November 2015 – Vol. 28 No. 3

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. She serves as chair of CSTA’s Nominating Committee and is a co-chair of the NGSS Committee.

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Your Chance to Review the California Science Curriculum Framework Is Here

Posted: Tuesday, November 17th, 2015

by Laura Henriques

The California Science Curriculum Framework & Evaluation Criteria document is now ready for its first 60 Day Public Feedback period.! This is a critical process for the review and vetting of the document. Anyone from around the state is invited to read the document and provide feedback. CSTA encourages its members to participate in this process.

Just to be clear, the California Curriculum Framework is different from the NRC Framework for K-12 Science Education. The NRC Framework is the document which guided the development of Next Generation Science Standards. The California Curriculum Framework is the document which will help us make sense of those standards in our classrooms. Learn More…

Written by Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques is a professor of science education at CSU Long Beach and past-president of CSTA. She serves as chair of CSTA’s Nominating Committee and is a co-chair of the NGSS Committee.

Call for Nominations for the 2016-2018 CSTA Board of Directors

Posted: Thursday, November 12th, 2015

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 is a time and energy commitment, 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 interesting 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.

Middle School Madness Part 2: Integrated Science Versus Coordinated Science

Posted: Thursday, November 12th, 2015

by Robert Sherriff

In my last article, I compared the integrated versus discipline-specific models of teaching science in middle school. In this article, I seek to dispel some misconceptions and refine the comparison of an integrated science program with a coordinated science program.

This past summer, I was honored to participate in presenting at the two Northern California NGSS Early Implementation Institutes. I was part of a science content cadre to which I brought both my 25 years of middle school teaching experience and my knowledge of NGSS (I was on the State Science Expert Panel and was Co-chair of the Curriculum Framework Criteria Committee – CFCC). Other members of the cadre included Bob Rumer, an innovative engineering professor who helped us incorporate the Engineering Standards, and an outstanding high school science teacher, Lesley Gates, who helped provide activities and pedagogy. Learn More…

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy:

The Tree Room: A New Online Resource for Teaching Evolutionary Relationships

Posted: Thursday, November 12th, 2015

by Anna Thanukos, Teresa MacDonald, David Heiser, and Robert Ross

Understanding evolutionary trees is important for students because trees visually represent the idea that all life is genealogically linked. This powerful idea, tied to Next Generation Science Standards MS-LS4-2 and HS-LS4-1, is one of those most fundamental concepts that biological evolution offers to explain the biological world. The implication is that any set of species, no matter how distantly related, share common ancestors at some point in evolutionary history. Evolutionary trees are an efficient way to communicate that idea. It turns out, however, that evolutionary trees are not quite as straightforward to interpret as they may at first appear — so where can a teacher turn for a user-friendly introduction to their use in the classroom? Learn More…

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy:

Ship That Chip: Teaching Engineering by Using Snacks

Posted: Thursday, November 12th, 2015

by Joanne Michael

When a new school year begins, almost every student (and teacher) is excited, motivated, and ready to work hard. Almost as quickly as it began, however, the “newness” of the school year wears off, and the students are in need of something new to recharge them. At the same time, teachers attempting to implement NGSS (even if not in full implementation mode) are getting tired, and may need a pick-me-up of their own. Enter the “Ship the Chip” challenge! Learn More…

Written by Joanne Michael

Joanne Michael is the K-5 science specialist at Meadows Elementary in Manhattan Beach, CA, and CSTA’s intermediate grades 3-5) Director.