September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

The Beauty and Wonder of Science

Posted: Thursday, January 14th, 2016

by Lisa Hegdahl

“The overarching goal of our framework for K-12 science education is to ensure that by the end of 12th grade, all students have some appreciation of the beauty and wonder of science …”

A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas*

In 1985, I graduated from the University of California at Davis, with a Bachelor of Science in Zoology. In 1991, I began teaching 8th grade science in Galt, where our school’s science department determined the topics I taught which, for 7 years, were genetics, sound, astronomy, and body systems. In 1998, the CA Science Content Standards arrived and the 8th grade science curriculum became exclusively physical science – physics, astronomy, and chemistry – a far cry from my Zoological roots. As are many of you, I am now in the process of transitioning to the CA Next Generation of Science Standards (NGSS) 6-8 Integrated Model which means, once again, changing the core ideas I teach my 8th graders. Instead of strictly physical science, I will now teach Integrated Life Science, Earth and Space Science, and Physical Science (along with the Science and Engineering Practices, SEPs, and the Crosscutting Concepts, CCCs). In the last year and a half, as a teacher in one of the CA NGSS Early Implementation districts, I have jumped into teaching multiple core ideas that I have never taught before. This has made it necessary for me to not just learn these subjects, but by the very nature of NGSS, to immerse myself in them at a deep, comprehensive, and exhaustive level. A great deal of work to be sure. However, during this process, something remarkable has happened – I have re-discovered the beauty and wonder of science.

Hegdahl-1-16Over the holidays, I traveled with my husband, Tom, from Lodi to southern California to enjoy Christmas with my family. While driving along the coast, a drive we have made countless times, I found myself studying the rock layers in the road cuts – the folds, fractures, and angles within. I contemplated the millions of years it took for these formations to arrive where they rest now. I saw the coastline with the great Pacific Ocean stretching for miles beyond my view and I considered the end of the continental shelf and how Alfred Wegener proposed that the continents were once all connected. As I sat down to finally finish a book that I have been ‘reading’ for the past 4 months, I put on my reading glasses and reflected on how, due to age, the lenses in my eyes no longer adjust to allow for the correct focal length needed for me to see the pages clearly. As I watched the sun ‘go down’ over the bay at Morro Rock, I speculated about where it was now shining. All of these musings simply because I have been diving deeply, as never before, into scientific topics.

As a result (cause and effect perhaps) another realization has manifested itself – while I was initially concerned that I don’t have the necessary knowledge base to teach some of the new 8th grade NGSS core ideas, the preparation that it requires to develop background knowledge, re-ignited my passion for science. Because NGSS asks teachers and students to approach science as scientists, we are experiencing the stories of those who asked the questions, tried and failed before achieving success, and often faced the ridicule of respected colleagues. I’d like to think I have always looked at the world as a scientist and marveled at its complexity (and simplicity), but the more deeply I engage in the NGSS 3 dimensional process, the more I realize how much there is to learn and how amazing is the world in which we live.

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As we enter 2016, I challenge all of us to re-discover the beauty and wonder of science.  Let’s not look at the conceptual shifts required by the NGSS with concern, but as opportunities to explore the fascinating world around us and see it through fresh eyes, as did the scientists who came before us. Passion for science is contagious; so take opportunities in the New Year to collaborate with colleagues at your school site, at the CA NGSS Rollout Phase 3 Symposia, and at the 2016 California Science Education Conference. Passing on this appreciation for science to our students will better equip them for their futures and, just perhaps, make a holiday drive down the coast, a fascinating one.

*National Research Council. (2011). A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas. Committee on a Conceptual Framework for New K-12 Science Education Standards. Board on Science Education, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press

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Written by Lisa Hegdahl

Lisa Hegdahl

Lisa Hegdahl is an 8th-grade science teacher at McCaffrey Middle School in Galt, CA and is Past-President of CSTA.

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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).

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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

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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

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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.