September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

March Madness Equals Science Madness in San Diego

Posted: Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

by Donna Ross

As I write this, our men’s basketball team at San Diego State University is battling for the Mountain West title and they are ranked 21st in the Associated Press poll.  The energy in the arena on game nights is electrifying and the enthusiasm for March Madness is undeniable on our campus.  Across the city, there is another madness taking hold this month, too.  Science!  March has become the science month for San Diego. The sheer number of community members, scientists, non-profits, and educators donating their time to share their passion for science is also electrifying.  Now, if only we could get the science activities nationally televised along with the basketball games!

Having so many science events in the community and schools during the month of March has a variety of benefits.  There are the obvious advantages.  The nifty-fifty program brings scientists into classrooms all across the county. Students meet scientists, learn about current research, become excited about career opportunities, and rekindle an interest in the discipline.  But, beyond the benefits for our students, it has been fascinating to watch the effects on researchers and community members.  At planning meetings, I have heard adults commenting

  • “I had no idea this research was occurring here in San Diego”
  • “Your daughter was asking really good questions. Have her email me if she is interested in doing an internship.”
  • “Some of our local schools seem to need a lot of support, I’m wondering what I can do during the rest of the year”
  • “I don’t know why we haven’t ever shared our resources, we have a lot of overlap in our areas of research”
  • “I don’t know how to present my research to children, but I’ll do it if someone will help me think about what would work.”
  • “I have a graduate student who would be a great fit for your lab.”
  • “Why haven’t we collaborated on this before?”

Science madness in March brings people with shared interest together and builds connections that benefit the entire community.  I am keeping my fingers crossed for many continued successful science events and, of course, the Mountain West title for the Aztecs.

Here are just a few of the events taking place in the San Diego area this month.  For more information on these events and descriptions of many other opportunities, be sure to check out all of the events on the website for the San Diego Festival of Science and Engineering at


A sample of the Saturday, March 17 events:

San Diego State University, Science and Engineering Sampler

Saturday, March 17    11am-2pm  Free to the public
SDSU Campus, College of Sciences
Activities and demonstrations of science and technology projects taking place on campus.  Appropriate for all ages.

California State University, San Marcos Super STEM Saturday
Saturday, March 17    11am-2pm  Free to the public
CSUSM Campus
Activities and demonstrations of science and technology projects taking place on campus.  Appropriate for all ages.

San Diego Miramar College,  Science Fun
Saturday, March 17  9am-12pm  Free to the public
Miramar College Science and Technology Building
Appropriate for ages 9-99

Scripps Research Institute, SMART Teams Exploration
Saturday, March 17   9:30am-12pm  Free
Explore groundbreaking new research using Rapid Prototyping Technology.


A sample of the Sunday, March 18 events:

San Diego River Park Foundation, River Bugs are Cool!
Sunday, March 18   12pm-3pm  Free
Mission Valley Preserve and Interpretive Garden
Learn how river bugs can unlock the secret of the San Diego River’s health.

Cymer presents Imagination Innovation
Sunday, March 18  1pm-4pm  Free
Cymer Campus
Experiments and robots!!!

A sample of the Monday, March 19 events:

Tony Hawk and Physics of Skateboarding
Monday, March 19    10am-11am   Free
Carmel Valley Skate Park

Training for Endurance Events
Monday, March 19   6pm-7:30pm  Free
Running and training tips with Dr. Jason Karp

A sample of the Tuesday, March 20 events:

General Atomics Tour w/ Bus
Tuesday, March 20    9am-12pm  Free (bus included)
Facility tour of General Atomics for school groups

Maritime Robotics
Tuesday, March 20  3:30-5pm  Free
2877 Historic Decatur Rd.
Tour and demo of mini-ROV underwater vehicles

A sample of the Wednesday, March 21 events:

Crime Scene and Traffic Accident Investigation
Wednesday, March 21  9am-1pm  Free
Escondido Police Department

Advancing Understanding of Human Health and Disease
Wednesday, March 21  3pm-6pm  Free
Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine

Science Speed Round
Wednesday, March 21  6pm-8pm  Free
Short talks about mind-boggling science!
The Neurosciences Institute

A sample of the Thursday, March 22 events:

Career Night
Thursday, March 22,    5-7:30pm  Free
UC San Diego Extension
Career guidance and course opportunities

Science Applications International Corporation Technology Demos
Thursday, March 22,  5:30-7pm  Free
SAIC Vista Technology Center
Learn how VACIS technology allows people to see through trucks and other things.

A sample of the Friday, March 23 events:

Mad Science presents Spin, Pop, Boom
Friday, March 23   1-2:45 (2 sessions)  Free
Beaumont Elementary

Engineering is Fun:  Converting Ideas into Reality
Friday, March 23 2-5:30pm   Free
Qualcomm Campus

And the culminating event:  Expo Day at Petco Park

Science Festival, March 24th
Saturday, March 24   10am-5pm  All ages, Free
A full day of free science and technology activities for the whole family.

Donna Ross is associate professor of science education at San Diego State University and is CSTA’s 4-year college director.

Written by Donna Ross

Donna Ross is Associate Professor of Science Education at San Diego State University.

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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.