May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Meet the Candidates!

Posted: Sunday, April 1st, 2012

The Nominations Committee of the California Science Teachers Association presents the following individuals for election to the CSTA Board of Directors for the 2012-2014 term.

The election is being conducted electronically and will open April 16, 2012. CSTA members eligible to vote will be sent links to the online ballot. Members for whom we do not have current email addresses or who requested a paper ballot were mailed a ballot and candidate statements.

The 2012-2014 elections will include voting for the following positions: treasurer, high school director, 4-year college director, region 2 director, and region 4 director. The 2013-2015 elections will begin accepting nominations in September 2012 for the following positions: president-elect, secretary, primary director, middle school director, 2-year college director, informal science education director, region 1 director, and region 3 director.

Here are your candidates for the 2012-2014 CSTA Board of Directors:


Heather Wygant

Heather has been teaching high school science for 14 years, primarily geology and environmental sciences. She has received numerous Teacher of the Year awards, including, most recently, the Northern California Geologic Society and the Pacific Section AAPG teach of the year awards. Heather has been active in CSTA since 2007 serving as the High School Director from 2008-2012. She is eager to continue on the Board in a new position as Treasurer.

I believe science education to be one of the most important in education, as it teaches critical thinking, analysis and improves the overall literacy of our youth. It also utilizes all of the other skills learned from Mathematics, English and History, incorporating them together to make a well-rounded member of society. Without these skills, we are not well equipped to excel in the 21st century. Science education should be discovery, hands-on, inquiry based, and using technology as often as possible to lead students to discover the world around them.

CSTA as an organization is extremely important to the science teachers in California. CSTA follows legislation in California that directly affects our students, the way we teach science and even how much science is mandated and in what grades. CSTA works to improve Science Education in California by working with legislators and the State School Board to improve Science Education. I fully support this, and want to continue to be a part of this organization to help improve Science Education in California.

High School Director

Beverly Berekian

Beverly has been teaching science for over 6 years and has been teaching earth science at Magnolia High School for the past three years. She is a member of CSTA, NSTA, SEPM, Geologic Society of America, Phi Delta Kappa and Women in Mining. In 2011 she was recognized as a CalTeach Distinguished Teacher and in 2012 was nominated at Magnolia High School for teacher of the year. Beverly has attended several California Science Education Conferences and was a presenter at the 2011 conference.

All citizens of society need to have a working knowledge of science in order to make educated decisions about things such as what products to buy, what foods to eat and even which candidate to vote for. It is the role of every science teacher to educate students on the value of this knowledge and teach them that they use science everyday. We live in a world of STEM careers and professions; we owe it to our students to prepare them for this whether they choose to go to college or choose a career path.

CSTA is the perfect vehicle for science teachers and pre-service science teachers to come together, share experiences and effective teaching strategies for the benefit of all students everywhere. The mission and goals of CSTA promotes educating students for the 21st century and giving all students an opportunity to succeed in an ever-changing world. I would like for teachers to feel as though they can have a voice in the course science education takes through their membership with CSTA

Jeff Orlinsky

Jeff has been teaching high school biology for the past 25 years. He currently teaches honors biology, AP biology, and earth science at Warren High School in Irvine, CA. As the committee chair for the Assessment and Testing Committee in the California Teacher’s Association, he observed the development of the state standards and monitored state laws in the legislature. Jeff has been a California Science Education Conference presenter every year since 1992.

It is my goal to make science fun, entertaining and attainable for my students. Science is more than the vocabulary found in textbooks or tests. It is how we progress in society. Every day we learn a little more about our world and how it fits in the universe. Along the way, I hope to inspire some students to enter the field of science.

I believe my view of science and science education aligns very nicely with CSTA’s vision and goals. Scientific literacy is very important to me as I know it is to CSTA. I feel CSTA should be a critical player in the approval and development of science curriculum in the state of California, especially Kindergarten through eighth grade. Presently, in the elementary grades any science that is covered does not promote science inquiry and this has to change. I would like to make CSTA stronger by getting more science teachers involved. We must get our message to the science teachers in California before we do anything else.

4-Year College Director

Frederick Freking

Frederick has been a science teacher educator for the past ten years and currently holds the title of Associate Professor of Clinical Education at USC Rossier School of Education in Los Angeles. He designed and implemented curriculum for EDU 566E, 566S, 539 and 568. He is also the USC PACT Director. Frederick is a member of CSTA, NSTA, ASTE, and NARST, as well as several other science organizations.

I believe that understanding science is a critical component of a well-rounded education for all children. I believe that working with science teachers to improve science understanding empowers children and makes the world a better place for everyone. Learning through inquiry should be at the heart of any science curriculum. Inquiry based teaching and learning provides children with the experience to question the world around them, design experiments to test their ideas, collect and analyze data to support their conclusions, and present what they have learned to peers, families, teachers, and communities. A strong education program will help children to fully participate and contribute to our society.

I agree whole-heartedly with the CSTA vision statement. Given the importance of science in our society and the role of the science teacher in the understanding of science, the CSTA has a critical role to play in shaping California’s science classrooms. I believe my experience in both private and public universities will help the CSTA increase its’ membership so that this important voice can be heard by more California science teachers.

Gregory Potter

Gregory has been teaching at the university level for 12 years where his focus is on preparing multiple subject preservice teachers how to teach science. He is a Lifetime member of CSTA and is a member in good standing with NSTA and CMC. Gregory is strongly involved in the K-12 Alliance and has been involved in numerous science education projects in Northern California. He is a past Region 1 Director on the CSTA Board and has presented at many CSTA conferences.

Science education is often neglected in the curriculum of elementary schools, particularly during the primary grades. To achieve meaningful approaches to learning, teachers, as primary gatekeepers of early childhood education must be willing to include science in an already full curriculum that focuses intensely on literacy and mathematics. Science education should not be limited to simply increasing students’ knowledge of content, for there is a much broader and more important goal for K-12 science: the development of students as critical thinkers!

I see CSTA representation of science educators statewide as a vital role for the health of the state and education in general. Without CSTA, I am not sure who would advocate for meaningful science education reform. Another vital role CSTA provides is sponsorship of the California Science Education Conference. As we struggle during these tough economic times, it is important that we continue to support organization like CSTA while they fight the good fight. It is times like these that we need a CSTA more than ever!

Region 2 Director

Eric Lewis

Eric has been teaching in the Bay area since 1998 and for the past 5 years has been supporting high school science in the San Francisco Unified School District. Eric has received many grants and awards for his teaching, including the HP Technology for Teaching Grant, a What Kids Can Do Grant, and a Fulbright Memorial Fund Scholarship. Eric is a Lifetime member of CSTA and has served as Region 2 Director on the CSTA board for the past two years, representing CSTA at many conferences and resource fairs.

Science provides opportunities for students to develop critical thinking skills and the flexibility to think about information in different ways. As critical thinkers, students can become citizens that question the veracity of scientific claims—looking for evidence from multiple sources. Through scientific thinking, members of society can separate science from pseudoscience and can make decisions that are informed by scientific facts and not hearsay or popular beliefs.

CSTA is the leading organization for science education in California. I believe that CSTA must continue to advocate for the advancement of science in our legislature by tracking bills associated with science education and sponsoring new legislation should the need arise. I believe that the organization’s efforts so far are the reason that our state is in such a great place as the Next Generation Science Standards emerge and become part of the lives of science teachers across our state. I envision a future where CSTA can be even a larger resource for science teachers, utilizing new technologies to bring mentoring, professional development and resources to teachers across the state.

Region 4 Director

Jeanine Wulfenstein

Jeanine has been teaching science for 12 years. She currently teaches at Gardner Middle School in the Temecula Valley USD. She has served as a staff developer for the K-12 Alliance under the continuation of a California Math and Science Partnership grant. Jeanine has also served as a member of the district science curriculum adoption committee, a site GATE coordinator, a science department chair, a science club advisor, and an elementary science coach.

Quality science education is vital to our state’s success. In today’s world, students must be problem solvers in the workplace, champions for their own health, and advocates for the integrity of our planet. In the science classroom, an educator’s charge is to inspire students to wonder, question, research, and push the boundary to learn more about themselves and the world around them. As a community of science educators, our responsibility is to ensure quality instructional practices to support inquiry, problem solving, and communication skills vital to student success.

As a CSTA member, I am committed to scientific literacy for all students. Despite funding and political obstacles, CSTA must continue to be a collective voice for California science teachers. In these tumultuous times, it is imperative that we creatively continue to empower, inspire, and advocate for science education as a collective community. CSTA must continue to be a catalyst for educational innovation, sharing of best practices, problem solving, decision-making, and lobbying for legislation to support our shared vision.


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.