September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 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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State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2017 Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Posted: Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated eight exceptional secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“These teachers are dedicated and accomplished individuals whose innovative teaching styles prepare our students for 21st century careers and college and develop them into the designers and inventors of the future,” Torlakson said. “They rank among the finest in their profession and also serve as wonderful mentors and role models.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partners annually with the California Science Teachers Association and the California Mathematics Council to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program—the highest recognition in the nation for a mathematics or science teacher. The Science Finalists will be recognized at the CSTA Awards Luncheon on Saturday, October 14, 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.

Thriving in a Time of Change

Posted: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

by Jill Grace

By the time this message is posted online, most schools across California will have been in session for at least a month (if not longer, and hat tip to that bunch!). Long enough to get a good sense of who the kids in your classroom are and to get into that groove and momentum of the daily flow of teaching. It’s also very likely that for many of you who weren’t a part of a large grant initiative or in a district that set wheels in motion sooner, this is the first year you will really try to shift instruction to align to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a challenging year – change is hard. Change is even harder when there’s not a playbook to go by.  But as someone who has had the very great privilege of walking alongside teachers going through that change for the past two years and being able to glimpse at what this looks like for different demographics across that state, there are three things I hope you will hold on to. These are things I have come to learn will overshadow the challenge: a growth mindset will get you far, one is a very powerful number, and it’s about the kids. Learn More…

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Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is President of CSTA.

If You Are Not Teaching Science Then You Are Not Teaching Common Core

Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn 

“Science and Social Studies can be taught for the last half hour of the day on Fridays”

– Elementary school principal

Anyone concerned with the teaching of science in elementary school is keenly aware of the problem of time. Kids need to learn to read, and learning to read takes time, nobody disputes that. So Common Core ELA can seem like the enemy of science. This was a big concern to me as I started looking at the curriculum that my district had adopted for Common Core ELA. I’ve been through those years where teachers are learning a new curriculum, and know first-hand how a new curriculum can become the focus of attention- sucking all the air out of the room. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Tools for Creating NGSS Standards Based Lessons

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Elizabeth Cooke

Think back on your own experiences with learning science in school. Were you required to memorize disjointed facts without understanding the concepts?

Science Education Background

In the past, science education focused on rote memorization and learning disjointed ideas. Elementary and secondary students in today’s science classes are fortunate now that science instruction has shifted from students demonstrating what they know to students demonstrating how they are able to apply their knowledge. Science education that reflects the Next Generation Science Standards challenges students to conduct investigations. As students explore phenomena and discrepant events they engage in academic discourse guided by focus questions from their teachers or student generated questions of that arise from analyzing data and creating and revising models that explain natural phenomena. Learn More…

Written by Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke teaches TK-5 science at Markham Elementary in the Oakland Unified School District, is an NGSS Early Implementer, and is CSTA’s Secretary.

News and Happenings in CSTA’s Region 1 – Fall 2017

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Marian Murphy-Shaw


This month I was fortunate enough to hear about some new topics to share with our entire region. Some of you may access the online or newsletter options, others may attend events in person that are nearer to you. Long time CSTA member and environmental science educator Mike Roa is well known to North Bay Area teachers for his volunteer work sharing events and resources. In this month’s Region 1 updates I am happy to make a few of the options Mike offers available to our region. Learn More…

Written by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw is the student services director at Siskiyou County Office of Education and is CSTA’s Region 1 Director and chair of CSTA’s Policy Committee.