May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

STEM Task Force

Posted: Monday, July 2nd, 2012

A volunteer group appointed by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction to explore the status of STEM (Science, Technology, Education, and Mathematics) education in curriculum, instructional practices, professional learning, etc.

On May 24, 2012, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla convened 55 volunteers to become members of the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Task Force.

Co-chaired by Herb Brunkhorst and Susan Hackwood, the STEM Task Force members will explore the status of STEM education in curriculum, instructional practices, professional learning, student testing, existing resources, and community and business partnership.

The STEM Task Force members will then assess the state’s future needs, as well as recommend a blueprint on how to improve teaching, learning, and equal access to STEM-related courses and careers for students in kindergarten through grade twelve. The public may also contribute information–including resources and research–to the Task Force via the Brokers of Expertise Web site at


The STEM Task Force members will recommend a blueprint on how to improve teaching, learning, and equal access to STEM-related courses and careers for students in kindergarten through grade twelve. The resultant blueprint will include career technical education, and newly developed national Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards.

The Task Force will organize its work to address five key areas—curriculum and instruction, resources and infrastructure, professional learning, testing and assessment, and community and business partnerships.

  1. Curriculum and Instructional Practices: Review the status of STEM education and recommend how to improve instructional practices and engage more students in STEM-related fields.
  2. Resources: Identify existing resources and recommend the development and dissemination of additional resources. These resources should assist schools develop STEM programs that are relevant and engaging to students.
  3. Professional Learning: Identify existing and recommend professional learning support that provides high quality professional learning opportunities to educators of STEM-related courses and disciplines.
  4. Student Testing/Assessment: Review, identify, and recommend state and local STEM-related testing and assessments that measure applied learning and real-world situations and what constitutes high-quality STEM programs and disciplines.
  5. Community and Business Partnerships: Identify, review, and recommend how community and business partnerships, including informal learning settings, can support and engage students in STEM education.
Members (bolded names = CSTA members as of June 1, 2012)
  • Herb Brunkhorst, CSU San Bernardino, Professor and Department Chair of Science, Math and Technology, Task Force Co-Chair
  • Susan Hackwood, California Council on Science and Technology, Executive Director, Task Force Co-Chair
  • Elizabeth Babcock, California Academy of Sciences, Chief Public Engagement Officer and Roberts Dean of Education
  • Arthur Beauchamp, UC Davis School of Education, Professor
  • Robert Becker, Downey Unified School District, Science Teacher
  • Susan Bonilla, California Assembly, Assemblywoman
  • Joan Buchanan, California Assembly, Assemblywoman
  • Aida Buelna, Esparto School District, Superintendent, Esparto SD
  • Lewis Chappelear, Los Angeles Unified School District, Teacher
  • Muhammed Chaudhry, Silicon Valley Education Foundation, President and CEO
  • Kevin Cuff, UC Berkeley/ Lawrence Hall of Science , Director, East Bay Academy for Young Scientists, Coordinator of Public Programs
  • Doug Dall, Glendale Unified School District, Principal
  • Gina Dalma, Silicon Valley Community Foundation, Program ofOicer
  • Jeff Davis, California After School Network , Afterschool Network Coordinator
  • LaTonya Derbigny, Vallejo Unified School District, Director, School and Student Accountability
  • Kathi DiRanna, Wested/K-12 Alliance, Executive Director
  • Rowena Douglas, Exploratorium, Director of Educational Outreach
  • Zack Dowell, Los Rios Community College, Instructor
  • Jon Dueck, Fresno County Office of Education, Mathematics and Science Consultant
  • Richard Farnsworth, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Manager, Education Outreach
  • Karen Flammer, Sally Ride Science and Sally Ride Science Camp, President and CEO
  • Anna Gaiter, California Science Center, Los Angeles, Director of Professional Development
  • John Galisky, Lompoc Unified School District, Teacher
  • Linda Galliher, Bay Area Council, Vice President Public Policy
  • Emilio Garza, Foshay Learning Center, Los Angeles, Assistant Principal
  • Susie Hakansson, California Mathematics Project, Executive Director
  • Christi Harter, San Mateo County Office of Education, STEM Center Director
  • Joe Head, SummerHill Homes, CEO
  • Arron Jiron, S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, Program Officer, STEM Projects
  • Sheila Jordan, Alameda County Office of Education, Superintendent
  • John Knezovich, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Director, University Outreach and Science Education
  • John Lamb, California National Guard, Starbase Youth Program, Sargent Major, Director
  • Kathlan Latimer, California Mathematics Council, President
  • Meri Maben, U.S. House of Representatives, Congressman Honda’s Office, 15th Congressional District (Strong advocate for STEM)
  • Devon MacLeod, Galt Unified School District, Teacher
  • Robin Mencher, KQED, Director, STEM Resources
  • Suzanne Nakashima, Yuba City Unified School District, Teacher
  • Rick Pomeroy, California Science Teachers Association, President
  • Oscar Porter, Mathematics, Engineering, and Science Achievement (MESA)/UCOP, Statewide Executive Director
  • Curren Price, California Senate, Senator
  • Bruce Roberts, California School Boards Association, Natomas USD Board Member
  • Christopher Roe, California STEM Learning Network, CEO
  • Jacqueline Rojas, Californians Together , Teacher
  • Patricia “Pat” Rucker, California State Board of Education, Member
  • Tim Sbranti, CDE Foundation, CDE Foundation Liaison
  • David Seidel, NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Manager of Elementary and Secondary Education Programs
  • Maria Simani, California Science Project, Executive Director
  • Gerald Solomon, Samueli Foundation, Executive Director
  • Mark Sontag, Irvine Unified School District, Curriculum Coordinator
  • Leroy Tripett, Intel Corp, STEM Coordinator
  • Mark Walker, Applied Materials, Head of Philanthropy
  • Willie B. Williams, National Technical Association, Regional President
  • Alison Wiscombe, California State PTA, PTA Representative
  • Mark Wyland, California Senate, Senator
  • Tom Zazueta, Coakley Hagerty, CEO

Current California Department of Education STEM Information is available on the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Web page.

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:

Please contact Rosanne Luu at 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.