September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

Region 2 Message and Events

Posted: Monday, July 1st, 2013

by Eric Lewis

“While the days are still pretty long, days get shorter EVERY day of the summer.”  My 9th grade Earth Science teacher taught me that a LONG time ago.  While that makes me a bit sad about how quickly summer months pass by, I know that these months and/or weeks help to rejuvenate teachers in so many ways.

When I was new teacher, I was lucky that my department chair protected me as much as possible (aside from giving me three preps, not including the one class that had newcomers to the United States that I had to teach VERY differently than my other classes!).  However, one piece of advice that she gave me was NOT to teach summer school or night school during my first few years of teaching.  I ended up teaching night school after a few years of teaching, but avoided teaching summer school for 14 years – until this year.  Of course, for the past six years I have been out of the classroom, supporting teachers with curriculum, doing professional development, and occasionally co-teaching new lessons or covering a class for a teacher.  During those classes, I’ve always found that students were much nicer to me than they were to their regular teacher.  Not because I taught any better, but because I was a novelty to them.  And, since I didn’t really know the students, I was pretty content to assume they all were great, engaged students.

This summer, I have been teaching a group of rising 10th graders in Anatomy and Physiology.  I have the students from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. every day.  We’ve gotten to know each other really well, really quickly.  I’m lucky to be co-teaching with another experienced teacher – considerably taking the pressure off me and giving me time to relax a bit during each day.  That said, I am so enjoying summer school.  The students are amazing and I’ve been surprised at how quickly they are learning new concepts and how willing they are to engage in challenging content.  Of course, this is not a typical classroom setting.  But, it has made me wonder how much more I’d want my regular classroom to be like this summer school class – where students are engaged because they’re actually doing a lot of activities, dissections, research and because they’re meeting regularly with scientists (students from CCSF, UCSF and SF State as well as professors from each of these institutions).

In the past, I’d never tell a teacher to take on summer school (unless they really needed the extra pay).  I now have a slightly different perspective.  Summer school can be a time where teachers can explore new curriculum, new ways of teaching, and new classroom structures.  Perhaps new teachers should still be cautious, but for a fifth or sixth year teacher, this might be just the thing to tweak their practice in new and exciting ways.

In closing, I hope that some of you were able to submit your ideas for workshops for this year’s Education Conference in Palm Springs in October!  And, please let me know if there are things that you’d like to add to our Region’s offerings.  Don’t forget to encourage your colleagues to join CSTA.  I’m hoping that we’ll have the opportunity to grow our organization and expand to meet your needs and your colleague’s needs.  To that end, please feel free to email me directly so that I can represent your questions and concerns with the CSTA board as a whole.

Eric Lewis,

There are many, many science opportunities in the Bay Area.  Some big ones to remember:

Free Entry Days at:

Bay Area Discovery Museum, First Wednesday of the month

UC Botanical Gardens, First Thursday of the month

Oakland Museum of California, First Sunday of the month

California Academy of Sciences, Free days on selected Sundays:  September 29th, December 8th

Exploratorium, Free Days, Selected days:  September 29th, October 13th

Star Parties:

Houge Park Star Party, July 12th

Super-cool science parties:

Night Life, Thursdays, 6-10 pm, at the California Academy of Sciences

After Dark, First Thursday of the month, 6-10 pm, at the Exploratorium

Highlighted Event in July:

Think Evolution V: A summer institute for science educators

Calling all middle school, high school, and community college biology teachers and science educators!

Put on your evolution eyeglasses and your nature of science thinking cap and join us for (yet another) fun-filled five days of evolutionary explorations with biologists and educators at the University of California. The Think Evolution Summer Institute, returning for its fifth year, will combine lectures by prominent evolutionary biologists with sessions focused on hands-on activities for the middle school, high school, and community college classroom.   Topics this year include genomics, phylogeography of amphibians, biogeography of moths, the evolution of gossip, and natural selection.

Monday through Friday, July 29–August 2, 2013
UC Museum of Paleontology, 2063 Valley Life Sciences Building, UC Berkeley
9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

$75.00 for five days; includes lots of free resources distributed to participating teachers plus morning and afternoon snacks. Plus, registrants get a field trip to the Cal Academy for a personalized tour of Human Odyssey — a new exhibit on the origin of our species.

For more information, contact Lisa White or Louise S. Mead.

For additional events in our region, please reference the VERY comprehensive calendar compiled by the Bay Area Science Festival. 

Written by Eric Lewis

Eric Lewis

Eris Lewis is high school area science support in the San Francisco Unified School District LEAD office.

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California Science Assessment Update

Posted: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

by Jessica Sawko

In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.

At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at 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.

Some ways to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in your classroom

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

by Carol Peterson

1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. 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.

2016 Award Recipients – Join CSTA in Honoring Their Accomplishments

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference  on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!

Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award

John Keller

John Keller

The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well into the future.” 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.

NGSS: Making Your Life Easier

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Peter A’hearn

Wait… What?

NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?

The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Celestial Highlights, September 2016

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt 

Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. Learn More…

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Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.