May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

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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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:

Please contact Rosanne Luu at 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.