January/February 2018 – Vol. 31 No. 2

The Future of Science Assessments in California Is on Its Way to the Legislature

Friday, February 1st, 2013

by Jessica Sawko

On January 8, State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SSPI) Tom Torlakson released his long-awaited Recommendations Report for Transitioning to a Future Assessment System. This report was mandated by legislation (AB 250) and will be used to guide the state legislature in their deliberations as they embark on the process of reauthorizing and revamping California’s statewide assessment system. During its January 16 meeting, the State Board of Education (SBE) received a formal presentation of the report by CDE staff. It is important to note here that this presentation was an information item. The State Board of Education does not have a formal role to play at this point in the assessment discussion. The discussion around the statewide assessment system will take place this year in the state legislature. It has been reported that Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla (D-Concord) will introduce the legislation. (more…)

eCYBERMISSION – Now Seeking Virtual Judges

Friday, February 1st, 2013

eCYBERMISSION is a web-based Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) competition free for students in grades six through nine (more…)

Google Science Fair 2013 – Now Accepting Entries

Friday, February 1st, 2013

It’s your turn to change the world.

The Google Science Fair 2013 has now launched. In partnership with CERN, National Geographic, LEGO and Scientific American, the third annual Google Science Fair is an international competition which encourages students between the ages of 13 to 18 from all over the world to perform science experiments or create engineering projects to submit online in order to compete for prizes, scholarships and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Previous winners have tackled cancer diagnosis and treatment, figured out more efficient ways to farm and explored the natural world around them.

The competition is accepting entries from now until April 30 2013. In early June, 90 regional winners will be announced, representing the best projects from the Americas, Europe/Middle East/Africa and Asia/pacific. From this pool, 15 global finalists will be chosen in late June to come to Google headquarters in Mountain View, California, in September to present their projects in front of a panel of esteemed judges. From these 15 finalists, we will select a winner in each category (13-14, 15-16, 17-18), as well as a grand-prize winner. (more…)

When Will “Mojave Maxine” Make Her Spring-Time Appearance at the Living Desert?

Friday, February 1st, 2013

Contest Now Underway For Students to Guess When She Will Emerge!

PALM DESERT/INDIAN WELLS, CA (Jan. 29, 2013) …  It’s that time of year again when the desert tortoise Mojave Maxine, sleeping in her underground burrow at The Living Desert, begins to stir in anticipation of desert springtime and fresh flowers to eat. This also means it’s time for students to enter the annual Mojave Maxine emergence contest and guess when she will emerge!

The east coast has Punxsutawney Phil and Groundhog Day to let them know when they can expect spring. The Living Desert has Mojave Maxine to signify that warmer weather is on the way!

Mojave Maxine is a 35-year old desert tortoise who lives at The Living Desert.  Each year, she retires for the winter to her underground burrow. She stays there in a state of “brumation” (reptilian hibernation) for several months. (more…)

Sky Events for March 2013

Friday, February 1st, 2013

Mornings during Feb. 25-Mar. 9, you can continue following the Moon by looking an hour before sunrise. On Feb. 25, find the Full Moon low in the west, with Regulus within 7° to its upper right. On Feb. 28, the waning gibbous Moon has Spica, the spike of grain in Virgo’s hand, 11° to its upper left. On March 1, Spica will appear 3° to the Moon’s lower right. On Mar. 2, Saturn will appear 4° above the Moon. On Mar. 3, the Moon will appear midway between Saturn to the west and Antares to the east, nearly 15° from each. On Mar. 4, Antares, the red supergiant star marking the heart of the Scorpion, will appear 5°-6° below the Moon, now just over half full and approaching Last Quarter (half moon) phase. If you look 4°-5° left of Antares, you’re facing the direction the Earth is headed in our revolution around the Sun. About 3-1/2 hours later, we’ll pass just east of the Moon’s position that morning, but fortunately, again, the Moon won’t be there. On Mar. 5, the fat crescent Moon will be to the east (left) of Antares, and on Mar. 6 above the Teapot of Sagittarius. On Mar. 8, the waning crescent will be within 4° below the pretty binocular double star Alpha in Capricornus, and on March 9, the 7 percent crescent Moon will appear very low in ESE. The last chance to catch the Moon in this cycle will come on the morning of Sunday, March 10, about 30 minutes before sunrise, when the 2 percent crescent will be no more than 5° above the horizon, some 10° south of due east. From southern California, your sighting will be about 30-31 hours before New Moon, which occurs on Monday, March 11 at 12:51 p.m. PDT. Don’t forget to set your clocks ahead one hour when you settle in for the night on March 9 — Daylight saving time begins early Sunday morning, March 10.

Comet PanSTARRS will be at its best in evening twilight in second and third weeks of March. Discovered far beyond the distance of Jupiter in June 2011, its orbit was calculated and it was determined that the comet will approach to only 0.30 astronomical unit from the Sun (within 28 million miles, inside the orbit of Mercury), on the evening of March 9, 2013. Until recently, brightness was forecast to peak at about zero magnitude, but observations until just before this writing show the comet falling short of predictions, and may reach only third magnitude. In either case, we can tell you when and where to look for this Comet, and you can see for yourself.  (more…)

NGSS Blog: They Are Listening!

Friday, February 1st, 2013

By Pete A’Hearn

While I have not finished my review of the NGSS yet, (I’m concentrating on astronomy K-12, elementary life science, and evolution in secondary), I can report that the feedback from the first round is having a huge effect. The authors have made major changes, which are summarized in Appendix B: Responses to May Public Feedback.

What I noticed from my own feedback: protein synthesis is no longer a middle school expectation, fewer standards and much more clarity in elementary science, and much greater clarification of the performance expectations.  It is a good feeling to know that your voice counts and to have evidence that it does. (more…)

Next Generation Science Standards – A Classroom Teacher Perspective

Friday, February 1st, 2013

by Michelle French, Lisa Hegdahl, Jeff Orlinsky, and Sean Timmons

“Scientists think of science both as a process for discovering properties of nature and as the resulting body of knowledge, whereas most people seem to think of science, or perhaps scientists, as an authority that provides some information — just one more story among the many that they use to help make sense of their world.” – Helen Quinn

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) provide educators with an important opportunity to improve science education, student engagement, and student achievement. Based on the Framework for K–12 Science Education, the NGSS are intended to reflect a new vision and will shift the way science education is delivered in America.  The emphasis on application will require students to understand science concepts more deeply since the focus of the NGSS has been placed on “students doing” rather than “students knowing”. (more…)

What is it?

Friday, February 1st, 2013


Photo Credit: Nancy Holcroft-Benson


NGSS: What’s Next?

Friday, February 1st, 2013

by Rick Pomeroy and Laura Henriques

What happens next? The second and final public review of the draft Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) is now closed but we don’t yet have a new set of science standards for California. Although we have ELA Common Core Standards with specific expectations for reading and writing in science and we have Common Core Standards for Mathematics that call for modeling and the application of math practices to real world problems, we are still waiting for standards that are science-specific. In this article, we will attempt to outline the next steps in the development process for California science standards.

The feedback period for the second public draft ended on January 29 and the results are being reviewed by the writing team at Achieve, Inc. for further revisions and refinements. Once those are made, Achieve, Inc. is scheduled to release the final version of the NGSS in March 2013. It’s important to realize that the NGSS are the result of a large collaboration between states and once finalized, individual states are encouraged to adopt them in whole. We hope that you had an opportunity to review the draft and provide your feedback to Achieve. CSTA would like to hear directly from you regarding your thoughts on the standards. Please take a moment to complete a short, 13 question survey to help guide CSTA in representing your voice at the state level in response to the second draft. (more…)

Is Science Practiced in Your Classroom? Seven Overarching Skills Used by Scientists (Part 1 of 2)

Friday, February 1st, 2013

By Bethany Dixon

The College Board has released seven science practices that describe the overarching skills and abilities that scientists use, and which will crucial for students to succeed with the new Advanced Placement (AP) Science Examinations and the upcoming Next Generation Science Standards. Intended to allow students more opportunities to build their inquiry-based reasoning skills, the practices will be implemented via revamped discipline-specific courses: AP Biology’s new Curriculum Framework began this year and plans for a revamped AP Chemistry (2013-2014) and AP Physics (2014-2015) are on the horizon. Here are the first three of the seven practices with use-them-now tips for your classroom.

Use REPRESENTATIONS and MODELS to communicate scientific phenomena and solve scientific problems.
Building models has been a mainstay of science education since the first “solar system” was made out of wire hangers. This type of kitschy, inaccurate model can be used to spark questions about how models can be improved, what scientists can learn from them, and how refining a model can help scientists (and students) to better understand complex systems. Allowing students to build and critique their own models of intricate scientific phenomena helps them to understand subtleties that might be missed in a traditional lecture. I use this strategy in groups: teams are given index cards, pipe cleaners, string, pennies, paperclips, Play-Doh, and masking tape. I use a giant “modeling toy box” filled with random donated items like packaging, plastic bottles, lids, colorful math counters, etc. Students select items from the box and model their system in partners and then share within a group of four, discussing benefits and drawbacks to each design. Critical thinking with models also extends to discussion of model organisms in science and bioethics. (more…)

Climate Citizen Science for K-12 Students

Friday, February 1st, 2013

By Minda Barbeco

Engaging students in science can be tricky. Time is limited, the material can be stifling, and students are not always the most willing participants. Moreover, running students through the same experiments with known results doesn’t really demonstrate what science is like in the real world; often, when researchers conduct scientific experiments, the organismsdon’t behave, the chemicals don’t react, the balls don’t roll down the inclined plane at the right speeds. The fact that in actual laboratory work the results don’t always support the hypotheses no doubt comes as a sad realization to many a new researcher – “But my experiments always worked in high school science classes!” (more…)

What is it January Explanation

Friday, February 1st, 2013

Photo Credit: Berenice Abbott, Courtesy of the MIT Museum, Cambridge, MA


The title of this photo is Interference Pattern.

About Berenice Abbott:  In 1939 Abbott began her most ambitious photographic project. Believing scientific phenomena to be as valid a subject for artistic statements as man and his works, she undertook to prove that photography was the medium uniquely qualified to unite art with science. She labored alone for nearly twenty years with little or no encouragement until finally, in 1958, her work was recognized by the Physical Science Study Committee and she was hired to work with that group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for three years. In this period, spanning twenty-two years, Abbott produced thousands of photographs in formats ranging from 8″ x 10″ to 16″ x 20″ and designed and patented a good deal of scientific equipment, including two cameras. Abbott’s scientific photographs are her most significant and in years to come they will perhaps be recognized as her outstanding accomplishment. Source:  http://www.commercegraphics.com/Science.html.

Responses from readers:

Damone Tighe:  Looks like an old wave and flash image from a darkroom. Place an emulsion in the bottom of developer or water, cause a wave patttern by dipping something in the solution and hit the paper with a flash from above the solution.

Peter A’Hearn:  the interference pattern of waves when a vibrating tuning fork is touched to the surface of water- beautifully lit!

Scott Hays:  either the antenna of a water crawler touching the surface of a pond OR a back entrance into the Twilight Zone …



Teachable Moments

Friday, February 1st, 2013

by Amanda L. Smith

What do natural disasters, national holidays, international wars, and bizarre events all have in common?  These can all be incorporated into your classroom as “teachable moments.”  A teachable moment is not something that you can typically plan for, and often may cause you to digress from your original lesson plan; however, it provides an organic way to maximize “the moment”, which in turn, captivates the interest of the students in ways that pre-planned lessons might not.

One of my favorite ways to incorporate teachable moments in the classroom is to start with my current events bulletin board.  Each week, I bring in articles about current topics within the scientific community. These are often brief articles, such as one on a new fossil organism that was discovered, or perhaps an explanation on a large solar magnetic storm coming up. Students can borrow the articles to read during silent reading and free time, and it gives them a great opening to ask questions and inquire about the world around us. (more…)

Why You Need to Be in Palm Springs Next October

Friday, February 1st, 2013

by Peter A’Hearn

You need to be in Palm Springs next October for the 2013 California Science Education Conference.  Here’s why:

  • The future is coming faster than you think.  Classroom science will undergo profound changes in the next 10 years and the conference is the place to find out where it’s all going.
  • The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are just around the corner and State Superintendent Tom Torlakson has proposed that CST testing begin to phase out as early as next year. The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) put a new emphasis on integrating language arts and math in science, and technology is offering new models of teaching and learning. The CSTA conference will bring all of this together. (more…)

Sky Events for February 2013

Friday, February 1st, 2013

by Robert Victor

Several of the sky events this month take place close to the horizon. During my years at Abrams Planetarium at Michigan State University, we were fortunate to have a four-level parking ramp directly behind our building. Serving as our ziggurat, it provided a wonderful panoramic view of the distant western horizon, including downtown Lansing and the Michigan State Capitol Building four miles away. We, and often our public audiences, would climb the stairs (or take the elevator) to the top level to watch for planetary gatherings, the first and last visibility of individual planets during their apparitions, heliacal settings (annual last dates of visibility) of first-magnitude stars, and lunar and solar eclipses. At one time we held the record for the youngest crescent Moon ever, a hairline-thin Moon, age 13 hours 28 minutes after New, seen through binoculars from our parking ramp on May 5, 1989 (reported in the following September’s issue of Sky & Telescope magazine). Our staff led memorable public viewing sessions atop the ramp for the transits of Venus at sunrise on June 8, 2004 and at sunset on June 5, 2012. Students from elementary schools in Palm Springs joined forces with the public at a city park to observe last June’s transit for over four hours until the Sun disappeared below the horizon. (more…)

Region 2 Update and Events

Friday, February 1st, 2013

by Eric Lewis

Happy February everyone!  Things are looking pretty good for science right now.  Finally, we have a balanced budget for our state and education is NOT on the chopping block.  And, the requirement for two years of science for high school graduation will be maintained.

I hope you had a chance to review the Next Generation Science Standards during the three-week review window.  I am excited about the new standards, but I’m also surprised each time that I review them how challenging they are to navigate.  They are SO very different from our current standards, but I keep thinking about new teachers who will never know any other sets of standards.  Certainly, there are many changes coming our way! (more…)

Region 1 – News and Events

Friday, February 1st, 2013

by Valerie Joyner

I hope that everyone was able to find time in their busy schedules to review and comment on the second draft of NGSS.  The Sonoma County Office of Education hosted a review workshop on January 24 that was well attended.  Science educators from as far away as Humbolt County were able to work in small teams, reviewing the second draft and sharing their ideas and comments about it both statewide and nationally.  The participants engaged in serious study and discussion.  While initially finding the document difficult to maneuver, they all came away with a better understanding of NGSS and were ready to bring information back to share with their colleagues. (more…)

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