May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

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.

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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.