September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

Bio-Boot Camp

Posted: Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

by Eric Lewis

The Bay Area is full of opportunities and resources for life sciences. While we have great institutions that highlight the natural world around us, there are also amazing opportunities to enjoy nature at our numerous parks and beaches. Last summer, I helped develop a summer school course for SFUSD students that focused on physiology and leveraged expertise and resources from our local medical school (UCSF), our local CSU (SFSU) and our city college (CCSF). We even included a trip to UC Berkeley during the school year to further reinforce a college-going culture for our students.

The course was offered to rising 10th graders at Mission High School in San Francisco. All of these students had just completed a year of conceptual physics, the course that 9th graders take at Mission High. We focused on these students for two reasons: there aren’t many opportunities for rising tenth graders over the summer, and these students were going to be taking biology for their next year of science. In general, the biology curriculum at Mission did not focus on physiology – a part of our old standards that tended to get some attention only at the end of the school year. Consequently, we focused this summer course on physiology. Students met for four weeks, from 9:00am to 3:30pm, Monday through Friday, and students received biology credits toward their graduation.

Of course, we aimed to keep the course FUN and ENGAGING. When you have students for six hours a day, five days a week, it’s important to keep things moving. Not only did we have many different projects going on (research on a physiology topic, dissections, field trips, experiments), we also included many guest speakers, short videos and myriad demonstrations. Rather than providing a day-by-day summary of the course (if you’re REALLY interested, email me at, I want to highlight two aspects of the course that may translate to your context in your city:

  1. Partnering with SACNAS (the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science)
  2. Partnering with UCSF (the University of California, San Francisco – our local graduate school for medical sciences)

SACNAS is a national organization with chapters at all kinds of colleges and universities. As Mission High is richly diverse and many of the students have a Latin American heritage, we decided that partnering with SACNAS would be a great boon to our students (and to the participating SACNAS students). As part of the classroom experience, SACNAS participants had many different roles. SACNAS students shared their experiences with education and how they came to be interested in pursuing science in college or in graduate school. This was incredibly powerful for everyone in the room since the City College students were able to hear from students doing research at UCSF. Of course, the Mission High students were able to hear about the journeys of all the SACNAS students – and there were MANY different pathways for these students. Additionally, the SACNAS students that were engaged in research shared their research with our high school students after having thought about how to best articulate their research to a high school audience that hadn’t yet taken biology (a pretty good challenge for young researchers). Finally, the SACNAS students served as mentors to our students – coming in at least twice as week to share their expertise in research and to help our students develop and research their own areas of interest that were presented in poster session/dinner celebration on our last day of class. Of course, our field trips to SF State, City College of San Francisco, UCSF and UC Berkeley were made more comfortable and accessible by including the SACNAS students as chaperones as well!

Our partnership with UCSF was large a result of work with the UCSF Center for Educational Partnerships (a part of the Student Academic Affairs Division). Through this partnership we were able to provide many different perks for our class (including food for some field trips, T-shirts for all the students, and food/drinks for our final celebration). Some of the clear benefits of this collaboration included:

  • Field trips to UCSF
    • Dental School
    • Stem Cell Building
    • Nursing School
    • Pharmacy School
    • Graduate School
    • Medical School
    • Kanbar Center
    • Mission Bay Campus laboratories
  • Classroom speakers/guest lecturers
  • Picking up and returning materials for our class through UCSF SEP’s lending library

Over all, the students, SACNAS participants, and SFUSD teachers had an amazing summer of learning. We completed amazing laboratory activities, dissections, hands-on activities and had students discussing challenging science content with each other and with their science mentors from SACNAS. Students produced many types of written materials – from annotated illustrations to poster presentations. Our goal of getting many underrepresented minority students more engaged in science (and doing better in their biology classes over the course of 2013-2014 school year) seems to have been successful. The next few months will help complete this particular story… Hopefully, we’ll find many of these students back at our local institutions for college – and, majoring in science!

Written by Eric Lewis

Eric Lewis

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

Leave a Reply


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…

Powered By DT Author Box

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…

Powered By DT Author Box

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.