May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Foothill College Astronomy Instructor Named Honorary Member of Royal Astronomical Society of Canada

Posted: Thursday, December 1st, 2011

Honor Bestowed on Only 15 Living People at a Time

Foothill College Astronomy Instructor Andrew Fraknoi has been elected an honorary member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC). The prestigious honor is bestowed on only 15 living people at a time. The chairman of the astronomy department at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, Calif., Fraknoi appears to be the first community college educator selected for this honor in the 143-year history of the RASC.

“Since the Society has a rule that there can be no more than 15 honorary members living at any given time, I am tremendously honored to be included in a group that now includes Stephen Hawking and once included such noted astronomers as Harlow Shapley and Ejnar Hertzsprung,” Fraknoi said. “I have devoted the largest portion of my professional life to helping students understand the universe better and helping other educators (from primary school to college level) convey the excitement and power of science more effectively. Since this kind of work often goes unsung, it is especially gratifying that the Society has chosen to honor me for my work in education.”

Founded in 1868, RASC is Canada’s leading astronomy organization bringing together more than 4,200 professional scientists, enthusiastic amateurs and educators. Other current honorary members of the Society include British astrophysicist Prof. Stephen Hawking, Sir Patrick Moore, the prominent explainer of astronomy in England, Prof. P. J. E. Peebles, the award-winning cosmologist at Princeton University, Prof. Owen Gingerich, the noted historian of astronomy at Harvard University, and Julieta Fierro, one of Mexico’s most distinguished astronomy popularizers. Over the course of the society’s long history, a remarkable roster of leading astronomers outside Canada have been elected honorary members.

“Some of the astronomers I have most admired over the years have been honorary members of the RASC-Dr. Bart Bok, for example, whose work helped reveal characteristics of our Milky Way Galaxy, and whose public enthusiasm for astronomy was infectious or Allan Sandage, who continued and elucidated Hubble’s work on the expanding universe and who served as an active member of the board of directors of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific when I was executive officer. To be thought of in the same category as these scientists is indeed a staggering honor,” Fraknoi said.

Fraknoi teaches astronomy and physics for poets to more than 900 students each year at Foothill College. Named the California Professor of the Year in 2007 by the Carnegie Endowment for Higher Education, he has also received the Gemant Prize from the American Institute of Physics for a lifetime of contributions to physics popularization and connecting physics to the humanities. Before coming to Foothill, he served as the executive director of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (which is, in many ways, the counterpart of the RASC in the United States.) The International Astronomical Union has named Asteroid 4859 “Asteroid Fraknoi” to honor his contributions to the public understanding of astronomy.


Fraknoi’s professional passion is sharing the excitement of astronomy with students, teachers and the public at large. He has recently begun offering a Facebook page that is called The Astro-Prof about astronomical developments. Access The Astro-Prof at He founded Project ASTRO, a national program in which volunteer astronomers adopt a 4th-9th grade classroom and work with the teachers to bring a hands-on astronomy experience to the students. An offshoot, called Family ASTRO, provides games and activities that families can engage in to increase their understanding of astronomy. He is also the co-author of a leading college textbook in astronomy, and has published a children’s book for Disney called Disney’s Wonderful World of Space. The mammoth resource guide for teaching astronomy that he edited, called The Universe at Your Fingertips, has recently been updated and issued as a DVD-ROM by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Fraknoi was co-founder of the online journal Astronomy Education Review, which is now published by the American Astronomical Society.

Citing his work in education and public outreach, RASC National President Mary Lou Whitehorne nominated Fraknoi to be an honorary member of the society. “His work represents the global gold standard in astronomy education and outreach. He has inspired many to follow in his footsteps. He is nothing short of phenomenal-passionate, inspiring, dedicated and caring. I have used, and marvelled at, his work for over two decades. He has been my personal role model for over 20 years and is unquestionably deserving of honorary membership status.”

Educated at Harvard University and the University of California, Berkeley, Fraknoi appears regularly on local and national radio programs explaining scientific ideas and discoveries in everyday language. He is the astronomer-in-residence on the syndicated Mark and Brian radio program and appears in San Francisco on KGO’s Gil Gross Show and the Forum program with Michael Krasny on KQED. One of his interests is the scientific search for intelligent life in the universe, and he currently serves as the vice chairman of the board of trustees of the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute. A resident of San Francisco, he is also a Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences. A full biography and a sampling of his writings is available online at


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.

Leave a Reply


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…

Powered By DT Author Box

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…

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.