May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Citizen Science Resolved: 2013 from the Birds to the Bees

Posted: Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

by Bethany Dixon

“They’re eating the berries!  The robins are eating the berries off the trees!”  My normally sleepy first-hour biology class was outside. “There are the cedar waxwings!” “ Shhh! You’re too loud –  you’re gonna scare them away! There they go!” Half a dozen waxwings flit across the parking lot from one clump of trees to another, attempting to avoid the 32 “researchers” during their ten-minute bird count.  Our students use Cornell University’s Celebrate Urban Birds Checklist to count how many of their 16 focal species are in and around our school parking lot. It’s this class’ first foray into citizen science, but those familiar with the Audubon Society’s 113-year-old Christmas Bird Count know that using laypeople to collect large amounts of data is not a new idea. What is exciting is that now anyone with internet access and fifteen minutes can tap into a huge network of citizen science projects; and it isn’t just birds.

NSTA’s December issue of The Science Teacher highlighted a potpourri of options for citizen science, and training for programs range from complex 10-week naturalist training courses to simple web-based tutorials for solar storm identification. Even if you aren’t participating directly, your computer or gaming console can participate for you through folding-at-home and other public distributed computing efforts.  Cornell’s Ornithology Lab’s Celebrate Urban Birds is a national project, but state and local projects abound close to home in California. For example, the University of California Naturalist program features 140 citizen science projects ready for participants, most of which accept students as researchers.  From monitoring squirrels, frogs, ants, or invasive spiders to counting craters on the moon, identifying Martian terrain, or searching for supernovae, the opportunities for involvement are staggering.

Citizen science projects are appropriate for all levels, and Cornell’s Citizen Science Resources page shows older students interested in research design how to “Organize and implement initiatives where volunteers are involved scientific research.”

Active participation in research builds student confidence in their scientific abilities and activities like making observations, collecting data, and analyzing results are often much more memorable to students in the field than in the classroom. Building experience and familiarity with research processes helps increase scientific literacy and even builds relationships within the community as students volunteer with other citizen scientists.  Collecting data for ongoing research also helps students understand how investigations are designed and what parameters are important for generating a fair test.  As we collect data for the Celebrating Urban Birds investigation in my high school classes, we discussed how the scientists might have selected certain species over others and ways that scientists might use our data.

As you make your teaching resolutions for the New Year, consider adding a citizen science project to your repertoire. As we trekked across the parking lot and back to the classroom, students compared checklists and watched a turkey vulture spiral around the building. “I’ll bet it’s going to eat that bird that ran into Ms. Leonard’s window yesterday during algebra!”  “Gross, no way!” “Ms. Dixon, do you think it will?” It might, I say, if it’s still there. As we head upstairs I hear plans hatching for bird-related science projects, and the next day a student rushes up to me in the hall, “I showed the cedar waxwing to my mom this morning! They’re still out in the parking lot!” All this, and fostering communication between high school students and their parents? Maybe my New Year’s resolution to make the world a better place isn’t so far out of reach.

Links:

Audubon Society: http://birds.audubon.org/get-involved-christmas-bird-count-find-count-near-you

University of California Naturalist Link: http://ucanr.edu/sites/UCCNP/California_PPSR/

Cornell’s Citizen Science Pages: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/Page.aspx?pid=708

Cornell’s Citizen Science Resources: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/citscitoolkit/resources

Celebrate Urban Birds: http://celebrateurbanbirds.org/about/resources/get-your-kit/

NSTA’s December issue blog: http://nstacommunities.org/blog/2012/12/22/citizen-science-2/

Written by Bethany Dixon

Bethany Dixon is a science teacher at Western Sierra Collegiate Academy, is a CSTA Publications Committee Member, and is a member of CSTA.

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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 zi@cascience.org.)

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: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

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.