September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Спутник-1, Anniversary 53

Posted: Friday, October 1st, 2010

by Richard Shope

I was nearly six years old. Eisenhower was President.  Mickey Mantle was playing for the Yankees, Hank Aaron for the Braves, as Milwaukee trimmed New York for the World Series.  But the real World Series was playing out in the skies above.  The Soviets had pitched Sputnik into orbit on October 4, 1957, and for 92 nights, the world in the grandstands watched and listened as this silvery orb with its four comet-like sprays of antennae, beep, beepity, beeped around the world for all to hear on FM radio and for all to see in the twilight hours as it passed overhead.

I had started second grade that year in Mrs. Avery’s class at Belle Sherman school in Ithaca, New York.  My father was working on his veterinary degree at Cornell University.  We lived on the grounds of the veterinary college campus near the Baker house.  We had a large expanse of backyard sloping down a hill toward a woods with trees to climb and copperhead snakes to avoid.  October twilights were crisp and clear with a wide view of the sky.  I recall my Dad excitedly stirring us to look up at a shining pinpoint of light moving casually across our field of view.  It was better than the fleeting flash of a “shooting star.”  Moments later we were all abuzz chasing fireflies.  Little did we know how profoundly that silvery beeping satellite would transform the world.

Sputnik stirred up a hornet’s nest, pitting two great worldviews against each other in what was known as the space race.  Eisenhower and Congress formed NASA with the Space Act of 1958 and began to invest heavily in science education, launching the famous alphabet soup of innovative approaches to accelerate America’s pace.  Beneath the technical prowess was the naked fear that a nuclear warhead might be the next to be launched.  Belle Sherman had air-raid drills: We were corralled into the hallway, instructed to cover our heads with our jackets to keep our eyes from melting in the nuclear flash.  The Space Race was intensified by Kennedy’s State of the Union address on May 23, 1961, with a call to reach the moon and back by the end of the decade.  Vanguard, Explorer, Ranger, Mercury, Gemini, Apollo—America succeeded in winning the space race.  But then, there was a seeming pause.  Only seeming, because, in fact, we have had an ongoing series of successful launches of satellites looking back at Earth and spacecraft exploring the solar system and beyond.  We have established a human reach to the very edge of the heliosphere with the Voyager probes.  But it is the physical human presence that has paused in low-Earth orbit, with our noses nudging just above the exosphere, like ancient lobe fish wondering whether to evolve to the next level.

Tracings of Sputnik's orbital path.

Perhaps humanity balked, Kierkegaard-like, in fear and trembling upon peering into the abyss of space and at what Buzz Aldrin calls the “magnificent desolation” of the moon.  The technical chasm between here and Mars and the asteroids and worlds beyond is enough to give any space enthusiast pause.  But it is the emotional temerity that has stopped us cold.  So the question for us as satellite educators, fascinated as we are with the wonder, the technology, the science, the adventure, is how we can become catalysts to energize the next generation to boldly go forth, to step into the theater of satellite action.

Sputnik model

Sputnik model

Here’s my suggestion: For the next 92 days, from October 4, 2010 to January 4, 2011, celebrate DAILY the ushering-in of the era of satellites, with tidbits of information adding up to a collection of knowledge.  Start with Спутник-1, but keep going.  Invite your students to explore the Internet for the history of satellite achievement from then to now.  Sites with Sputnik information abound.  A simple search lets you reconnect to the thrill that lit up the twilight skies 53 years ago, and to remind ourselves that we are still on the threshhold to explore space.

Richard Shope is president of the Satellite Educators Association

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.

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CSTA Is Now Accepting Nominations for Board Members

Posted: Friday, November 17th, 2017

Current, incoming, and outgoing CSTA Board of Directors at June 3, 2017 meeting.

Updated 7:25 pm, Nov. 17, 2017

It’s that time of year when CSTA is looking for dedicated and qualified persons to fill the upcoming vacancies on its Board of Directors. This opportunity allows you to help shape the policy and determine the path that the Board will take in the new year. There are time and energy commitments, but that is far outweighed by the personal satisfaction of knowing that you are an integral part of an outstanding professional educational organization, dedicated to the support and guidance of California’s science teachers. You will also have the opportunity to help CSTA review and support legislation that benefits good science teaching and teachers.

Right now is an exciting time to be involved at the state level in the California Science Teachers Association. The CSTA Board of Directors is currently involved in implementing the Next Generations Science Standards and its strategic plan. If you are interested in serving on the CSTA Board of Directors, now is the time to submit your name for consideration. 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.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2017 Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Posted: Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated eight exceptional secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“These teachers are dedicated and accomplished individuals whose innovative teaching styles prepare our students for 21st century careers and college and develop them into the designers and inventors of the future,” Torlakson said. “They rank among the finest in their profession and also serve as wonderful mentors and role models.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partners annually with the California Science Teachers Association and the California Mathematics Council to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program—the highest recognition in the nation for a mathematics or science teacher. The Science Finalists will be recognized at the CSTA Awards Luncheon on Saturday, October 14, 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.

Thriving in a Time of Change

Posted: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

by Jill Grace

By the time this message is posted online, most schools across California will have been in session for at least a month (if not longer, and hat tip to that bunch!). Long enough to get a good sense of who the kids in your classroom are and to get into that groove and momentum of the daily flow of teaching. It’s also very likely that for many of you who weren’t a part of a large grant initiative or in a district that set wheels in motion sooner, this is the first year you will really try to shift instruction to align to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a challenging year – change is hard. Change is even harder when there’s not a playbook to go by.  But as someone who has had the very great privilege of walking alongside teachers going through that change for the past two years and being able to glimpse at what this looks like for different demographics across that state, there are three things I hope you will hold on to. These are things I have come to learn will overshadow the challenge: a growth mindset will get you far, one is a very powerful number, and it’s about the kids. Learn More…

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Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is President of CSTA.

If You Are Not Teaching Science Then You Are Not Teaching Common Core

Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn 

“Science and Social Studies can be taught for the last half hour of the day on Fridays”

– Elementary school principal

Anyone concerned with the teaching of science in elementary school is keenly aware of the problem of time. Kids need to learn to read, and learning to read takes time, nobody disputes that. So Common Core ELA can seem like the enemy of science. This was a big concern to me as I started looking at the curriculum that my district had adopted for Common Core ELA. I’ve been through those years where teachers are learning a new curriculum, and know first-hand how a new curriculum can become the focus of attention- sucking all the air out of the room. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

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

Tools for Creating NGSS Standards Based Lessons

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Elizabeth Cooke

Think back on your own experiences with learning science in school. Were you required to memorize disjointed facts without understanding the concepts?

Science Education Background

In the past, science education focused on rote memorization and learning disjointed ideas. Elementary and secondary students in today’s science classes are fortunate now that science instruction has shifted from students demonstrating what they know to students demonstrating how they are able to apply their knowledge. Science education that reflects the Next Generation Science Standards challenges students to conduct investigations. As students explore phenomena and discrepant events they engage in academic discourse guided by focus questions from their teachers or student generated questions of that arise from analyzing data and creating and revising models that explain natural phenomena. Learn More…

Written by Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke teaches TK-5 science at Markham Elementary in the Oakland Unified School District, is an NGSS Early Implementer, and is CSTA’s Secretary.