January/February 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 4

Teaching and Learning Science through Writing

Posted: Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

by Amanda Smith

Writing is a powerful, effective tool to help students learn and understand science. When students write for you, their teacher, their explanations often lack clarity and precision because they realize you already know and understand the content matter.  But when their target audience knows nothing about the content matter, the student’s explanation must be much more thorough and clearly written. Consequently, a great way to get your students to learn actively and improve their writing, too, is to have them write about a specific science concept and choose a “layperson” intended audience such as a parent, friend, or sibling.  Sometimes I ask my students to write as someone or something else, such as the journey of a single blood cell through the circulatory system from the perspective of the blood cell.   Students often enjoy choosing their own format for writing, so even though you give them the topic, consider allowing them to choose whether they want to write an essay, letter, poem, or comic strip with illustrations. This provides the teacher with a fun group of assignments to read and grade, and gives students a chance to truly showcase their interests and talents while deepening their understanding of science in the process.

There are many benefits of writing in the science classroom, such as incorporating background knowledge, becoming better readers, and gaining more organizational skills.  Writing drastically increases retention of science content, as well as enhances the development of science vocabulary. When students begin to learn how to be great science writers even as early as kindergarten, then their confidence can grow with every grade level all the way through high school. In my own classroom I enjoy using a variety of methods to get my students involved in the writing process.  Some of my personal favorites are beginning my class with a specific content-focused writing prompt, and evaluating science articles and current events.  I spend time developing and scaffolding these strategies with my students, and over time they show a great deal of improvement in both science knowledge and writing.

With Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards prompting us to change the way we teach science, the focus on writing needs to be both on-going, authentic, and across disciplines. If the teacher provides feedback to the student with each writing piece, the student’s writing skills science knowledge can increase synergistically. By providing a classroom environment that allows students to feel safe to be creative and explore new ideas as they build proficiency, we have a great opportunity to help our students learn to read and write about science in a variety of different contexts and venues.

Written by Amanda Smith

Amanda Smith is a science teacher at Wilder’s Preparatory Academy Charter School and a member of CSTA.

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STEM Conference Hosted by CMSESMC

Posted: Saturday, January 14th, 2017

The Council of Math/Science Educators of San Mateo County will be hosting the 41st annual STEM Conference this February 4, 2017 at the San Mateo County Office of Education. This STEM Conference is the place to get lots of new lessons and ideas to use in your classroom. There will be over twenty-five workshops and a variety of exhibitors that provide participants with a wide range of practical and realistic ideas and resources to use in their science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs from Pre-K to grade 12. With California’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards, we are dedicated to ensuring that we prepare our teachers to take on these educational policies.

Teachers, administrators, and parents are invited to explore the many exciting aspects of STEM education and learn about and discuss the latest news, information, and issues. This is also an opportunity to network with colleagues who can assist you in building your programs and meet new friends that share your interests and love of teaching. Register online today!

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.

Submit Your NGSS Lessons and Units Today!

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

Achieve has launched and is facilitating an EQuIP Peer Review Panel for Science–a group of expert reviewers who will evaluate the quality and alignment of lessons and units to the standards–in an effort to identify and shine a spotlight on emerging high-quality lesson and unit plans designed for the NGSS.

If you or your state, district, school, or organization has designed NGSS-aligned instructional materials, please consider submitting these in order to help provide educators across the country with various models and templates of high-quality lesson and unit plans. 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.

Opportunity for High School Students – Los Angeles County

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

An upcoming Perry Outreach Program on Saturday, April 22, 2017 at the Orthopaedic Institute for Children in Los Angeles, CA. The Perry Outreach Program is a free, one-day, hands-on experience for high school and college-aged women who are interested in pursuing careers in medicine and engineering. Students will hear from women leaders in these fields and try it for themselves by performing mock orthopaedic surgeries and biomechanics experiments. 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.

Science Education Policy Update

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

January 2017 has proven to be a very busy month for science education policy and CA NGSS implementation activities. CSTA has been and will be there every step of the way, seeking and enacting all options to support high-quality science education and the successful implementation of CA NGSS.

California Department of Education/U.S. Department of Education Science Double-Testing Waiver Hearing

The year started with California Department of Education’s (CDE) hearing with the U.S. Department of Education conducted via WebEx on January 6, 2017. This hearing was the final step in California’s efforts to secure a waiver from the federal government in order to discontinue administration of the old CST and suspension of the reporting of student test scores on a science assessment for two years. As reported by EdSource, the U.S. Department of Education representative, Ann Whalen, a senior adviser to U.S. Secretary John King Jr., committed to making her final ruling “very shortly.” Deputy Superintendent Keric Ashley presented on behalf of CDE during the hearing and did an excellent job describing the broad-based support for this waiver in California, the rationale for the waiver, and California’s commitment to the successful implementation of a new high-quality science assessment. As previously reported, California is moving forward with its plans to administer a census pilot assessments this spring. The testing window is set to open on March 20, 2017. For more information visit New CA Science Test: What You Should Know.

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Written by Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko is CSTA’s Executive Director.

NSTA Los Angeles Conference Features Many CA Science Leaders

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

The early-bird registration rates for the 65th NSTA National Conference on Science Education in Los Angeles is just days away (ends Feb. 3). And as the early-registration deadline approaches excitement is building for what is anticipated to be the largest gathering of science educators (both California and nationwide) – with attendance expected to reach 10,000 or more. If you have never had the pleasure of attending the NSTA National Conference, I recommend you visit their website with tips for newcomers that describe the various components of the event. A conference preview is also available for download. Learn More…

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Written by Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko is CSTA’s Executive Director.