May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

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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Participate in Chemistry Education Research Study, Earn $500-800 Dollars!

Posted: Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

WestEd, a non-profit educational research agency, has been funded by the US Department of Education to test a new molecular modeling kit, Happy Atoms. Happy Atoms is an interactive chemistry learning experience that consists of a set of physical atoms that connect magnetically to form molecules, and an app that uses image recognition to identify the molecules that you create with the set. WestEd is conducting a study around the effectiveness of using Happy Atoms in the classroom, and we are looking for high school chemistry teachers in California to participate.

As part of the study, teachers will be randomly assigned to either the treatment group (who uses Happy Atoms) or the control group (who uses Happy Atoms at a later date). Teachers in the treatment group will be asked to use the Happy Atoms set in their classrooms for 5 lessons over the course of the fall 2017 semester. Students will complete pre- and post-assessments and surveys around their chemistry content knowledge and beliefs about learning chemistry. WestEd will provide access to all teacher materials, teacher training, and student materials needed to participate.

Participating teachers will receive a stipend of $500-800. You can read more information about the study here:

Please contact Rosanne Luu at or 650.381.6432 if you are interested in participating in this opportunity, or if you have any questions!

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.

2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption Reviewer Application

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

The California Department of Education and State Board of Education are now accepting applications for reviewers for the 2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption. The application deadline is 3:00 pm, July 21, 2017. The application is comprehensive, so don’t wait until the last minute to apply.

On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson forwarded this recruitment letter to county and district superintendents and charter school administrators.

Review panel members will evaluate instructional materials for use in kindergarten through grade eight, inclusive, that are aligned with the California Next Generation Science Content Standards for California Public Schools (CA NGSS). 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.

Lessons Learned from the NGSS Early Implementer Districts

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

On March 31, 2017, Achieve released two documents examining some lessons learned from the California K-8 Early Implementation Initiative. The initiative began in August 2014 and was developed by the K-12 Alliance at WestEd, with close collaborative input on its design and objectives from the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education, and Achieve.

Eight (8) traditional school districts and two (2) charter management organizations were selected to participate in the initiative, becoming the first districts in California to implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Those districts included Galt Joint Union Elementary, Kings Canyon Joint Unified, Lakeside Union, Oakland Unified, Palm Springs Unified, San Diego Unified, Tracy Joint Unified, Vista Unified, Aspire, and High Tech High.

To more closely examine some of the early successes and challenges experienced by the Early Implementer LEAs, Achieve interviewed nine of the ten participating districts and compiled that information into two resources, focusing primarily on professional learning and instructional materials. 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.

Using Online Simulations to Support the NGSS in Middle School Classrooms

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

by Lesley Gates, Loren Nikkel, and Kambria Eastham

Middle school teachers in Kings Canyon Unified School District (KCUSD), a CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative district, have been diligently working on transitioning to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) integrated model for middle school. This year, the teachers focused on building their own knowledge of the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs). They have been gathering and sharing ideas at monthly collaborative meetings as to how to make sure their students are not just learning about science but that they are actually doing science in their classrooms. Students should be planning and carrying out investigations to gather data for analysis in order to construct explanations. This is best done through hands-on lab experiments. Experimental work is such an important part of the learning of science and education research shows that students learn better and retain more when they are active through inquiry, investigation, and application. A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2011) notes, “…learning about science and engineering involves integration of the knowledge of scientific explanations (i.e., content knowledge) and the practices needed to engage in scientific inquiry and engineering design. Thus the framework seeks to illustrate how knowledge and practice must be intertwined in designing learning experiences in K-12 Science Education” (pg. 11).

Many middle school teachers in KCUSD are facing challenges as they begin implementing these student-driven, inquiry-based NGSS science experiences in their classrooms. First, many of the middle school classrooms at our K-8 school sites are not designed as science labs. 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 NGSS 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.

Celestial Highlights: May – July 2017

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

May Through July 2017 with Web Resources for the Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graphs of planet rising and setting times by Jeffrey L. Hunt.

In spring and summer 2017, Jupiter is the most prominent “star” in the evening sky, and Venus, even brighter, rules the morning. By mid-June, Saturn rises at a convenient evening hour, allowing both giant planets to be viewed well in early evening until Jupiter sinks low in late September. The Moon is always a crescent in its monthly encounters with Venus, but is full whenever it appears near Jupiter or Saturn in the eastern evening sky opposite the Sun. (In 2017, Full Moon is near Jupiter in April, Saturn in June.) At intervals of 27-28 days thereafter, the Moon appears at a progressively earlier phase at each pairing with the outer planet until its final conjunction, with Moon a thin crescent, low in the west at dusk. You’ll see many beautiful events by just following the Moon’s wanderings at dusk and dawn in the three months leading up to the solar eclipse. Learn More…

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Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.