Opportunity Wanders into the Urban Backyard
Posted: Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014
by Minda Berbeco
This past weekend, my husband came bursting into the house shouting “Turkeys! There are turkeys on the street!”
Now, no doubt this would be a normal occurrence if we lived in a more rural area, near a nature refuge or even a park. But we actually live in one of the most urban parts of Berkeley, right on the border of an industrial parkway and a major throughway. Though we certainly get the occasional migrating humming bird and seasonal butterfly in our tiny garden, a turkey was way more wildlife than we were used to seeing.
This was not the first time I’ve seen turkeys trotting around, either. Six months earlier I spotted a group of seven, gorging on an abandoned trash pile in an otherwise industrial alley in Oakland. A few months before that, one had stopped traffic outside of a liquor-mart. The first time I saw one I actually called animal control because I thought it was someone’s escaped pet, but I’ve since learned that these are wild turkeys making their way back into the cities. Given how much attention these awkward birds garner with people running out of their houses, jumping out of cars, following them down the street, I can’t think of a better educational tool to talk about urban ecosystems and wildlife.
If you are schoolteacher in an urban area, specializing in the life sciences, how could you integrate these strange birds into your already packed curriculum? Fortunately with the Next Generation Science Standards, there is an easy in: human impacts on natural systems. People have changed the landscape immensely in urban areas. We’ve paved over the ground, put up buildings, and created an urban heat island. Most importantly for the turkeys, though, we’ve eliminated predators and created a reliable food source – birdseed and food waste! Can you imagine a better environment in which to find yourself?
There are a few online programs that can help you with your discussions, including eBird and iNaturalist, both of which allow you to track the birds yourself by adding your observations and seeing how they’ve spread over time. You can ask questions like: Why have these birds traveled from the forested hillsides to the more urban areas? What do these animals need to survive? How has moving into these new areas mitigated limitations to their success?
Observation is the first step for any scientist, from kindergarten to PhD, and sometimes giving students the most startling observation is the best way to engage them in the science. This can work for all areas of the life sciences, from evolution to climate change to population dynamics to trophic interactions. Having students start with a strange observation of something unexpected can help them take ownership of the science and launch them into questions that they never thought would interest them. Urban turkeys are certainly an unexpected place to start!
Minda Berbeco is the Programs and Policy Director at the National Center for Science Education
Posted: Monday, March 27th, 2017
The California Science Teachers Association (CSTA) stands with our science and science education colleagues in endorsing the March For Science and its associated activities.
The decision by the CSTA Board of Directors to support the March for Science was based on the understanding that this is an opportunity to advocate for our mission of high quality science education for all and to advance the idea that science has application to everyday life, is a vehicle for lifelong learning, and the scientific enterprise expands our knowledge of the world around us. The principles and goals of the March for Science parallel those of CSTA to assume a leadership role in solidarity with our colleagues in science and science education and create an understanding of the value of science in the greater community. CSTA believes that the integrity of the nature of science and that the work of scientists and science educators should be valued and supported. We encourage your participation to stand with us.
There are over 30 satellite marches planned for the April 22, 2017 March for Science in California (to find a march near you, click on “marches” in the upper right of the main page, select “satellite marches” and use the search feature). We encourage members who participate in the March for Science to share their involvement and promotion of science and science education. Feel free to promote CSTA on your signs and banners. For those on social media, you may share your involvement via Twitter, @cascience and our Facebook groups.
Posted: Tuesday, March 14th, 2017
The pre-publication version of the new California Science Curriculum Framework is now available for download. This publication incorporates all the edits that were approved by the State Board of Education in November 2016 and was many months in the making. Our sincere thanks to the dozens of CSTA members were involved in its development. Our appreciation is also extended to the California Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Instructional Quality Commission, and the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee and their staff for their hard work and dedication to produce this document and for their commitment to the public input process. To the many writers and contributors to the Framework CSTA thanks you for your many hours of work to produce a world-class document.
For tips on how to approach this document see our article from December 2016: California Has Adopted a New Science Curriculum Framework – Now What …? If you would like to learn more about the Framework, consider participating in one of the Framework Launch events (a.k.a. Rollout #4) scheduled throughout 2017.
The final publication version (formatted for printing) will be available in July 2017. This document will not be available in printed format, only electronically.
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
The 2017 Award Season is now open! One of the benefits of being a CSTA member is your eligibility for awards as well as your eligibility to nominate someone for an award. CSTA offers several awards and members may nominate individuals and organizations for the Future Science Teacher Award, the prestigious Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, and the CSTA Distinguished Contributions Award (organizational award). May 9, 2017 is the deadline for nominations for these awards. CSTA believes that the importance of science education cannot be overstated. Given the essential presence of the sciences in understanding the past and planning for the future, science education remains, and will increasingly be one of the most important disciplines in education. CSTA is committed to recognizing and encouraging excellence in science teaching through the presentation of awards to science educators and organizations who have made outstanding contributions in science education in the state and who are poised to continue the momentum of providing high quality, relevant science education into the future. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
CSTA is now accepting applications from regular, preservice, and retired members to serve on our volunteer committees! CSTA’s all-volunteer board of directors invites you to consider maximizing your member experience by volunteering for CSTA. CSTA committee service offers you the opportunity to share your expertise, learn a new skill, or do something you love to do but never have the opportunity to do in your regular day. CSTA committee volunteers do some pretty amazing things: Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Marian Murphy-Shaw
If you attended an NGSS Rollout phase 1-3 or CDE workshops at CSTA’s annual conference you may recall hearing from Chris Breazeale when he was working with the CDE. Chris has relocated professionally, with his passion for science education, and is now the Executive Director at the Explorit Science Center, a hands-on exploration museum featuring interactive STEM exhibits located at the beautiful Mace Ranch, 3141 5th St. in Davis, CA. Visitors can “think it, try it, and explorit” with a variety of displays that allow visitors to “do science.” To preview the museum, or schedule a classroom visit, see www.explorit.org. Learn More…