Supporting Excellent Science Teaching for Georgia

2019 Conference Preview
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 September 2018 2019 Conference Preview

In This Issue
· 2019 Conference Preview
· PAEMST Winner 
· physTEC & edTPA
· HHMI Data Points
· Student Research

· GSTA Recommends
· General
· Elementary
· Middle/High
Quick Links
Science GSE
GA Performance Stds
CCGPS Literacy Stds
A Framework for K-12 Science Education
GSTA Recommends

New science education resource from IIHS

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), best known for crash testing vehicles and issuing safety ratings, has announced a new online educational resource. The new website, IIHS-HLDI in the Classroom, is designed to apply physics and biology concepts to understanding what’s happening in a car crash and why some vehicles are safer than others.

The completely free site features videos and hands-on activities developed with the University of Florida College of Education and educator Griff Jones, Ph.D. The materials are a great way to augment lessons on things like energy, inertia, impulse, and momentum.

GSTA and NSTA Offer Joint Memberships

GSTA and NSTA are now offering joint memberships. You can join both GSTA and NSTA for one year for just $104, which is a savings of $15. Take advantage by visiting this special page on the NSTA site.
Notes From the Editor

Share Your Great Ideas! Write for eObservations

Have a great lesson or idea to share? Contribute to eObservations and gain recognition for your great work with students by submitting an article for publication. Each month, we feature articles of ~500-750 words that fit into one of the three series described below. We also invite classroom-oriented education research, or K-12 student scientific research. Articles should include 1-2 supporting images and one or more links to additional information or supporting files. Articles can be submitted via email.

Implementing the Science GSE

This series is intended to build teachers' capacity for the new Science Georgia Standards of Excellence and to increase their understanding of the Framework for K-12 Science Education by highlighting model classroom lessons that support students in three-dimensional science learning. Articles should describe lessons that challenge students to integrate core ides, science & engineering practices, and crosscutting concepts to explain phenomena or solve problems.

Connecting Research & Best Practice

This series is intended to help teachers incorporate research-based best practices into their science and STEM classrooms. Articles should focus on curriculum, instructional, or assessment approaches that are demonstrated to support science learning within the context of Georgia's student assessment and teacher evaluation systems. Each article should provide relevant background information and practical guidance for classroom implementation.

Speaking Up for Science Education
This series offers a space for GSTA members to share their perspectives on key issues facing science education in our state and nation. We seek articles that inform and support members in acting as leaders and advocates for science education on the local, state, and national levels.

Have Something to Share with GSTA Members?

GSTA seeks to share announcements, information, and resources from not-for-profit or government-sponsored programs at no cost. We also offer paid advertising options for commercial interests that align with GSTA's goals. Please visit GSTA's Newsletter Information for details.
Notes From the Editor
GSTA 2019: Register, Submit Your Proposal, & Make Plans to Join Us in Columbus

GSTA's 2019 annual conference will be held February 14-16, 2019 at the Columbus Georgia Convention and Trade Center. Bring your love for science education, and join us for great programming that will help you be your best back in your classroom.

At times, a teacher’s passion can be overwhelmed by frustration, fatigue, and cynicism.  Teachers are lifelong learners that inspire a passion for learning in their students and who inspire children to do great things.  It is important for teachers to not only know what they are doing in their classrooms but also to know why they do it to fuel their passion.  Our passion is what fuels our journey and makes it worthwhile and enjoyable.  This year’s conference is designed to recapture the passion that motivated us to become teachers and to inspire, rekindle, and build the capacity of teachers and educators as we stop and reflect while listening to the stories, insights, and reflections of our fellow educators, experts, and ourselves.  Conference sessions this year will focus on sharing best practices, resources, and ideas based on the following strands:

  • Passionate About Literacy to Fuel Deeper Scientific Understanding: A passion for reading and writing builds a strong foundation and love of scientific thinking and discovery. This strand encompasses best practices in the integration of literacy within the context of the Georgia Standards of Excellence in Science designed to improve the student’s understanding and skills. Sessions will focus on how literacy strategies can be used to increase the depth and breadth of the student’s scientific understanding and critical thinking skills.
  • Passionate About Real-World Relevance of Science Through STEM/STEAM: Integration of STEM/STEAM in the science classroom connects scientific concepts and skills to the student’s world and brings relevance across the curriculum. Sessions will focus on how STEM/STEAM can be integrated into lessons and activities that promote real-world problem-based learning that provide the student with a context for learning and achieving the goals of the Georgia Standards of Excellence in Science. Best practices on how mathematics, technology, and engineering can be integrated into science lessons will be highlighted as a context for deeper scientific understanding.
  • Passionate About Three-Dimensional Science Practices: Students achieve a stronger understanding of science when disciplinary core ideas, science and engineering practices, and cross-cutting concepts are woven together within student learning opportunities that explore real-world phenomena and allow students to solve authentic problems. Sessions will focus on engaging teachers in exploring how to use a three-dimensional approach to teaching the Georgia Standards of Excellence in Science that results in authentic student products.
Vickery Creek Middle School STEAM Teacher Among 2018 PAEMST Winners

Congratulations to the 104 science and math teachers selected this year as winners of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). Presidential awardees will each receive a presidential citation; a trip to Washington, D.C., to attend a series of recognition events and professional development opportunities; and $10,000 from the National Science Foundation. 

Carrie Beth Rykowski, an active GSTA member, is Georgia's science winner. An educator for eight years, Rykowski is in her eighth year of teaching at Vickery Creek Middle School. She recently created a STEAM elective course and currently teaches it to sixth through eighth grade students. Previously, she taught sixth grade science. Rykowski is pictured above holding her Presidential certificate between Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer, Michael Kratsios, and National Science Foundation Director, Dr. France A. Córdova

The highly collaborative STEAM course is rooted in science concepts and extends into art, robotics, and computer science. Carrie Beth has developed a makerspace STEAM lab that is equipped with 3-D printers and other prototyping equipment, so students can learn 21st century skills through designing solutions to problems. The inspiration for the course stems from her time spent at Georgia Tech during the last four summers as part of the Georgia Intern Fellowships for Teachers (GIFT) program The GIFT program pairs classroom teachers with engineering mentors in an effort to create lesson plans for students.

Carrie Beth received her undergraduate degree from Georgia Tech, a B.S. in management, cum laude, which was followed by a Master's of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) in middle childhood education, magna cum laude, from Georgia State University. She holds a gifted endorsement and certifications for mathematics and science teaching in fourth through eighth grades, and another in engineering and technology. She was elected Teacher of the Year in 2015, and received the GIFT Action Plan Achievement Award in 2016 and 2017.

Read the full press release.

The physTEC Program & The edTPA Challenge

- Frank Lock, Georgia State University

Articles addressing the issue of physics education reform have recently appeared in “The Physics Teacher,” and “Physics Today.” Having had the opportunity to work recruiting and mentoring high school physics teachers for three years as physTEC Teacher In Residence(TIR) at Georgia State University, I have been immersed in STEM teacher preparation. The physTEC program is designed to recruit and provide mentoring for physics majors who express an interest in teaching high school physics (1). The physTEC program also promotes excellence in the classroom for in-service physics teachers through Teacher Assistance Groups, professional learning communities that promote excellence in high school physics education. The physTEC program has made a valuable contribution to improving the quality of high school physics teaching nationwide. Through the efforts of the Georgia State physics and astronomy department in soliciting a physTEC grant from the American Physical Society and the American Association of Physics Teachers, in the last four years eighteen well-qualified high school physics teachers have been prepared by the GSU College of Education and Human Development.

As physics education professionals, it will be valuable for GSTA members to have information about a teacher certification program that may undermine the goals of the physTEC program. Earning a teaching certificate from a state education department is a significant accomplishment for a pre-service teacher. The certification program adopted by the Georgia Department of Education, edTPA, is changing that accomplishment into a major hurdle, and interfering with the preparation of not only well qualified high school physics teachers, but teachers in all disciplines. This has far reaching implications for public school education in our state.

The article “The Past and Future of Physics Education Reform” in the May, 2017, issue of Physics Today includes a passage describing the Every Student Succeeds Act as leading to dramatic improvements in the preparation of public-school teachers (2). The article also presents information about the challenges of teacher certification created by the law.

Working with eight students preparing to teach high school physics during my first two years as a TIR, my goal was to do everything I could to help them prepare for their first year of teaching physics, as well as prepare them for a high school physics teaching career. I emphasized that I was there to coach them and encouraged them to not view me as a University Supervisor.

During the 2014 -2015 academic year, the Georgia State University Teaching Candidates (TCs – student teachers) were assigned to middle school science classrooms during the fall semester, and high school physics classes in the spring. That year, GSU required all TCs to complete edTPA as a pilot program. edTPA is a pre-service teacher evaluation program administered by Pearson Education Evaluation Systems and developed by Stanford University.

The agency responsible for teacher certification for the state of Georgia, the Professional Services Commission, required successful completion of edTPA for certification of teachers beginning with the 2015-2016 academic year. As I worked with the TCs, it became obvious that edTPA would be a major emphasis of the teacher preparation program of the College of Education at GSU.

My initial exposure to edTPA gave me the impression that it is similar to the National Board Teacher Certification program. National Board Certification was designed to develop, retain and recognize accomplished teachers and to generate ongoing improvement in schools nationwide (3). It did not take me long to conclude that edTPA is inappropriate for pre- service teacher certification.

The edTPA process requires TCs to complete five “Critical Dimensions of Teaching” assignments. These include 1. Planning Instruction and Assessment 2. Instructing and Engaging Students in Learning 3. Assessing Student Learning 4. Analysis of Teaching Effectiveness 5. Academic Language Development

Completing these tasks requires an overwhelming amount of time for TCs. This, at a time when they are working on practicing teaching strategies, classroom management, and adapting to working in the high school environment. The fee for registering for edTPA is three hundred dollars. The completed submission is due just after mid-semester in the spring. This is when pre-service teachers are just starting to become comfortable in the classroom, and should be allowed time to further develop their classroom practices.

Based on my observations of the thirteen TCs I worked with in the physTEC program at GSU so far, the amount of work required to complete edTPA interferes with their preparation to function well as they begin their career. The first year of teaching is challenging, and critical in determining if a new teacher will pursue a life-long career in the classroom. Statistics on these students will not be available for a few years, but I am apprehensive about the prospects of those new teachers pursuing teaching as a career.

An article in the Winter/Spring 2017 issue of Teachers Clearinghouse for Science and Society Education Newsletter titled “Professional Societies Address STEM Teacher Shortage” concludes that “no extra time required for a teaching certificate” is a priority for making STEM teaching attractive to teaching candidates (4). The edTPA certification process works against that recommendation. Currently, seven states require edTPA for teacher certification, and many others are considering edTPA for certification (5). In Georgia alone, nearly four thousand individuals completed edTPA and received a teaching certificate in 2016. If an individual does not earn a passing score on their first submission of edTPA, they can pay an additional fee, and resubmit the portion of edTPA that was deemed inadequate.

Educator Preparation Providers such as Georgia State University must meet rigorous standards set forth by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (6). Requiring pre-service teachers to complete edTPA merely adds an additional layer of bureaucracy to the teacher certification process. Teacher certification using edTPA is an obstacle to promoting pursuit of a teaching career in high school physics. Information about edTPA can be found here.


  2. The Physics Teacher, Vol. 54, December 2016, page 523, Physics Today, May, 2017, page 50
  4. Teachers Clearinghouse for Science and Society Education Newsletter, Vol. XXXVI, No. 1, page 1
Using HHMI's Data Points to Enhance Students' Graphing Skills

- Stephanie Miles, District 5 Director

This year marks my 24th year as a high school science teacher. I still love teaching, and I can’t imagine doing anything else. I have a backup plan, of course. If this teaching thing doesn’t work out, I’m going to be an astronaut!

The new GSE have given me the opportunity to step up my teaching game. We all know that knowing and understanding are two different things. Our students may have memorized the trophic levels of a food web, the phases of the cell cycle, the traits of life...but do they understand them? Can they apply that knowledge to new and complex situations? I decided the best way for me to help my students cross the “understanding bridge” is through data analysis. My students engaged in Flinn’s Take As Directed, where they develop a model of how antibiotic resistance occurs. It made me sad to see how many of my students struggled with the graphing portion. For me, that means we need more graphing and data analysis!

As always, HHMI is my go-to source for great instructional materials. It’s a running joke that every time I say HHMI in a meeting, I have to take a (virtual) shot. I recently discovered HHMI’s Data Points website. What a treasure! The fine folks there have taken many of the data sets from their researchers and created lessons out of them. There is a Data Points Guide that lists all of the data sets, the standards, and topics each covers. From Antibiotic Resistance to the Origin of Skin Color, students can look at actual data. These data sets will make great phenomenon, to say the least. But don’t take my word for it, head over there, and see for yourself!
High School Students CAN Do Real Science Research!

- Harold “Tripp” Parsons (class of 2018) & Megan Heberle (Scientific Research program coordinator/teacher), Islands High School

High school students would benefit from learning the skills required to study science, understand primary literature, and carry out investigations themselves. While it is important to teach students basic scientific concepts, they must also be able to engage with the content provided and investigate it at a deeper level. In the Scientific Research Program at Islands High School in Savannah, Georgia, students learn how to search for, read, and take notes on peer-reviewed primary articles pertaining to various scientific research topics. Then, students learn how to write about and present their findings and participate in the peer review process along the way. This practice assesses students’ reading skills, application of scientific knowledge, writing skills, critical thinking skills, and public speaking abilities. It is important that students are provided the opportunity to engage with the content at a higher level.

The reading and writing component of Scientific Research is by far the most challenging for the students. A published journal article on a scientific research topic is unlike any material a high school student has been asked to read. At first, students find themselves reading the articles three times before they can even start taking notes. As with anything new, it takes practice and perseverance - it does get easier! The students who spend the time reading the articles find it much easier to move into the writing component because they are familiar with the style and structure.

When a manuscript is submitted to a science journal, it is reviewed and sent back to the author for edits, or simply rejected. If it is sent back for edits, the author makes the revisions and resubmits. This back-and-forth can go on for months, even years before an article is finally published. I mimic this process with my research students. When they write a paper, their peers are the first to read and review it. The students get their papers back and make revisions before submitting it to me for a grade. After I grade the paper and provide feedback, they get it back and have the option to make the revisions and resubmit. This back-and-forth can happen as many times as a student would like until they earn a grade they are happy with (or until the marking period ends). How do I assign the final grade for the paper after so many revisions? I give them the highest grade they earned. The goal is for the students to improve their writing skills and their grade reflects the best of those improved skills.

Students in the program are also expected write research project proposals and carry out a research project from their sophomore through senior years. Students learn to collect field data, run statistical analyses, and draw conclusions connecting the primary literature to their findings. After each year of data collection and analysis, students present their research to the public at our Fall Symposium and/or Spring Colloquium as a poster or oral presentation. The posters are not presented as a tri-fold board, but rather as a 36” by 48” printed poster, which is what is used at the undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate levels. It is important that high school students are exposed to higher level research to be prepared for basic college-level work, or potentially undergraduate research. The students in the research program always meet the challenge with positive effort and a critical mind.

Through the scientific research program, students are learning about the world around them in order to see the “Big Picture” for themselves. It is vital that students are not only exposed to STEM concepts, but that they understand how to think and apply their knowledge in various problems. If we are going to prepare students for a globally competitive job market, our students must develop the skills required of them, regardless of their occupation, to think critically and logically based on whatever information they are given. Through scientific research, students will develop these essential skills to problem solve and come to conclusions for themselves about what the reality of the natural world is, based on their thoughtful research and intuition.

In Scientific Research, we need to understand how to conduct our own investigations to learn about the world for ourselves. We cannot be getting fed the content anymore. I need to engage with content to feel as though I have actually learned something, which is exactly what we do in the research program. We need standards to guide us in what we need to know, but we need investigations and inquiry to connect the information taught in the classroom with what is found through exploration. I do not want to be fed the information; I want to consume the information in its entirety to understand the “Big Picture.” I am in the Scientific Research program at my high school, and I love investigating science and presenting it to my classmates, school officials, and the public. Through the Scientific Research program, we as students can understand science through exploration and investigation, rather than through an “eat-and-regurgitate” method.


    GSTA Awards and Mini-Grant Applications Now Open

    Have a great idea for your classroom? Know a great science teacher or administrator? Then take advantage of one of GSTA's awards or mini-grants. GSTA believes it is important to recognize and reward excellence in science teaching. Therefore, we offer the following awards, scholarships, and mini-grants.

    • Teachers of the Year
    • Teachers of Promise
    • Administrator of the Year
    • $750 Mini-Grants
    • Conference Grant
    • ScienceQuest Teacher Scholarships
    • Science Adventure Student Scholarship
    • Dallas Stewart Award

    Nominate a colleague, apply for yourself, or share this with your network of science educators. The application deadline is November 30th. Visit the awards page for complete details. All awards will be presented at the GSTA Awards Banquet to be held in February 2018. We look forward to seeing you there.

    5th Annual STEM/STEAM Forum: Making Connections, Innovating,and Sharing STEM/STEAM Pedagogy

    ]The Ga STEM/STEAM Forum is a platform for STEM/STEAM educators and administrators from all around the state to share their best practices. THe Forum will be held October 22-23, 2018, at The Classic Center in Athens. Register Online:

    Zoo Atlanta's 2018-2019 Professional Learning

    Are you looking for a fun opportunity to gain access to resources and teaching tools that you can utilize in your classroom and beyond? Zoo Atlanta is excited to share with you the 2018-2019 Professional Learning Workshops. Join us at the Zoo for hands-on activities exploring STEM and ways to incorporate the Zoo in your classroom curriculum. Registration includes take home resources as well as a planning ticket to come back to the Zoo.

    Animal Exhibit Design

    • Grades K-5 – Saturday, September 29
    • Grades 6-12 – Saturday, November 3
    Bio-inspired Design and STEAM Careers
    • Grades K-5 – Saturday, February 9, 2019
    • Grades 6-12 – Saturday, March 23, 2019
    FREE Online Zoo Connection Course: Gorilla Conservation in the Classroom
    • Grades 6-12 - October 16, October 23, October 30, and November 6
    2018-19 STEAM Collaboration Series: Project Conservation
    • In collaboration with Atlanta Botanical Gardens, Georgia Aquarium, and High Museum of Art

    Teachers that complete workshops will receive resources to help facilitate their students’ learning. For more information on each workshop, please see the attached flyer. You can also find more information and register online here.

    NSTA Teacher Awards: Apply Now

    - via NSTA Express

    NSTA's Awards and Recognitions program comprises more than a dozen awards, recognizing educators in varied science fields and at every career level. All entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. ET on December 17, via online submission. No entry fees are required for the NSTA Teacher Awards.

    2019 Earth Expeditions

    Miami University’s Project Dragonfly is accepting applications for 2019 Earth Expeditions graduate courses that offer extraordinary experiences in 16 countries throughout the world.

    Earth Expeditions can build toward the Global Field Program (GFP), a master's degree that combines summer field courses worldwide with web learning communities so that students can complete the GFP master's part-time from anywhere in the United States or abroad.

    Project Dragonfly also offers the Advanced Inquiry Program (AIP) master's degree that combines web instruction from Miami University with experiential learning and field study through several AIP Master Institutions in the U.S. Applications for Miami's 2019 cohorts are being accepted now with place-based experiences provided at zoos in Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Denver, New York, San Diego, Seattle, and our newest affiliate learning institution, St. Louis.

    Graduate tuition for all programs is greatly reduced because of support from Miami University.

    GEEO Teacher Travel Programs

    Founded in 2007, Global Exploration for Educators Organization (GEEO) is a 501c3 non-profit organization that has sent over 2000 teachers abroad on adventurous travel programs. With GEEO educators can earn professional development credit while seeing the world. GEEO's trips are 7 to 23 days in length and are designed and discounted to be interesting and affordable for teachers. In addition to amazing tour leaders, many of the programs are accompanied by university faculty that are experts on the destination. The deposit is $250 for each program and then the final payment is due 60 days before departure.

    GEEO also provides teachers educational materials and the structure to help them bring their experiences into the classroom. The trips are open to all nationalities of K-12 and university educators, administrators, retired educators, as well as educators’ guests.

    GEEO is offering the following travel programs for 2018: Argentina and Brazil, Bangkok to Hanoi, Tibet, Camino de Santiago, Eastern Europe, The Galapagos Islands, Greece, Iceland, India and Nepal, Madagascar, Ireland, Armenia and Georgia, Paris to Rome, Multi-Stan, Sri Lanka and The Maldives, Morocco, Peru, Vietnam/Cambodia, and, The Balkans.

    Detailed information about each trip, including itineraries, costs, travel dates, and more can be found here.

    Elementary Highlights


    SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. (Aug. 7, 2018) – The Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is offering a $1,000 grant to a third-, fourth- or fifth-grade public or private school teacher in the state who demonstrates exceptional energy and innovation in teaching life sciences. Science specialists covering those grade levels also may apply. The grant is provided by the Georgia DNR Wildlife Conservation Section and friends group The Environmental Resource Network, or TERN. The deadline to apply is Sept. 17. Recipient announced by Oct. 5. Click here for details.

    National Park Trust's Kids to Parks Day National School Contest Grant

    National Park Trust's annual Kids to Parks Day National School Contest empowers students to plan their own educational park experience. Open to all Title I students in grades preK through 12, this contest provides grants up to $1,000 to cover transportation, park-related fees, stewardship supplies, or anything else students believe would enhance their experience. The deadline to apply is February 14, 2019. Details can be found here.

    The Power of Phenomenon-Based Learning

    - via NSTA Express

    NSTA guest blogger Anne Lowry explores the power of phenomenon-based learning. Learn more about how her use of the phenomenon of light engaged the students in her preschool classroom.

    Girls Engineer It Day 2018 

    Engineering is fun; let us prove it to you! We invite all students in grade 6-12 and adults to attend our one day event focused on teaching hands-on STEM activities and let them decide if Engineering/STEM is a career path they would consider in their future.  Students will go through 3 activities focused on different kinds of engineering taught by local technologists.  We start off the day with a STEM Expo which are small activities provided by local companies, surrounding universities, and professional organizations.  Then we break the students into groups to begin the 3 activities (1 hr a piece). While the students are learning we have a separate event for the adults.  We educate them on everything they might need to keep the students interested in STEM, college prep, financial aid, and even community opportunities for internships.  Adults will learn their own STEM activity that they will be able to take home to teach the students what they learned.  We think it's a an amazing opportunity, and we provide it at a very low cost of $5 a student. The event is limited to 300 students (200 middle and 100 high school).  We sell out every year and we hope this year will be the same outstanding enrollment!  
    All details can be found here:

    Earn professional development hours or university credit with Population Education this Fall!

    Population Education is excited to announce that registration is open for our Fall 2018 online professional development course for science and social studies educators (grades 6-12)The course runs from October 15 to December 7, 2018, and is perfect for educators who’d like to earn graduate credit (3.0) or PD hours (45 hours). Discover student-centered learning strategies that use contemporary issues and real-world data to examine the social and environmental impacts of human population growth. For more information and to register, visit our site.  


    eObservations Editor: Dr. Jeremy Peacock
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