September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Student Teacher Voices at the California Science Education Conference

Posted: Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

by Rick Pomeroy

As a life member of CSTA, I have not missed a California Science Education Conference for as far back as I can remember. The networking and professional development that I get each year by attending is hard to beat anywhere.  As a supervisor of teacher education, I have encouraged my student teachers to attend the conference for the past 5-6 years. Each year, they come back charged up and ready to implement a wide range of new strategies. This year, I asked them to share some of their thoughts immediately after the conference ended. The quotes below are what they said:

At the conference I learned how much teachers care about their students. It’s not done for the glory or for personal gain. Every presenter wanted to share their work and help every other teacher at the conference. Teaching is a community effort and it is all for the students. Everything teachers do is geared towards students and it was refreshing to see so many teachers excited about bringing new ideas into their classroom for the students.” PG

While at CSTA I felt empowered with the knowledge of how to implement inquiry smoothly. I was also impressed with the amount of teachers that showed up. This really gives me hope as a new teacher that whenever I am in need I have a huge support group to rely on.” EH

The Palm Springs conference was the first conference I have ever been to. It was well worth the 16 hours driving! I learned so much and had so much fun! I was also able to get to know more about the people in my cohort. Cannot wait till next year where we have the national science teacher and the California teacher conferences combine. Expecting some awesome presenters!” PN

Indeed this is a professional enrichment opportunity and filled with thoughtful, well-planned workshops.  I really enjoyed conversing with other educators and hearing their thoughts on debates of including 6th graders in middle school or not, and how the theory of evolution goes hand-in-hand with the theory of gravity. 

The smiles, welcoming atmosphere, and sharing of resources confirms my belief that education is the most valuable commodity.  I met an educator who runs a supplemental program for elementary school children doing hands-on experiments and she spoke about how the new standards are a welcome change to have a more positive influence on the completeness of education and why learning something just to learn it for a test has always been a bad idea.” JS

My experience at the conference was great. It was nice to not only hear so many fantastic presentations but also get to spend some time with the other people in our cohort. I had a lot of fun at the pool party creating our cardboard boat. I picked up some great activities throughout the weekend, my favorites being: a more kid-friendly way for students to develop lab reports, some hands-on DNA activities, a great genetics activity, as well as some useful information about NGSS. Overall I’m extremely happy with my experience at my first conference.”  KT

I really enjoyed the enthusiasm that some of the presenters showed when presenting their lessons. I not only learned valuable ideas from them, but how to be engaging and exciting to my students. I also really appreciated that some teachers gave tips on how to be cost-effective in constructing lessons during their presentations. This will be invaluable knowledge as I begin my first year of teaching next year, especially with so many budget cuts! I would have liked to see more workshops on how to construct lesson plans using the new NGSS and Common Core standards (if there were any, I missed them!). I really enjoyed the conference and had a lot of fun. I am so glad that I went!” AB

I thought the conference was extremely valuable. There are a lot of great ideas out there. It was especially good to hear different perspectives on how best to teach to the coming standards using inquiry-based labs. There were also a couple of very good workshops about how to support students’ writing. That was especially interesting for me because I was grading the first big lab write-up while down there, and could see how some of the techniques discussed were desperately needed.” JF

In terms of pedagogy, I was both encouraged, and disappointed. I was in a discussion with a couple elementary school teachers who insisted that certain teaching tools (such as dissections, posters, lab reports, building a cell model) could fall clearly into the categories of either “project” or “activity”. I tried to explain that it depends on how you present the task to the students. If the students are following a set of directions for how to conduct a lab on friction, it’s an activity; but if the students are designing the experiment themselves, it can be seen as a project. It was frustrating to say the least. But the fact that there were so many sessions trying to change the way teachers think about how they teach is encouraging.” DF

One of the things that I didn’t expect to be a highlight was Stephen Pruitt’s keynote speech, however, after listening to him speak, I feel like I saw NGSS in a whole new way. I feel like we have already been well informed about NGSS, but hearing it from the source somehow put a new spin on it. Stephen was very charismatic and enjoyable to watch.” AG

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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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State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2017 Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Posted: Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated eight exceptional secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“These teachers are dedicated and accomplished individuals whose innovative teaching styles prepare our students for 21st century careers and college and develop them into the designers and inventors of the future,” Torlakson said. “They rank among the finest in their profession and also serve as wonderful mentors and role models.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partners annually with the California Science Teachers Association and the California Mathematics Council to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program—the highest recognition in the nation for a mathematics or science teacher. The Science Finalists will be recognized at the CSTA Awards Luncheon on Saturday, October 14, 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.

Thriving in a Time of Change

Posted: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

by Jill Grace

By the time this message is posted online, most schools across California will have been in session for at least a month (if not longer, and hat tip to that bunch!). Long enough to get a good sense of who the kids in your classroom are and to get into that groove and momentum of the daily flow of teaching. It’s also very likely that for many of you who weren’t a part of a large grant initiative or in a district that set wheels in motion sooner, this is the first year you will really try to shift instruction to align to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a challenging year – change is hard. Change is even harder when there’s not a playbook to go by.  But as someone who has had the very great privilege of walking alongside teachers going through that change for the past two years and being able to glimpse at what this looks like for different demographics across that state, there are three things I hope you will hold on to. These are things I have come to learn will overshadow the challenge: a growth mindset will get you far, one is a very powerful number, and it’s about the kids. Learn More…

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Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is President of CSTA.

If You Are Not Teaching Science Then You Are Not Teaching Common Core

Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn 

“Science and Social Studies can be taught for the last half hour of the day on Fridays”

– Elementary school principal

Anyone concerned with the teaching of science in elementary school is keenly aware of the problem of time. Kids need to learn to read, and learning to read takes time, nobody disputes that. So Common Core ELA can seem like the enemy of science. This was a big concern to me as I started looking at the curriculum that my district had adopted for Common Core ELA. I’ve been through those years where teachers are learning a new curriculum, and know first-hand how a new curriculum can become the focus of attention- sucking all the air out of the room. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

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

Tools for Creating NGSS Standards Based Lessons

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Elizabeth Cooke

Think back on your own experiences with learning science in school. Were you required to memorize disjointed facts without understanding the concepts?

Science Education Background

In the past, science education focused on rote memorization and learning disjointed ideas. Elementary and secondary students in today’s science classes are fortunate now that science instruction has shifted from students demonstrating what they know to students demonstrating how they are able to apply their knowledge. Science education that reflects the Next Generation Science Standards challenges students to conduct investigations. As students explore phenomena and discrepant events they engage in academic discourse guided by focus questions from their teachers or student generated questions of that arise from analyzing data and creating and revising models that explain natural phenomena. Learn More…

Written by Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke teaches TK-5 science at Markham Elementary in the Oakland Unified School District, is an NGSS Early Implementer, and is CSTA’s Secretary.

News and Happenings in CSTA’s Region 1 – Fall 2017

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Cal

This month I was fortunate enough to hear about some new topics to share with our entire region. Some of you may access the online or newsletter options, others may attend events in person that are nearer to you. Long time CSTA member and environmental science educator Mike Roa is well known to North Bay Area teachers for his volunteer work sharing events and resources. In this month’s Region 1 updates I am happy to make a few of the options Mike offers available to our region. 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.