May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Heat Up Science!

Posted: Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

by Sue Pritchard

I am sure you have noticed that education looks a bit different these past two years.  The recession has played havoc in how districts assign teachers, and fluctuating student populations make teacher placement even trickier. I would imagine most of us know at least one teacher who is now wondering, “How am I going to teach science without a science background?”  Right?

I am no different.  I know several teachers in that same situation.  I hope this article helps many of you start the year “on fire,” but not literally.  This collection of ideas focuses on the 6th grade science standards on heat (thermal energy).  The exciting part of this article for me is the new CSTA delivery system of CCS.  Now that we are eCCS, we can help you save steps by connecting directly to the outside links cited.  Read further for some fun suggestions to make your planning easier and your students engaged in science.

Heat transfer is a fascinating concept to teach.  It is possible to use very simple materials and still have a “wow” impact on the students.  Try the Jefferson Lab’s ideas found at  This site has a wonderful set of activities and formative assessments.  The first page gives a great way to assess students’ prior knowledge on conduction, convection, and radiation.  If an LCD projector is available in the classroom, project assessment pages to the class and have them take a few minutes to respond either individually or in small groups.  Since some of the terms are defined at the top of the page, this can be a great way to quickly monitor student focus and application abilities.

Once students’ knowledge levels are assessed, page through the site to find fun, inexpensive activities that can support the student-learned outcomes needed.  The “Cold Stuff” assessment tool is also reorganized into an activity.  Students can bring supplies from home and really expand on what they use for insulators.  It is possible to investigate the concepts within the descriptions given or to allow the students to think outside the box and enhance the activities with their “teacher approved” additions.

“The Cold Stuff” is but one resource at this site.  Click on the different buttons on the top right of the homepage: teacher resources, student zone, games & puzzles, etc., to read about other investigative opportunities provided.

Want more ideas on heat and thermodynamics?  Check out and click on the sixteen different choices for some good background information and activities.  Although the information on this site is good, the site does not have the kinds of graphics that some educators may expect.  Look beyond this aspect and enjoy the ideas presented.  Most of these activities can be the beginnings of inquiry science investigations.  Depending on how you approach the learning, you can simply follow the activities as they are listed, or you can increase the inquiry approach through the use of questioning.  For more information on changing recipe style science activities to inquiry approaches, refer to the site I have mentioned in previous articles,  Bookmark this site because you may want to refer to it often during the school year.

I would be remiss if I did not mention an excellent web resource that I use often.  When I searched the Exploratorium site for heat transfer ideas, a very long list appeared.  Check out to see what is available.  I highly recommend surfing the EXPLO.TV site where a library of podcasts, webcasts, and video clips are just waiting to be enjoyed.  Overall, though, the Exploratorium website is not only an excellent source of thermal activities but also contains some great ideas to help segue to the the 6th grade science standards on Shaping Earth’s Surface.  No matter how the site is used, it is an excellent resource.

I hope you enjoy our new form of delivery, the eCCS.  It is a great way for all of us to be “green” and still enjoy the great resources that YOUR CSTA offers to you.  Enjoy the beginning of your school year … and keep science in the forefront.  All of our students … all of society, deserve it.  Enjoy some hot heat transfer and share it with your students!  It is good for you … it is good for your students … and it is good for science.

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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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.