September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

Region 4 News and Events: It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Posted: Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

by Jeanine Wulfenstein

The holiday season has arrived! Region 4 is bustling with activity as students prepare for the final crunch of the semester and families prepare for holiday celebrations. The weather has turned cold and students are hunkered down in their studies in an effort to solidify their semester grades. Teachers across the region are making connections for student learning and assessing student progress on the science standards.

Throughout the month of December, there are professional development opportunities available for teachers to continue to hone their science skills. For teachers looking for a better way to teach your students about the Milky Way, UCSD is hosting a hands-on workshop from 10:00 to 4:00 on Saturday December 7th highlighting the “Galaxy Garden” which uses living plants (built to scale) to help students visualize the vastness of our galaxy. For more information contact

Once the winter break is upon us, there will be plenty of opportunities for family including time to explore local science museums and participate in science-related events held around the region. If you are looking for some science and holiday-related fun for your family, the following list highlights some of the exciting events in our region:

The Science of Gingerbread at the Discovery Science Center in Santa Ana, which runs from November 29th until January 5th. This holiday festival is filled with activities designed to bring families together this holiday season.

On Saturday, December 7th 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Enjoy Holidays with the Critters at the Santa Ana Zoo. The Winter Zoobilation at the Santa Ana Zoo includes enchanting winter decorations that stay up throughout the month of December. Come learn about the animals and enjoy some holiday cheer!

December 13th from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. the Ocean Institute in Dana Point is offering a Holiday Parade of Lights Cruise. Participants will cruise aboard the R/V Sea Explorer for a festive holiday cruise around Dana Point Harbor during the annual Parade of Lights.

Irvine Park Railroad has the trains all set up for Christmas. Activities include cookie decorating, carnival games, a Santa moon bounce, story time with Mrs. Claus and of course fabulous holiday train exhibits.  The fun starts Friday, November 29th and extends through December. The train opens daily at 10:00 a.m.

In San Diego, Balboa Park is offering the December Nights holiday festival December 6th from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. and December 7th from noon to 11 p.m. During the December Nights festival, participating Balboa Park museums will open their doors free of charge from 5 until 9 p.m. This will truly be a multicultural holiday experience for all!

The Living Desert Zoo in Palm Desert will be twinkling with over a million lights illuminating the park with Holiday Joy through the month of December. The annual Wildlights Celebration will run from December 6, 7, 13, 14, 19-23, and 36 – 31 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

I hope these events help to bring your family closer together through discovery and science learning! I wish you a joyous holiday season!

Written by Jeanine Wulfenstein

Jeanine Wulfenstein

Jeanine Wulfenstein teaches science at Gardner Middle School and is the CSTA Treasurer. You can reach her by emailing

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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.