September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

State Science Education Updates

Posted: Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

by Laura Henriques

The start of a school year is always a busy time. This year has a great deal more energy around science education than we’ve seen in a long time. The adoption of new science standards has taken place, the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee has begun their work, a few thousand STEM education enthusiasts descended on San Diego for the STEM Symposium, NGSS State Rollout Symposiums are being conducted around the state, LCFF/LCAP legislation allows districts to support science professional development and science standards implementation, and the NSTA Regional Conference in Long Beach is just around the corner.  These are good times for science education in California! Read on to learn how CSTA is involved in these activities and how you too can be involved.

Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee (CFCC)
The State Board of Education appointed a team of 20 science educators to serve on the Instructional Quality Commission’s Science CFCC. The team had their first meeting in September and will meet every month through February. The group reads drafts of chapters prior to arriving at the meeting. As a group they provide input for improvement. This process is open to the public and CSTA is attending these meetings and providing input into the process as allowed. Once the CFCC has provided its input, a draft will be released for a 60-day public review period in June-July 2015. The Science Subject Matter Committee (part of the IQC) will review public input and staff recommendations before a second public draft is released. This draft will also have a 60-day public review period (October/November 2015). CSTA’s NGSS Committee will be reviewing drafts of chapters as they are available and providing input as we are able through the public comment process of the CFCC meetings. (Click here for CSTA’s overview of the CFCC, timelines, and other information. See also CDE’s CFCC website


2014 California STEM Symposium
The second California STEM Symposium was held in San Diego September 21-23. Approximately 3,000 STEM educators from around the state gathered to hear keynote addresses, participate in round table discussions and hands-on workshops. 100 of the attendees stopped by the CSTA booth to get their CSTA member ribbon. It was nice to see so many of you in person and we look forward to seeing you at other upcoming events in the state. Be sure to stop by the CSTA booth/table to get your member ribbon so you can show your CSTA pride! Check out their Dropbox site for handouts and presentations.

Next Generation Science Standards State Rollout Symposium #1
A collaboration between California Department of Education, California Science Project, K-12 Alliance/WestEd, Curriculum and Instruction Steering Committee, and CSTA resulted in the development of a two-day NGSS workshop (part 1). To date, workshops have been held in San Joaquin County, Long Beach, Yucaipa and San Diego. There are three additional sets of dates to catch this workshop. Fresno (October 16-17), Oakland (October 20-21) and Redbluff (October 23-24). Teams from districts are encouraged to attend together. It would be ideal to bring an administrator and teacher leaders. Details about the events and registration information is available online. Find your CSTA representatives to get your CSTA member ribbon!

As we reported earlier, the Local Control Funding Formula and Local Control Accountability Plans call for districts to develop plans about how they will implement state adopted standards (all standards — including science). Money allocated under State Priority #2 enable schools to support science professional development. Be sure that you are part of the conversation when your school and district develop their plans so that what you need for successful implementation of NGSS gets included in the plan.

NSTA Regional Conference in Long Beach
End out 2014 with your science education colleagues in Long Beach! The NSTA Regional Conference (in collaboration with CSTA) will bring together thousands of science educators from California and beyond. There will be workshops, speakers, short-courses, field trips and a great exhibit hall. Check out the conference preview booklet and register now. Early bird prices expire on October 24th. CSTA (or NSTA) members save $90 on conference registration. Since CSTA membership only costs $50 that’s $40 in your pocket! In addition to all the NSTA events, there are three CSTA-hosted events and a CSTA Membership Meeting. Preconference field trips to Catalina and the San Andreas Fault take place on Wednesday December 3rd. The CSTA Night at the Aquarium of the Pacific NGSS Science & Engineering Showcase will highlight outstanding STEM/Engineering/NGSS instruction, speakers and time with the fish. All three of these are ticketed events (with discounts for CSTA members). The CSTA Membership Meeting & Awards Presentation will be Thursday 3:15-4:30 in the Long Beach Convention Center. This will include Steven Pruitt as the keynote speaker sharing the latest resources to support NGSS implementation. Stop by the CSTA booth to get your CSTA member ribbon, chat with Board Members, and learn about the October 2015 conference in Sacramento.

Written by Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques is a professor of science education at CSU Long Beach and past-president of CSTA. She serves as chair of CSTA’s Nominating Committee and is a co-chair of the NGSS Committee.

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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.