May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

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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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: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HappyAtoms

Please contact Rosanne Luu at rluu@wested.org 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.