Fires, floods, hurricanes: Teachers turn natural disasters into science and history lessons | EdSource

By Carolyn Jones

At Design Tech High, a charter school in Burlingame that’s affiliated with Oracle, students are analyzing the science behind the Tubbs Fire that raged through Sonoma County in October and creating blueprints for how the destroyed neighborhoods can rebuild in a way that could minimize impacts from the next fire.

The crash course in sustainability is an example of how, amidst the devastation and human suffering, teachers are using wildfires, hurricanes and other natural disasters to further students’ understanding of science, history and social studies.

“Drought, famine, fire, war — students get it. They see the connection between what’s on the news and these larger environmental issues,” said Andra Yeghoian, environmental education coordinator for the San Mateo County Office of Education, who teaches environmental science and trains teachers at Design Tech and other public schools in San Mateo County.

Source: Fires, floods, hurricanes: Teachers turn natural disasters into science and history lessons | EdSource

Board Approves History Social Science Materials – Year 2017 (CA Dept of Education)

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today announced that the State Board of Education (SBE) voted to approve instructional materials for grades K–8 that teach California’s groundbreaking History/Social-Science Curriculum Framework.

“I am proud California continues to lead the nation by teaching history-social science that is inclusive and recognizes the diversity of our great state and nation,” he said. “Students will benefit enormously.”

Torlakson said the instructional materials will give students a broader, deeper, and more accurate understanding of history and the social sciences, provide them with current research, and equip them with the critical thinking and research skills to make up their own minds about controversial issues.

“They update the teaching and learning of history and social science and convey important new information about the challenges and contributions made by individuals and ethnic groups, members of the LGBT communities, and people with disabilities,” he said. “They recognize some individuals and groups who may not have been fully included in the past.”

Source: Board Approves History Social Science Materials – Year 2017 (CA Dept of Education)

New Professional Learning Support Director – Year 2017 (CA Dept of Education)

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced that he has appointed Barbara Murchison as Director of the California Department of Education (CDE) Professional Learning Support Division.

Murchison will oversee the division’s efforts to support educators throughout their professional career, from recruitment to leadership opportunities. This division works in collaboration across the Department and the state, helping educators implement the California Standards and curriculum frameworks.

It administers several professional learning programs for educators at all levels and in all content areas, including science, technology, engineering, math, history-social science, literacy, and arts, with the goal of ensuring equitable learning opportunities for the state’s most vulnerable students, including English learners.

Murchison most recently served as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) State Lead, where she helped create a plan that meets federal requirements while shifting away from top-down decision-making and toward local control that helps local school districts better meet their own needs. The plan was developed over 18 months with input from thousands of Californians.

Source: New Professional Learning Support Director – Year 2017 (CA Dept of Education)

Suisun Valley K-8 School wins CERA grant – Daily Republic

By Daily Republic Staff

The Suisun Valley K-8 School’s Edible Schoolyard project was one of three $2,500 winners of the California Educational Research Association Classroom Innovation Grant.

Jas Wright, principal of Suisun Valley K-8 School, and Stacy Burke, Fairfield-Suisun School District‘s assistant director of public relations and grant writing, teamed up to write the grant.

Suisun Valley’s Agri-Science Program is an innovative approach to teaching the Next Generation Science Standards. In addition to teaching and reinforcing state science standards, the goal of the Agri-Science Program is to teach K-8 students where their food comes from, how it is grown and produced, and the vital role that agriculture plays in their everyday lives.

Source: Good News: Suisun Valley K-8 School wins CERA grant

Solano students get hands-on experience studying Suisun Marsh – Daily Republic

By Daily Republic Staff

The Suisun Marsh attracts professional scientists from all over the world who come to study it.

Few people know that young, local scientists have been studying the marsh consistently for the past eight years thanks to a free opportunity offered by the Solano Resource Conservation District.

About 1,000 sixth- and seventh-graders will conduct soil, water and plant analysis during visits that began Monday and continue into early December. Testing happens during a visit to Rush Ranch Open Space, owned by Solano Land Trust.

Source: Solano students get hands-on experience studying Suisun Marsh

Suisun Valley K-8 School wins innovation grant – Daily Republic

By Tim Goree

The California Educational Research Association (recently announced three winners of its $2,500 Classroom Innovation Grant, and Suisun Valley K-8 School’s Edible Schoolyard project was one of those winners.

Jas Wright, principal of Suisun Valley K-8 School, and Stacy Burke, Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District’s assistant director of Public Relations and Grant Writing, teamed up to write the grant.

Suisun Valley K-8 Edible Schoolyard serves to meet the needs of the Suisun Valley’s agriculture community. The Agri-Science program is an innovative approach to teaching the Next Generation Science Standards.

Source: Good News: Suisun Valley K-8 School wins innovation grant

Solano College gives students career edge with new science building – Daily Republic

By Todd R. Hansen

Shelley Shumate was a student the first year Solano College offered a biotech program. The next year she was working in the manufacturing division of Genentech.

Shumate on Wednesday attended the dedication of the new $34 million, 32,000-square-foot Biotechnology and Science Building at the Vacaville campus across the street from her employer.

She was one of about 75 people who attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony. The building was funded with voter-approved Measure Q monies.

Source: Solano College gives students career edge with new science building

New era for SCC’s biotech, science programs – The Reporter

By Richard Bammer

Solano Community College’s biotech manufacturing program has earned a sterling reputation for excellence, turning out graduates ready for 21st-century jobs, and on Monday faculty and students enrolled in the academic discipline will walk into a gleaming, $34.5 million, state-of-the-art structure in Vacaville to continue to enhance that reputation.

The celebratory day, the first of the 2017-18 academic year for SCC, will come a few weeks and a year after school leaders broke ground on the 38,000-square-foot project on North Village Parkway and a just few weeks after the same leaders broke ground on a new $37 million, 44,000-square-foot science building at the main Fairfield campus on Suisun Valley Road.

The projects, clearly a significant boost to the school’s educational mission and perhaps the envy of other colleges, are financed by Measure Q, the $348 million bond measure Solano County voters passed in 2012.

Source: New era for SCC’s bitech, science programs

How teachers are using the solar eclipse to shed light on science | EdSource

By Carolyn Jones

It’s official: the world is not flat, and on Aug. 21 California science teachers will prove it.

With the total solar eclipse coinciding with the start of school for thousands of California students, teachers around the state will be using the rare solar spectacle to ignite students’ interest in science, showing them first-hand evidence that the earth rotates around the sun, the moon spins around the earth, and all three of them are undeniably round.

“The eclipse will help students appreciate the beauty of space — feel that joy and sense of wonder, ask questions and create their own journey of understanding the universe and their place in it,” said John Panagos, a teacher at Burckhalter Elementary in Oakland.

Source: Fade to black: How teachers are using the solar eclipse to shed light on science | EdSource

Science, veterans’ center at heart of Solano College ceremony – Daily Republic

By Bill Hicks

Administrators and trustees at Solano Community College might want to keep a hard hat and shovel nearby at all times.

The college, which has broken ground and finished construction on a small city’s worth of buildings recently, added another Wednesday, breaking ground on a new $37.6 million science and engineering building, which will also include the school’s new veterans’ center.

“This is a very exciting time for Solano College and the communities we serve,” said Superintendent/President Celia Esposito-Noy. “We are working to keep pace with the demands of our students and the workplace.”

Source: Science, veterans’ center at heart of Solano College ceremony

Trustees OK hotel, Great America, Mary’s Pizza Shack costs – Daily Republic

By Ryan McCarthy

Hotels stays costing $2,926, tickets to Great America totaling $2,502 and catering for a Crystal Middle School event have won Fairfield-Suisun School District trustees’ approval.

Mary’s Pizza Shack in Fairfield catered the Gifted and Talented Education event for more than 200 students and family members. The catering cost $1,231.

The Great America trip was for an eighth-grade class trip at the Sheldon Academy of Innovative Learning.

Source: Trustees OK hotel, Great America, Mary’s Pizza Shack costs

Saturday science lesson with a touch of “Star Wars” – The Reporter

By Michael Morris

“Truly wonderful, the mind of a child is.”

Although the phrase was first uttered by Yoda, parents, faculty and volunteers saw the truth to those words throughout Saturday morning as they creatively intertwined science with the “Star Wars” movies at Edwin Markham Elementary School.

Offering an array of science-based subjects that ranged from astronomy to archeology, the 150-plus students in grades first through sixth were broken up into groups that incorporated a specific emphasis.

“Each one of these classes has a different hands-on activity that introduces the students to different concepts in something like chemistry or physics,” explained Mike Silva, a parent and adjunct professor at Solano Community College who helped coordinate the event. “Then, with the knowledge they acquire there, they develop a skit that they can then perform in front of the community, the parents and the other kids involved.”

Source:  Saturday science lesson with a touch of “Star Wars” – The Reporter

Keen eye on biotech at Markham Elementary – The Reporter

By Joel Rosenbaum

Michael Silva, of Vacaville and a bioengineer at Genentech, works with a group of Markham Elementary School students while he teaches a five-week pilot after school program on the Exploration of Biotechnology. The program is sponsored by the Vacaville Public Education Foundation and the Solano College Biotechnology program.

Source: Keen eye on biotech at Markham Elementary

Guidelines designed to help districts implement new science standards | EdSource

By Carolyn Jones

Thorough, comprehensive teacher training and textbooks that appeal to a diverse array of students will be key to successfully implementing California’s new science standards, according to guidelines released by the standards’ creators.

“Implementation is complex. There’s a lot of moving parts,” said Vanessa Wolbrink, program associate at Achieve, the education nonprofit that helped craft the new Next Generation Science Standards. “We hope this will help.”

The new standards, adopted by California in 2013, focus on hands-on science projects, critical thinking over rote memorization, and crossover between scientific disciplines. They also include curriculum for all grade levels, which will be a major shift for some elementary schools that have not in the past emphasized science instruction.

Source: Guidelines designed to help districts implement new science standards | EdSource

‘Matthew Turner’ ship launching Saturday – Benicia Herald

By Donna Beth Weilenman

A labor of love that began nearly four years ago with the laying of a brigantine’s keel will take an important step forward Saturday when the “Matthew Turner” is launched in Sausalito. Named for the famous shipbuilder who constructed record-setting vessels in Benicia, the Matthew Turner is patterned after the “Galilee,” the ship that covered the distance from Tahiti to California under sail at such speeds that the produce it carried arrived fresh enough to sell to awaiting customers.

The Galilee still holds the speed record – 22 days – for ships under sail from Tahiti to San Francisco.

Alan Olson, who founded the Call of the Sea and Educational Tall Ship education programs, has been dreaming of the day a ship built along Turner’s own designs would become the San Francisco Bay Area’s tall ship.

At one time, the Hawaiian Chieftain held that honor. That ship is an original design that recalls the packet ships that delivered mail and cargo along the Pacific coastline and inland via rivers, or outward across the ocean.

Source: ‘Matthew Turner’ ship launching Saturday

Hundreds fill Armijo gym in name of science – Daily Republic

By Bill Hicks

Hundreds of students and their accompanying projects filled Armijo High School’s E. Gary Vaughn Gymnasium to participate Friday in a science fair that is growing in size.

This is the third year the school has hosted the fair, which had previously included mainly students from Armijo High and Grange Middle School.

Event coordinators Vigdis Asmundson, a Grange science teacher, and Pete Smith, an Armijo science teacher, say this is the first year the event opened up districtwide, with more than 500 entrants.

“They’re allowed to pick anything that interests them,” Asmundson said. Making the experiments “controlled,” or ones testing one variable at a time, was the only requirement, Smith said.

Source: Hundreds fill Armijo gym in name of science

California will administer new pilot science test despite U.S. Department of Education ruling | EdSource

By Pat Maio

In less than two months, California will begin giving public school students a pilot version of an online test based on new science standards – one of the first states to do so in the United States.

About 17 states are in various stages of rolling out assessments based on the new Next Generation Science Standards, which emerged after educational leaders nationwide met in 2010 and pushed for rewriting a science curriculum that had not been changed since the late 1990s. Yet none of those states have progressed as far as California in developing a pilot version based on the standards that California will administer to students in the 5th, 8th and 10th grade.

However, when some districts begin administering the online pilot tests on March 20, California will effectively be in violation of a ruling issued by the U.S. Department of Education two days before President Barack Obama left office. That ruling rejected the state’s request to waive having to administer the outdated paper and pencil California Standards Tests in science, which are based on the old standards introduced in 1998.

Source: California will administer new pilot science test despite U.S. Department of Education ruling | EdSource

U.S. Education Department rejects California’s science testing plans | EdSource

By Pat Maio

With two days remaining before President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration, the U.S. Department of Education has rejected California’s request to begin administering online tests this spring based on new science standards, in lieu of a test based on standards established in 1998.

The state’s final administrative appeal following a six-months-long battle over science testing in California was denied Wednesday in a Jan. 18 letter sent by Ann Whalen, a senior adviser to U.S. Secretary of Education John King Jr., to State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and State Board of Education President Michael Kirst.

Whalen wrote that she made her ruling based on concerns about the lack of transparency of science testing data during California’s transition from online pilot testing to fully operational tests set for the 2018-19 school year.

Source: U.S. Education Department rejects California’s science testing plans | EdSource

Tom Torlakson Highlights Science Standards – Year 2017 (CA Dept of Education)

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today saluted the innovative science instruction taking place at Edna Brewer Middle School in the Oakland Unified School District—instruction that will be coming to all of California’s public schools as a result of recent efforts to dramatically enhance and modernize science education.

“As a former science teacher, I couldn’t be more excited by the learning I saw today in Jeri Johnstone’s eighth grade integrated science class,” Torlakson said. “It’s hands-on, interactive, and collaborative. Students and teachers ask lots of questions and work like scientists. These are the kinds of skills needed for success in high school, college and the modern workplace.”

The Oakland Unified School District is one of eight school districts and two charter school management organizations participating in the early implementation of California’s next Generation Science Standards adopted by the State Board of Education (SBE) in 2013.

“I want to thank all the innovative, creative, and dedicated science teachers in California for working to improve science education. It’s a huge effort, but it will be well worth it when we see students who are thinking like scientists and fully engaged in their lessons,” Torlakson said.

Source: Tom Torlakson Highlights Science Standards – Year 2017 (CA Dept of Education)

Federal government insists again that California administer old science tests | EdSource

By Louis Freedberg

The U.S. Department of Education has once again rejected California’s bid to begin phasing in tests this spring based on new science standards, in lieu of current tests based on standards in place since 1998.

In a letter sent Tuesday to state education leaders, Ann Whalen, a senior adviser to U.S. Secretary of Education John King Jr., said that California would have to continue to administer the old tests. She said the pilot tests based on the Next Generation Science Standards adopted by California in 2013 would not “measure the full depth and breadth of the state’s academic content in science.”

It is not clear what will happen after Jan. 20 when President-elect Donald Trump is inaugurated, and whether his administration will also insist that California administer the old tests.

Source: Federal government insists again that California administer old science tests | EdSource