January/February 2018 – Vol. 31 No. 2

Hubble Telescope Sheds Light on Mysterious, Green Space Blob

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

National Public Radio
click here for audio

Back in 2007, as part of a crowd-sourced study program called Galaxy Zoo, a Dutch school teacher discovered a very odd celestial object: It looked like a great, green blob floating in space and at the time it was inexplicable.

Today, thanks to the Hubble telescope, we have an unbelievable picture of Hanny’s Voorwerp, or Hanny’s Object, as it is now known. And we also have a better idea of what it is: Researchers said the blob is not a galaxy but a “twisting rope of gas, or tidal tail, about 300,000 light-years long that wraps around the galaxy [IC 2497].”

In a press release from the University of Alabama, Dr. Bill Keel, professor of astronomy and leader of Hubble’s Hanny’s Voorep study, presented two surprising findings: (more…)

NASA Names Most Realistic and Unrealistic Sci-Fi Films of All Time

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

by Alison Nastasi (Subscribe to Alison Nastasi’s posts)
Jan 3rd 2011, from Cinematical on Moviefone

Working through the year-end best/worst movie lists can be a feat of Olympic proportions, but there’s one list which is so damn cool you’ll definitely want to give it a whirl. NASA has compiled a list of the “least plausible science fiction movies ever made,” and they ranked the disastrous (in more ways than one) ‘2012’ as the most “absurd” sci-fi flick of all time.

You don’t have to be a science nerd to see why Roland Emmerich’s end of the world-meets Mayan calendar-meets everything explodes movie is worthy of inclusion, but Donald Yeomans—head of NASA’s Near-Earth Asteroid Rendezvous mission—explains: “The film makers took advantage of public worries about the so-called end of the world as apparently predicted by the Mayans of Central America, whose calendar ends on December 21, 2012.” Yeomans continued, explaining that the paranoia surrounding the movie’s concept has overwhelmed his organization. “The agency is getting so many questions from people terrified that the world is going to end in 2012 that we have had to put up a special website to challenge the myths. We have never had to do this before,” he said. (more…)

Governor Brown’s Education Plans

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

by Christine Bertrand

Governor Jerry Brown has named his appointments to the State Board of Education.  As was mentioned in this column last month, Governor Brown had the opportunity to appoint seven new members to the 11-member state board, and he has done so in record time.  The list includes former superintendent of public instruction Bill Honig, who served in that position from 1983 to 1993 and was appointed to the state board the last time Jerry Brown was governor, former superintendent of the Palm Springs Unified School District and the Long Beach Unified School District Carl Cohn, and California Teachers Association lobbyist Patricia Rucker, among others.  The complete list can be found here.

The governor’s ability to see many of his goals for education come to fruition will be largely determined by these new appointments.  At first glance, it would appear that the make-up of the state board differs greatly from the largely charter school-focused members who have populated the state board under Arnold Schwarzenegger. (more…)

Hey, K-8 Teachers… We need your help!

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

Call for Workshop Proposals from K-8 Teachers

Each year we strive to make the CSTA Science Education Conference better than the year before.  The conference planning committee goes over comments and evaluation data from the previous conference as they plan the following year’s program.  One of the comments we heard from many attendees was a desire for grade-specific workshops as opposed to workshops which span multiple grade levels.

The thinking of these participants was that the broad range of grade levels meant that presenters tried to meet everyone’s needs as opposed to focusing on a single grade level.  This was most evident in the elementary workshops where there would be several activities presented during a workshop but only one or two ideas that would fit into a particular grade level.  If all the activities could be geared towards a single grade level then teachers would leave the session with better informed and ready to teach. (more…)

A Year in the Life of Two First Year Teachers: Part Five

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

by Rick Pomeroy, with Sara and Ellen

As the first semester was drawing to a close, I thought it would be interesting to ask Sara and Ellen what changes they would like to make for the coming semester and a little bit about how they felt they did.  As you can see from their responses, the crush of finishing before the winter break has not dampened their abilities to reflect on their first semesters of teaching. (more…)

Family Science Nights

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

by Pete A’Hearn

Kids love to share what they are learning  in science with their parents, and they love making new discoveries with their families.  Hosting a family science night is a great way to encourage kids and their families to do hands-on science together. (more…)

Liquids, Solids, and Water Lab

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

Name __________________

Date ___________________

Partners’ Names _________

by Jeff Bradbury and Patricia Buchanan

Question: Water is unique in that it is the only natural substance that is found in all three states: liquid, solid (ice), and gas (steam).  What are the molecular differences between each of the states? (more…)

Dispatch: Antarctica

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

Hello CSTA!AnneMarie Wotkyns

My name is Anne Marie Wotkyns and I am a 4th grade teacher at J. B. Monlux Math Science Technology Magnet School in North Hollywood.  I am a PolarTREC teacher currently living and working aboard the Oden, a Swedish icebreaker in the Amundsen Sea, in the Southern Ocean in the Antarctic.  Here is some information and journal entries about my first 12 days on the ship. (more…)

Amazing Video of Yosemite Frazil Ice

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

Frazil ice looks like patches of snow, nestled among the trees.  (more…)

2011 New Year’s Resolutions

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

On behalf the Board of Directors of CSTA, I wish you a prosperous and successful new year. I thank you for your membership and support of CSTA. As you look back on the successes you achieved in 2010 and look forward to a bright and new 2011, CSTA offers the following suggestions for your New Year’s Resolutions:

  • Introduce a new lab activity in your classroom (check CSTA’s Teaching Resources page for ideas).
  • Submit a Short Course or workshop proposal for the 2011 California Science Education Conference in Pasadena (2011 Conference page).
  • Plan a Family Science Night (stay tuned to California Classroom Science beginning in January for tips from Region 4 director Pete A’Hearn or visit the San Joaquin COE Family Science Event page for instant gratification). (more…)

CSTA Member Named California Teacher of the Year

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

Jennifer Kelly, an 8th grade physical science teacher at Middletown Middle jennifer kellySchool in Lake County.  She has taught for 20 years in her current rural district as well as in more urban settings in San Mateo and Sonoma Counties.  (more…)

Region 4 . . . and Beyond

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

by Pete A’Hearn

One of the biggest earth science events of the year is not technically in region 4, but just across the Colorado River from Blythe in Quartzite, Arizona.  This is the site of one of the world’s biggest rock and mineral shows every year. The “Main Event” takes place from January 8 -23rd.  The website for the Quartzite Gem and Mineral Club at http://www.quartzsitegemandmineralclub.org/ gives good information as well as a list of rockhounding field trips. (more…)

Asking the Real Experts in Science Education

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

by Donna Ross

As a faculty member in the College of Education, I often find myself in a position to make teaching suggestions to preservice and inservice teachers.  Whenever possible, I try to get my ideas from the real experts.  I frequently ask K-12 students for their suggestions.  Recently, I had the opportunity to invite eight urban high school students to participate in a workshop for teachers.  I asked the students to answer two questions for the group:

  1. What is one teaching strategy or style that does NOT help you learn science?
  2. What is one teaching strategy or style that DOES help you learn science?

The only guideline I gave them was to try to avoid repeating answers.  They gave me permission to share their responses here.

NS: It doesn’t work for me when the teacher puts us in groups and each group presents one part of the chapter, but we are all supposed to learn all the parts.  I feel I only learn the part I present because not every group includes enough detail for the test.  It would be better if we were only tested on the part we present.  A style that does work for me is when we do a lab and come together to share our questions and ideas.  Then there is a lecture that clarifies our ideas and what the results mean and how to apply it.

SD: It doesn’t help me when teachers make me write down a long list of vocabulary terms and definitions and never revisit the material, so it feels like a waste of time.  Just because I wrote it down doesn’t mean I automatically learned it.  What does help is when there is repetition to help me remember the concept.  For example, we use the idea in the lab and the lecture and a game and the bellwork.  Also, if we get to figure out our own conclusions, we remember better. (more…)

Using Interactive Tools to Assist High School Students with Difficult Concepts

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

by Heather A. Marshall

I recently found a website that offers free interactive simulations for teacher use focusing on science topics.  This website: http://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulations/category/new, through the University of Colorado at Boulder, has the sims available for free download.  You can browse by category, by new sims, or by grade level.  They are sponsored by NSF, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and others.  The PhET program is interested in providing research-based simulations of physical phenomena for free to teachers.  These simulations can help students visualize some of the concepts we teach in high school in an engaging way, and help students grasp difficult concepts.  PhET hopes that teachers will use these sims within lectures, as extensions of classroom activities, integrated into homework assignments, and as additions to more traditional laboratory experiments.

One of the simulations is for glaciers.  It allows the user (student) to adjust sea-level and air temperatures and observe the effects on glacier growth and retreat.  It also allows students to measure the thickness of the glacier, create multiple fractures with a drill and observe how the fractures move and stretch through the glacier, and other nifty tools.  The advanced feature allows students to view graphs associated with the data.  Another simulation is for the greenhouse effect, allowing the user to see the differences in temperatures with more or less greenhouse gases, observe photon interactions, and even model the greenhouse effect using glass plates.  Simulations include: Natural Selection, Gravity Force, Buoyancy, a Radioactive Dating Game, and many more.

Another big find of the new year is an interactive flashcard set with terms for a high school earth science class.  The flashcards can be shuffled or not and cover the introductory topics in an earth science class (such as chemical structure, minerals and rocks).  The cards can be manipulated online, printed, downloaded, added to, and more.  The earth science cards are posted here: http://www.proprofs.com/flashcards/story.php?title=earth-science-11-vocabulary-2010, and you can even create your own set by clicking the Create Flashcard button on the right-hand side of the screen.  Looks like an excellent tool to share with students or use as a classroom tool for test reviews.  The ProProfs Flashcard site also has links to an online quiz maker, online brain games, and even SAT preparatory tools.

I use another online site for online testing: www.ClassMarker.com.  For $25.00 a year, I can generate and save all of my unit tests and administer them online (in a computer lab or at home) for all of my 180 students.  It automatically grades the tests for me, and does a great item analysis breakdown.  You create your own standards, so you can completely align the test to your course.  The first test I gave on ClassMarker saved me hours in grading and analysis time.  I have found that short answer tests are incredibly difficult to do, however.  This works best with multiple choice or matching type questions.  I am currently looking for better options to be able to administer online tests with greater variety but still able to do the item analysis.  If you have ideas, please email me and I will gladly report on them here!  geofaultline@gmail.com.

Heather Marshall teaches CP geology at Sobrato High School in Morgan Hill and is CSTA’s high school director.

Region 2 News and Events

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

by Eric Lewis

Begin the new year with resolve to get personal and professional development in 2011.  Build your experiences in science education at NSTA’s National Conference on Science Education in San Francisco.  Scheduled for March 10-13, more than 2000 sessions will be offered-hands-on workshops, seminars, and symposia will increase your content knowledge, performance strategies, and techniques in the classroom.  Nationally-known presenters will inspire and inform.  Thousands of your peers will share ideas, experiences, and challenges. Invest in yourself, your career, and your future.  Register before Jan. 14 to save the most. http://www.nsta.org/conferences/2011SAN/ (more…)

What is it?

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

Dec. photo

These are red and white cells being attacked by a virus.

Some of the guesses:
Ted Hampton

A virus attacking a blood cell

Ed Mascio

Three Dimensional view of human blood cells showing concave surface probably photographed thru a SEM microscope @ 25,000x


I think it is red blood cells with bacteria, or maybe cancer… And the purple are white…

Ted Hampton

T-lymphocyte on a red blood cell


Red blood cells being attacked by a virus using a scannning electron microscope with color enhancement


I’m with Mark… just taught those virus concepts today!

V. Mueller

Red blood cells, white blood cells and eosinophils through an electron scanning microscope with color enhancement

Ted Hampton

Too big for a virus. You are correct about the scanning electron microscope with color enhancement though


rbcs with malaria


Saturday, January 1st, 2011


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