September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

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 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.