May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

With the Uncertain Status of New Standards for California, What Do I Do Right Now?

Posted: Thursday, August 1st, 2013

by Rick Pomeroy

“What do I do right now?” Whenever I talk to science teachers about NGSS and the proposed California science standards, this is the first question I get.  With the pending-approval status of new California standards, this is an important and pressing question that needs an answer sooner rather than later. To quell their concerns, my answer is, “Focus on the Science and Engineering Practices.” Although this may seem a bit flippant, in reality it is something that every teacher has control over. It is also a strategy that will resonate with the expectations of the Common Core Standards that are being implemented throughout California this year.

I am not so concerned right now that teachers begin changing their curriculum to address the new set of Disciplinary Core Ideas because many of those are similar to the current California Standards. They may be written in a different format and there may be different applications of the content in question, but essentially, the Disciplinary Core Ideas represent the content of science, something that teachers have gotten quite proficient at sharing. I am also not concerned right now with a heavy emphasis on the Cross Cutting Concepts. Deep down in their souls, most science teachers know certain concepts permeate all of areas science. For example, the ideas that scale can impact function or that energy exists in biology, chemistry, physics, and earth and space science are not foreign to science teachers. In our current “silo” approach to the sciences, however, we may talk about these cross cutting concepts using different terms or calculations and we seldom emphasize that they are the same ideas. Clearly there is work to be done and although we will ultimately need to focus on our use of the specific Disciplinary Core Ideas and the Cross Cutting Concepts outlined in the NGSS/CA science standards, for now the focus needs to be on the practices.

In our current standards, the “practices” (Investigation and Experimentation) are relegated to a separate chapter at the end of all of the content. Consequently, these “practices” are often taught for the sake of the practice, devoid of a connection to meaningful content and in some schools not taught at all. In the NGSS, the “practices” are integrated into every Performance Expectation. It will no longer be sufficient to do one lab activity to validate the concepts in a chapter or to provide a framework for demonstrating vocabulary prowess. Instead, teachers will be asked to engage their students on a daily basis in the “practices” of science and engineering. Teachers will need to rethink and redesign their lessons to include modeling, argumentation, analyzing data, and drawing conclusions on a daily basis. This is a major shift from the “business as usual” lecture, practice, test format that we sometimes see today. In many ways, science teaching is coming full circle. For those who have been teaching for more than 20 years, it almost looks like the pendulum is swinging back.

So, in response to the “What do I do right now?” question, my recommendation to focus on the practices makes sense. We should put all of our energy into incorporating new ways of teaching to engage students in authentic science practices, building their abilities to think critically, to analyze data and observations, and to communicate effectively. Building these strategies and skills into lessons now will prepare both the teacher and the student to make the next leap when new standards are approved. Instead of building an entirely new curriculum structure, the key practices piece will already be in place allowing teachers to focus in the content and concepts and how they will be integrated into a vibrant dynamic teaching philosophy.

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Written by Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy is science education lecturer/supervisor in the School of Education, University of California Davis and is a past-president of CSTA.

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CSTA Annual Conference Early Bird Rates End July 14

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

Teachers engaged in workshop activity

Teachers engaging in hands-on learning during a workshop at the 2016 CSTA conference.

Don’t miss your chance to register at the early bird rate for the 2017 CSTA Conference – the early-bird rate closes July 14. Need ideas on how to secure funding for your participation? Visit our website for suggestions, a budget planning tool, and downloadable justification letter to share with your admin. Want to take advantage of the early rate – but know your district will pay eventually? Register online today and CSTA will reimburse you when we receive payment from your district/employer. (For more information on how that works contact Zi Stair in the office for details – 916-979-7004 or zi@cascience.org.)

New Information Now Available On-line:

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.

Goodbye Outgoing and Welcome Incoming CSTA Board Members

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Jill Grace

Jill Grace, CSTA President, 2017-2019

On July 1, 2017 five CSTA members concluded their service and four new board members joined the ranks of the CSTA Board of Directors. CSTA is so grateful for all the volunteer board of directors who contribute hours upon hours of time and energy to advance the work of the association. At the June 3 board meeting, CSTA was able to say goodbye to the outgoing board members and welcome the incoming members.

This new year also brings with it a new president for CSTA. As of July 1, 2017 Jill Grace is the president of the California Science Teachers Association. Jill is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, a former middle school science teacher, and is currently a Regional Director with the K-12 Alliance @ WestEd where she works with California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative districts and charter networks in the San Diego area.

Outgoing Board Members

  • Laura Henriques (President-Elect: 2011 – 2013, President: 2013 – 2015, Past President: 2015 – 2017)
  • Valerie Joyner (Region 1 Director: 2009 – 2013, Primary Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Mary Whaley (Informal Science Education Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Sue Campbell (Middle School/Jr. High Director: 2015 – 2017)
  • Marcus Tessier (2-Year College Director: 2015 – 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.

Finding My Student’s Motivation of Learning Through Engineering Tasks

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Huda Ali Gubary and Susheela Nath

It’s 8:02 and the bell rings. My students’ walk in and pick up an entry ticket based on yesterday’s lesson and homework. My countdown starts for students to begin…3, 2, 1. Ten students are on task and diligently completing the work, twenty are off task with behaviors ranging from talking up a storm with their neighbors to silently staring off into space. This was the start of my classes, more often than not. My students rarely showed the enthusiasm for a class that I had eagerly prepared for. I spent so much time searching for ways to get my students excited about the concepts they were learning. I wanted them to feel a connection to the lessons and come into my class motivated about what they were going to learn next. I would ask myself how I could make my class memorable where the kids were in the driver’s seat of learning. Incorporating engineering made this possible. 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 California NGSS k-8 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.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Unveils Updated Recommended Literature List

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson unveiled an addition of 285 award-winning titles to the Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list.

“The books our students read help broaden their perspectives, enhance their knowledge, and fire their imaginations,” Torlakson said. “The addition of these award-winning titles represents the state’s continued commitment to the interests and engagement of California’s young readers.”

The Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list is a collection of more than 8,000 titles of recommended reading for children and adolescents. Reflecting contemporary and classic titles, including California authors, this online list provides an exciting range of literature that students should be reading at school and for pleasure. Works include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama to provide for a variety of tastes, interests, and abilities. Learn More…

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

Teaching Science in the Time of Alternative Facts – Why NGSS Can Help (somewhat)

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn

The father of one of my students gave me a book: In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood by Walt Brown, Ph. D. He had heard that I was teaching Plate Tectonics and wanted me to consider another perspective. The book offered the idea that the evidence for plate tectonics could be better understood if we considered the idea that beneath the continent of Pangaea was a huge underground layer of water that suddenly burst forth from a rift between the now continents of Africa and South America. The waters shot up and the continents hydroplaned apart on the water layer to their current positions. The force of the movement pushed up great mountain ranges which are still settling to this day, resulting in earthquakes along the margins of continents. This had happened about 6,000 years ago and created a great worldwide flood. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.