work, fieldwork, lectures, and exams in class. For example: Each week I will include a combination of at least three hours of field or lab experiences.

Resolve to use multiple measures of assessment.

Consider how all students are best able to demonstrate their understanding of the material. For example: I will include a creative component in each exam so that students who struggle with English can draw or model some of their responses.

Resolve to continue shifting higher order thinking to the students.

Consider how many decisions students make in each investigation and increase the control given to the students. For example: I will steadily increase the number of decisions the students make about which variables to change, which questions to investigate, which data to collect, how to record the data, and how to analyze the data.

Keeping your resolutions

Have you ever noticed the gym is crowded in January, but in February it is back to normal? Keeping our resolutions is harder than making them. Professional resolutions are just like personal ones. Here are a few hints for sticking to all of your new goals.

  • Make the resolutions specific and measureable and include a timeline.
  • Include others in your plan, both to share in the process and to hold yourself accountable.
  • Post your resolutions where you will see them often.
  • Set up reminders and a method to track your progress. Anticipate obstacles and develop solutions.
  • Build in rewards (but perhaps you shouldn’t choose hot fudge sundaes if your personal resolution is to lose weight)!
  • And, remember to be kind to yourself. If you slip, refocus and start again. The best teachers are continually striving to improve.

Have a great, science-filled 2012!

Donna Ross is associate professor of science education at San Diego State University and is CSTA’s 4-year college director.

Written by Donna Ross

Donna Ross is Associate Professor of Science Education at San Diego State University.

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CSTA Is Now Accepting Nominations for Board Members

Posted: Friday, November 17th, 2017

Current, incoming, and outgoing CSTA Board of Directors at June 3, 2017 meeting.

Updated 7:25 pm, Nov. 17, 2017

It’s that time of year when CSTA is looking for dedicated and qualified persons to fill the upcoming vacancies on its Board of Directors. This opportunity allows you to help shape the policy and determine the path that the Board will take in the new year. There are time and energy commitments, but that is far outweighed by the personal satisfaction of knowing that you are an integral part of an outstanding professional educational organization, dedicated to the support and guidance of California’s science teachers. You will also have the opportunity to help CSTA review and support legislation that benefits good science teaching and teachers.

Right now is an exciting time to be involved at the state level in the California Science Teachers Association. The CSTA Board of Directors is currently involved in implementing the Next Generations Science Standards and its strategic plan. If you are interested in serving on the CSTA Board of Directors, now is the time to submit your name for consideration. 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.

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.