September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Summer Learning for Students and Teacher

Posted: Thursday, August 24th, 2017

by Dr. Joseph Calmer

Summer time is a unique time for us; we don’t have work, but we work. This year, I found myself working with UCLA’s Science Project at a three-week science summer camp for K-8 students (I was the 7-8 teacher). Even though I was “working” for the organization, I wanted to work for myself and find out what I can do for my actual classroom that will start this fall. I took back a few things that both inspired and shocked me.

I am normally a high school physics and chemistry teacher, but I wanted some experience with different students and different motivations. Firstly, I had to approach the class from a different perspective. There were not going to be any tests, the sessions will be three hours, and the site will have a spectrum of resources (some technical, some rudimentary). I decided to not use a computer and go old school. Like I said, I wanted to give myself a new experience. The results were enlightening and motivating.

I wrote out a three-week story line that was about energy that wove in notions of kinematics, electricity, and waves. I used what I have learned about anchoring phenomena and investigative phenomena as a means to construct each day and organize everything. I forced myself to plan for the minimal taking, focus on demonstrations and building. I rarely used more than simple materials that can be bought from a craft store. The absolute goal was student learning. I did the labs and builds that I felt were fun that yielded high leverage learning.

Upon reflection, I could have done more. The students learned a lot, as demonstrated by their talking, their posters, and drawings. I made sure that each day ended with a sharing session that enabled the students to talk about what they learned. All students learned from each other and I learned a lot from them. The technical word is “hidden curriculum.” It hard to plan for the exact dialogue that students will have during the lesson. A skillful teacher will have to focus on paving the path and help students along the way, but the learning appeared to come from their discussions; not what I told them.

Class time is a funny thing. We want students to learn, but we talk to them too much. I had a class of 7-8 grades doing AP (some) physics work because I challenged them to do so. The students were motivated to solve the problems because there was a context for them. I felt like Socrates, in Meno, teaching the boy geometry through questioning and guidance. I was able to see that learning is more a product of what students do, but I have to organize the environment, not prepare the speech.

The summer program taught me that I have to construct the environment for learning and develop ideas for students to explore rather than focus on creating PowerPoint lectures. From reading the material posted on CSTA, I have learned about the use and meaning of Phenomena in instruction, but after I practiced it, it will be the new emphasis in my planning.

Dr. Joseph Calmer is a Physics and Chemistry Teacher at Lawndale High School in Lawndale, California and is a member of CSTA.

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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:

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CSTA Is Now Accepting Nominations for Board Members

Posted: Friday, November 17th, 2017

Current, incoming, and outgoing CSTA Board of Directors at June 3, 2017 meeting.

Updated 7:25 pm, Nov. 17, 2017

It’s that time of year when CSTA is looking for dedicated and qualified persons to fill the upcoming vacancies on its Board of Directors. This opportunity allows you to help shape the policy and determine the path that the Board will take in the new year. There are time and energy commitments, but that is far outweighed by the personal satisfaction of knowing that you are an integral part of an outstanding professional educational organization, dedicated to the support and guidance of California’s science teachers. You will also have the opportunity to help CSTA review and support legislation that benefits good science teaching and teachers.

Right now is an exciting time to be involved at the state level in the California Science Teachers Association. The CSTA Board of Directors is currently involved in implementing the Next Generations Science Standards and its strategic plan. If you are interested in serving on the CSTA Board of Directors, now is the time to submit your name for consideration. 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.

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.