January/February 2018 – Vol. 31 No. 2

Science Teacher Does Big Things

Posted: Monday, November 1st, 2010

by Valerie Joyner
Introducing S.T.R.A.W. —Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed
It all started with one student asking a simple question, “How can we save an endangered species”?  Who would know that this question would lead to a powerful project-based watershed project that has restored over 20 miles of creeks banks, planted over 25,000 native plants, and served more than 25,000 students?  The STRAW (Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed) Project began in 1992 when the students in Ms. Laurette Rogers’ fourth grade class saw a video on endangered species.STRAW - girls working

The video naturally led to a discussion on what her students could do and how she could empower them to become good stewards of the land.  Ms. Rogers knew immediately that her students needed to do something big!

The class looked for an endangered species they could adopt and investigate. It wasn’t to be a warm cuddly mammal, but the small California Freshwater Shrimp, a native endangered invertebrate living in the Stemple Creek Watershed area of Sonoma and Marin counties.  The students found that the numbers of this tiny species were rapidly declining in their local watershed.  In some areas of the creek there were only 100 shrimp left, so how to save the shrimp was the bigger question Rogers and her students began to explore.

The class worked together on a plan to repair their local watershed.  Their investigations and research showed them a lack of protective shelter and higher water temperatures were impacting the survival of the shrimp.  The students decided to plant native trees and other plants along Stemple Creek.

To save their endangered species the students knew they needed to improve the shrimp’s natural habitat, but the plan came with a challenge.  With 90 percent of the watershed land owned by local ranchers and farmers, the creek beds they wanted to restore might not be accessible. New community  partnerships had to be developed with the ranchers and farmers, so the students would be able to work on the privately owned land. Initially, the ranchers were skeptical of student ideas, but soon came to realize that their land would benefit.

Finally, the long awaited watershed restoration day arrived.  The students armed themselves with shovels, hoes, gloves, and native plants.  They learned how to plant willow branches and willow wattles (woven willow branches).  They spent their day outdoors planting and wondering what impact their studies and work would have on their adopted shrimp.  Five months later when they returned to the creek they found the willows budding, soon to make shade and prevent erosion along the banks and encourage the shrimp and other riparian species to multiply.

This was just the beginning of STRAW, a successful project-based environmental education project that arose from one student’s question.  Today STRAW operates as an educational program of The Bay Institute, and it bring students, teachers, scientists, and community members together to restore local watersheds in Sonoma, Napa, Solano, and Marin Counties.  To date there have been over 275 watershed projects.  STRAW continues to grow each year with new projects and partnerships.

STRAW Summer Institute

Every summer the Bay Institute STRAW Project provides its network teachers with a free three day Summer Institute.  The institute helps teachers restore their passion for teaching by presenting learning as it would be presented to students.  There’s an essential emphasis on fitting required curriculum standards into project-based learning and connecting the smaller current picture to the wider future vision.  The course is designed to provide STRAW teachers with opportunities to experience firsthand watershed-based centers for students, expert speakers, field trips, and networking opportunities.  This past summer STRAW teachers gathered on a boat on the San Francisco Bay to look for invertebrates and later learn more about it at the Aquarium of the Bay.

The Bay Institute’s STRAW Project Website (http://www.bay.org/watershed-education/about-straw) showcases previous projects, and shares the goals and history of the project, as well as resources, partners, and opportunities. Another great way to get acquainted with STRAW is through the short video Taking Root: Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed (http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=ylLAOUOkG8s).

The STRAW experience is so inspiring, a 35 minute documentary called A Simple Question: The Story of the STRAW Project (http://www.asimplequestion.org/) has won five awards, most recently the ‘Spirit of Activism Award’ at the Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival in January of 2010.

Valerie Joyner is a second grade teacher in Petaluma and is CSTA’s region 1 director.

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.

One Response

  1. What an outstanding and meaningful program…
    bringing the children to the mud and the shrimp…

    If now, only the whole world will pick-up a shovel
    and begin to restore, and to HEAL good ‘ol Mother

Leave a Reply


California Science Test Academy for Educators

Posted: Thursday, February 15th, 2018

California Science Test Academy for Educators

To support implementation of the California Science Test (CAST), the California Department of Education is partnering with Educational Testing Service and WestEd to offer a one-day CAST Academy for local educational agency (LEA) science educators, to be presented at three locations in California from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. As an alternative to traveling, LEA teams can participate virtually via WebEx on one of the dates listed below.

The dates and locations for the CAST Academy are as follows:

  • Monday, April 23, 2018—Sacramento
  • Wednesday, April 25, 2018—Fresno
  • Thursday, April 26, 2018—Irvine

The CAST Academy will help participants develop a deeper understanding of the assessment design and expectations of the CAST. The academy also will provide information and activities designed to assist educators in their implementation of the California Next Generation Science Standards and three-dimensional learning to help them gain an understanding of how these new science assessment item types can inform teaching and learning. The CAST Academy dates above are intended for school and district science instructional leaders, including teacher leaders, teacher trainers, and instructional coaches. Additional trainings will be offered at a later date specifically for county staff. In addition, curriculum, professional development, and assessment leaders would benefit from this training.

A $100 registration fee will be charged for each person attending the in-person training. Each virtual team participating via WebEx will be charged $100 for up to 10 participants through one access point. Each workshop will have the capacity to accommodate a maximum of 50 virtual teams. Each virtual team will need to designate a lead, who is responsible for organizing the group locally. Registration and payment must be completed online at http://www.cvent.com/d/6tqg8k.

For more information regarding the CAST Academy, please contact Elizabeth Dilke, Program Coordinator, Educational Testing Service, by phone at 916-403-2407 or by e‑mail at caasppworkshops@ets.org.

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.

Accelerating into NGSS – A Statewide Rollout Series Now Accepting Registrations

Posted: Friday, January 19th, 2018

Are you feeling behind on the implementation of NGSS? Then Accelerating into NGSS – the Statewide Rollout event – is right for you!

If you have not experienced Phases 1-4 of the Statewide Rollout, or are feeling behind with the implementation of NGSS, the Accelerating Into NGSS Statewide Rollout will provide you with the greatest hits from Phases 1-4!

Accelerating Into NGSS Statewide Rollout is a two-day training geared toward grade K-12 academic coaches, administrators, curriculum leads, and teacher leaders. Check-in for the two-day rollout begins at 7:30 a.m., followed by a continental breakfast. Sessions run from 8:00 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. on Day One and from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Day Two.

Cost of training is $250 per attendee. Fee includes all materials, continental breakfast, and lunch on both days. It is recommended that districts send teams of four to six, which include at least one administrator. Payment can be made by check or credit card. If paying by check, registration is NOT complete until payment has been received. All payments must be received prior to the Rollout location date you are attending. Paying by credit card secures your seat at time of registration. No purchase orders accepted. No participant cancellation refunds.

For questions or more information, please contact Amy Kennedy at akennedy@sjcoe.net or (209) 468-9027.



MARCH 28-29, 2018
Host: San Mateo County Office of Education
Location: San Mateo County Office of Education, Redwood City

APRIL 10-11, 2018
Host: Orange County Office of Education
Location: Brandman University, Irvine

MAY 1-2, 2018
Host: Tulare County Office of Education
Location: Tulare County Office of Education, Visalia

MAY 3-4, 2018
Host: San Bernardino Superintendent of Schools
Location: West End Educational Service Center, Rancho Cucamonga

MAY 7-8, 2018
Host: Sacramento County Office of Education
Location: Sacramento County Office of Education Conference Center and David P. Meaney Education Center, Mather

JUNE 14-15, 2018
Host: Imperial County Office of Education
Location: Imperial Valley College, Imperial

Presented by the California Department of Education, California County Superintendents Educational Services Association/County Offices of Education, K-12 Alliance @WestEd, California Science Project, and the California Science Teachers Association.

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.

The Teaching and Learning Collaborative, Reflections from an Administrator

Posted: Friday, January 19th, 2018

by Kelly Patchen

My name is Mrs. Kelly Patchen, and I am proud to be an elementary assistant principal working in the Tracy Unified School District (TUSD) at Louis Bohn and McKinley Elementary Schools. Each of the schools I support are Title I K-5 schools with about 450 students, a diverse student population, a high percentage of English Language Learners, and students living in poverty. We’re also lucky to be part of the CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative with the K-12 Alliance. Learn More…

Powered By DT Author Box

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.

2018 CSTA Conference Call for Proposals

Posted: Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

CSTA is pleased to announce that we are now accepting proposals for 90-minute workshops and three- and six-hour short courses for the 2018 California Science Education Conference. Workshops and short courses make up the bulk of the content and professional learning opportunities available at the conference. In recognition of their contribution, members who present a workshop or short course receive 50% off of their registration fees. Click for more information regarding proposals, or submit one today by following the links below.

Short Course Proposal

Workshop Proposal 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.

CSTA’s New Administrator Facebook Group Page

Posted: Monday, January 15th, 2018

by Holly Steele

The California Science Teachers Association’s mission is to promote high-quality science education, and one of the best practice’s we use to fulfill that mission is through the use of our Facebook group pages. CSTA hosts several closed and moderated Facebook group pages for specific grade levels, (Elementary, Middle, and High School), pages for district coaches and science education faculty, and the official CSTA Facebook page. These pages serve as an online resource for teachers and coaches to exchange teaching methods, materials, staying update on science events in California and asking questions. CSTA is happy to announce the creation of a 6th group page called, California Administrators Supporting Science. 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.