September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Teaching STEM with Little to No Budget

Posted: Monday, November 4th, 2013

by Jeanine Wulfenstein

Have you found yourself being asked to implement STEM practices into your curriculum with little to no funding?  Are you confused about what STEM is, or what teaching STEM really means?  You are not alone!  Many teachers across California and the nation are being asked to teach STEM without much background, support, training, or funding.  

I would argue that the most important part of STEM is the “S” for “science.”  After all, the science is the conduit for which the technology, engineering, and math are incorporated.  As science teachers we should embrace STEM education and promote best teaching practices that go along with it.  Many scientific principles are best taught through authentic experiences.  STEM is a great way to accomplish this!

Students building a table out of chipboard and newspaper.

Students building a table out of chipboard and newspaper.

Many teachers unfortunately find themselves being asked to teach STEM with little to no funding. Most of us know that there are an abundance of grants out there focused on STEM education. However, grant writing is an art in and of itself, and can be a time consuming process. So, what is a teacher to do in the meantime?  A teacher must get creative!

I have found myself in this exact situation: without funding to afford expensive kits, robotics components, and consumable supplies, I have been forced to try a different approach to teaching STEM.   From my experience, I recommend using recycled materials to turn our discards into a learning experience for all.  Many principles used in science and building can be recreated using recycled materials.  Students in my classroom have launched rockets, designed and built catapults, cars, and created helmets to more effectively protect the head.  All of these were created out of recycled items like newspaper, chipboard from cereal boxes, egg crates, etc.  We have also used recycled materials to build tables, taking into account the forces of compression, tension, gravity, torque, etc.   The possibilities for teaching science are endless when we think differently about what is required to bring these concepts to life for students.

There are many free resources available to help us use recycled materials to teach STEM.  The PBS series, “Design Squad,“ has a website devoted to supporting teachers in using recycled materials to teach principles of science, engineering and design.   All of the resources on their site are free to use and are easy to implement.  To access these materials go to http://pbskids.org/designsquad/.

Additional free resources range from flight design with NASA at http://futureflight.arc.nasa.gov/  to the National Institutes of Health http://science.education.nih.gov/customers.nsf/WebPages/CSHome.  If you are looking to infuse your current curriculum with additional STEM activities, I encourage you to review these, collect recycled supplies, and jump in to incorporate STEM experiences appropriate to your content area.  You will be amazed by the robust conversations your students will have, what your students will produce, and the learning your students will demonstrate!

Written by Jeanine Wulfenstein

Jeanine Wulfenstein

Jeanine Wulfenstein taught science at Gardner Middle School and is now assistant principal at Bella Vista Middle School in Temecula. She is a member of CSTA. You can reach her by emailing jwulfenstein@tvusd.k12.ca.us.

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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

Cal

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.