May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Congratulates Two California Science and Math Teachers Receiving Presidential Honors

Posted: Monday, February 3rd, 2014

SACRAMENTO—On January 14, 2014, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson congratulated two outstanding California educators recently named by President Barack Obama as recipients of the 2012 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) award. They are among 102 teachers to receive this recognition.

The California science winner is Alma Suney Park, a sixth grade teacher at Eastside College Preparatory School, a private school in East Palo Alto, San Mateo County. The California mathematics winner is Jamie Garner, a sixth grade mathematics teacher at the Walnut Elementary Education Center in the Turlock Unified School District, Stanislaus County.

“These teachers play key roles in encouraging and inspiring their students with not only their expertise, but their talent and dedication,” said Torlakson, a longtime science teacher. “They are teaching students who could very well become the next generation of scientists and engineers our country so urgently needs.”

The Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching— the highest honor bestowed by the United States government specifically for K-12 mathematics and science teaching—is awarded annually to outstanding teachers from across the country, Puerto Rico, Department of Defense Education Activity schools, and the U.S. territories. Since the program’s inception in1983, more than 4,200 teachers have been recognized for their contributions in the classroom and to their profession.

The winners are selected by a panel of scientists, mathematicians, and educators following an initial nomination process done at the state level. Each year, the award alternates between teachers of kindergarten through sixth grade and those teaching seventh through the twelfth grades. The recently named awardees teach kindergarten through sixth grade.

Winners of the presidential honor receive a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation to be used at their discretion. They also are invited to Washington, DC, for an awards ceremony and several days of educational and celebratory events, including visits with members of Congress and the Obama administration. The educators will receive their awards at a Washington, DC, event later this year.

Early this year, Torlakson announced California’s nominations for the 2013 awards. Nominations for the 2014 PAEMST are open through April 1, 2014. For more information about PAEMST, please visit the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching External link opens in new window or tab. Web site.

Alma Suney Park is a sixth grade teacher at Eastside College Preparatory School, where she has worked since 2005. Originally from Illinois, Park has 13 years of prior teaching, eight of which have been in California. She possesses credentials from Illinois, California, and Michigan. She has a background in the biological sciences and focuses her teaching strategies around problem solving, conceptual understanding, and addressing real-world problems. She has worked with the Teaching Channel to create demonstration lessons for the Common Core State Standards. She has piloted a youth philanthropy project (Project Give) focused on environmental science and climate change. Her video lesson featured an investigation on climate change that capped a unit of study on global warming. She holds degrees from the University of Chicago and the University of Michigan.

Jamie Garner teaches at a mathematics and science magnet school where all subjects are taught through the lens of those disciplines. Her classroom features hands-on, project-based learning activities. She leads a special elective class on “future cities,” where students are given the opportunity to generate model cities that could exist 150 years in the future. Garner also provides intensive, after-school instruction for students who may be struggling in mathematics. She is a regional coordinator for PI Day (a day to celebrate the value and contributions of mathematics to society). Her video focused on a geometry lesson determining the surface area of three-dimensional solids. Garner has a bachelor of arts, summa cum laude, in liberal studies and a master’s of education, with distinction, in curriculum and instruction from California State University, Stanislaus

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: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HappyAtoms

Please contact Rosanne Luu at rluu@wested.org 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.