May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Just one of the benefits of attending the CSTA Conference …

Posted: Friday, October 1st, 2010

Temecula middle school teacher joins island ecology research team

Friday, May14th, 2010
Issue 19, Volume 14.
Ashley Cook, Valley News Staff
Science teacher Cheryl Buettner explains the properties of water to her class. Paul Gallaher photo.

A Temecula science teacher recently received a fully-funded environmental research trek to a Caribbean island.

Cheryl Buettner, a teacher at the River Springs Charter School, is one of 22 educators from eight states to receive fellowships distributed by the nonprofit Earthwatch Institute, an international advocacy group made up of nature-oriented volunteers.

She considers her classroom approach to be a mix of discipline and comical entertainment aimed at educating future Nobel Prize winners. Within the school, she is assigned to the Da Vinci Academy for middle school students.

“I’ve always considered myself to be the love child of Bill Nye the Science Guy, and Miss Frizzle from the Magic School Bus,” the 46-year-old teacher said in a recent telephone interview. “I’ll do anything with costumes, hands-on activities, reader’s theater plays – anything that helps demonstrate concepts – while having fun and still using good solid science.”

The fellowships are funded by the Northrop Grumman Foundation. Northrop Grumman is a global security and weapons development company.

“I am very grateful they made this possible,” said Buettner, a Fallbrook resident. “It’s not something I can usually afford on a teacher’s salary. I’ve always wanted to do something like this, but never had the opportunity to do so.”

Buettner learned about the fellowship program while she was attending a California Science Teachers Association conference last year. She was selected because of her geographic location, her potential contribution to ongoing research and her follow-up curriculum plan.

A former biomedical researcher, Buettner left the world of animal testing to pursue a goal of inspiring future scientists. She has taught multiple grade levels, from preschool through adults, during her 15-year tenure as a teacher.

She also served as an education coordinator for the Grassland Environmental Education Center, and a gifted and talented education coordinator for the Los Banos Unified School District. Advertisement
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Taya Lazootin of the Perris Elementary School District also received the same fellowship. The fellowships include an expedition focused on climate change through a program developed by Earthwatch.

Buettner and Lazootin will journey to the Bahamas to study ways of preserving the coastal ecology of the island.

The Bahamas expedition teams will focus on research sites at the archipelago’s southern islands of Long Island, Great Exuma and Great Inagua.

Buettner is currently teaching her students about weather and water. The expedition fits in perfectly with class subjects like that, she said.

“(The expedition) will provide me with real-world experience,” she added. “I’ll be collecting data and studying the direct human impact on the environment.”

Finding a balance between human needs and their impacts on the environment is critical for the future, she said.

“I am so excited to be a part of this,” she said. “Ever since I was in college at Berkeley doing field research, I’ve wanted to get back in the field and collect data.”

The knowledge she will gain from the expedition will aid her students’ understanding of math and science, and help inspire the next generation of environmental ambassadors, according to a Northrop Grumman Foundation and Earthwatch Institute news release.

“As exciting as it is to hear about the teachers’ research experiences in various places around the world, it can be even more exciting to watch the ripple effect that takes place when they return from their Earthwatch expedition – in their classroom and communities,” Ed Wilson, Earthwatch president and chief executive, said in the release.

“We’re thrilled with Northrop Grumman Foundation’s support of this important program at a time when we need action, not apathy, in the face of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges.”

Visit to learn more about the expedition.

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.

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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.