May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Open Letter to High School Earth Science Educators

Posted: Thursday, December 1st, 2011

by Wendy Van Norden, Tom Traeger, Ray Ingersoll, Bruce Luyendyk, and Eldridge Moores.

Dear Earth Science Educators:

We are pleased to announce that the UC Academic Senate Board on Admissions and Relations with Schools (BOARS), and the UC Office of the President have approved a high school course entitled Honors Earth Science that will meet the UC Area “d” Laboratory Science admissions requirement. The course was designed principally by high school teacher Wendy Van Norden with help from the rest of us.  It is listed on, under the listings for Harvard-Westlake School, North Hollywood, CA.  The  Honors Earth Science course outline, appears on the Honors Geology website of Harvard Westlake School, at

The Honors Earth Science course is intended for high school juniors and seniors.  It has prerequisites of algebra, biology, and chemistry.  In principle, any high school that adopts this course should receive UC’s “d” Laboratory Science credit for it.  Widespread adoption of this course in CA high schools should significantly increase the awareness of Earth Science by CA high school graduates, UC’s entering students, and the public at large.

This course does not conflict with or replace existing 9th grade Earth science classes.  It is intended as a third-year science class for college-bound students, particularly those UC-bound.  BOARS has made clear that 9th grade Earth science classes will not receive “d” certification.

The course has Honors status, and that gives students an edge in UC admissions and a grade point bonus, similar to the bonus given to AP courses.  It can also be turned into a dual credit course.  For example,  students who presently take Honors Geology may receive 5 credit units on a UCLA transcript.

We hope that this new development will encourage high schools throughout California to offer this course, and thus better prepare their students to function as informed citizens in the 21st century.

We encourage you to look at this course outline carefully, and we encourage you to consider adopting the course in your own school.  Widespread adoption of this course would go far towards the spread of Earth Science courses eligible for “d” Laboratory Science credit at UC throughout California.  It would benefit all present and future Californians.

If you are interested in the possibility of teaching either Honors Earth Science or Honors Geology at your school, please contact Wendy Van Norden

Wendy Van Norden, Harvard-Westlake School, North Hollywood, CA.
NESTA Far West Director
Tom Traeger, La Canada High School, La Canada, CA
Ray Ingersoll, Earth and Space Sciences, UCLA
Bruce Luyendyk, Earth Science, UCSB
Eldridge Moores, Geology, UC Davis


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.

4 Responses

  1. At long last! Congratulations to all who worked to make this happen, especially to Eldrigde Moores who championed Earth Science in high school during my presidency of CSTA. It was a personal goal of mine that seemed would never occur, but now it has. I am very pleased. Earth Science has been suppressed from the high school curriculum for far too long. Hopefully, this will open more doors to the acceptance that Earth Science like Physics, Chemistry, and Biology is rigorous science.

  2. This is the BEST news I have heard for the future of Geosciences in California! We have such a great need for students to find their passions and it is wonderful that Earth Science can now be a vital part of our students’ education. It is also wonderful that since this course is an Honors course, it can give students an “edge” in the UC system. While president of CSTA I personally wrote to all of the California High Schools which had a three year science requirement for graduation and thanked them for taking such an important step in promoting science. I encourage our current president, Rick Pomeroy, to begin with the address list that our office manager compiled at that time, and send each of these high schools a personal letter encouraging them to implement this course in their curriculum. It seems it would be a perfect fit since these schools already require three years. I would love to send a HUGE email hug to Wendy Van Norden and her cohorts for such an impressive amount of work and labor of love, Bravo!

  3. Thank you Wendy! I am a State of California Professional Geologist and Certificated Geoscience Teacher! This is really big!

    Now it is up to the Earth Science teachers to convince the school’s administration that they teach at to offer the course, then they have to convince the counselors to promote the course, they have to promote the course and then finally someone will get to teach it!

    Yay for California’s students!!!!!

    Thanks again Wendy! And a big thank you to Tom Traeger, Ray Ingersoll, Bruce Luyendyk, and Eldridge Moores, for the time and energy they dedicated to this project and for taking this big step in California science education.

  4. […] may recall that Honors Earth Science was recently approved (in 2011) as a University of California Area (d) laboratory science, in an effort led by Wendy Van […]

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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

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:

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.