January/February 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 4

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

Written by Minda Berbeco

Minda Berbeco

Minda Berbeco is the Programs and Policy Director at the National Center for Science Education and is CSTA’s Region 2 Director.

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STEM Conference Hosted by CMSESMC

Posted: Saturday, January 14th, 2017

The Council of Math/Science Educators of San Mateo County will be hosting the 41st annual STEM Conference this February 4, 2017 at the San Mateo County Office of Education. This STEM Conference is the place to get lots of new lessons and ideas to use in your classroom. There will be over twenty-five workshops and a variety of exhibitors that provide participants with a wide range of practical and realistic ideas and resources to use in their science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs from Pre-K to grade 12. With California’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards, we are dedicated to ensuring that we prepare our teachers to take on these educational policies.

Teachers, administrators, and parents are invited to explore the many exciting aspects of STEM education and learn about and discuss the latest news, information, and issues. This is also an opportunity to network with colleagues who can assist you in building your programs and meet new friends that share your interests and love of teaching. Register online today!

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.

Submit Your NGSS Lessons and Units Today!

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

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If you or your state, district, school, or organization has designed NGSS-aligned instructional materials, please consider submitting these in order to help provide educators across the country with various models and templates of high-quality lesson and unit plans. 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.

Opportunity for High School Students – Los Angeles County

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

An upcoming Perry Outreach Program on Saturday, April 22, 2017 at the Orthopaedic Institute for Children in Los Angeles, CA. The Perry Outreach Program is a free, one-day, hands-on experience for high school and college-aged women who are interested in pursuing careers in medicine and engineering. Students will hear from women leaders in these fields and try it for themselves by performing mock orthopaedic surgeries and biomechanics experiments. 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.

Science Education Policy Update

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

January 2017 has proven to be a very busy month for science education policy and CA NGSS implementation activities. CSTA has been and will be there every step of the way, seeking and enacting all options to support high-quality science education and the successful implementation of CA NGSS.

California Department of Education/U.S. Department of Education Science Double-Testing Waiver Hearing

The year started with California Department of Education’s (CDE) hearing with the U.S. Department of Education conducted via WebEx on January 6, 2017. This hearing was the final step in California’s efforts to secure a waiver from the federal government in order to discontinue administration of the old CST and suspension of the reporting of student test scores on a science assessment for two years. As reported by EdSource, the U.S. Department of Education representative, Ann Whalen, a senior adviser to U.S. Secretary John King Jr., committed to making her final ruling “very shortly.” Deputy Superintendent Keric Ashley presented on behalf of CDE during the hearing and did an excellent job describing the broad-based support for this waiver in California, the rationale for the waiver, and California’s commitment to the successful implementation of a new high-quality science assessment. As previously reported, California is moving forward with its plans to administer a census pilot assessments this spring. The testing window is set to open on March 20, 2017. For more information visit New CA Science Test: What You Should Know.

Learn More…

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Written by Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko is CSTA’s Executive Director.

NSTA Los Angeles Conference Features Many CA Science Leaders

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

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Written by Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko is CSTA’s Executive Director.