September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Tapping All of Your Resources

Posted: Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

by Gregory Potter

Like many new teachers, you want to be that special teacher for your students.  You want to be the teacher that every student remembers and enjoys and most importantly, learns a great deal from.  As you look forward to your future career, you begin to ask yourself, “How am I going to make this happen?”  While I have no doubt that you have the passion and desire to be the best teacher you can be, it is vital that also you tap all of the resources that are available to you.  Here I will highlight two important ones: professional teaching organizations (e.g. CSTA) and ways to supply your new classroom (e.g. RAFT).

One of the questions/challenges I offer to all of my preservice teachers is to identify their greatest pedagogical content weakness as a future teacher.  For a multiple subject teacher it might be teaching a particular subject like math or science or for a single subject teacher, it might be a specific facet of their chosen content such as orbital hybridization or Punnett squares.  Once you have found some content you are concerned about teaching, it is your professional obligation to strengthen that identified weakness. This is why I encourage all of my students to attend professional organizations’ annual meetings.  At these meetings, experienced and talented teachers not only explain but also demonstrate how you can expertly teach the specific content you are concerned about.  In addition, they will often supply you with black line masters of the lesson that they are teaching and welcome future conversation with you to clarify any details.  This is what it means to become a professional.  Your responsibility is to your students and becoming the best teacher you can be means your education doesn’t stop when you graduate with your credential.  Your methods instructors provide you with a foundation and afterward it is your job to shore up any weaknesses that you may have brought to the building project.

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Another challenge many (if not most!) new teachers face is how to become an awesome science teacher if the district doesn’t provide me with the proper supplies.  I am not going to lie to you: while science can engage your students and teach a variety of content beyond science, if done right, it often requires quite a few materials.  If you always go to the science supply companies, it can quickly become very expensive.  One resource that has reduced a great deal of this burden is Resource Area For Teaching (RAFT).  Their mission is to help teachers be the best that they can be:

  • RAFT is a non-profit organization that believes that hands-on teaching is the best way for students to learn about math, science, technology, and art.
  • Uses hands-on education to prepare kids to compete in a global market.
  • Partners with local businesses to collect surplus materials that are re-purposed into hands-on learning activity kits.
  • Provides educators with the materials, resources, support and professional development tools needed to create engaging learning environments.

Not only is RAFT a great resource for inexpensive teaching materials, they also provide low cost workshops (in most cases FREE) to show you how to use these materials with your students.  RAFT is both an environmental and teaching bonanza!  While RAFT is a Northern California tradition, there are similar resources near you.

So, if you want to be that special teacher that will reach all of your students and prepare them for a brighter tomorrow, you need to prepare yourself.  You need be reflective and active in improving your teaching.  These resources can go a long way in preparing you to be that special teacher.

Written by Gregory Potter

Gregory Potter

Gregory Potter is CSTA’s four-year college director and is an assistant professor at the Bernerd School of Education at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA.

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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.