September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

Interview with Aaron Gilbert, Program Director at Bay Area Wilderness Training (BAWT)

Posted: Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

by Eric Lewis

I was recently able to catch up with Aaron Gilbert from Bay Area Wilderness Training (BAWT) to find out more about his organization.

Eric: Tell us about Bay Area Wilderness Training.

Aaron: Our mission is to create opportunities for urban you to connect with nature first hand. To achieve this goal we utilize a train-the-trainer model, and since 1999 we have provided outdoor leadership training for over 1,200 teachers and youth workers. In addition to the outdoor skills and leadership development that teachers get from our courses, we also provide free access to borrow camping equipment, outdoor clothing, and all the essentials groups need for camping from our gear libraries. In 14 years we have grown from training 20-40 youth workers and supporting trips for 100-300 youth to training close to 200 youth workers and enabling 6,000 youth to experience nature first hand per year.

GilbertEric: What sort of outdoor skills and leadership development do you provide?

Aaron: We offer two types of outdoor leadership, Frontcountry Leadership and Wilderness Leadership Training. On both of these courses teachers will learn about risk management, group management, campsite setup, kitchen setup, meal planning and preparation, and maps and navigation. We utilize best practices in experiential education and give our students opportunities to learn, practice, and teach new skills.  We also teach the skills using methods teachers can easily adapt and use with their students.

Eric: What is the difference between Frontcountry and Wilderness?

Aaron: Frontcounty is sometimes more commonly referred to as car camping. This is when you drive up to a campsite and camp within site of your vehicle.  Campsites are usually in larger campgrounds with facilities such as potable water, bathrooms, and rangers or docents. The vast majority of camping trips led by our leaders are front country. Wilderness is when you pack up all of your food, clothing, and camping equipment in a backpack and hike a mile or more from your vehicle. Often you are camping in primitive sites without potable water or bathrooms.



For the purposes of our trainings, the Frontcountry Leadership Training is a two-day, one night camping course. All participants attend a pre-trip meeting the week before the course to visit our offices and learn how to checkout equipment from our gear library. This is an ideal course for anyone who is either very new to camping or wants to start camping as soon as possible with their students and does not have time to take the Wilderness Leadership Training.

Our flagship course, the Wilderness Leadership Training, is five days long. The first day and night are spent car camping and the final four days and three nights are spent backpacking in the wilderness of Tahoe or Yosemite. This transformational course is also great for first time campers and backpackers. We teach the course like it is everyone’s their first time, since we know that you will be doing the same for your students. Be ready to experience equal parts professional development and personal growth.

Gilbert_2Eric: When are your next courses?

Aaron: Our next Frontcountry Leadership Training is September 28 and 29 at Henry Coe State Park in Morgan Hill.  The pre-trip meeting is September 24th from 5pm to 7pm in Oakland.

Our next Wilderness Leadership Training will be in Spring 2014.  Please keep your eyes on our website or join our listserve to receive notification about the exact dates.

New this year, teachers can apply to receive 3 units of graduate-level university credit for taking either the Wilderness Leadership or Frontcounty Leadership Training courses. If teachers take both they can get 6 units. For more information about how to please check out our website.

Eric: Do you offer any other training or support for teachers?

Aaron: We offer additional training in wilderness medicine and snowshoeing, and additional support through mini grants and trip planning workshops. Our goal is for you to be successful and feel supported. When you take a course with Bay Area Wilderness Training, you are joining a vibrant community of educators and youth development professionals. You will make connections that will last you many years.

Eric: Whom should teachers contact for more information?

Aaron: Please contact me, Aaron Gilbert, at or 510 452 2298 x301.

Eric: Thanks so much for your time, Aaron.  It seems like BAWT provides some great experiences for teachers and students alike!

Written by Eric Lewis

Eric Lewis

Eris Lewis is high school area science support in the San Francisco Unified School District LEAD office.

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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.