May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

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 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

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:

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.