September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

Animal Welfare Education in California 4-H

Posted: Monday, June 20th, 2016

by Cheryl L. Meehan, Kelley M. Brian, Lynn Schmitt-McQuitty, Emily Schoenfelder, Steven M. Worker, and Andrea Ambrose

The 4-H Youth Development Program is a national nonformal education organization for youth ages 5-19. Through its national Science Mission Mandate, the 4-H program has the potential to help advance youth scientific literacy through programming in a wide variety of subject areas, including: plants and animals; environmental and earth sciences; biological sciences; physical sciences; and science and technology (4-H National Headquarters, 2007). 4-H also offers the opportunity for youth to explore topics outside of those covered by school-based science education. For example, each year approximately 30,000 youth enrolled in California 4-H participate in Animal Science projects that involve agricultural, service, and companion animals (California Enrolment Data, 2015). These projects engage youth in the rearing, caring, showing, and in some cases, breeding or marketing of these project animals. Animal Welfare is a topic that is relevant to all Animal Science projects; however, Animal Welfare has not yet been systematically addressed by 4-H in California through educational programming.  

The study of Animal Welfare is a rapidly growing field that engages scientists and veterinarians in research that seeks to provide better understanding of the needs and experiences of animals, and strives to find balance between these and the practices of modern animal use. Furthermore, Animal Welfare is a social and cultural issue that is increasingly being incorporated into the legal and political landscapes. There are few published studies evaluating the impacts of Animal Welfare focused educational programs on youth, but there is developing evidence that humane education programs can have positive impacts on children’s attitudes and behavior toward animals (Tardiff-Williams and Bosacki, 2015), as well as support the development of empathy toward other humans (Ascione and Webber, 1996). Thus, the development and implementation of educational programming for 4-H youth that focuses on Animal Welfare is relevant and timely.

To address this need, a multi-disciplinary team at UC Davis has developed a hands-on, inquiry-based curriculum organized as a set of Animal Welfare Proficiencies that integrate the key scientific and cultural components of Animal Welfare. The curriculum is built around the experiential learning cycle that promotes 4-H Animal Science youth participants to explore these scientific and cultural components in real-world contexts. An introductory module supports exploration of topics central to Animal Welfare and provides experiences with ethical decision making activities. The balance of the curriculum is organized into the five modules described below:

  • Level 1: Animal Behavior

Youth develop skills in behavioral observation, with the focus on animal behavior as a tool for measuring and interpreting Animal Welfare. Youth also gain an understanding of, and appreciation for, behavioral and cognitive capacities of animals.

  • Level 2: Animal Health

Youth engage in activities that introduce “Tip-to-Tail” health checks and health information documentation. Youth also practice observational skills and perform health-related data collection with their own animals.

  • Level 3: Housing and Husbandry

Youth identify basic needs that must be met through animal housing and care, as well as design enrichment plans that support enhanced welfare.

  • Level 4: Human Animal Interactions as an Important Component of Good Welfare

Youth explore human-animal interactions and the connections between these relations and the animal’s welfare.

  • Level 5: Knowledge and Skills Application

In Proficiency 5, youth move to the culminating activities of the project. They use a self-assessment tool to identify welfare risks present in their current practices and then implement strategies to improve the welfare of their animals.

The curriculum series was tested with 35 youth through a partnership with the 4-H Youth Development Program in California. Knowledge, skills, and attitudes were assessed using a retrospective survey tool and the resulting data were analyzed for significant changes over time. As a result of participating in the curriculum activities, youth reported that they had improved their abilities to collect both behavioral and health information and were significantly more likely to incorporate these practices into their daily animal care routines. Youth also reported that they were significantly more likely to consider their animals’ behavioral and physical needs when making decisions about housing and care then they were prior to participating in the program. Adult volunteers who implemented the program with youth also reported improving their knowledge about Animal Welfare concepts and indicated that they would be likely to incorporate the Animal Welfare Proficiencies into future 4-H Animal Science projects.

Providing in-depth and sustained educational experiences is an important strategy for enhancing subject-specific skills and scientific literacy (Smith & Meehan, 2014). The Animal Welfare Proficiency series is currently undergoing peer review with the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Once published*, this curriculum will provide a readily accessible resource with which educators in formal and non-formal settings can explore socially- and scientifically-relevant topics of Animal Welfare with school-age youth.

*For more information, contact Martin H. Smith ( or Cheryl L. Meehan (


Emily Schoenfelder is the 4-H Youth Development Adviser, and Martin Smith is a Specialist in Cooperative Extension. Steven Worker is a 4-H Youth Development Adviser, and Andrea Ambrose, Director of Development Services. Lynn Schmitt-McQuitty is a 4-H Youth Development Adviser & County Director, and Kelley Brian is the Youth, Families and Communities Adviser. All are a part of the University of California, Agricultural and Natural Resources, 4-H Youth Development Program. In addition, Steven, Martin, and Lynn are members of CSTA.

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.

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California Science Assessment Update

Posted: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

by Jessica Sawko

In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.

At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at 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.

Some ways to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in your classroom

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

by Carol Peterson

1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. 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.

2016 Award Recipients – Join CSTA in Honoring Their Accomplishments

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference  on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!

Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award

John Keller

John Keller

The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well into the future.” 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.

NGSS: Making Your Life Easier

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Peter A’hearn

Wait… What?

NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?

The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Celestial Highlights, September 2016

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt 

Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. 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.