September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

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.



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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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…

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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.

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…

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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.