September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 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:

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CSTA Is Now Accepting Nominations for Board Members

Posted: Friday, November 17th, 2017

Current, incoming, and outgoing CSTA Board of Directors at June 3, 2017 meeting.

Updated 7:25 pm, Nov. 17, 2017

It’s that time of year when CSTA is looking for dedicated and qualified persons to fill the upcoming vacancies on its Board of Directors. This opportunity allows you to help shape the policy and determine the path that the Board will take in the new year. There are time and energy commitments, but that is far outweighed by the personal satisfaction of knowing that you are an integral part of an outstanding professional educational organization, dedicated to the support and guidance of California’s science teachers. You will also have the opportunity to help CSTA review and support legislation that benefits good science teaching and teachers.

Right now is an exciting time to be involved at the state level in the California Science Teachers Association. The CSTA Board of Directors is currently involved in implementing the Next Generations Science Standards and its strategic plan. If you are interested in serving on the CSTA Board of Directors, now is the time to submit your name for consideration. 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.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2017 Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Posted: Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated eight exceptional secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“These teachers are dedicated and accomplished individuals whose innovative teaching styles prepare our students for 21st century careers and college and develop them into the designers and inventors of the future,” Torlakson said. “They rank among the finest in their profession and also serve as wonderful mentors and role models.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partners annually with the California Science Teachers Association and the California Mathematics Council to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program—the highest recognition in the nation for a mathematics or science teacher. The Science Finalists will be recognized at the CSTA Awards Luncheon on Saturday, October 14, 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.

Thriving in a Time of Change

Posted: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

by Jill Grace

By the time this message is posted online, most schools across California will have been in session for at least a month (if not longer, and hat tip to that bunch!). Long enough to get a good sense of who the kids in your classroom are and to get into that groove and momentum of the daily flow of teaching. It’s also very likely that for many of you who weren’t a part of a large grant initiative or in a district that set wheels in motion sooner, this is the first year you will really try to shift instruction to align to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a challenging year – change is hard. Change is even harder when there’s not a playbook to go by.  But as someone who has had the very great privilege of walking alongside teachers going through that change for the past two years and being able to glimpse at what this looks like for different demographics across that state, there are three things I hope you will hold on to. These are things I have come to learn will overshadow the challenge: a growth mindset will get you far, one is a very powerful number, and it’s about the kids. Learn More…

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Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is President of CSTA.

If You Are Not Teaching Science Then You Are Not Teaching Common Core

Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn 

“Science and Social Studies can be taught for the last half hour of the day on Fridays”

– Elementary school principal

Anyone concerned with the teaching of science in elementary school is keenly aware of the problem of time. Kids need to learn to read, and learning to read takes time, nobody disputes that. So Common Core ELA can seem like the enemy of science. This was a big concern to me as I started looking at the curriculum that my district had adopted for Common Core ELA. I’ve been through those years where teachers are learning a new curriculum, and know first-hand how a new curriculum can become the focus of attention- sucking all the air out of the room. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

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

Tools for Creating NGSS Standards Based Lessons

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Elizabeth Cooke

Think back on your own experiences with learning science in school. Were you required to memorize disjointed facts without understanding the concepts?

Science Education Background

In the past, science education focused on rote memorization and learning disjointed ideas. Elementary and secondary students in today’s science classes are fortunate now that science instruction has shifted from students demonstrating what they know to students demonstrating how they are able to apply their knowledge. Science education that reflects the Next Generation Science Standards challenges students to conduct investigations. As students explore phenomena and discrepant events they engage in academic discourse guided by focus questions from their teachers or student generated questions of that arise from analyzing data and creating and revising models that explain natural phenomena. Learn More…

Written by Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke teaches TK-5 science at Markham Elementary in the Oakland Unified School District, is an NGSS Early Implementer, and is CSTA’s Secretary.