September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

CSTA Night at the Aquarium – A Good Time Was Had by All!

Posted: Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

by Jill Grace and Laura Henriques

Close to 700 science educators enjoyed an evening of Science, Engineering and STEM at the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific on Thursday, December 4th. This great CSTA event was co-hosted by Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific and CSTA and sponsored by Chevron.

In addition to having the entire aquarium to ourselves, there were five scientists who gave talks, two dozen table-top STEM/Engineering showcase presentations and the LBAOP’s Science on a Sphere. After eating dinner, glowstick-clad attendees visited the penguins, jellies, and other exhibits representing marine life of the pacific.

The science talks addressed some cutting edge research and science citizen projects. Their talks were great and CSTA appreciates them donating their time. It was a late night for them (especially considering it was a school night!).

CSTA Night at the Aquarium Speaker Series

CSTA Night at the Aquarium Speaker Series

Monitoring Pollution in Santa Monica Bay: Science Influencing Management
Mas Dojiri, Division Manager, Environmental Monitoring Division, Hyperion Treatment Plant

Mas Dojiri’s discussion of how pharmaceuticals make their way into the oceans and into fish tissue should make us all rethink what goes down drains and toilets. His talk highlighted the importance of critical consumption of scientific information as reported in the news.

Life in Deep Sea Hydrothermal Vents: Using Technology to Study Biodiversity in Extreme Environments
Karla Heidelberg, Associate Professor (Teaching) of Biological Sciences, Director of USC Environmental Studies Program

Karla Heidelberg did a great job emphasizing that exciting topics will engage kids and allow us to introduce the ‘hard science’. This technique allows us to ‘sneak in’ really hard-core science in ways that kids find palatable and actually crave. They want to know how organisms live and thrive at the hydrothermal vents and that requires some real science.

Earth Science from Space! Why I Love My Day Job Spying on Carbon with the NASA Orbiting Carbon Observatory
Michael Gunson, Global Change & Energy Program Manager & OCO-2 Project Scientist, Jet Propulsion Lab, California Institute of Technology

Mike Gunson helped us understand how the earth space satellite program missions provide scientists with an opportunity for large-scale hypothesis testing. He emphasized how the general public does not really understand hypothesis testing and still hold misconceptions about the methods which scientists use (by the way, it’s not the scientific method!).

Understanding Earthquakes: Science, Technology, and Resources
Erin Burkett, Geophysicist, USGS

Erin Burkett’s presentation about earthquakes and early warning systems was very interesting. The simulation of the LA Basin in a 7+ earthquake gives us all reason to pause and appreciate the extra few seconds an early warning system would provide. (click here for the USGS video simulation)

Kelp Watch 2014: Design, Recent Results, and Surprises
Steven Manley, Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, California State University – Long Beach

Steve Manley’s presentation about searching for radioactivity from the Fukashima nuclear disaster helped us understand the currently measured risk (or relative lack thereof) from Cs-134 and Cs-137.The Kelp Watch project has processed kelp collected by groups from Baja California to Kodiak Islands. Collections from areas that the radioactive plume will not go are used as controls.

Chevron Logo

Thank you to our event sponsor: Chevron

The showcase presenters highlighted tried and true lessons and activities. You can find handouts and descriptions on the event’s Edmodo site.

Inputs and Outputs of Cells
This unit focuses on what every cell requires and produces. We explore how the cell gets what it needs and gets rid of what it doesn’t need. We explore what the cell does with the inputs to produce the outputs as well as which body system supports that.
Kerin Butterfield, Science Teacher, California Middle School

Geologic History- BBK Unit Module
Sobrato High School Geology teachers recently collaborated to create a BBK- Building Background Knowledge unit module, aligned to NGSS, on Geologic History and Plate Tectonics.
Heather Wygant, Geology Teacher, Sobrato High School

Backpack Robotics Inventing to Learn: Students Build Original Mars Rover Robot
We are integrating Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards by simulating the building of a Mars Rover robot from the ground up. Students follow building plans and use laser cutters and 3D printers to make parts for a simulated rolling robot. Students use STEAM++ Graphic Organizers and a ePortfolios.
Bob Barboza, STEM Director, Super School University – Kids Talk Radio Science

The Finches of Daphne Major: Use the Scientific Model of Natural Selection to Help Your Student’s Reason with Data and Explain the Phenomenon of the Galapagos Finches
The changes of the Galapagos Finches of Daphne Major are an excellent example of natural selection. This lesson shows how your students can use 11 pieces data and the model of Natural Selection to tell the story of the finches.
Jennifer Horton, Science Teacher, Lincoln High School

Global Climate Change: Earth System Carbon Cycle and Energy Flows
Global climate change is a great topic for modeling how to weave disciplinary core ideas, science and engineering practices, and crosscutting concepts (CCCs). These lessons and resources deepen understanding of climate change and of two major CCCs.
Art Sussman, Senior Project Director, WestEd

Dr. Bob’s SoundSchool: Teaching the Science of Sound Through Music
Dr. Bob’s SoundSchool is a 10-week experiential STEAM curriculum which teaches the science of sound through the magic of music to second-grade students. Throughout the curriculum, our goal is that children hear, touch, and feel sound with each activity, using electronic and acoustic instruments.
Michelle Moog-Koussa, Executive Director, Bob Moog Foundation

You Wind Some You Lose Some
Student engineers will be testing different blade designs of a wind turbine in order to maximize the power output. Students will be writing a formal lab report and organizing powerpoint team presentations in order to convince the public how society can utilize wind energy more efficiently.
Jamie Larson, Physics Teacher, Da Vinci Science High School

Connecting STEM and Literacy in the K-8 Classroom
Come learn how a K-8 STEM academy has developed STEM based interdisciplinary units of study that have significantly increased student achievement, especially for English learners and struggling readers. The design model makes every classroom lesson highly engaging with hands-on, minds-on learning experiences and opportunities for all students, everyday!
Patricia Maruca, Executive Director/Principal, Discovery Charter School

Let’s Prepare, Care and Share! Real Life Lessons About Earthquakes!
Prepare: What causes quakes? How do we prepare so we can stay safe? Care: Many places are affected by quakes! Why did the buildings suffer so much damage in Haiti, but not in Japan or the United States? Share: Is there anything we can do to help the people Haiti?
Camie Walker, Teacher & Facilitator Science Methods, Elementary & University of Phoenix

Colorimetry Made Easy Using DIY Instruments and Mobile Devices
The Community Science Academy @ Caltech (, IO Rodeo (, and L.A. Biohackers ( join forces to offer a hands-on lesson that uses a DIY colorimeter to measure solutes present in water collected from various sources. A free iPad application provides a way to collaboratively learn concepts and analyze data.
Douglas Foster, L.A. Biohackers

Integrating Geospatial Technologies for Underwater Data Collection and Analysis
Students at Clark Magnet High School use a remotely operated vehicle to collect underwater data for mapping and analysis in ArcGIS. Geotagged photographs and video taken by the ROV document the study area. Students use the ROV to investigate relevant marine issues and ArcGIS to model plausible solutions.
Dominique Evans-Bye, Teacher, Clark Magnet High School

Water Water Everywhere – Not a Drop to Spare
In this unit, students use chemistry, environmental biology, nanoscience and engineering concepts. The students collected data about local water and then used the data to design a water treatment proposal. Students learned about buffer systems and nanoscience through laboratories and applied the knowledge to an engineering challenge.
Cara Hale-Hanes, McBride High School

Where Has Mars’ Atmosphere Gone? Working with the MAVEN Mission
Using hands-On labs with instructions that you can take back to your classroom, learn about how you can teach your students about Earth’s magnetic field by mapping the magnetic field and then learn about Mars’ magnetic field by mapping its field and how does the relationship to the MAVEN Mission.
Dara DeVicariis, Earth Science Teacher, Colton High School

The M.Y. S.P.A.C.E. Program (Multinational Youth Studying Practical Applications of Climatic Events)
Join M.Y. S.P.A.C.E. – an international high school collaborative engaged in research on local impacts of global environmental issues. Students and their teachers use locally generated and satellite-based data mentored by NOAA and NASA, then meet annually to discover global trends in their collective data and present their findings.
Pete Arvedson, Science Teacher, Ret., Satellite Educators Association

Story Maps for STEM
Students at Clark Magnet High School use free online mapping software from ESRI to implement CCSS and NGSS. This presentation will showcase how Earth Science, Life Science and Physical Science disciplinary core ideas can be explored and communicated by students using GIS technology.
Alex Day-Blattner, Teacher, Clark Magnet High School

Underwater Robotics – Middle School, High School & College
Underwater Robotics in the classroom will be displayed showing teacher resources and completed Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) from Middle School, High School and College level programs.
Scott Fraser, Professor, Long Beach City College

Modeling DNA – Unlocking the Code
Students made and used three different models to learn about DNA and its role in protein synthesis. Models included a computer model, and two physical models. Students also evaluated the models for limitations and benefits of use.
Rachel Poland, Teacher, Innovation Middle School

Focus and Explore Wave Energy and STEM Education K-8
Focus on getting started with STEM education while effectively teaching the Next Generation Science Standards through inquiry-based practices instruction. Explore how to prepare your students for future careers in the 21st-century workforce and ensure effective achievement. Leave with tools to accelerate your STEM journey.
Susan Dewberry, Carolina Biological

Are Everywhere
The Aquarium of the Pacific strives to provide its audience a global perspective of complex Earth systems and tell stories about our planet and the environment. The wide variety of high-tech instruments monitoring our planet from space, on Earth’s surface, and under the ocean, are providing large amounts of data in real time, allowing scientists to understand the planet better than ever before. Join us as we introduce you to free data focus programs for the classroom and participate in data collection via a kelp forest ethogram.
Aquarium of the Pacific Staff

Experience all the excitement of being an astronaut without leaving school! Learn about the forces, temperatures, and pressure that exist in space. You can even launch a rocket!
California Science Center Staff

Membrane Engineering
People with kidneys that have failed need a way to exchange the wastes in their blood with the outside environment. This occurs through a membrane. We will be designing membranes whose structure functions to facilitate fast, efficient exchange of materials.
Philip Hudec, Palm Springs USD

Thanks to all our awesome CSTA members who graciously shared their expertise with colleagues after a long day of conference sessions. You rock!

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.