August 2015 – Vol. 27 No. 12

Time for a New Start – Again!

Posted: Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

by Laura Henriques

It is early August as you read this. For lots of people, August means summer vacations. For educators, however, August means it is time to begin another school year. I tend to think of the start of the school year as New Year’s Eve. My husband, also an educator, and I toast the start of the school year in ways that most people toast the start of a new calendar year. We reflect on the past year and set goals for the year ahead. Just like New Year’s resolutions, the act of setting educationally related goals helps keep me on track. My New Year’s resolution of going to the gym five times a week may not pan out, but having committed to improve my level of physical activity has been clearly stated and set as a goal. Similarly, as I set my goals for the academic year I am making a commitment to do something to improve my practice, my skills, or content knowledge.

Pause to reflect on the past year
Nikki Bailey’s article  mentions the importance of recharging your batteries and reflecting on past practice. By the end of the school year we are all tired. Taking some time away from planning, teaching, and grading is important, but so too is the act of reflection. What is working well in our classrooms? Which aspects of NGSS have we started to implement and how is that going? What colleagues might you work with this coming year to plan innovative science and STEM lessons? In order to move forward and improve we need to know where we’ve been and what we have learned. This makes it much easier for us to replicate the good things in our classroom and eliminate the less effective.

Consider Areas for Personal and Professional Growth
Learn more about NGSS.
I am hopeful that all science educators will be making this an area for professional growth. The NGSS are adopted, the state has developed an implementation plan (the public feedback period is now open), the Instructional Quality Commission has put together the Science Curriculum Framework team and the California Department of Education is at work discussing what science assessment will look like for California. This is a lot of change and it comes on top of the implementation of Common Core. We cannot sit back and wait for a few years before seriously digging into NGSS. Please read about what’s going on and attend workshops, conferences and state-wide symposium. This fall there will be the Superintendent’s STEM Symposium in San Diego Sept 21-23, state-wide NGSS Roll-Out workshops and the NSTA/CSTA conference in Long Beach December 3-6, and check out the NGSS section of the CSTA website. It is one of the most comprehensive sites for California specific NGSS information.

Some of us will have new roles in the fall.
Perhaps you will be having a student teacher, causing you to take on the role of Master Teacher. Maybe you are about to become a department chair or TOSA or site administrator. Perhaps you will be a BTSA Coach. Serving in new roles is exciting but it comes with challenges. As you move into new positions seek out mentors for yourself.

If you will be serving as a Master Teacher for a student teacher you will find the road ahead challenging but hugely rewarding. You will need to relinquish control, help a novice teacher learn the ropes, and make their thinking about teaching visible to the newbie teacher in their classroom. This takes time but it is among the most important things you can do to help our profession. As you nurture and support a new teacher you are helping build our profession. Thanks in advance for your work and effort to support the state’s student teachers. It’s a really important task. It can also be daunting if this is your first time in the role. Megan McKenzie, Corey Lee, Yukako Kawakatsu, and Rick Pomeroy share strategies about how to prepare for hosting a student teacher. Many of the tips and strategies they share will be helpful even if you do not have your own student teacher. Your department or school may have hired a new teacher in your department or school this year. You do not need to be the official “Master Teacher” or BTSA Support Teacher to provide a helping hand. CSTA’s 2007 journal about helping new teachers succeed and thrive is a useful resource. Take some time to consider how you can help your more novice teachers be successful.

Set goals for the coming year and figure out how to make them a reality
New strategies for the classroom.

In the last few weeks of summer, you might want to plan how you will implement a new strategy. I know lots of us participated in some sort of science education professional development this summer. While we cannot implement everything we learned all at once, we can and should think about which strategies and content we can introduce into our repertoire.

This month, CSTA Middle School/Jr. High Director Jill Grace writes about how to implement interactive notebooks. It’s full of great ideas and tips about how to get started and manage notebooking in your classroom.

CSTA Primary Director Valerie Joyner  provides suggestions about how to build a culture for science instruction at the primary level and how to set up your classroom for successful science at that level. She urges us all to consider how we can help every child get science instruction every day – talk about a great goal!

Never forget the importance of setting routines and helping your students learn how to be successful in your classroom. Lisa Hegdahl reminds us that the students who start the year with us need to learn our routines, procedures and expectations and it is our job to help them with that. Those basics need to be addressed first and then we will be well poised to try out some of the new teaching strategies we learned and read about this summer.

Set your goals and get involved!
As you think about what you need to help you grow as a science educator and a science advocate, think about how CSTA can play a role. I know the year ahead will be filled with opportunities to participate in the state’s transition to NGSS. This includes providing feedback to the Science Framework Committee and providing input to the state about science assessments moving forward. There were two 2-day meetings hosted by the California Department of Education and ETS [link to Jessica’s article] related to this and a call for public input will be sent out soon, so be sure your membership settings allow you to get emails from CSTA about these sorts of issues! Finally, the state’s NGSS Implementation Plan will be brought to the State Board of Education in November and you now have an opportunity to provide your thoughts about that as well. CSTA is a great source of information for all things NGSS. Your membership dollars support our efforts to keep you informed and engaged. If your membership has lapsed, now is the perfect time to renew. Not only does your membership support CSTA’s NGSS related efforts, it keeps you involved and provides you with member discounts on the conference, professional development opportunities and more.

As we wind down summer and ramp up for a new school year I hope you can take time to reflect on what worked well for you this past year, think about how to implement some of the new things you’ve learned this past year and summer, and set goals to push yourself to be the best science educator you can be. Happy New Year!

Written by Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques is a professor of science education at CSU Long Beach and past-president of CSTA.

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Where California K-12 Science Teachers Go for NGSS

Posted: Friday, August 14th, 2015

RegisterNowMedNow is the time to register for the 2015 California Science Education Conference presented by the California Science Teachers Association (CSTA).  Attending the CSTA 2015 conference is a great way to gain professional development, and network with other science teachers from across the state, and obtain new classroom ideas, in one place over three days!

The California Science Education Conference is your best source of information on implementing NGSS in your classroom.

The California Science Teachers Association hosts this conference to focus on what California science educators need to know to hone their craft, stay updated on standards, and apply best practices gleaned from experts throughout the state. 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.

What Is the Role of Lecture in NGSS?

Posted: Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

by Peter A’Hearn

Is there a role for lecture in NGSS classrooms? Anyone who has spent much time working on the NGSS knows that NGSS is learner centered, more about helping students to develop the tools to investigate the world than about teachers supplying knowledge. The traditional teaching style of the teacher talking and students taking notes seems to be opposite of this vision.

This vision is supported by research indicating that traditional lecture is not an effective way to teach science. Nobel Prize winning physicist Dr. Carl Wieman makes a strong case against lecture as a way to teach science.  Click here to read a summary of his findings. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Middle School Integrated Science – Getting Over It!

Posted: Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

by Peter A’Hearn

6th graders design bionic hands as they study how body systems work together in a unit that was moved to 6th grade this year- photo by Peter A’Hearn

6th graders design bionic hands as they study how body systems work together in a unit that was moved to 6th grade this year- photo by Peter A’Hearn

Last spring I wrote an article/blog post that addressed the growing discussion about the decision to teach middle school integrated or discipline specific science. The article gives the rationale for the change and also some different models that were considered for how to transition.

There was a lot of feedback to that post: strongly supportive, deeply skeptical, and many follow up questions. Now that Palm Springs USD has finished the first year of the transition, I thought it would be a good time to look back and see how it went.

The middle school teacher leaders who helped to make the decision chose the “fast” transition plan below. Year 2 was what we just finished. 6th grade teachers (and kids) were introduced to structure and function in living things. 7th graders tried chemistry for the first time, and 8th graders played with waves. Everyone tried a little (or a lot) of engineering. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Staying Connected by Volunteering

Posted: Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

by Lisa Hegdahl

As an 8th grade science teacher in a district that is participating in the CA NGSS Early Implementation Initiative, I spent much of my summer break training with members of other Early Implementer districts (see NGSS Blog- Middle School Integrated Science- Getting Over It! By Peter A’hearn. Just as our students want to feel connected to each other (see Starting the School Year Right, by Joanne Michael) teachers also seek opportunities to connect and collaborate with other educators – even more so now with NGSS implementation actively happening in California. Perhaps connecting with others is the reason why, this year, the California Science Teachers Association had a record number of its members volunteer to serve on its committees. Teachers know that we are stronger when we come together to overcome our challenges. Learn More…

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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 President for CSTA.

Where to Go in Sacramento: Field Courses for the CSTA Conference

Posted: Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

by Peter A’Hearn

When it comes to conferences I’m pretty much a workshop guy. You get lots of great ideas in a short time, lots of choices, and you are hearing it straight from teachers. But looking at the field studies being offered at the 2015 California Education Conference in Sacramento this October, I’m thinking I might just spend the whole conference learning science on the amazing field courses being offered.

Here are your choices:

AHearn_Field_Course_Photo_1The Science in Your Beer: Chemistry, Microbiology, and Sensory Analysis at Sudwerk Brewery – Visit with the scientists at the UC Davis Brewing Program, the yeast geeks at White Labs, and the brewers of Sudwerk Brewery to learn about the biochemistry and microbiology that goes into the beer you love to drink. We will share NGSS aligned activities (classroom appropriate) on reaction rate and population biology. You will also explore the chemistry of beer flavor and learn how to make taste testing scientifically rigorous! Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is Region 4 Director for CSTA.