September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

Events in December 2014 and early January 2015 in CSTA’s Region 2

Posted: Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

by Minda Berbeco

Opportunities abound in CSTA’s Region 2, which includes Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Benito, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and Solano counties.

Mid-Late December 2014:

Kitchen Chemistry: The Science Of Food
Saturday, 12/13/14 3-4pm
Chabot Space and Science Center
Everyone’s a chemist in the kitchen! It’s time to play with your food and explore the microbiology, nanoscience, physics, and chemistry of the edibles we love.  Enjoy demonstrations and hands-on experiments on everyday treats and ingredients – from yogurt to yeast, oobleck to ice cream! For more information, visit their website at:

The Science of (Holiday) Light Walking Tour (Preview tour)

Sunday, 12/14/14 6:30-8pm
Dolores Park
Join us on this festive trek and gain a new appreciation for some of the city’s most spectacular light displays. We’ll stroll along San Francisco stairways, side streets, and scenic vistas, admiring the local holiday handiwork while doing experiments with color mixing and animation, and talking about light. Learn about the history of holiday lights, enjoy some seasonal treats, and bask in the glow that lights the winter’s night. For more information, visit their website at:

It’s Ptough to be a Pteropod!
Saturday, 12/20/14 1-2:30pm
Bay Model Visitors Center
Visitors will measure and observe changing chemistry in an ocean-like environment, explore the complex food web, and discuss potential solutions to slow that change. Target Audience: 4th grade and up. For more information, visit their website at:

Early January 2015:

Free Entry Days at:
Bay Area Discovery Museum, First Wednesday of the month
UC Botanical Gardens, First Thursday of the month
Oakland Museum of California, First Sunday of the month

Super-cool Science Parties and lectures:
Nerd Nite East Bay, Last Monday of the month
Nerd Nite San Francisco, Third Wednesday of the month
Night Life, Thursdays, 6-10 pm, at the California Academy of Sciences
After Dark, First Thursday of the month, 6-10 pm, at the Exploratorium
Café Inquiry, First Thursday of the month, 6pm, at Café Borrone, Menlo Park

Point Reyes National Seashore Fungus Fair
Sunday, 01/04/15 10:00 AM – 04:00 PM
Point Reyes National Seashore
Mushrooms will be on display at the Bear Valley Visitor Center. Visitors are invited to attend free lectures in the auditorium.
For more information, visit their website at:

Introduction to the Next Generation Science Standards:  A Paradigm Shift in Teaching and Learning
Wednesday, 01/07/15, 8:30 am – 3:00 pm
Solano County Office of Education (Fairfield)
This full-day workshop will highlight the many shifts required of both teachers and learners under the Next Generation Science Standards.  In the morning session, participants will engage in an overview of the NGSS and its Three Dimensions.  During the afternoon sessions, participants will be invited to experience either a K-5 or 6-12 session.  Each of these sessions will further explore the NGSS with an emphasis on the impact it will have within K-5 and 6-12 classrooms.—fairfield—1_7_15.php

Bird Walk Hike at Lake Merritt in Oakland
Saturday, 01/10/15 9:00 AM – 11:30 AM
Lindsay Wildlife Museum
January is the perfect time to observe wintering waterfowl. Join the Lindsay Wildlife Museum for a morning of birding with experienced birdwatchers from the Mt Diablo Audubon Society. Bring your binoculars and learn how to tell the difference between a tern and a gull. Bird walk hike will be at Oakland’s Lake Merritt. Map and directions will be sent after registration is completed. To register online:
For more information, visit their website at:

The Venus Fly trap and other Amazing Carnivorous Plants
Saturday, 01/10/15 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM
UC Botanical Garden
John Bartram was the first to introduce the Venus Fly Trap into cultivation. Family members of all age are invited to discover some of the fascinating and beautiful plants that can eat insects. Get up close with the amazing leaf adaptations as you learn more
about them.
For more information, visit their website at:

2015 Stanford Brain Bee
Saturday, 01/10/15 12:00 PM – 05:00 PM
Hewlett Teaching Center Stanford University
The Stanford Brain Bee is a local qualifying round of the International Brain Bee (IBB), a neuroscience competition exclusively for high school students ages 14-18. The Stanford Brain Bee involves both a written component and a live oral Q&A session. In addition to the competition, students will have the opportunity to attend a presentation by a Stanford neuroscientist and speak with Stanford professors and students from the medical, biosciences, and neuroscience fields.

The IBB motivates students to learn about the brain, captures their imagination, and inspires them to pursue neuroscience careers in order to help treat and find cures for neurological and psychological disorders. There are currently about 150 Local Brain Bee coordinators in 30 countries worldwide that conduct competitions annually. The winner of each Local Bee is invited to attend the National Brain Bee (NBB) competition in his or her own country, and the winner of each NBB is invited to compete in the International Brain Bee Championship.

Deadline to register December 27, 2014. More details at

For more information, visit their website at:

Groundwater: California’s Real Buried Gold
Tuesday, 01/13/15 7:00 PM – 09:00 PM
St. Albans Parish Hall, Albany
California stores far more water than falls as rain or snow, or can be held in reservoirs. But this hidden treasure has been treated first-come, winner-take-all. California’s new Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and just-passed Proposition 1 bring opportunities to use groundwater more wisely. Environmental attorney Tina Cannon Leahy, Principal Consultant to the California Assembly Committee on Water, Parks, and Wildlife, and the Assembly’s primary water law and policy expert, outlines the value and complexity of groundwater, along with opportunities.

For more information, visit their website at:

Check back in early January 2015 for more!

Written by Minda Berbeco

Minda Berbeco

Minda Berbeco is the Programs and Policy Director at the National Center for Science Education and is CSTA’s Region 2 Director.

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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.