May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

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:

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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.