September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

A Conversation with Helena Carmena Young of the California Academy of Sciences…

Posted: Monday, August 1st, 2011

by Eric Lewis

I was lucky to catch Helena in between her work meetings and travels to the Trinity Alps to find out what kinds of things are going on over in Golden Gate Park.  For those who don’t know, Helena is the Senior Manager of Teacher Education at California Academy of Sciences.  While you probably won’t find her on the floor of the museum, you will find her pushing teachers to build their science knowledge through innovative programs and activities.  Over some delicious Vietnamese food in a small restaurant in San Francisco’s Mission District, I got to ask her about a variety of Academy goings-ons…

Lewis: So, what exciting teacher programs do you offer at the Academy these days?

Carmena Young:  We have a pretty big menu of professional development opportunities that engage teachers in different topics, introduce a variety of effective teaching strategies, and provide time to collaborate with fellow teachers.  We have new Explore the Natural World workshops that focus on science concepts such as Weather and Climate, Astronomy, and Plant Biology over a three-part series.  There is actually a pretty big list of offerings at the academy.


Lewis: Is there a place teachers can go to see all of the workshops listed in one place?

Carmena Young:  Sure, teachers can just go to to see what we offer. We also have an exciting special teacher event in the fall called Educator Extravaganza.  It’s going to take place on Saturday, November 5, 1:30 pm – 6:30 pm.

Lewis:  What is going to happy at this new event?

Carmena Young:  At the Educator Extravaganza, teachers will join fellow educators to explore the Academy inside and out.  Everyone is going to walk away with resources, activities and inspiration to bring science into classrooms.  Teachers will be able to participate in workshops and behind-the-scenes tours, converse with scientists, and dive deeper into the Academy’s exhibits and research collections.

Lewis:  This sounds great!  What do teachers need to do?  Is there a cost?

Carmena Young:  Actually, the event will be free for Bay Area teachers, but an RSVP will be required since space is limited.  Teachers should RSVP here if they are interested.

Lewis:  Do you still offer field trips for school groups?

Carmena Young:  Boy, do we ever.  In fact, for the 2011-2012 school year, the Academy has considerably increased field trip slots for classes ranging from pre-K through 12th grade. With free admission for San Francisco schools and rates at only $6.95 per person for all other schools within California, field trips are an amazing deal. Teachers can apply for field trips when if fits best in their schedule, but the sooner they arrange things the more likely they’ll get the times that they want!

Lewis:  I’m actually pretty familiar with field trips to the Academy.  Are there any other ways that the Academy serves school communities?

Carmena Young:  Actually, something new is that beginning September 2011, the Academy will introduce a discounted rate for groups serving youth, such as afterschool and youth development programs, school clubs, sports teams, and the like.  The entry fee will only be $16.95 per person, so youth groups from California will receive a generous discount off admission.  Folks can read more about this at

Lewis:  Well, Helena, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me today. Before we go, I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind sharing some of curriculum from California Academy of Sciences that you think highlights the spirit of the Academies view of science education?

Carmena Young:  Sure thing – but nothing really beats coming to the Academy and seeing everything for yourself.  That said, for high school I love the Carbon Cycle activity from our site.  It’s a great activity that can be adapted for pretty much any age group, but that can be done anytime that you want to do it!  For elementary school, one of my favorites is on Composting.  The activity is great for a range of kids as well, but is a fantastic way to introduce students to the big ideas of scientific investigations.  I hope everyone enjoys these lessons (and there’s a whole lot more on our website).  Have a great school year!

Helena Carmena Young will be presenting a workshop at the 2011 California Science Education Conference in Pasadena, click here to see when she will be presenting.

Eric Lewis is the CSTA region 2 director, high school area science support in the San Francisco USD LEAD office,  and a frequent visitor of the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.


Written by Eric Lewis

Eric Lewis

Eris Lewis is high school area science support in the San Francisco Unified School District LEAD office.

One Response

  1. That Helena Carmena-young is brillant!

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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.