September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

3D Giant Screen Film Molecules to the MAX! Now Available on DVD

Posted: Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

Film educates and excites kids about the world of atoms and molecules!

You can now catch a ride to NanoSpace in Molecules to the MAX!, the 42-minute, animated 3D Giant Screen film, developed by world-renowned professors and scientists from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). The film is being offered on DVD to school librarians first before being made available to the public. Science teachers are encouraged to talk with their school librarians about ordering the DVD through AV Café or another preferred distributor. Additionally, Public Performance Rights (Screening license) can be purchased at

For those science teachers interested in learning more about The Molecularium® Project’s initiatives designed to teach and excite kids about science, the Project’s team members will be exhibiting at the NSTA Conference in Chicago (March 12-15). Please stop by booth #1627 to win a free copy of the DVD.

“If you’ve ever stood in front of a group of 5th graders and watched their faces as you described how atoms and molecules make up the world, you’d know the importance and joy of continuing to come up with innovative ways to excite kids about science,” said Richard W. Siegel, Ph.D., director of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Nanotechnology Center and innovator behind The Molecularium® Project. “That’s why we are thrilled to be releasing our Molecules to the MAX! film on DVD and to focus attention on the power of using entertainment to teach students,” he added.

Molecules to the MAX! continues to show overseas on select IMAX screens and has been translated into Spanish, Chinese, Arabic and Japanese. In the film, Oxy, Captain of the Molecularium, is dispatched from the Unified Field of Atoms on an expedition to discover the secret of life on Earth. Along with her crew – Mel, the uptight computer, and Hydra and Hydro, the bungling hydrogen twins – they have many misadventures exploring the Earth’s atmosphere and the cycle of water molecules, through clouds, snowflakes and raindrops. Lost in the far reaches of outer space, Oxy and her crew are rescued by Carbón and his gang of intergalactic carbon atoms. With lots of bravado and a little luck, Carbón is able to pilot the ship back to Earth.

The Molecularium Project is the flagship outreach and education effort of RPI’s Nanotechnology Center aimed at boosting global science literacy and encouraging young people to pursue careers in STEM. Along with Molecules to the MAX!, its educational efforts include a 23-minute, award-winning Digital Dome film, Molecularium – Riding Snowflakes, which introduced the characters Oxy, Carbón, Hydra and Mel; and NanoSpace®, an online amusement park, where the familiar film characters are transformed into game based characters. NanoSpace, winner of the Center for Digital Education 2013 Best of the Web award, includes more than 25 fun, interactive and educational games, short animated films and activities, which provide an engaging environment to demystify molecular science. Instead of textbooks, teachers and students can use games like BuildEm!, Periodic Memory and microLAB. The Project’s free educator resources for grades K-4 and 5-8 are available on the website at

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:

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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.

News and Happenings in CSTA’s Region 1 – Fall 2017

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Marian Murphy-Shaw


This month I was fortunate enough to hear about some new topics to share with our entire region. Some of you may access the online or newsletter options, others may attend events in person that are nearer to you. Long time CSTA member and environmental science educator Mike Roa is well known to North Bay Area teachers for his volunteer work sharing events and resources. In this month’s Region 1 updates I am happy to make a few of the options Mike offers available to our region. Learn More…

Written by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw is the student services director at Siskiyou County Office of Education and is CSTA’s Region 1 Director and chair of CSTA’s Policy Committee.