September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

UC Museum of Paleontology Wins the Prestigious SPORE Award

Posted: Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

by Judy ScotchmoorUnderstanding Science

[Editor’s note: In our January issue of CCS, CSTA announced that the UC Museum of Paleontology’s Understanding Science and Understanding Evolution websites had been awarded the prestigious Science Prize for Online Resources in Education—the SPORE award.  The following article by the project coordinator (and past CSTA board member), Judy Scotchmoor, describes the background and significance of the two websites.]

The journey for Understanding Evolution (UE) began in 2000 when UCMP hosted the National Conference on the Teaching of Evolution (NCTE)  Now known as “the conference with legs” due to the ongoing collaborations initiated at that meeting, NCTE brought together more than 45 scientific, educational, and media organizations to discuss how to better support evolution education.  Lack of good teaching resources was one of the identified needs and led to a successful proposal to the National Understanding EvolutionScience Foundation (ESI-0096613) to build a resource for K-12 teachers to increase their content knowledge, confidence, and access to resources that would, in turn, increase their teaching of evolution.  With additional funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the initial site immediately expanded to include materials for K-12 students and the general public and Understanding Evolution launched in 2004.Tibetan sample

Since that time, the site has continued to expand and attract a large, international audience, averaging more than 1.2 million pages accesses each month during the academic year.  Partnerships with other universities have resulted in translations in Spanish, Turkish, and Tibetan (see figures), and others are underway.  We continue to add new features based Turkish sampleupon audience input, offering a monthly feature called Evo in the News, research profiles, case studies, and interactive investigations, all of which help to reinforce the relevance of evolution and the science of evolution.  With an additional NSF grant (DUE-0918741), we are currently undergoing another expansion to provide resources to support undergraduate teaching.   This grant will also allow an Spanish sampleupgrade to our navigation system and access to new resources such as an image library, access to labs using real datasets, and the inclusion of an interactive syllabus that connects instructors to slide sets that encourage the integration of evolution throughout the biology curriculum.

With a focus on evolution education, the journey has not been free of challenges, and during the process, it became increasingly clear to us that some of the confusions about evolution were similar to confusions about climate change, conservation issues, etc.  The problem was really with a poor public understanding of science and how it works – thus the development of Understanding Science (NSF- EAR-0624436), which launched in 2009.  Barely two years old, this site provides resources that shift the paradigm from teaching science as a set of facts or a rigid, linear method to one that better reflects how science is really done.  By focusing on science as a dynamic and iterative process, we hope to better engage students and the general public with science, its relevance to their lives, its importance to society, and ultimately, the realization that evolution is good science.

Much of the success of these sites lies in (1) the active role of teachers (our primary target audience) in their development, (2) a full-team approach, and (3) extraordinary collaborations.  In both cases, we brought together the necessary scientists, science educators, teachers, writers, and Web designers to inform content and design from start to finish.  Through the various phases of development for Understanding Evolution, we have had invaluable input from 40 advisors from 30 institutions representing 14 states.  For Understanding Science, there are 35 advisors from 30 institutions and 14 states.  Project partners have included the National Center for Science Education, the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent), and the American Institute of Biological Sciences.  As a result, this award belongs to a huge number of people, who respond to review requests, check facts, add new ideas, suggest resources, and generally encourage.

UCMP is dedicated to maintaining these important educational resources, which ultimately will contribute to a more scientifically literate society.  We are extremely grateful to those who have offered financial support toward their sustainability.

Check out the Understanding Evolution and Understanding Science websites.  The  Their article on the projects was published in the December 24, 2010 issue of Science and is available online at:

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.

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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).

“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.