September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

Stages of NGSS Grief

Posted: Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

by Jill Grace

So here we are in August. You are likely a responsible science educator and have spent some time digging into NGSS and considering how you will be making some changes this school year. Observing so many teachers across California these past two years of NGSS awareness, I get the sense we could all use a good laugh at this point! (I would like to express that in no way is this intended to trivialize those suffering from grief.)

As we settle in, we realize that we have a lot of work to do get ready for the NGSS. I am experiencing a lot of emotions with respect to this change and I’ve been witnessing similar emotions in other teachers during the course of this journey we’ve been on together.

Although not an official stage of grief, I think confusion is relevant in this situation. Confusion was that moment you thought, “Wait, what? New Science standards?” and the world seemed to actually stop turning and everything went silent except for the blood you could hear rushing past your ears as it drained out of your head.

You then fell quickly into denial. “Nooooo… they can’t be serious. Someone, please tell me this is isn’t real.” You looked at your colleagues for comfort, but they just started laughing and said, “That’s a good one, I needed a laugh”. Work commenced as usual as you and your colleagues brushed off the scare. But like student references to zombies being real, it didn’t go away.

After some time to think, the anger set in. “There’s no way one more thing can possibly be added to our full plates. What are they thinking?!” It’s around this time that the mere mention of NGSS would cause your eye to twitch and your mouth to spout some choice words on the matter

After a few days to calm down and some time to let it sink in a little, you realized this was no joke. That’s when the bargaining happened. That moment when you finally started to actually read the standards. You started with the DCI’s because that felt safe and familiar. You decided that all you really had to do was make a chart to show the labs you currently do and where they will fit in NGSS, this wasn’t going to be so bad, right? That’s when it caught your attention that you had some new things to teach and you chatted with your principal, “If I do this, I’ll get that new piece of lab equipment, right”? You convinced yourself that this could work to your advantage, “Bring it on”!

A few months, articles, workshops, twitter NGSS chats, and webinars later, it finally hits you. You have to teach three dimensionally and you need a phenomenon. You can’t just do the one-for-one lab swap. You are utterly doomed. In a moment of weakness, you busted out that tub of ice cream and downed it to the shock and disgust of your family (if it’s Rocky Road it counts as integrating geology, right?)

Ironically, the more you began to dig, the more you began to realize that the NGSS were going to be truly transformative for student learning. As a teacher you have a long road ahead of you, change isn’t easy, and this is going to be a lot of work. But looking past that, you can now clearly see that students will be engaged, students will be thinkers, students will be doing science. You can learn to live with this. Dare I say you even feel a little excited about the change? That’s when it finally crept up on you… acceptance.


Of course, as any good science teacher, you know that the only thing that flows in a true cycle is a life cycle. This thing is probably a lot more like a really messy rock or carbon cycle situation.

After acceptance you had that moment when you went back to confusion: “So this is just Common Core for science?” a friend asked with that tone in their voice. You stumbled for a moment and didn’t know how to answer. (For the record, it’s not, but you knew that, right?) You attended the state-wide Roll Out and fell back into anger because we did an ecology conceptual flow and even though the session was intended to showcase a tool and not content, it had nothing to do with physics (or is that confusion?) Then there was that moment you realized you now have to teach some Earth science and depression hit. That freaked you out and you started bargaining with your colleague about swapping semesters, “I’ll teach the chemistry and you’ll teach the Earth science and happy hour will be on me for eternity.” Then there was that time you plunged back into denial when you realized you didn’t have the first clue about engineering. But you pushed forward and tried some new things this year anyway and at the end of the year, a kid came up to you and told you that they had no idea they could learn so much. You glanced over at your cheat sheet with all of the NGSS acronyms decoded, and beamed with acceptance. “I can do this!” you shout triumphantly to the student who is now looking confused and slowly backing away towards the door.


Yes folks, this is a dizzying but empowering journey. Good thing we are in this together and can support one another!

Need a little more support to help you through this? CSTA moderates five different Facebook groups to help foster collaboration between California educators. Request to join the group applicable to what you teach:

California Elementary Science Teachers
California Middle School Science Teachers
California High School Science Teachers
California Science District Coaches
California Science Education Faculty

These groups are active and exclusive to educators that meet those descriptors. Check your “other” message box for verification once you have requested.

Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is the President-elect for CSTA.

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California Science Assessment Update

Posted: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

by Jessica Sawko

In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.

At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at 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.

Some ways to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in your classroom

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

by Carol Peterson

1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. 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.

2016 Award Recipients – Join CSTA in Honoring Their Accomplishments

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference  on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!

Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award

John Keller

John Keller

The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well into the future.” 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.

NGSS: Making Your Life Easier

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Peter A’hearn

Wait… What?

NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?

The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Celestial Highlights, September 2016

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt 

Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. 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.