May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Diverse Experiential Science Abounds in Region 1

Posted: Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

by Valerie Joyner

We live and teach in a remarkable region full of natural wonders, biodiversity, and ecosystems.  From the arid high deserts of Modoc County, to the foggy redwood forests of Humboldt County, to the frigid alpine lakes of Trinity County, and on to the craggy granite outcropping of the Sierras, local science opportunities and experiences await our students.  What a great region to teach life, earth, and physical science!

As the school year begins, and we set our curriculum in place, it’s the perfect time to brainstorm opportunities for enriching our science curriculum.  Taking our students to structured science discovery centers creates lasting memories, but there are also infinite opportunities for our students to experience hands-on science within our own locale.

Life science topics lend themselves well to a local approach.  For one example, I like to start the school year by bringing a sample of local lichen into the classroom.  The students observe the sample, and I ask them what they think it might be.  After some discussion (science talk), I share with them other samples of lichen I have collected throughout California.  The students continue to observe and explore lichen and begin to develop a sense of inquiry that stimulates their interest in science.

Local animals also offer unique opportunities for students to develop their understanding of science concepts and processes.  The monarch butterfly is an example of a local animal that students can observe going through metamorphosis in just a few weeks.  Teachers can gather monarch eggs on milkweed plants in the summer and allow their students to experience the life cycle of a monarch first hand.  Though we often think of monarchs as endemic to the central and southern coast of California, they are also found along the southern edge of our region.

Outside the monarch’s range, teachers can substitute less well-known local invertebrates in the study of life cycles.  Start by browsing online resources such as The Bug Guide or the butterfly site hosted by UC Davis (listed in the accompanying Online Resources section) to select species that are common locally and get an idea of how long their life cycles they are and how to care for them.  Most caterpillars are plant-eating specialists, so if you can find out what sort of leaves they like, they can be as easy to care for as the perennially popular monarch.  Consider talking to local gardeners, farmers, nursery personnel or the county agricultural extension office to collect ideas on which local insects are numerous, interesting, and easy to find and care for.

It’s not only indigenous plants and animals that we can use to strengthen our students’ interest and learning in science, but local examples from the physical and earth sciences are available as well.  It can be tricky to organize meaningful local physical science field trips, but talk to local people and expand your field of possibilities.  Visits to local musicians, chefs, and craftspeople can give kids a chance to reexamine simple things like the vibrations of instruments, the physics of cooking, and the mechanical advantages of tools in a new scientific light.  Even a trip to a park can become an exploration of the kinetics of swings and teeter-totters.  By walking a faultline, examining simple machines on a local farm, or studying velocity and deposition in streams, our students feel and see a connection between science and their everyday lives.

We all know the importance of hands-on experiences in supporting and enriching science education, but we must also remember to make these experiences as relevant to the students as possible.  By using local cliffs, watersheds, plants, and animals we not only assist our students in their development of science concepts and processes, but impart to them a passion for science and its impact on their lives.  I hope you will collaborate with your colleagues and local experts and explore the opportunities your area has to support your science curriculum.  Sometimes it’s connecting their learning to the simple things in students’ world that develops their long-term understanding and appreciation for science.

Online Resources:
Life Science
What’s That Bug?
Bug Guide
Art Shapiro’s Butterfly Site
UC Berkeley Essig Museum of Etymology California Insect Survey

Earth Science
USGS California Geo-Tour: Geologic Field
Trip Guides of California

General Field Trip Lists
Food Related Field Trips in NorthernCalifornia
Guide to California Field Trip Resources
Family Days Out in California

The STRAW (Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed) Project

Are you looking for a science-based community service project for your students?  Then you might want to consider tapping into the STRAW Project.  STRAW operates through the Bay Institute, with a network of students, teachers, watershed restoration specialists, and community partners to carry out watershed studies and restoration projects in Sonoma, Napa, Solano, and Marin counties.  Over the past 18 years students have participated in over 275 STRAW restoration projects.  The students have worked on rural and urban creeks, planted over 25,000 native plants, and restored more than 20 miles of creek banks.

For more information contact:
The Bay Institute
695 De Long Avenue, Suite 100
Novato, CA 94945

(415) 878-2929 Phone
(415) 878-2930 Fax

News from Upper Northeastern California (Butte, Glenn, Lassen, Modoc, Plumas, Shasta, Siskiyou,ehema, andTrinity counties)

The upper northeastern counties in our region are busy making plans for the upcoming year.  Marian Murphy-Shaw, local science lead and regional member to the state Science Curriculum and Instruction Steering Committee, reports that the Shasta county MSP (Math and Science Partnership) for science teachers is going well.  Some of their plans include, infusing STEM into their Local After School programs with robotics in Shasta county, solar and wind fairs in Siskiyou County, and additional programs in Butte and Modoc counties.

More information is available on-line at:

Written by Valerie Joyner

Valerie Joyner

Valerie Joyner is a retired elementary science educator 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

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:

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.