May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

STEM?

Posted: Sunday, July 1st, 2012

by Rick Pomeroy

What is STEM? Besides the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), STEM is the hot topic in science education circles. Representing an ethereal notion of teaching that integrates Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, STEM, as the next big idea, has taken on a life of its own. As science educators and science professionals, we live in an increasingly STEM-centric world. Political leaders and pundits alike tout STEM as the wave of the future, the elixir to return California to an age of prosperity, and the solution to what ails public education. STEM will engage and motivate students, increase the number of people entering post-secondary education with majors in science, technology, engineering, and math fields, and create a new reality in schools. Unfortunately, defining STEM education, identifying what STEM will look like in schools, and distinguishing it from current instructional practices are extremely difficult tasks.

Those of you who have been following the development of the new standards will recognize the similarity between the goals and dreams of STEM and the desired outcomes described in the Framework for K-12 Science Education, the document developed by the National Research Council and used to guide the development of the NGSS. Similar in concept, the Framework and ultimately, the NGSS provide a detailed view of what the educated member of society should know and be able to do, whereas the current conversations about STEM focus more on defining what a STEM classroom will look like, the kinds of things STEM-enabled students will be able to do, and the format of STEM instructional practices. Are these two mutually exclusive or are they two different ways of describing the same desired outcome?

Over the past three months, I have attended no less than four STEM summits, conferences, and meetings designed to fuel the flames of excitement about STEM. At these meetings, we have been shown videos of students designing and programming robots, we have seen how technology engages students, and we have heard that digital technology in the classroom will promote collaboration. There have even been whole meetings on how to prepare teachers to “teach STEM.” Each conference has included its share of descriptions about what is wrong with the current system, statistics about where California ranks nationally and internationally on assessments and per pupil spending, and attempts to develop definitions, lists of resources, and policy changes that need to be made to enact a STEM enabled curriculum. Each meeting has introduced industry partners who have a tool or technology that is “perfect” for enabling STEM education. We have used collaborative decision making software, blogged our conversations, created collaborative documents, and seen tablets and notebook computers that promise to be the tool of the future. Each of these has been a powerful demonstration of what can be. The videos of students in action have been inspirational and the collaborative research projects give me ideas for great things to do with my students.

Through all of these experiences, a definition of STEM that teachers can use as they plan future learning experiences for their students has been elusive. This may be changing. While attending the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s STEM Task Force meeting, a wide range of science education stakeholders were asked to define STEM education. Gleaned from the descriptors of those definitions, the “Wordle” below shows the relative frequency of terms associated with STEM education. The similarity of descriptors between the STEM Wordle and the Science and Engineering Practices included in the Framework cannot be overlooked. Are we talking about the same things? If NGSS is adopted in California, can we also say that we are moving towards a STEM-enabled curriculum? Furthermore, will students who study science, math, engineering, and technology as defined by the Common Core Standards, and the NGSS be competitive in the post-secondary environments of college and careers? At this time, it is difficult to answer this question.

Click image to enlarge:

Subsequent meetings have given more meaning to this random collection of words with key elements emerging. For many, STEM education is grounded in a real world context. It prepares future citizens and decision makers with the skills necessary to be successful in the 21st century. It is focused both on preparing more people to enter STEM fields through post-secondary colleges and universities, as well as equipping those who forgo higher education with the knowledge and skills necessary to contribute to society. From these components, I believe a final definition of STEM will emerge. From there, we can begin to address the resources, training, and policies that will be necessary to truly say that STEM has arrived in California classrooms. Equipped with the structure and content of the Framework and the NGSS, and a commitment to grounding science instruction in a real world context, we have a much better chance of enacting a new vision for STEM education. We should not approach this as an all or nothing reform of every classroom. The implementation will look different in different contexts. Some schools will become STEM centers, others will integrate the tools and strategies developed as STEM emerges, and still others will tweak what they have for something that they want. In the end, our goal should be an education for our students that prepares them for the future, not more knowledge about the status quo. We should be preparing students now with the knowledge, skills and tools to develop solutions for problems that don’t yet exist (paraphrased from Linda Darling-Hammond, The Flat World and Education, 2009).

Rick Pomeroy is science education lecturer/supervisor in the School of Education, University of California, Davis and is CSTA’s president.

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Written by Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy is science education lecturer/supervisor in the School of Education, University of California Davis and is a past-president of CSTA.

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CSTA Annual Conference Early Bird Rates End July 14

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

Teachers engaged in workshop activity

Teachers engaging in hands-on learning during a workshop at the 2016 CSTA conference.

Don’t miss your chance to register at the early bird rate for the 2017 CSTA Conference – the early-bird rate closes July 14. Need ideas on how to secure funding for your participation? Visit our website for suggestions, a budget planning tool, and downloadable justification letter to share with your admin. Want to take advantage of the early rate – but know your district will pay eventually? Register online today and CSTA will reimburse you when we receive payment from your district/employer. (For more information on how that works contact Zi Stair in the office for details – 916-979-7004 or zi@cascience.org.)

New Information Now Available On-line:

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.

Goodbye Outgoing and Welcome Incoming CSTA Board Members

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Jill Grace

Jill Grace, CSTA President, 2017-2019

On July 1, 2017 five CSTA members concluded their service and four new board members joined the ranks of the CSTA Board of Directors. CSTA is so grateful for all the volunteer board of directors who contribute hours upon hours of time and energy to advance the work of the association. At the June 3 board meeting, CSTA was able to say goodbye to the outgoing board members and welcome the incoming members.

This new year also brings with it a new president for CSTA. As of July 1, 2017 Jill Grace is the president of the California Science Teachers Association. Jill is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, a former middle school science teacher, and is currently a Regional Director with the K-12 Alliance @ WestEd where she works with California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative districts and charter networks in the San Diego area.

Outgoing Board Members

  • Laura Henriques (President-Elect: 2011 – 2013, President: 2013 – 2015, Past President: 2015 – 2017)
  • Valerie Joyner (Region 1 Director: 2009 – 2013, Primary Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Mary Whaley (Informal Science Education Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Sue Campbell (Middle School/Jr. High Director: 2015 – 2017)
  • Marcus Tessier (2-Year College Director: 2015 – 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.

Finding My Student’s Motivation of Learning Through Engineering Tasks

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Huda Ali Gubary and Susheela Nath

It’s 8:02 and the bell rings. My students’ walk in and pick up an entry ticket based on yesterday’s lesson and homework. My countdown starts for students to begin…3, 2, 1. Ten students are on task and diligently completing the work, twenty are off task with behaviors ranging from talking up a storm with their neighbors to silently staring off into space. This was the start of my classes, more often than not. My students rarely showed the enthusiasm for a class that I had eagerly prepared for. I spent so much time searching for ways to get my students excited about the concepts they were learning. I wanted them to feel a connection to the lessons and come into my class motivated about what they were going to learn next. I would ask myself how I could make my class memorable where the kids were in the driver’s seat of learning. Incorporating engineering made this possible. 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 California NGSS k-8 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.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Unveils Updated Recommended Literature List

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson unveiled an addition of 285 award-winning titles to the Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list.

“The books our students read help broaden their perspectives, enhance their knowledge, and fire their imaginations,” Torlakson said. “The addition of these award-winning titles represents the state’s continued commitment to the interests and engagement of California’s young readers.”

The Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list is a collection of more than 8,000 titles of recommended reading for children and adolescents. Reflecting contemporary and classic titles, including California authors, this online list provides an exciting range of literature that students should be reading at school and for pleasure. Works include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama to provide for a variety of tastes, interests, and abilities. Learn More…

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

Teaching Science in the Time of Alternative Facts – Why NGSS Can Help (somewhat)

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn

The father of one of my students gave me a book: In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood by Walt Brown, Ph. D. He had heard that I was teaching Plate Tectonics and wanted me to consider another perspective. The book offered the idea that the evidence for plate tectonics could be better understood if we considered the idea that beneath the continent of Pangaea was a huge underground layer of water that suddenly burst forth from a rift between the now continents of Africa and South America. The waters shot up and the continents hydroplaned apart on the water layer to their current positions. The force of the movement pushed up great mountain ranges which are still settling to this day, resulting in earthquakes along the margins of continents. This had happened about 6,000 years ago and created a great worldwide flood. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.