September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

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.

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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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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.