September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

News and Events for March 2014

Posted: Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

by Eric Lewis

Clearly there is a lot of movement around STEM these days. STEM fairs, STEM workshops, STEM getting mentioned in every type of professional development for science teachers. However, “STEM education” seems to have different meanings to different people. As science, technology, engineering and mathematics encompasses a pretty broad range of careers, activities and curriculum, it’s not too surprising that people think of STEM education differently based on their personal experience in education, careers, and aspirations.

Regardless, when I see articles in our local paper around getting more young women into coding, see videos of students printing 3-D robots, and notice the proliferation of Maker Faire Events, I get a bit excited. This seems like STEM to me – using math and science concepts to figure out solutions to problems, creating prototypes of designs to fill specific needs, creating new online gaming environments for other people to explore… These activities exemplify the types of skills that will be needed for some of the more innovative jobs of the future; these are the challenges that breathe life into science and mathematics curricula.

But, many of us are used to being teachers of science. Just science. We’ve refined and enriched our classrooms through laboratory experiments, demonstrations and activities to support our curriculum. What do many of us know of engineering? How many teachers still think of technology as their overhead projector? These are the hurdles that many of us will need to negotiate over the coming years. This is where we need to focus our professional development, and this is where we’ll need to learn from the digital natives that are coming up as new teachers at our sites. Let this be our time to show how well we learn, adapt and integrate new skills into our existing repertoire. The 2014 NSTA Area Conference in Collaboration with CSTA in Long Beach (December 4-6) will be a great place to continue our professional growth.

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. Make sure that you participate in our upcoming elections; we will be electing many new board members in the coming year (including a new one for Region 2!).

Eric Lewis,

There are many, many science opportunities in the Bay Area. Please visit here to see a year round calendar of events in our area. Some events 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, Quarterly free days. The next is June 1st, 2014

Exploratorium, Free Days, Selected days: March 14th, May 11th, September 28th, October 12th

Star Parties:

Houge Park Star Party, March 7th, March 21st

San Mateo County Astronomical Society Star Party, March 1st, March 22nd, March 29th

Starry Nights Open Space at Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve, Morgan Hill: March 22nd

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/s in March:

2014 Spring STEM Conference

Saturday, 3/15/14, 9:00 AM – 3:30 PM
1st floor, McHenry Library, UC Santa Cruz
In this conference, you will:

  • Identify ways to create a classroom culture that promotes the Common Core State Standards in math and literacy in science.
  • Gain strategies on how to integrate the new Common Core Literacy Standards in science and math lessons.
  • Learn about the Next Generation Science Standards in the context of engaging science lessons.
  • Integrate the Environmental Education Initiative curriculum with your science program.
  • Learn how a school garden can breathe life into your science, literacy or math curriculum.

For more information, contact Joyce Hill, Monterey Bay Science Project at or visit their website. Cost: $35/teacher. Continuing Education credits available.

OpenROV: Open Source Underwater Robots for Exploration and Education

Wednesday, 03/19/14, 12:00 PM – 01:00 PM

CITRIS at UC Berkeley, Sutardja Dai Hall, Banatao Auditorium, Berkeley

OpenROV is an open-source underwater robot. But it’s so much more. It’s also a community of people who are working together to create more accessible, affordable, and awesome tools for underwater exploration.

The backbone of the project is the global community of DIY ocean explorers who are working, tinkering and improving the OpenROV design. The community ranges from professional ocean engineers to hobbyists, software developers to students. It’s a welcoming community and everyone’s feedback and input is valued.

The project started in a garage in Cupertino, with a few guys who wanted to explore an underwater cave. After finding a global community of co-developers on Kickstarter©, the project has evolved into a network of connected devices, exploring the oceans and lakes of the world.

Speaker: David Lang, OpenROV

For more information, visit their website or register online here.

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.