September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

Friendly Word from Region 2

Posted: Monday, October 19th, 2015

By Minda Berbeco

Hi Region 2! We at CSTA are revving up for the CSTA conference this fall, and I can’t wait to see you all there! I’ll be holding “office hours” at the booth – times to be determined – so definitely come meet me there. I’ll also be holding a workshop on Saturday 8-11 am on Climate Change and Energy, so come and check it out! I’d love to hear all of the great things that you are working on this fall. There is so much happening this fall to keep track of, but I want to keep you in the loop of some really neat programs you should definitely check out!

One program you might be interested in is the YESS project:

The YESS Project team (Marin County Community Development Agency, Coravai, Shore Up Marin, and USC Sea Grant) is developing a new NGSS-aligned, project-based sea level rise curriculum for high school students. We’re looking for a few Bay Area teachers to partner with us and pilot the project in their classrooms during the 2015 – 2016 school year. This is a great opportunity for you to educate, engage, and empower your students to be part of climate change solutions in their own communities!

The YESS Project is flexible and can be scaled to fit you and your students’ needs and interests. Engagement ranges from a single 90-minute lesson plan with homework and extension options, to a multi-subject arc that could occur periodically throughout the 2015 – 2016 school year. The major components of the project are:

  • Classroom curricula: Activity plans that use engaging CC/NGSS strategies to get students using science and engineering practices (SEPs) to perform real-life climate science even as they become authentic participants in community planning.
  • Extensions and local field trips: Students will be able to collect real-world data for sea level rise planning, independently or as part of a planned field trip (funding is available for field trips).
  • Service learning, internships, and portfolio-building: Students will have opportunities to contribute in meaningful ways to Bay Area local government planning and policy; to create digital storytelling products, and to share their work in public venues. Short-term internships and youth leadership opportunities are also available.


  • Sept – Oct 2015: Teacher training, gather feedback on curricula, finalize classroom and extension / community activities
  • Nov 2015 – Feb 2016: Pilot curriculum, collect data, develop digital storytelling products
  • Mar – May 2016: Exhibit students’ work at community meetings and public venues, evaluate project

Next Steps

We will hold a short training on the curriculum and connection to local government planning in mid-October. Participating teachers will receive a stipend, support from the state for your school’s transition to NGSS, and a nice meal.

Please visit the project website ( or get in touch with Marina Psaros, Project Director, at or 415.839.8571 to learn more.

Another program that you might find interesting comes from my organization- the National Center for Science Education:

We are piloting a program this fall with Oakland schools to Get a Scientist into YOUR classroom

This fall we are piloting the Scientists in the Classroom program and we want your class to be a part of it. We’ll match you and your students with a vetted scientist to connect with both in-person and online throughout the fall semester. Participating in the Scientists in the Classroom Fall 2015 pilot is a fantastic opportunity to engage your students with scientists, enriching their evolution and climate change learning experience!

Want to find out more? Check out our website!

Apply to be a part of the semester-long pilot here!

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.