May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Climate Change Adaptation: Students Have a Role

Posted: Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

by Phyllis Grifman and Linda Chilton

As leaders of society’s next generation, teachers foster and facilitate learning and help prepare students to engage intellectually as well as socially. Students can learn the principles of stewardship and conservation and they are inspired to become decision makers and problem solvers today and in the future. This is especially important in addressing climate change. The impacts of climate change require both mitigation, reducing our use of fossil fuels and shifting to more conservative use of resources; and adaptation, preparing our communities to be more resilient in responding to the impacts of climate change.

Since the science of climate change and its many applications are still in nascent stages, many educators do not yet have the background understanding to develop what is needed to prepare students for addressing these critical concepts. In the Los Angeles region, the ocean interface with the massive urban development is under increased pressure from the impacts of growing population and climate change. Because the impacts brought by sea level rise are not uniform around the world, they must be examined in a regional context under a lens that accounts for other physical factors such as El Niño/La Niña and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, and changing storm patterns. Educators need the tools to bring focus to these factors in order to educate the next generation to predict the potential impacts of climate change and urban pressures on the Los Angeles region.

Factors that must be considered when considering vulnerabilities to any hazards, including climate change, include

  • exposure, – nature and degree to which a system experiences as stress or hazard
  • sensitivity – the degree which exposed assets would be impaired
  • adaptive capacity – ability of an asset t make adjustments in response to climate change; and
  • consequences – the adverse effects that occur as a result of an asset being impaired.

These must be examined in the context of geographic location, population density, societal characteristics, governance, and local, regional, state and federal political institutions.

The USC Sea Grant Program plays an instrumental role in assessing the state of climate adaptation preparedness throughout California. In the Los Angeles region, the USC Sea Grant Program coordinated a study to assess sea level rise vulnerabilities for the City of Los Angeles. Officials from the City of Los Angeles and regional stakeholders collaborated to provide invaluable input in the process of assessing the City’s vulnerability. This work provides an example of how diverse disciplines must work together to present a holistic picture for the region. The team of experts working on the “AdaptLA” project included:

  • a coastal oceanographer/physicist with expertise in coastal processes,
  • a geophysical modeler who studies hazard risk,
  • a social scientist with expertise in climate change adaptation, social vulnerability, and risk communications,
  • a coastal engineer with expertise in coastal hazards and potential adaptation methodologies, municipal officials,
  • an economist with expertise in assessing the impacts of natural disasters; and of course,
  • the USC Sea Grant climate team.

Using of a template, officials systematically assessed risks to municipal assets and identified several vulnerabilities. At-risk critical coastal infrastructure includes power plants, wastewater treatment plants, roads, and beaches. Beaches provide not only ecosystem services, but contribute millions of tourism dollars to the economy. The protection provided by wide beaches requires regular monitoring and to remain effective as barriers to rising seas. Sea level rise impacts will require an increased effort to stabilize and replenish beaches; south-facing beaches such as San Pedro’s Cabrillo Beach recently saw tremendous impact from the extended effects of offshore hurricanes.

USC Sea Grant Program also partnered with Heal the Bay in an outreach program for the vulnerable communities of Venice/Marina Del Rey and San Pedro/Wilmington/Long Beach. At an inaugural Youth Forum held on the USC campus, students learned about vulnerabilities in their own communities and participated in a survey examining hazard preparedness in their own neighborhoods. The Forum informed participants about local stewardship efforts, engaging residents and decision makers in these communities by sharing the findings from the AdaptLA report and recruiting them to participate in developing adaptation plans. Participants included policy makers, community leaders, students and their teachers.

The effects of a king tide. Photo credit: Alyssa Newton Mann

The effects of a king tide. Photo credit: Alyssa Newton Mann

Students and teachers gain an understanding of the relevance of learning about climate change through classroom activities. Through engagement programs, students put learning into action in their own communities, reaching out to help communities better prepare for flooding in their neighborhoods, and helping to survey community members to ascertain their awareness and understanding of climate change impacts. In the future, student groups will participate in the “King Tides” Initiative, using photography to record extreme high and low tides. This is designed to illustrate potential effects of sea level rise and identify places where planners and residents need to consider how to plan and protect vulnerable structures. Opportunities continue to provide ways for teachers and students to contribute to help their own communities become more resilient in the face of a changing climate.

Phyllis Grifman is Associate Director and Linda Chilton is the Education Coordinator, both with the USC Sea Grant Program. Linda is a member of CSTA.

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:

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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.