March/April 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 6

STEM and Service – Content in Context

Posted: Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Districts across the nation and California are turning their attention to this thing called STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – both for its college and career readiness implications and for the funding that supports it at all levels of education, pre-K to university. While there are many “definitions,” the basic idea is that STEM is any of the four subjects in the acronym, alone or combined, taught with contextual application at the core.  While a biology class may teach STEM-related topics it’s the agriculture/natural resources class that is applying them. When teachers from these classes collaborate and delve into problem-based projects with their instruction, students are better prepared for higher level courses and/or jobs in any of the STEM fields. STEM is something more than either class can accomplish alone.

Congratulations are due to teachers and after school programs in five regions spanning California. They were awarded grant funds to move their understanding of STEM forward this spring by using service learning as a teaching strategy to apply STEM content  to a local community issue  or need.  These educators are being supported with STEM Service Learning Initiative funds through regional grants funded by the California Department of Education and CalServe Funding from Learn & Serve America.  The projects these teachers will develop with their students will be both examples of the applied use of learning that is at the core of STEM education and the consideration of solutions to local problems that is at the core of Service Learning. Using science, technology, engineering, and/or mathematics students in these classes will develop and implement a project that meets a real need. One example might be in a math or physical science class where students learn how to use watt meters and measure energy use at home or school. They make calculations, analyze the data, and formulate recommendations on ways to save energy which are then communicated through public service announcements, outreach and lessons for younger students, or policy/purchasing recommendations to their school district. In addition the grant supports the teachers’ access to STEM and Service Learning professional resources, events, and partnerships that can enhance what Service Learning accomplishes in schools.

Ideally these projects enrich content students are expected to learn and then make it necessary for students to use the skills they learn to apply that knowledge. Districts that are working on the alignment of curriculum, instruction, and assessment know what their essential learnings are and what they to intend to assess. A problem-based service project can become that instruction and assessment vehicle by incorporating some of the skills and knowledge identified in essential standards. The rigor of problem-based curriculum demands students understand in depth, rather than superficially, what they are accountable to know and do at their grade-level. Finally what students learn by “doing” they retain. The discipline they learn by showing up on time for a public event, the products they produce that need to be publishing quality, and the communication with adults from project partnerships are all work-place skills that California and global employers want employees to have. They are the qualities communities want their future members to have.

Visit and preview some of the partners CDE and the participating county offices have connected with to support this work:

Additional  information about the California Department of Education related programs can be found at:

Marian Murphy-Shaw is student services director for the Siskiyou County Office of Education and is CSTA’s secretary.

Written by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw is the student services director at Siskiyou County Office of Education and is CSTA’s Region 1 Director and chair of CSTA’s Policy Committee.

Leave a Reply

LATEST POST

California Science Curriculum Framework Now Available

Posted: Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

The pre-publication version of the new California Science Curriculum Framework is now available for download. This publication incorporates all the edits that were approved by the State Board of Education in November 2016 and was many months in the making. Our sincere thanks to the dozens of CSTA members were involved in its development. Our appreciation is also extended to the California Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Instructional Quality Commission, and the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee and their staff for their hard work and dedication to produce this document and for their commitment to the public input process. To the many writers and contributors to the Framework CSTA thanks you for your many hours of work to produce a world-class document.

For tips on how to approach this document see our article from December 2016: California Has Adopted a New Science Curriculum Framework – Now What …? If you would like to learn more about the Framework, consider participating in one of the Framework Launch events (a.k.a. Rollout #4) scheduled throughout 2017.

The final publication version (formatted for printing) will be available in July 2017. This document will not be available in printed format, only electronically.

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.

Call for CSTA Awards Nominations

Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017

The 2017 Award Season is now open! One of the benefits of being a CSTA member is your eligibility for awards as well as your eligibility to nominate someone for an award. CSTA offers several awards and members may nominate individuals and organizations for the Future Science Teacher Award, the prestigious Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, and the CSTA Distinguished Contributions Award (organizational award). May 9, 2017 is the deadline for nominations for these awards. CSTA believes that the importance of science education cannot be overstated. Given the essential presence of the sciences in understanding the past and planning for the future, science education remains, and will increasingly be one of the most important disciplines in education. CSTA is committed to recognizing and encouraging excellence in science teaching through the presentation of awards to science educators and organizations who have made outstanding contributions in science education in the state and who are poised to continue the momentum of providing high quality, relevant science education 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.

Call for Volunteers – CSTA Committees

Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017

Volunteer

CSTA is now accepting applications from regular, preservice, and retired members to serve on our volunteer committees! CSTA’s all-volunteer board of directors invites you to consider maximizing your member experience by volunteering for CSTA. CSTA committee service offers you the opportunity to share your expertise, learn a new skill, or do something you love to do but never have the opportunity to do in your regular day. CSTA committee volunteers do some pretty amazing things: 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.

A Friend in CA Science Education Now at CSTA Region 1 Science Center

Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017

by Marian Murphy-Shaw

If you attended an NGSS Rollout phase 1-3 or CDE workshops at CSTA’s annual conference you may recall hearing from Chris Breazeale when he was working with the CDE. Chris has relocated professionally, with his passion for science education, and is now the Executive Director at the Explorit Science Center, a hands-on exploration museum featuring interactive STEM exhibits located at the beautiful Mace Ranch, 3141 5th St. in Davis, CA. Visitors can “think it, try it, and explorit” with a variety of displays that allow visitors to “do science.” To preview the museum, or schedule a classroom visit, see www.explorit.org. Learn More…

Written by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw is the student services director at Siskiyou County Office of Education and is CSTA’s Region 1 Director and chair of CSTA’s Policy Committee.

Learning to Teach in 3D

Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017

by Joseph Calmer

Probably like you, NGSS has been at the forefront of many department meetings, lunch conversations, and solitary lesson planning sessions. Despite reading the original NRC Framework, the Ca Draft Frameworks, and many CSTA writings, I am still left with the question: “what does it actually mean for my classroom?”

I had an eye-opening experience that helped me with that question. It came out of a conversation that I had with a student teacher. It turns out that I’ve found the secret to learning how to teach with NGSS: I need to engage in dialogue about teaching with novice teachers. I’ve had the pleasure of teaching science in some capacity for 12 years. During that time pedagogy and student learning become sort of a “hidden curriculum.” It is difficult to plan a lesson for the hidden curriculum; the best way is to just have two or more professionals talk and see what emerges. I was surprised it took me so long to realize this epiphany. 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.