September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Synergy of Formal, Informal and Out of School Learning

Posted: Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

by Laura Henriques

January CSTA’s CCS  was a special issue dedicated to informal science education. Since then there have been a few reports released that highlight model programs that partner across these entities, and a couple of conferences and gatherings addressing the topic. A National Research Council Convocation, STEM is Everywhere, was held in Irvine in mid-February which brought leaders together from across the three worlds of science teaching and learning: formal, informal and out-of-school. Sponsored by Burroughs Welcome Foundation, S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, Noyce Foundation, Samueli Foundation and the Charles & Lynn Schusterman Foundation, this two day event provided opportunities for productive conversations about how STEM learning and eventual implementation of NGSS occur across settings and how to complement as opposed to compete with each other. We all have similar goals of providing students with opportunities to learn and engage in high quality programming, so learning from each other and talking together can only be a good thing.

Prior to attending the STEM Everywhere Convocation, participants read a few documents. Included were a recently released National Academies Press report on STEM Integration in K-12 Education, a report on how cross-section collaborations are advancing STEM learning, an executive summary of what constitutes high-quality STEM programs, and a report on Defining Youth Outcomes for STEM Learning in Afterschool. Reading these documents and spending two days in conversations with each other left attendees energized about the potential to work together. Each of the partners has something unique to contribute to STEM education for our youth. The trick is for us to figure out how to leverage what each offers for the students’ benefit. What can we do to engage students? Spark interest? Build skills and knowledge? And how do we do this for all students, not just a few?

The Ecosystems Report highlights some STEM learning ecosystems that are successfully linking the formal, informal and out-of-school learning environments. Two of the fifteen emerging STEM ecosystems spotlighted are in California. They are the California Academy of Sciences Middle School Science Action Clubs and the Orange County STEM Initiative. What we can learn from these two programs as well as others described in the report is the need for shared goals and vision, mutual respect among the partners and a focus on accomplishing important tasks. The best collaborative efforts are ones anchored by strong leaders who enable the team to be opportunistic and nimble, and teams that value each other’s contributions and appreciate what each brings to the overall learning of the child.

The STEM Everywhere Convocation is but one of several that is examining the intersection of in-school and out-of-school learning. Considering that formal learning inside of classrooms represents a tiny percentage of our learning opportunities, it behooves us to talk with our educational partners in all sectors to see how we can together support our students. The NRC is currently preparing a report on the STEM Everywhere Convocation. It will be available in a few months and can be downloaded without cost from their website. If you are interested in receiving notifications from NRC when the report becomes available or if you’d like to receive notifications about the release of other Academies reports in your area(s) of interest you may subscribe at the same address.

Written by Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques is a professor of science education at CSU Long Beach and 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


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.