September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

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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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.