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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CSTA Annual Conference Early Bird Rates End July 14

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

Teachers engaged in workshop activity

Teachers engaging in hands-on learning during a workshop at the 2016 CSTA conference.

Don’t miss your chance to register at the early bird rate for the 2017 CSTA Conference – the early-bird rate closes July 14. Need ideas on how to secure funding for your participation? Visit our website for suggestions, a budget planning tool, and downloadable justification letter to share with your admin. Want to take advantage of the early rate – but know your district will pay eventually? Register online today and CSTA will reimburse you when we receive payment from your district/employer. (For more information on how that works contact Zi Stair in the office for details – 916-979-7004 or

New Information Now Available On-line:

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.

Goodbye Outgoing and Welcome Incoming CSTA Board Members

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Jill Grace

Jill Grace, CSTA President, 2017-2019

On July 1, 2017 five CSTA members concluded their service and four new board members joined the ranks of the CSTA Board of Directors. CSTA is so grateful for all the volunteer board of directors who contribute hours upon hours of time and energy to advance the work of the association. At the June 3 board meeting, CSTA was able to say goodbye to the outgoing board members and welcome the incoming members.

This new year also brings with it a new president for CSTA. As of July 1, 2017 Jill Grace is the president of the California Science Teachers Association. Jill is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, a former middle school science teacher, and is currently a Regional Director with the K-12 Alliance @ WestEd where she works with California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative districts and charter networks in the San Diego area.

Outgoing Board Members

  • Laura Henriques (President-Elect: 2011 – 2013, President: 2013 – 2015, Past President: 2015 – 2017)
  • Valerie Joyner (Region 1 Director: 2009 – 2013, Primary Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Mary Whaley (Informal Science Education Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Sue Campbell (Middle School/Jr. High Director: 2015 – 2017)
  • Marcus Tessier (2-Year College Director: 2015 – 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.

Finding My Student’s Motivation of Learning Through Engineering Tasks

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Huda Ali Gubary and Susheela Nath

It’s 8:02 and the bell rings. My students’ walk in and pick up an entry ticket based on yesterday’s lesson and homework. My countdown starts for students to begin…3, 2, 1. Ten students are on task and diligently completing the work, twenty are off task with behaviors ranging from talking up a storm with their neighbors to silently staring off into space. This was the start of my classes, more often than not. My students rarely showed the enthusiasm for a class that I had eagerly prepared for. I spent so much time searching for ways to get my students excited about the concepts they were learning. I wanted them to feel a connection to the lessons and come into my class motivated about what they were going to learn next. I would ask myself how I could make my class memorable where the kids were in the driver’s seat of learning. Incorporating engineering made this possible. 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 California NGSS k-8 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.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Unveils Updated Recommended Literature List

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson unveiled an addition of 285 award-winning titles to the Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list.

“The books our students read help broaden their perspectives, enhance their knowledge, and fire their imaginations,” Torlakson said. “The addition of these award-winning titles represents the state’s continued commitment to the interests and engagement of California’s young readers.”

The Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list is a collection of more than 8,000 titles of recommended reading for children and adolescents. Reflecting contemporary and classic titles, including California authors, this online list provides an exciting range of literature that students should be reading at school and for pleasure. Works include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama to provide for a variety of tastes, interests, and abilities. Learn More…

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:

Teaching Science in the Time of Alternative Facts – Why NGSS Can Help (somewhat)

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn

The father of one of my students gave me a book: In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood by Walt Brown, Ph. D. He had heard that I was teaching Plate Tectonics and wanted me to consider another perspective. The book offered the idea that the evidence for plate tectonics could be better understood if we considered the idea that beneath the continent of Pangaea was a huge underground layer of water that suddenly burst forth from a rift between the now continents of Africa and South America. The waters shot up and the continents hydroplaned apart on the water layer to their current positions. The force of the movement pushed up great mountain ranges which are still settling to this day, resulting in earthquakes along the margins of continents. This had happened about 6,000 years ago and created a great worldwide flood. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.