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The Oregon Science Teacher

One way that OSTA supports science teachers across Oregon is to publish a monthly newsletter, The Oregon Science Teacher (TOST). Through TOST, we share stories from teachers across the state, disseminate information about NGSS implementation, share upcoming science events by region, and more. We're always interested in hearing from you if you have something to contribute! 

Below, you'll find our latest issue. Members can access our TOST Archives and read issues all the way back to 2013!

The Reality of Teaching Science, Summer PD, Indigenous Science Webinar, Presidential Awards, Earthquakes, CDC Training, Bio Teacher Awards



by Kayla Jury, second grade teacher

Bubbling laughter, heads pushed together around a shared project and cheers of success. One excited partner running for a book from the library and another running for a ruler - putting their heads back together to get to work writing out a new question to answer, and later, creating a data table to record the information they collect in order to answer that question. The wonderful sounds and actions of my classroom… last year. My passion for teaching science has not changed, if anything it has become more solid - but the structures around me have changed. 

My district has redirected their funding for science education into behavioral education, leaving our district without a guiding STEM TOSA (Teacher On Special Assignment). There are no more reminder emails of the curriculum that we created for K/1/2, there is no longer one dedicated person organizing the science supply kits that were sent out on a rotational schedule to the schools, and there is no longer district-created science professional development offered each term to teachers. These structures that our past district STEM TOSA had created have now been placed in the hands of our district English Language Arts TOSAs. With literacy being such a large focus for our district, these ELA TOSAs do not have the time in their already busy weeks to be able to continue implementing these science supports. Last year, we worked hard to create these structures and keep science at the forefront of teachers minds - and even then it was a struggle to get teachers across the district on board.

It’s not only a shift at the very top - but also within my building. I have two teammates that are new to the grade level and are working this year to try to wrap their heads around the new student behaviors and curriculum that come with second grade. With such an overwhelming load in switching grade levels, learning more science content knowledge as well trying to make a shift to the NGSS is not easy. Our school also has an inquiry program coordinator who meets weekly to help each grade level team plan our six content units for the year. This coordinator has a personal preference for discussion and conceptual thinking - which I love - but often times these discussions and conceptual thinking are applied towards a social science view and less of a hands-on view. I would love to utilize the Science and Engineering Practices to back up those conceptual ideas and feed the discussions.

My students are still learning, so why do I care? I am able to check off each area of my report card. I care because my classroom is too quiet. Kids aren’t problem solving. Kids aren’t coming up with their own questions to answer. Kids aren’t sharing their ideas with one another. Kids aren’t learning life skills that are brought out in the use of the science practices. And honestly, I am having less fun. Teaching brings me so much joy when students are engaged and steer the learning with their thoughts, responses and questions. The science practices teach children to do this in a way that furthers their education. There is less curiosity in my room. There is a lot more quiet work. I also have found that I have struggled more with making the content I am teaching in my room feel genuine when it isn’t coming from a question or thought that a student in my room has had.

What am I doing to bring back that curiosity and excitement in my room? Even though our units may be different, it doesn’t mean that I can’t still scaffold my students' way of thinking into an open minded one. Every day, in every subject, we talk about what we notice and what we wonder next because of these observations. We talk about how we can find out the answers to our wonderings - and often I go off of the track of my lesson plan to follow the kids’ ideas. This empowers students to know that their questions are important, which motivates them to ask more.

The reality of teaching science is that there are ebbs and flows. These ebbs and flows depend on changing priorities and funding at the district, state and federal level as well as who your colleagues are and what their passions are. Though we are in our own classrooms, teaching is, and should be a group endeavor. We all encourage each other and push each other in the direction of our passions. As OSTA members, we have declared that science education is our passion. Let yours be known and continue to advocate for what you believe: a society where all students graduate scientifically literate and with strong identities as problem solvers and critical thinkers. Together, we make the whole picture of education. How can we make sure that our piece is part of that picture?

Kayla Jury, MST, was a participant in the K-6 Instructional Specialists 3-year grant, co-created 2nd grade science curriculum in Beaverton School District, and is currently teaching a science methods class at Portland State University. 

What does science teaching look like in your setting? Take a moment to tell us about it in our anonymous survey.


Click here to view a list of summer science professional development opportunities, with brief descriptions and links. Many remote opportunities include scholarships for room, board and travel. Deadlines are approaching soon! Many thanks to Angie Arends from Clackamas for compiling this list.


This is a unique opportunity to virtually audit Gabe Sheoships' Cultural Ecology course at Portland State University. Guest lecturer Ciarra "C" Greene, who was interviewed in our February issue, will share her personal story about her connection to the land, her academic endeavors in science and education, and her efforts to engage, empower, and promote indigenous knowledge in land stewardship. In this presentation, C will discuss the nature of Western science and traditional ecological knowledge, provide examples of indigenous perspectives motivating and validating science research and education, and approaches in decolonizing ecology and other STEM-fields. Join the webinar on March 6 from 6-8:30pm. Webinar will be hosted through Zoom; you may need to download the app in advance if this is your first time joining a Zoom meeting.


Do you know an inspiring math, science or computer science teacher? Nominations for K-6 teachers are open through April 1, 2018. Up to six finalists will be selected from Oregon. Click here to learn more.


The University of Portland STEM Education and Outreach Center offers a self-paced on-line Cascadia Earthquake Education course. The course is organized into four modules that introduce plate tectonics and earthquake science then apply this general knowledge specifically to Cascadia Earthquakes and Tsunamis. Within each chapter, a video lecture (or series of video lectures) introduces the topic, along with additional videos and animations. Most chapters contain lesson plans for classroom activities and demonstrations. These lesson plans were designed for middle school students but can be adapted to elementary and high school levels. Each lesson plan specifies the Next Generation Science Standards addressed. Most lesson plans have an accompanying set of supporting resources such as student worksheets and answer keys. It is estimated that it will take about 28 hours to complete the course, so successful completion of the course will result in receipt of a certificate for 28 PDUs. If you have an interest and would like to register for the course, please send your preferred email address to: Tisha Morrell, UP STEM Education & Outreach Center, morrell@up.edu. You will then receive information on how to access this free on-line course!


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recruiting teachers and education leaders to bring public health into classrooms across the United States and beyond. CDC is partnering with the Association of Schools & Programs of Public Health (ASPPH) to offer three, 2-day Science Ambassador regional training workshops FREE OF COST. Learn strategies to teach public health concepts and inspire interest in public heath careers. One of the three national events will be held in Seattle, WA on March 19-20Click here to register.


Every year, the Outstanding Biology Teacher Award (OBTA) program attempts to recognize an outstanding 7-12th grade biology educator in each of the 50 states; Washington, DC; Canada; Puerto Rico; and overseas territories. Candidates for this award do not have to be National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT) members, but they must have at least three years of public, private, or parochial school teaching experience. A major portion of the nominee's career must have been devoted to the teaching of biology/life science, and candidates are judged on their teaching ability and experience, cooperativeness in the school and community, and student-teacher relationships. OBTA recipients are special guests of Carolina Biology Supply Company at the Honors Luncheon held at the NABT Professional Development Conference, receive gift certificates from Carolina Biological Supply Company, resources from other sponsors, award certificates, and complimentary one-year membership from NABT. To learn more and nominate someone before March 30 (deadline has been extended), visit the NABT website.



Online learning

Central Oregon

Greater Oregon

Lane County

Oregon Coast

Portland Metro

South Metro-Salem


Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12: This article provides a list of recommended trade books published in 2017. The books are organized by NGSS DCIs and labeled with appropriate grade levels. This book list is a great resource for planning cross-curricular units.

Elementary: Have you heard the buzz about Maker Faires? This article explains the benefits of hosting Maker Faires at elementary schools, details possible maker activities, and includes connections to the NGSS.

Middle: Using The Martian as a hook, this article details a unit in which students looked critically at a piece of fiction to determine if it was scientifically plausible. More specifically, this unit investigated the question: Can food really be grown on Mars? Students investigated several sub-questions to determine the answer. NGSS connections are listed.

High: This article shares ideas around incorporating an activity summary board into your classroom, which serves as a visual that summarizes what students are doing and figuring out as they investigate a driving question. Examples are given from a physics unit studying electric motors. NGSS connections are detailed.

College: The authors of this article discusses the process of implementing and evaluating a peer-led study group. Specifically, instructors hoped to address the problem of a lack of coherence across classes of an introductory organic chemistry course. 


When you drop a paperclip into a cup of water, it sinks. But wait! Is there a way to make it float on the surface of the water? Observe the phenomenon below:


Try recreating this phenomenon yourself! It's surprisingly fun considering how simple it is. Engaging with the paperclip phenomenon is a perfect opportunity to practice the process of asking investigable questions. This resource, adapted from The Exploratorium in San Francisco, can guide you through the process.

What question did you decide to investigate? Have you used this phenomenon with students? What were their questions? Tweet at us (https://twitter.com/ORSciTchr) and let us know!

Contact us!
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4110 SE Hawthorne Blvd, PO Box 1025
Portland, Oregon

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