May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Mars Curiosity

Posted: Saturday, September 1st, 2012

by Bethany Dixon

With a new year, it’s easy for teachers to feel like they’re on Mars, but with the landing of the Curiosity, we now have the opportunity to show students what it’s actually like to be there! How long can you spend on Mars? Whether it’s 60 seconds or 16 lessons, integrating the landing of the Curiosity rover into your curriculum can be more than just an interesting lesson in current STEM events. Organized by approximate time needed, here are the latest resources to deliver an out-of-this-world classroom experience, with a preview that spans bell work, an Emmy-award winning short video series, standards-based, ready-to-go lesson plans, and resources for using Mars for interdisciplinary community involvement:

60 Seconds for Mars: For a quick intro, start with “Mars in a Minute’s: How Hard is it to Land Curiosity on Mars?” from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory video series, this super-short introduction gives an intro to exactly what put the “terror” into NASA during those first seven minutes. The student-friendly animation is still sophisticated enough for high school but exciting enough to keep elementary students engaged.

2 Minutes for Mars:  If you have two minutes in your day, the “Flex, Zap, Roll,” video shows Curiosity’s new rock-zapping laser and some scientific camaraderie as they celebrate the first roll of the wheels.

15 Minutes for Mars: Try the Emmy-Award-Winning NASA Now videos. They’re free, come with pre-during-and-post-lesson questions, and leveled for grades 4-12. These come with questions to ask before and after and include extension activities for students. September is Mars month for NASA Explorer Schools, so if you haven’t signed up for this standards-based free resource this may be a great reason to join.

1 Class Period for Mars: Map Mars. Take a trip to the computer lab and utilize this seriously addictive program. NASA’s “Be a Martian” allows anyone to view imagery from the Odyssey orbiter and to align them with previous pictures to help build a more comprehensive map of Mars. The epic introduction will make students (and Mars-loving science teachers) feel like they’re an important part of the mission: align tiles to help map mars, count and tag craters, and help identify one of the 250,000+ images by clicking on what is in the picture. This is the perfect alternative to the early “scientific observations” lesson that you’ve grown tired of and it involves students in real-world research. The ability for students to earn points gives teachers an automatic accountability piece that can help with classroom management and give students a sense of accomplishment.

2 Class Periods for Mars: Consider using “Electromagnetic Spectrum: Remote Sensing Ices on Mars.” In this NASA Explorer Schools Physical Science lesson, students analyze data collected by Mars spacecraft using three different forms of electromagnetic energy — visible light, infrared, and gamma rays — to investigate the composition and distribution of ices at the high-latitude regions of Mars.

2 Weeks for Mars: If you have time and want a closer look at Mars, the Mars Student Imaging Project (MSIP) from Arizona State University and NASA’s Mars Education program works with teams of students from grades 5-college sophomores to help image the surface of Mars with the Odyssey, a spacecraft orbiting Mars.

Minutes to Months for Mars: The Imagine Mars Project is a STEM-based interdisciplinary project that asks students to work with NASA scientists and engineers to imagine and design a community on Mars. This project involves looking at and reflecting on school and community culture and making decisions about what careers and arts will be necessary for a community on Mars based on the differences in climate, terrain, and resources available. Projects are showcased in an impressive online gallery.

Mars Road Trip: Still can’t get enough of Mars? On Saturday, September 29, NASA and Arizona State University are hosting the “Curiosity has landed in Your Classroom!” Educator Conference for free at the Mars Space Flight Facility on campus: for more information visit the link below.

“But I teach life science!?” Not to worry, “Properties of Living Things: searching for life on Mars,” has an excellent activity that is a variation of the chestnut “yeast lab.” I modify the NASA curriculum by having my students act as samplers – I prepare three Martian “soils,” one with salt and sand, one with sugar, yeast, and sand, and one with crushed Alka-Seltzer tablets and sand. Then I have students test for signs of life by adding warm water. Use the NASA materials to discuss characteristics of life, and look to the NASA Now videos for the “Search for Life,” or “Extremophiles,” to expand their thinking on what life looks like – or MIGHT look like.

Links:

Mars in a Minute: How Hard is it to Land Curiosity on Mars? http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/video/index.cfm?id=1087

Flex, Zap, Roll: Curiosity’s New Moves: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/video/index.cfm

Map Mars: http://beamartian.jpl.nasa.gov/maproom#/TagMarsTaskCompleted

Mars Exploration Program for Educators: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/participate/marsforeducators/soi/

NASA Explorer Schools: http://explorerschools.nasa.gov/web/nes/home

Mars Student Imaging Program Registration Form: http://marsed.mars.asu.edu/msip-online

Imagine Mars: http://imaginemars.jpl.nasa.gov/leaders/getting_started/5steps.html

Curiosity has Landed in Your Classroom Educator Conference Registration Form: http://marsed.asu.edu/curiosityhaslanded

Written by Bethany Dixon

Bethany Dixon is a science teacher at Western Sierra Collegiate Academy, is a CSTA Publications Committee Member, and is a member of CSTA.

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CSTA Annual Conference Early Bird Rates End July 14

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

Teachers engaged in workshop activity

Teachers engaging in hands-on learning during a workshop at the 2016 CSTA conference.

Don’t miss your chance to register at the early bird rate for the 2017 CSTA Conference – the early-bird rate closes July 14. Need ideas on how to secure funding for your participation? Visit our website for suggestions, a budget planning tool, and downloadable justification letter to share with your admin. Want to take advantage of the early rate – but know your district will pay eventually? Register online today and CSTA will reimburse you when we receive payment from your district/employer. (For more information on how that works contact Zi Stair in the office for details – 916-979-7004 or zi@cascience.org.)

New Information Now Available On-line:

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.

Goodbye Outgoing and Welcome Incoming CSTA Board Members

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Jill Grace

Jill Grace, CSTA President, 2017-2019

On July 1, 2017 five CSTA members concluded their service and four new board members joined the ranks of the CSTA Board of Directors. CSTA is so grateful for all the volunteer board of directors who contribute hours upon hours of time and energy to advance the work of the association. At the June 3 board meeting, CSTA was able to say goodbye to the outgoing board members and welcome the incoming members.

This new year also brings with it a new president for CSTA. As of July 1, 2017 Jill Grace is the president of the California Science Teachers Association. Jill is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, a former middle school science teacher, and is currently a Regional Director with the K-12 Alliance @ WestEd where she works with California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative districts and charter networks in the San Diego area.

Outgoing Board Members

  • Laura Henriques (President-Elect: 2011 – 2013, President: 2013 – 2015, Past President: 2015 – 2017)
  • Valerie Joyner (Region 1 Director: 2009 – 2013, Primary Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Mary Whaley (Informal Science Education Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Sue Campbell (Middle School/Jr. High Director: 2015 – 2017)
  • Marcus Tessier (2-Year College Director: 2015 – 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.

Finding My Student’s Motivation of Learning Through Engineering Tasks

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Huda Ali Gubary and Susheela Nath

It’s 8:02 and the bell rings. My students’ walk in and pick up an entry ticket based on yesterday’s lesson and homework. My countdown starts for students to begin…3, 2, 1. Ten students are on task and diligently completing the work, twenty are off task with behaviors ranging from talking up a storm with their neighbors to silently staring off into space. This was the start of my classes, more often than not. My students rarely showed the enthusiasm for a class that I had eagerly prepared for. I spent so much time searching for ways to get my students excited about the concepts they were learning. I wanted them to feel a connection to the lessons and come into my class motivated about what they were going to learn next. I would ask myself how I could make my class memorable where the kids were in the driver’s seat of learning. Incorporating engineering made this possible. 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 California NGSS k-8 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.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Unveils Updated Recommended Literature List

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson unveiled an addition of 285 award-winning titles to the Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list.

“The books our students read help broaden their perspectives, enhance their knowledge, and fire their imaginations,” Torlakson said. “The addition of these award-winning titles represents the state’s continued commitment to the interests and engagement of California’s young readers.”

The Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list is a collection of more than 8,000 titles of recommended reading for children and adolescents. Reflecting contemporary and classic titles, including California authors, this online list provides an exciting range of literature that students should be reading at school and for pleasure. Works include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama to provide for a variety of tastes, interests, and abilities. Learn More…

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: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

Teaching Science in the Time of Alternative Facts – Why NGSS Can Help (somewhat)

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn

The father of one of my students gave me a book: In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood by Walt Brown, Ph. D. He had heard that I was teaching Plate Tectonics and wanted me to consider another perspective. The book offered the idea that the evidence for plate tectonics could be better understood if we considered the idea that beneath the continent of Pangaea was a huge underground layer of water that suddenly burst forth from a rift between the now continents of Africa and South America. The waters shot up and the continents hydroplaned apart on the water layer to their current positions. The force of the movement pushed up great mountain ranges which are still settling to this day, resulting in earthquakes along the margins of continents. This had happened about 6,000 years ago and created a great worldwide flood. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

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