September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

High-Quality Science Resources from Public Media: America’s Largest Classroom

Posted: Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

by Andrea Aust

If you use multimedia resources in your classroom you already know how they can help engage students in science, strengthen the impact of hands-on activities, and serve as valuable learning tools that can explain and demonstrate difficult concepts.  Incorporating different forms of media into lessons reinforces both science and media literacy skills in students. But with the multitude of science media resources available on the Web, where can you find trusted content?  Where can you be sure the science is actual, fact-checked science?

Let public media come to the rescue! Public media stations—both PBS and NPR affiliates–have missions to create content that educates and informs.  They have strong editorial integrity, where accuracy is paramount.  Here are seven resources for grades 6-12 that you should know about.  Some on the list may be old favorites.  Others may become your new go-to sites for exploring science in California or for introducing your students to STEM careers.  In no particular order, here are some top science programs made available thanks to viewers and listeners like you.


From Newton’s Laws of Motion to giant redwoods, QUEST offers hundreds of media resources that cover science and sustainability.  Short, digestible video and audio segments lend themselves to easy classroom integration. Originally a KQED property, the majority of the stories are from the San Francisco Bay Area and California. Now, a collaboration of six public media stations, QUEST highlights science stories across the country. These resources are excellent for showing students real-world application of the science concepts they are learning about in class.

It’s Okay to Be Smart

Want to know about the science of kissing, what wind is or why time exists? Joe Hanson explores these topics and more with his entertaining series for PBS Digital Studios. Infused with humor and some “wow” facts, these are not your run-of the-mill science videos. Hanson demonstrates that science is for everyone; that it intersects with art, history and the world in which we live. Use this series to inspire students’ curiosity about everyday occurrences and scientific phenomena.

NOVA, etc.

This nearly 40-year-old series needs no introduction.  But, did you know that besides being able to access content from NOVA and NOVA Science Now online, there are actually five additional NOVA-branded sites? One to note is NOVA Labs, where citizen scientists of all ages can participate in the scientific process. Research challenges include investigating the solar cycle and renewable energy systems.  NOVA Education provides another portal to search NOVA media and includes and education blog.  NOVA Next contains articles about big news in science and technology, embedded with media, written by renowned scientists and science journalists. The Nature of Reality is a blog that covers the “physics of nothing, everything and all the things in between.”

The Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers

Hear from an impressive list of scientists and engineers as they describe what they do in 30 seconds, share what excites them about their work and divulge their secret talents.  This video series (part of the suite of NOVA goodies above) is a delightful peek into scientists’ lives and lets their personalities shine.

Science Friday

You may already be a fan of Science Friday’s radio program with host Ira Flatow, but if you haven’t visited the website, you’re missing out. Short videos reveal everything from the fluid mechanics of sneezes to cuttlefish camouflage. In addition, NGSS-aligned lesson plans combine background media pieces with fun hands-on science experiments and activities.

iBooks Textbooks from KQED

Not technically a program, but still a great resource, KQED’s collection of free e-books brings science to life at the touch of a fingertip. The books explore topics including energy, biotechnology. and earthquakes through a blend of high-quality media, interactive elements. and informative text. Throughout the books, career spotlight videos highlight scientists and engineers working in a variety of STEM-related jobs.

And lastly, to take full advantage of what public media has to offer, make sure to search, save and share your way through PBS LearningMedia. This catchall digital learning library contains thousands of resources—many of them science.  A free subscription allows you to access videos, audio segments, interactives, lesson plans, and articles from PBS stations and partners from around the country.

With this amazing wealth of free, quality, and trusted public media resources available to you, there are now literally thousands of ways to add excitement to your curriculum this year. Overwhelmed by the choices? Pick one and dive in, you can’t go wrong!

Andrea Aust is the Science Education Manager at KQED, a public media station in San Francisco, and is a member of CSTA.

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:

2 Responses

  1. Thank you, Andrea. I’m a veteran science teacher but hadn’t heard of some of those sites and also didn’t realize NOVA had expanded to include so many other useful links!

  2. I’m glad you found these resources useful, Dawn! Enjoy exploring the sites!

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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.