September 2016 – Vol. 29 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.

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California Science Assessment Update

Posted: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

by Jessica Sawko

In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.

At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at 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.

Some ways to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in your classroom

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

by Carol Peterson

1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. 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.

2016 Award Recipients – Join CSTA in Honoring Their Accomplishments

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference  on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!

Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award

John Keller

John Keller

The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well 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.

NGSS: Making Your Life Easier

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Peter A’hearn

Wait… What?

NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?

The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Celestial Highlights, September 2016

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt 

Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. 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.