May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

What Is CSTA Doing for You?

Posted: Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

by Laura Henriques

Last month I challenged you to think about what you could do for CSTA and for science education. While I boldly channeled my inner JFK and wrote ask not what CSTA can do for you…, this month I want to spend some time letting you know exactly what CSTA can and has done for you.

January 2014 marks the 50th anniversary for CSTA. Incorporated on January 3, 1964, CSTA has been the largest and most consistent voice of science educators in California. We have a long history of advocating for quality science education and this is something we take seriously. While California State Board of Education meetings often have lots of representatives testifying, other equally important meetings take place where CSTA is the only voice for science education. As members, we are lucky to have an organization that keeps abreast of policy and educational issues that impact science education. CSTA tries to involve you, our members, in this process as well.

Recent examples of how we have worked to involve you in advocating for quality science education include:

  • NGSS review sessions hosted throughout the state for CSTA members provided formal venues to give feedback to the California Department of Education and Achieve.
  • NGSS Town Hall Meetings were hosted by CSTA. Feedback from these meetings was shared with the State Board of Education via letters and testimony.
  • ELA/ELD Framework Review workshops to be hosted this month to create a forum for getting the science educators’ input to the Instructional Quality Commission. Since no science teachers were on the ELA/ELD Curriculum Committee it’s important that the science community take a close look at the framework and provide input.
  • We share opportunities for you to become more actively involved in science education issues. This includes applying to serve on Science Framework Focus Groups and the IQC, opportunities to provide feedback on the standards, drafts of frameworks, etc. We know that everyone cannot attend regional meetings or workshops but all of us can provide our input and CSTA shares the mechanism to do that.
  • We have been actively involved with the adoption and planning for implementation of Next Generation Science Standards. Partnering with other organizations in the state (California Department of Education, K12 Alliance, California Science Project, county offices and others) we are working to ensure that there are ample opportunities for you to learn about NGSS and how to shift from your current practice to those required in the new standards.

Over the past few months the Membership Committee has been busy adding benefits to your CSTA membership. Lisa Hegdahl and the membership committee share some of our newest benefits. While not all of these are directly related to your classroom, the Office Max discount card will provide you with some financial relief! The cards were introduced at the CSTA conference. In just one month, a handful of members using the discount cards have saved $170! Read Lisa’s article to see how to access these new benefits in our newly remodeled Members Only section of the website.

50_CSTA_logo_SmallTo celebrate and honor our 50 years, CSTA has created a brand new pin based on our 50th anniversary logo. Members who renew this year will receive the pin with their membership. Lifetime members and others are eligible to receive the commemorative pin by making a $50 tax-deductible donation to CSTA. Donations will support leadership development and programming. CSTA survives because of our membership and our volunteer leaders. We recognize that we need to help support future leaders so that we can be here for the next 50 years. Your donations to CSTA will contribute to that effort.

In addition to keeping you well informed and advocating on your behalf we also publish this newsletter, the California Classroom Science (CCS). This past year we’ve seen some changes to CCS. We have more widely solicited author contributions (thanks to all our members who have put fingers to keyboard to share their expertise), and have instituted themed issues. This allows us to get a deeper understanding of a single topic.

2014 will bring many opportunities and changes for CSTA. All the work mentioned above, and the work we have to look forward to in 2014, necessitates a membership dues adjustment. For the first time in nine years CSTA will be asking you to increase your investment in your professional association. As a 501(c)(3) organization, your membership dues paid to CSTA are tax deductible. For 2014 the new one-year membership rate is $50. Dues support the work of volunteers and staff to represent the voice of the science education community at the state level, production of 12 issues of California Classroom Science, and NGSS implementation work. Your membership in CSTA will also afford you the benefit of member registration rates for the 2014 NSTA Long Beach Area Conference – in Collaboration with CSTA (December 4-6). Rates for three-year, retired, and life members have also undergone an adjustment; a chart of the 2014 membership rates is available here. As an added bonus, our partnership with NSTA for the December conference includes a year-long discounted dual membership option.

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This month’s issue of CCS focuses on informal science education. Informal science education constitutes more than just field trips or museum/zoo visits. Any learning that takes place outside the classroom, outside the formal learning environment, is informal learning. Considering that most of our learning is informal, it’s really important for educators to think about learning that takes place in that environment. Articles this month highlight some of the exciting ways that formal and informal learning overlap. Jim Kisiel, a science educator who researches learning in informal settings, reminds us that our informal partners do much more than provide us with field trip opportunities. Informal Science Institutions provide opportunities for us to grow as professionals as well, and many provide outreach and have great resources on their websites. Most California science teachers know that the Exploratorium offers professional development for educators but you might not know that they partner with schools to support science and English language learners. Dana Goldberg’s article showcases some of their work in this arena. Lori Walsh shows us how a beach clean-up activity can foster science learning, and help students with environmental stewardship.

The other featured articles this month remind us of how valuable informal learning is. To support our thinking beyond the field trip, our Regional Directors have gathered information from a smattering of informal sites around the state. The lists they’ve compiled are not meant to be exhaustive or endorsements, rather they show us the variety of activities supported by our informal partners who help us and our students be more engaged in science learning. The intersection of formal, informal and after school learning is gaining interest and importance. Next month the National Research Council is hosting an invitation-only summit to address this very topic. The Exploratorium is hosting similar sorts of symposiums as well in February and March. We will report on these events in a later issue of CCS.

As we kick off a new year and CSTA starts its second half-century, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your commitment to high quality science education in California. Thank you for your membership and your contributions to science learning.

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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Participate in Chemistry Education Research Study, Earn $500-800 Dollars!

Posted: Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

WestEd, a non-profit educational research agency, has been funded by the US Department of Education to test a new molecular modeling kit, Happy Atoms. Happy Atoms is an interactive chemistry learning experience that consists of a set of physical atoms that connect magnetically to form molecules, and an app that uses image recognition to identify the molecules that you create with the set. WestEd is conducting a study around the effectiveness of using Happy Atoms in the classroom, and we are looking for high school chemistry teachers in California to participate.

As part of the study, teachers will be randomly assigned to either the treatment group (who uses Happy Atoms) or the control group (who uses Happy Atoms at a later date). Teachers in the treatment group will be asked to use the Happy Atoms set in their classrooms for 5 lessons over the course of the fall 2017 semester. Students will complete pre- and post-assessments and surveys around their chemistry content knowledge and beliefs about learning chemistry. WestEd will provide access to all teacher materials, teacher training, and student materials needed to participate.

Participating teachers will receive a stipend of $500-800. You can read more information about the study here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HappyAtoms

Please contact Rosanne Luu at rluu@wested.org or 650.381.6432 if you are interested in participating in this opportunity, or if you have any questions!

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.

2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption Reviewer Application

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

The California Department of Education and State Board of Education are now accepting applications for reviewers for the 2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption. The application deadline is 3:00 pm, July 21, 2017. The application is comprehensive, so don’t wait until the last minute to apply.

On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson forwarded this recruitment letter to county and district superintendents and charter school administrators.

Review panel members will evaluate instructional materials for use in kindergarten through grade eight, inclusive, that are aligned with the California Next Generation Science Content Standards for California Public Schools (CA NGSS). 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.

Lessons Learned from the NGSS Early Implementer Districts

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

On March 31, 2017, Achieve released two documents examining some lessons learned from the California K-8 Early Implementation Initiative. The initiative began in August 2014 and was developed by the K-12 Alliance at WestEd, with close collaborative input on its design and objectives from the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education, and Achieve.

Eight (8) traditional school districts and two (2) charter management organizations were selected to participate in the initiative, becoming the first districts in California to implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Those districts included Galt Joint Union Elementary, Kings Canyon Joint Unified, Lakeside Union, Oakland Unified, Palm Springs Unified, San Diego Unified, Tracy Joint Unified, Vista Unified, Aspire, and High Tech High.

To more closely examine some of the early successes and challenges experienced by the Early Implementer LEAs, Achieve interviewed nine of the ten participating districts and compiled that information into two resources, focusing primarily on professional learning and instructional materials. 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.

Using Online Simulations to Support the NGSS in Middle School Classrooms

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

by Lesley Gates, Loren Nikkel, and Kambria Eastham

Middle school teachers in Kings Canyon Unified School District (KCUSD), a CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative district, have been diligently working on transitioning to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) integrated model for middle school. This year, the teachers focused on building their own knowledge of the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs). They have been gathering and sharing ideas at monthly collaborative meetings as to how to make sure their students are not just learning about science but that they are actually doing science in their classrooms. Students should be planning and carrying out investigations to gather data for analysis in order to construct explanations. This is best done through hands-on lab experiments. Experimental work is such an important part of the learning of science and education research shows that students learn better and retain more when they are active through inquiry, investigation, and application. A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2011) notes, “…learning about science and engineering involves integration of the knowledge of scientific explanations (i.e., content knowledge) and the practices needed to engage in scientific inquiry and engineering design. Thus the framework seeks to illustrate how knowledge and practice must be intertwined in designing learning experiences in K-12 Science Education” (pg. 11).

Many middle school teachers in KCUSD are facing challenges as they begin implementing these student-driven, inquiry-based NGSS science experiences in their classrooms. First, many of the middle school classrooms at our K-8 school sites are not designed as science labs. Learn More…

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the NGSS Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

Celestial Highlights: May – July 2017

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

May Through July 2017 with Web Resources for the Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graphs of planet rising and setting times by Jeffrey L. Hunt.

In spring and summer 2017, Jupiter is the most prominent “star” in the evening sky, and Venus, even brighter, rules the morning. By mid-June, Saturn rises at a convenient evening hour, allowing both giant planets to be viewed well in early evening until Jupiter sinks low in late September. The Moon is always a crescent in its monthly encounters with Venus, but is full whenever it appears near Jupiter or Saturn in the eastern evening sky opposite the Sun. (In 2017, Full Moon is near Jupiter in April, Saturn in June.) At intervals of 27-28 days thereafter, the Moon appears at a progressively earlier phase at each pairing with the outer planet until its final conjunction, with Moon a thin crescent, low in the west at dusk. You’ll see many beautiful events by just following the Moon’s wanderings at dusk and dawn in the three months leading up to the solar eclipse. Learn More…

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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.