September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

Hey students, there are many ways to attend the conference!

Posted: Friday, September 30th, 2011

by Laura Henriques

If you are a preservice science teacher, have we got good news for you! The upcoming California Science Education Conference in Pasadena has many things to offer you. CSTA has done all it can to help make conference attendance attractive to you!

Lots of Sessions Just for You – While you would be able to find value in just about all of the conference offerings, there are dozens of sessions specifically developed and tailored just for you. These sessions address topics such as classroom management, science safety issues, understanding what administrators are looking for when they come observe your teaching, assessment techniques, the unveiling of a new website to support new teachers, and strategies for teaching students with special needs and English learners. Many other sessions in the conference will address these topics, but the sessions listed in the new teacher strand were selected just for you!

The conference has more than 200 sessions (all free) in addition to field trips, short courses, and an awards breakfast (these have a fee associated with them). The exhibit hall will dazzle and amaze you. As you begin thinking about your own classroom and what you will want to have on hand for doing labs, you must visit the vendors in the exhibit hall. You will get all sorts of good ideas and see examples of new science teaching equipment that is available.

There is an option to enroll in a 1-unit course associated with the conference. As a new teacher (or new teacher-to-be) you can enroll to earn 1 unit of upper division credit from CSULB. Assignment descriptions and registration information are available online at

Affordable Conference Rates– CSTA knows how important it is for preservice teachers to become actively engaged in professional organizations. As a result, we’ve adopted a conference registration rate that makes attendance affordable.

  • Option 1: $83 for the entire 3-day conference. You must be a CSTA member to get this rate; you may join when you register for the conference. (You must register by October 7th or the price goes up.)
  • Option 2: $40 student registration for weekend only. (Again you must be a CSTA member and the rates go up on 10/7.)
  • Option 3: $25 (for CSTA student membership) Volunteer to work at the conference for 4 hours and you get to attend the entire conference. By far, this is the best option out there! Get to know CSTA members, see how the conference works and attend the entire three days.

Making the Most of the Conference – My suggestion to you is that you visit the conference website well in advance of the conference. The entire conference program is searchable. Each session, field trip, speaker, and workshop is listed. You can search the site and be as specific as you need to be. Find all the middle school sessions, the high school physics sessions, or 3rd -5th grade life science sessions, for example. You can search by day of the week, grade level range, science area (called track) and pedagogical focus such as assessment, literacy, and management (called emphasis). Descriptions of each session are included online so you can get a sense of what to expect. The conference program is available online at From this site you can search and map-out your conference schedule. Create a conference account, log in and then save and print your personalized conference schedule. A video is posted online to walk you through the steps of how to do this ( For other information about the conference and to register, visit

We know that this conference will be a huge benefit to you. Presenters are able to post their handouts on-line (and many do!). If the hand-outs aren’t posted now, revisit the site as the conference date approaches.

If this is your first CSTA conference I encourage you to read the August 2011 article entitled Your Official Guide to the California Science Education Conference. It provides information about how to select sessions, what to bring and what to wear.  I also encourage you to attend the Friday 8:00 AM session specifically designed for first-time attendees. This session is in Ballroom G of the Pasadena Convention Center and is sponsored by Science Kit, Sargent-Welch, and Ward’s Natural Science. In addition to great information, you will also enjoy a continental breakfast, and be entered into a drawing to win prizes.

Mark your calendars now – October 21-23. See you in Pasadena!

Laura Henriques is a professor of science education at CSU Long Beach, the co-chair of the 2011 California Science Education Conference Committee, and president-elect of CSTA.


Written by Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques is a professor of science education at CSU Long Beach and past-president of CSTA. She serves as chair of CSTA’s Nominating Committee and is a co-chair of the NGSS Committee.

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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.