September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

NanoSpace Offers Teachers Fun, Interactive Games Designed to Increase Science Literacy

Posted: Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

by Patrice Harris

World-renowned professors and scientists from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, creators of The Molecularium® Project, have launched NanoSpace. This new website is designed to teach kids about the nanoscale world of atoms and molecules. Teachers will find that the virtual scientific amusement park offers them fun activities and games they can incorporate in the classroom.

Wondering how to do this? It’s easy. Just visit the “Guide to NanoSpace” ( Here are just a few tips on how to incorporate NanoSpace activities in your classroom. Additional discovery-based lessons may also be downloaded from the website’s Educator Resources tab.

Periodic Table: Help students learn and remember the Periodic Table of Elements with the Periodic Memory game, a concentration style memory game where players flip over elements and match them to their location on the Periodic Table in a race against the clock. Divide your class into teams and see how far each team gets.

Microscopes: Use MicroLab to teach about different types of microscopes and magnification ranges. Students can use high powered virtual optical, electron and atomic probe microscopes to zoom in and investigate a wide range of specimens and materials, from flowers and insects to grains of pollen and nanotubes.

Molecular structures and formulas:  Demonstrate and reinforce the connection between molecular structures and formulas with Build’em, an interactive molecular building game. Project and build the first few molecules in the class to clearly illustrate how their chemical and structural formulas represent their structure and how their atoms are arranged. Rotating molecules in any direction as you build makes this a very useful tool for demonstrations. Have students build all of the molecules on their own in class or as homework.

“NanoSpace provides educators with interactive activities and games to supplement what they are teaching in the classroom,” Richard W. Siegel, Ph.D., Director of the Rensselaer Nanotechnology Center.” “When learning is fun, it increases a child’s capacity to absorb and retain knowledge,” he added.

Teachers are already witnessing firsthand how NanoSpace engages students and improves their ability to comprehend the information. “I found “NanoSpace – Molecules to the Max” to be both educational and entertaining. It introduced my 4th graders to the world of atoms and molecules through kid friendly characters; Oxy, Hydra, and Mel, the molecularium computer,” stated Laurie Brennan, a 4th grade science teacher from Lester Grove School, part of the Downers Grove District 58 in Illinois. She added, “The website is visually appealing to kids and uses 25 games in a virtual theme park. NanoSpace explained difficult concepts such as atoms, molecules, polymers and DNA at a level kids can understand. It’s a great resource and my students loved the website!”

A recent report by the President’s Council on Science and Technology estimates approximately 8.5 million STEM job openings will be available over the next decade. The Molecularium® Project and its NanoSpace program are helping to fill the forecasted gap of one million graduates during this time period who will not be qualified to fill these positions. These unique, online science resources are designed to supplement scarce school-based curricula and teach children through enjoyable interactions. The activities in NanoSpace teach and reinforce the National Science Education Standards, just as do all other Molecularium® Project programs. In addition to the Teachers Guides, which outline measurable goals related to these standards, free educator resources for the Molecularium® Project include lesson plans for grades K-4 and 5-8, crossword puzzles, songs, quizzes, printable posters, and more.

Research has proven that students retain more thorough knowledge of a concept through interactive learning. Independent analysts quizzed students before and after seeing Molecularium animations, and found that the core concepts were firmly grasped by young audiences. The percentage of correct answers for younger audiences more than doubled.

Thank you for teaching science and have a great school year!

Patrice Harris is a consultant with the Communication Strategies Group, Inc.

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:

Leave a Reply


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…

Powered By DT Author Box

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…

Powered By DT Author Box

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.