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 www.facebook.com/Fraknoi. 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 www.foothill.edu/ast/fraknoi.php.

 

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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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.