September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

Welcome Back!

Posted: Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

by Laura Henriques

I love the start of a new school year! While I have yet to start a year without wishing for just one more week before school starts, I am always eager to get back into the classroom to be with the students. I’ve worked in elementary, middle, secondary and post-secondary classrooms and it’s the kids that keep me going. They challenge me to be a better teacher and a better person as I endeavor to help them develop into the best versions of themselves. What a great responsibility and awesome opportunity we have each year! The work we do, day after day, enables students to learn and grow. Parents send us their children, trusting that we are going to do what we can to help them blossom into productive, kind, learned people. We are privileged to play a role in this process.

I recently read a children’s book called The Three Questions (by Jon J. Muth, based on a short story by Tolstoy). The protagonist in the book asks three questions: When is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do? The answers to those questions serve as a gentle reminder to us as we step back into the classroom.

When is the best time to do things?

There is only one important time, and that time is now.

The time we spend with our students is our most important time. We need to be sure that when we enter the classroom we have done all we can to ensure that it is quality time. We need to be well planned, create meaningful learning experiences that engage our learners, and take into account what we know excellent teaching and learning looks like. Each day we have with them matters. In spite of what it feels like in September, our time with students is very limited. We need to prioritize our learning goals, ensure that our time is efficiently and meaningfully used, and that the learning opportunities are maximized.

Who is the most important one?

The most important one is always the one you are with.

The reason we do what we do day after day, year after year, is the kids. While many of them already think that they are the center of the universe, when they are in our classrooms they should at least be the center of our universe. We need to give them our undivided attention and make sure that they know we are committed partners to their success. We must be sure that the units and lessons we teach are created with them in mind. Lessons need to be developmentally appropriate, student centered, allow for differentiation (we all know that a class is filled with students of varying abilities and backgrounds), and be engaging. This is a tall order to fill, but it is what we are charged to do as professionals.

What is the right thing to do?

The most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing at your side.

The most important thing we do is to help our students on their journey from child to adult. As they learn science content, scientific and engineering skills, and develop a sense of awe about the world around them, students are also learning how to learn. Empowering a student to be an independent learner, a critical thinker, a critical consumer of information is heady stuff. When a child (no matter what their age) leaves our room with these skills, we have provided them with tools that last a lifetime.

As you step back into the classroom this fall I encourage you to keep the story’s three questions and answers in mind. Make the brief time you have with your students – one year from their entire life – make that time important. Make the students with whom you work feel worthy and respected. Make what you do with them something worth doing.

On behalf of all the kids you’ll teach this year (most of who won’t think to tell you), thank you! Thanks for the time you take to grow as a professional, the effort you give to creating valuable learning opportunities, and the time you sacrifice away from family and loved ones to make learning and growth happen in your classroom. Have a great 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.

One Response

  1. Thanks, Laura, for reminding us of what is important as we get wrapped up in the day to day chaos that is the start of school. I look forward to reading your column as the new CSTA President. Thank you for your vision and leadership.

Leave a Reply


California Science Assessment Update

Posted: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

by Jessica Sawko

In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.

At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at 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.

Some ways to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in your classroom

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

by Carol Peterson

1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. 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.

2016 Award Recipients – Join CSTA in Honoring Their Accomplishments

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference  on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!

Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award

John Keller

John Keller

The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well into the future.” 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.

NGSS: Making Your Life Easier

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Peter A’hearn

Wait… What?

NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?

The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…

Powered By DT Author Box

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.

Celestial Highlights, September 2016

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt 

Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. Learn More…

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.