May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Did You Feel It? and the Quake-Catcher Network: Gather and Contribute Data About Earthquakes in Your Front Yard and Schoolyard

Posted: Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

by Robert de Groot

It is 9:09 pm on Friday March 28, 2014 in Southern California and all of a sudden a magnitude (M) 5.1 earthquake strikes in the northwest corner of Orange County near the cities of La Habra and Fullerton. The Southern California Seismic Network swings into action collecting data about the event. The event is widely felt and many people put into practice what they learned during the Great California ShakeOut the statewide earthquake drill held every third Thursday of October – Drop, Cover, and Hold On.

You Feel It Event Page for the M 5.1 LaHabraEarthquake (courtesy: USGS)

You Feel It Event Page for the M 5.1 LaHabraEarthquake (courtesy: USGS)

After the shaking ends, everyone checks for injuries and damage. Then many submit data of what they felt during the earthquake on the United States Geological Survey’s Did You Feel It? website. This site leverages the abundant information available about earthquakes from the people who actually experience them. By taking advantage of the vast numbers of Internet users, the USGS can get a more complete description of what people experienced, the effects of the earthquake, and the extent of damage than was available in the past.

Within two hours after the March 28, 2014 magnitude 5.1 event there are over 30 aftershocks. The earthquake shakes all nine high schools of the Chaffey Joint Union High School District (CJUHSD), located 60 km east of Los Angeles.

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However, something else is also shaking at the schools.

In 2013, CJUHSD Superintendent Mat Holton and Assistant Superintendent Tim Ward agreed to have seismometers from the Quake Catcher Network installed in all of their schools.

Quake Catcher Network Logo

Quake Catcher Network Logo

The Quake-Catcher Network (QCN) is a collaborative initiative for developing the world’s largest, low-cost strong-motion seismic network by utilizing motion sensors in and attached to internet-connected computers. The QCN is a distributed computing network that links volunteer hosted computers to a real-time motion-sensing network.The volunteer computers monitor vibrational sensors called micro electro-mechanical systems, (MEMS), accelerometers and digitally transmit “triggers” to QCN’s servers whenever strong motions are observed.QCN is one of many scientific computing projects that runs on the world-renowned distributed computing platform Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC). QCN’s servers sift through these signals, and determine which ones represent earthquakes, and which ones represent cultural noise.QCN provides software so that individuals can join together to improve earthquake monitoring, earthquake awareness, and the science of earthquakes.

Earth science teacher Bernadette Vargas (CSTA member) from Etiwanda High School, having felt the earthquake herself, signs into her account on the QCN website and she discovers that five of the high schools in the CJUHSD generated records from the earthquake. The seismogram shown here is from Montclair High School. She creates a report for her colleagues, which shares basic information about the earthquake, which schools in the district detected the event, and how to interpret the data. She explains that the blue record shows movement on the z-axis (up/down), the yellow on the y-axis, and the green on the x-axis.

Montclair High School (CJUHSD) seismogram from the M 5.1 La Habra Earthquake (courtesy: QCN)

Montclair High School (CJUHSD) seismogram from the M 5.1 La Habra Earthquake (courtesy: QCN)

The result on the following Monday: a teachable moment like no other. Many of the students felt the earthquake but not all of them felt the same thing – why? In several earth science classrooms in the CJUHSD a lively discussion about the difference between earthquake magnitude and intensity ensued. Copies of Putting Down Roots in Earthquake Country published by the Southern California Earthquake Center were distributed. Not only did the students review the Seven Steps to Earthquake Safety they also learned about the factors that influence what one feels during an earthquake.

The seismograms recorded by five of the CJUHSD high schools provided an opportunity for science educators to do other interpretive activities with students including a review of the behavior of seismic waves and how the locations earthquakes can be determined.

Vargas and her colleagues have been putting into practice strategies to implement NGSS in creative and innovative ways such as utilizing QCN data collected from events in their front yards and schoolyards.

An indispensable component of the QCN partnership between earthquake researchers and the CJUHSD is the support from the district’s information technology professionals. Director of Technical Support Marc Moya and his capable team assisted with the installation of the sensors and with troubleshooting software issues. Not only has Marc and his team embraced the importance of contributing data to better understanding earthquakes, they are also participating in a collaborative effort that focuses on improving student learning by providing opportunities to interact with authentic data.

California is Earthquake County and participation in the ShakeOut and other activities that promote preparedness and resilience are essential components of a K-12 education. Vargas, Moya, and others recognize that engaging students in real-time activities such as Did You Feel It and QCN complement and enhance these activities by providing students with opportunities to participate in authentic STEM-based learning experiences.

For more information about QCN visit the program’s website or contact Robert de Groot. 

Robert de Groot is Education Program Manager at the Southern California Earthquake Center, an NSF+USGS Center at the University of Southern California and 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: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

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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: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HappyAtoms

Please contact Rosanne Luu at rluu@wested.org 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.