May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Service Organization or Consumer Organization?

Posted: Friday, October 1st, 2010

by Jeff Bradbury

Whenever there is a crisis or difficulty in my life it causes me to reflect on my priorities and my purpose in life.  I think that with our current “Great Recession,” many professional organizations, like CSTA, are asking deep questions about priority and purpose.  So often difficulty in life produces good changes.  CSTA is no different.  CSTA continues to put on the best science educators conference in the state.  I don’t think the economy has diminished our conference much at all.  Nevertheless, the economy is having a huge effect on CSTA’s budget and, maybe, even our future.  As a board member, this makes me reflect on our purpose and priorities.  It makes me consider why I joined CSTA in the first place.  Did I join CSTA to get something or to contribute something?  When I mail in my membership dues each year, do I ask, “What am I going to get out of this?” or do I ask, “What opportunities do I have to serve my fellow science educators?”  What do you ask when you join?

CSTA was founded in 1970 by a group of science educators just like you and me.  Believe me, it was not started by the state government of California.  These educators saw a need to give quality professional development to their peers.  They also saw the need to band together to support the causes of science education in the state.  CSTA was started because people like you and me saw a way they could contribute, in a very significant way, to how science is taught in the eighth largest economy in the world.

I remember my first CSTA conference as a fairly young teacher in 1993.  I drove with my best teacher friend from southeast Los Angeles County to San Jose.  It was the first time I had ever heard of using inquiry to teach science.  I remember watching with “wide eyes” some of the best in the business of science teaching talk about and demonstrate so many relevant topics.  My friend and I rewrote our entire science classes during the six-hour drive home.  It changed the way we have taught from that next Monday morning to this very day.  Also, that was the last conference we have attended without presenting or contributing in some way.

So difficult times lead to difficult questions.  Is CSTA a consumer organization that primarily provides goods and services to its members, a sort of Wal-Mart for science teachers?  Or is CSTA primarily a service organization that contributes collectively to the needs of the science education community and science education causes?  Why do you send that check in every year?

As a board member I get asked lots of “why questions” at the conference about CSTA.  Generally there are two different ways these questions get asked: “Hey, why do you guys at CSTA do such and such?”  Or, others ask this way, “Why do we do such and such?”  That change in one pronoun from you to we says a lot about our attitude towards the organization.  Do you see CSTA as a “they” organization or a “we” organization?  I think those original founders of CSTA saw themselves as stewards of science education.  Just as we want our students to see themselves as stewards of the earth, I want to encourage us to see ourselves as stewards of CSTA and stewards of science education in California.

I think we all got into science teaching because we want to make a difference in this world.  We want to leave the world in better shape, and that means more educated than when we got here.  This is the purpose of CSTA, to help each other produce an educated public.  But who is CSTA?  It is you and I; it is us.  And 40 years from now, I hope, it will be a different group of us. I think this next generation of young teachers really does want to make a positive difference.  I think, if presented with the challenge, the next generation will rise to the occasion and take the leadership of science education in California.

These are difficult days.  But CSTA will continue to provide quality publications like the journal and California Classroom Science, and put on the wonderful annual science education conference, if we decide that it is going to continue as an organization that serves each other.

So I want to encourage us to do three things.  First, keep our memberships active.  It is easy to say, “I live in southern California and I am not going to Sacramento so I will let my membership lapse.”  Our organization depends on all its members.  We all depend on each other whether we make the trek north or not.  Second, consider contributing by sending in a proposal to present at next year’s conference.  Your colleagues could benefit from your experience and knowledge.  Also, to contribute, you could write an article for CCS or run for a board member position.  Third, invite someone to join CSTA with you.  Maybe you could, together, make a drive to Sacramento or Pasadena that could forever change the way the next generation of students experiences science.

Jeff Bradbury is CSTA 2-Year College 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.

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Participate in Chemistry Education Research Study, Earn $500-800 Dollars!

Posted: Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

WestEd, a non-profit educational research agency, has been funded by the US Department of Education to test a new molecular modeling kit, Happy Atoms. Happy Atoms is an interactive chemistry learning experience that consists of a set of physical atoms that connect magnetically to form molecules, and an app that uses image recognition to identify the molecules that you create with the set. WestEd is conducting a study around the effectiveness of using Happy Atoms in the classroom, and we are looking for high school chemistry teachers in California to participate.

As part of the study, teachers will be randomly assigned to either the treatment group (who uses Happy Atoms) or the control group (who uses Happy Atoms at a later date). Teachers in the treatment group will be asked to use the Happy Atoms set in their classrooms for 5 lessons over the course of the fall 2017 semester. Students will complete pre- and post-assessments and surveys around their chemistry content knowledge and beliefs about learning chemistry. WestEd will provide access to all teacher materials, teacher training, and student materials needed to participate.

Participating teachers will receive a stipend of $500-800. You can read more information about the study here:

Please contact Rosanne Luu at or 650.381.6432 if you are interested in participating in this opportunity, or if you have any questions!

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.

2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption Reviewer Application

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

The California Department of Education and State Board of Education are now accepting applications for reviewers for the 2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption. The application deadline is 3:00 pm, July 21, 2017. The application is comprehensive, so don’t wait until the last minute to apply.

On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson forwarded this recruitment letter to county and district superintendents and charter school administrators.

Review panel members will evaluate instructional materials for use in kindergarten through grade eight, inclusive, that are aligned with the California Next Generation Science Content Standards for California Public Schools (CA NGSS). 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.

Lessons Learned from the NGSS Early Implementer Districts

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

On March 31, 2017, Achieve released two documents examining some lessons learned from the California K-8 Early Implementation Initiative. The initiative began in August 2014 and was developed by the K-12 Alliance at WestEd, with close collaborative input on its design and objectives from the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education, and Achieve.

Eight (8) traditional school districts and two (2) charter management organizations were selected to participate in the initiative, becoming the first districts in California to implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Those districts included Galt Joint Union Elementary, Kings Canyon Joint Unified, Lakeside Union, Oakland Unified, Palm Springs Unified, San Diego Unified, Tracy Joint Unified, Vista Unified, Aspire, and High Tech High.

To more closely examine some of the early successes and challenges experienced by the Early Implementer LEAs, Achieve interviewed nine of the ten participating districts and compiled that information into two resources, focusing primarily on professional learning and instructional materials. 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.

Using Online Simulations to Support the NGSS in Middle School Classrooms

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

by Lesley Gates, Loren Nikkel, and Kambria Eastham

Middle school teachers in Kings Canyon Unified School District (KCUSD), a CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative district, have been diligently working on transitioning to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) integrated model for middle school. This year, the teachers focused on building their own knowledge of the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs). They have been gathering and sharing ideas at monthly collaborative meetings as to how to make sure their students are not just learning about science but that they are actually doing science in their classrooms. Students should be planning and carrying out investigations to gather data for analysis in order to construct explanations. This is best done through hands-on lab experiments. Experimental work is such an important part of the learning of science and education research shows that students learn better and retain more when they are active through inquiry, investigation, and application. A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2011) notes, “…learning about science and engineering involves integration of the knowledge of scientific explanations (i.e., content knowledge) and the practices needed to engage in scientific inquiry and engineering design. Thus the framework seeks to illustrate how knowledge and practice must be intertwined in designing learning experiences in K-12 Science Education” (pg. 11).

Many middle school teachers in KCUSD are facing challenges as they begin implementing these student-driven, inquiry-based NGSS science experiences in their classrooms. First, many of the middle school classrooms at our K-8 school sites are not designed as science labs. 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 NGSS 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.

Celestial Highlights: May – July 2017

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

May Through July 2017 with Web Resources for the Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graphs of planet rising and setting times by Jeffrey L. Hunt.

In spring and summer 2017, Jupiter is the most prominent “star” in the evening sky, and Venus, even brighter, rules the morning. By mid-June, Saturn rises at a convenient evening hour, allowing both giant planets to be viewed well in early evening until Jupiter sinks low in late September. The Moon is always a crescent in its monthly encounters with Venus, but is full whenever it appears near Jupiter or Saturn in the eastern evening sky opposite the Sun. (In 2017, Full Moon is near Jupiter in April, Saturn in June.) At intervals of 27-28 days thereafter, the Moon appears at a progressively earlier phase at each pairing with the outer planet until its final conjunction, with Moon a thin crescent, low in the west at dusk. You’ll see many beautiful events by just following the Moon’s wanderings at dusk and dawn in the three months leading up to the solar eclipse. 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.