May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Summer Reflections

Posted: Friday, June 29th, 2012

by Eric Lewis

In the past few weeks, I have led and attended a few workshops.  One thing that has been jumping out at me is our need to not only develop our content knowledge in science, but to also build upon our pedagogy so that we can really support ALL of our students to learn science.  I have had many, many conversations with teachers in my district (and beyond) over the past few years about the challenges of meeting the needs of the students in our classrooms.  That said, I’ve never been more convinced that the vast majority of my colleagues are really knowledgeable about their content.  Content knowledge, while extremely important, is NOT the real crux of what our experienced teachers need.  Sure, a few new labs and elegant experiments are great to add to your repertoire, but the professional development that we really need is in how to meet the needs of our students – especially when students may be arriving in our classes lacking the skills that we expected them to have.

In a leadership meeting that I recently attended at Stanford University, we repeatedly discussed how to improve the experience for students in our schools.  There was an acknowledgement that many issues are out of our control, but there was also a focus on identifying ways to meet the needs of our students.  Across our country, it seems that some teachers (and administrators and policy makers) have forgotten that teaching is an ART.  Teaching is perhaps the most difficult of professions – especially when done well.  Too often, however, we forget our charge of teaching “all” students.  I often hear things like, “Well, those students would be better served at that school,” or “Those students aren’t the type of students that do well here.”  Since when do teachers – at public schools yet – say which students belong at their school?  Why is it the student’s fault that he or she didn’t have the experiences in science, mathematics, and English that we would have wanted them to have before they showed up in our classroom?

The big issue I see is that we’ve really not been given the resources (think broadly here) to meet the needs of our students.  We’re told to differentiate for our students, but we really don’t have great examples of what this looks like day in and day out for a variety of different content areas.  And, our lack of experience and knowledge with differentiation is what often helps to promote many (not all) of our Honors tracks.  In too many cases Honors does not signify that students are getting increased rigor or challenge, it simply means that these students will get access to everything that the teacher had planned because there won’t be any behavior issues to distract from the work.  When I see this kind of tracking, it simply makes me sad.  As teachers, we should be better than that.  We should recognize that meeting the needs of a huge range of students is difficult and then we should do our best to prepare for this challenge.  We need to take this on directly and build our skills to provide a challenging and engaging curriculum for all students, not just our most “advanced” and “well-behaved” students that would – likely – be able to learn new materials even without an animated, engaged teacher in front of them.

We need to address the needs of all of our students.  Advanced students should be able to be challenged with deeper, more challenging readings, activities, and projects.  But, all students should have access to these things, too.  In my years of teaching, I have been surprised over and over again at seeing how students have risen to meet the challenges of difficult concepts and complicated problems.  We need to build upon our own resources as science teachers to craft lessons with multiple access points and with opportunities to reinforce learning in mathematics, English, art, and other disciplines.  We are so lucky that science lends itself to hands-on learning and to creative and critical thinking. The question now is how do we better prepare ourselves to bring these experiences to all our students, and not just the ones that came to us already prepared…

Well, first I recommend reviewing SDAIE strategies. These strategies are great for ALL of  our students, but will be especially beneficial for English Language Learners in class.  Next, talk to teachers in your special education department at your school.  These folks have been differentiating forever and we have a lot to learn from them.  In designing your schools, don’t be afraid to advocate for looping with students for more than one year and for providing robust advisories.  With both of these changes, more students will have deeper relationships with more teachers.  This is a good thing.  Finally, reflect on your practice.  Give yourself credit when you’ve done a great job and don’t be afraid to be critical of yourself if you see opportunities for growth.  We can all learn something new, can’t we?

Eris Lewis is high school area science support in the San Francisco Unified School District LEAD office and is CSTA region 2 director.

Written by Eric Lewis

Eric Lewis

Eris Lewis is high school area science support in the San Francisco Unified School District LEAD office.

2 Responses

  1. The resources available- especially your personal resources of time and energy – are finite and schools and districts are dealing with more and more budget issues which slowly wear down most programs. Meanwhile we live in a society which at a political and economic level only pays lip service to the value and needs of education. I don’t think hammering away with the phrase “We need to meet the needs of all of our students” is a useful one – its a powerful phrase and just like the phrase “No child left behind” its hard to argue with – it grabs the moral high ground – but its not useful to the classroom teacher. At the risk of being vilified by those who seek to grab the moral high ground I suggest a better working model would be that teachers commit to continuing to provide opportunities for growth for all students. I have been teaching 25 years and bottom line – you CANNOT meet the needs of all students – but you can always treat them with respect and if some kid who has been doing very little for months suddenly decides to try and turn it around – you can be there to encourage and support them in their efforts and tweak things a little so they can have some success.

  2. Thank you for the SDAIE strategies. I hope to make good use of them when I get a teaching job.

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CSTA Annual Conference Early Bird Rates End July 14

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

Teachers engaged in workshop activity

Teachers engaging in hands-on learning during a workshop at the 2016 CSTA conference.

Don’t miss your chance to register at the early bird rate for the 2017 CSTA Conference – the early-bird rate closes July 14. Need ideas on how to secure funding for your participation? Visit our website for suggestions, a budget planning tool, and downloadable justification letter to share with your admin. Want to take advantage of the early rate – but know your district will pay eventually? Register online today and CSTA will reimburse you when we receive payment from your district/employer. (For more information on how that works contact Zi Stair in the office for details – 916-979-7004 or

New Information Now Available On-line:

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.

Goodbye Outgoing and Welcome Incoming CSTA Board Members

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Jill Grace

Jill Grace, CSTA President, 2017-2019

On July 1, 2017 five CSTA members concluded their service and four new board members joined the ranks of the CSTA Board of Directors. CSTA is so grateful for all the volunteer board of directors who contribute hours upon hours of time and energy to advance the work of the association. At the June 3 board meeting, CSTA was able to say goodbye to the outgoing board members and welcome the incoming members.

This new year also brings with it a new president for CSTA. As of July 1, 2017 Jill Grace is the president of the California Science Teachers Association. Jill is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, a former middle school science teacher, and is currently a Regional Director with the K-12 Alliance @ WestEd where she works with California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative districts and charter networks in the San Diego area.

Outgoing Board Members

  • Laura Henriques (President-Elect: 2011 – 2013, President: 2013 – 2015, Past President: 2015 – 2017)
  • Valerie Joyner (Region 1 Director: 2009 – 2013, Primary Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Mary Whaley (Informal Science Education Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Sue Campbell (Middle School/Jr. High Director: 2015 – 2017)
  • Marcus Tessier (2-Year College Director: 2015 – 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.

Finding My Student’s Motivation of Learning Through Engineering Tasks

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Huda Ali Gubary and Susheela Nath

It’s 8:02 and the bell rings. My students’ walk in and pick up an entry ticket based on yesterday’s lesson and homework. My countdown starts for students to begin…3, 2, 1. Ten students are on task and diligently completing the work, twenty are off task with behaviors ranging from talking up a storm with their neighbors to silently staring off into space. This was the start of my classes, more often than not. My students rarely showed the enthusiasm for a class that I had eagerly prepared for. I spent so much time searching for ways to get my students excited about the concepts they were learning. I wanted them to feel a connection to the lessons and come into my class motivated about what they were going to learn next. I would ask myself how I could make my class memorable where the kids were in the driver’s seat of learning. Incorporating engineering made this possible. 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 California NGSS k-8 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.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Unveils Updated Recommended Literature List

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson unveiled an addition of 285 award-winning titles to the Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list.

“The books our students read help broaden their perspectives, enhance their knowledge, and fire their imaginations,” Torlakson said. “The addition of these award-winning titles represents the state’s continued commitment to the interests and engagement of California’s young readers.”

The Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list is a collection of more than 8,000 titles of recommended reading for children and adolescents. Reflecting contemporary and classic titles, including California authors, this online list provides an exciting range of literature that students should be reading at school and for pleasure. Works include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama to provide for a variety of tastes, interests, and abilities. Learn More…

Written by Guest Contributor

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:

Teaching Science in the Time of Alternative Facts – Why NGSS Can Help (somewhat)

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn

The father of one of my students gave me a book: In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood by Walt Brown, Ph. D. He had heard that I was teaching Plate Tectonics and wanted me to consider another perspective. The book offered the idea that the evidence for plate tectonics could be better understood if we considered the idea that beneath the continent of Pangaea was a huge underground layer of water that suddenly burst forth from a rift between the now continents of Africa and South America. The waters shot up and the continents hydroplaned apart on the water layer to their current positions. The force of the movement pushed up great mountain ranges which are still settling to this day, resulting in earthquakes along the margins of continents. This had happened about 6,000 years ago and created a great worldwide flood. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

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