September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

What’s Your 2015 Resolution?

Posted: Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

by Laura Henriques

I heard a story on the radio about New Year’s Resolutions. It seems that about 44% of people make resolutions each year with 42% of them self-reporting that they’ve kept the resolution all year. That means about 18% of us make and keep a resolution each year. While the success rate isn’t all that high, the researcher being interviewed seemed to think that action of making a resolution is still a good thing. It helps us be intentional about our goals and actions, or at least our intended goals and actions! She seemed to think that simply stating your resolution and trying to keep it helped us move in our desired direction.

With that in mind, what is your professional resolution for 2015? Will you read an article related to teaching science each month? Support a colleague? Be a Master Teacher for a student teacher? Serve on a committee at school or the district? Share your expertise with others by presenting a workshop at the CSTA conference in Sacramento or writing an article for California Classroom Science (CCS)? Get better connected to other science education professionals? Try something new to help you transition to NGSS? Apply to serve on the CSTA Board of Directors?

Whatever your science education resolution is for 2015, CSTA can help. 

Read an article related to science teaching each monthCCS comes out every month. The issues have articles about pedagogy, science lesson/unit ideas and science content. The issues are available on the website and are emailed to subscribers each month.



Support a colleague or serve as a Master Teacher for a student teacher – Many of our loyal CCS readers are veteran teachers with lots of expertise to share with others. If you find yourself in the position of mentoring new teachers either officially as a science coach/TOSA/BTSA provider or as a Master Teacher, you may find this back issue of the CSTA California Journal of Science Education to be useful. There have been numerous articles in CCS over the years which provide you with pointers to help you mentor and support colleagues. All of us need mentors, and when we’ve reached a certain level we are able to turn around to mentor others.

Serve on a committee – Your department chair, site administrator or district curriculum specialists can best point you in the direction of how to serve on committees at school or in the district. As your sites transition to NGSS there will likely be many opportunities to get involved. If you’ve been staying abreast of NGSS activities in the state, been reading CSTA’s NGSS website and its links, attended NGSS statewide rollouts, then you may be in a position to help with those efforts. CSTA also has committees for which you can volunteer.

Share your expertise: present or publish with CSTA – Think of the things you do in your classroom that work really well. It might be a teaching strategy, a unit that links science and Common Core, it might be some amazing engineering challenge. Please consider doing a workshop on that topic at the upcoming conference. Did you know that CSTA members who present at the CSTA Conference get reduced registration rates? The call for workshop proposals (due February 13th) and short-course proposals (due January 15th) are now available. If you’ve never presented before, consider presenting with a colleague (it’s less intimidating that way).

If you aren’t ready for a live 60-minute workshop on the topic perhaps you might want to write about the things that work really well for you in your classroom. An article submission for CCS could be the way to go. Article submission guidelines are available on the CSTA website.

Get connected to other science education professionals – CSTA has several Facebook groups. The intent is to share good ideas, ask for advice and advertise opportunities. Join one of the groups and become better connected to what’s happening for California science educators.

Try something to transition to NGSS –  CSTA’s NGSS website is filled with information and timelines related to NGSS. There is also a link to an NGSS blog with articles that colleagues have written about their efforts to shift towards the 3-dimensional practices associated with NGSS. Most of us are not jumping into the deep end of NGSS, but rather we are taking baby steps by implementing the science and engineering practices to existing lessons or adding engineering to our classes.

Apply to serve on the CSTA Board of Directors – The Board of Directors is currently seeking nominations for President-Elect, Secretary, 2-year College Director, Middle School Director, Primary Director and Region1 Director (representing Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, Del Norte, El Dorado, Glenn, Humboldt, Lake, Lassen, Mendocino, Modoc, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity, Tuolumne, Yolo, Yuba counties) and Region 3 Director (representing Fresno, Kern, Kings, Los Angeles, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare, Ventura counties). Position descriptions and the nomination/application process are available online. Consider giving your time and expertise to serve on the Board. Nominations are due January 31st.

Kudos to you for whatever professional resolution you decide to make this year. As we continue to grow as professionals and strengthen our level of professional engagement everyone benefits. We push ourselves to continuously improve, we support each other, and our students are the benefactors of our efforts.  Good luck – I hope you are part of the 18% who are able to fulfill your resolution, but even if you don’t fully meet the ambitious resolution you set, I hope you make progress towards it. 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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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.