May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Summer of Science Through Social Media

Posted: Thursday, June 4th, 2015

by Adam Hermann

Hermann1Student energy levels are rising, birds are singing, and strawberry season is in full swing, which can only mean one thing. Summer is upon us! It is an exciting time of the year for many, but students in particular begin looking ahead to a break from formal education. No more homework or long bus rides, no more sack lunches or single file lines, and much more time to play with friends. As students begin to look ahead, we as educators have the opportunity to utilize social media to help introduce a different style of science education: Self-directed.

Self-directed learning is exactly what it sounds like: individuals taking the initiative to pursue a learning experience. In other words, it is a form of education that the students choose to engage in. While some students may do this on their own accord, or may be encouraged to do so by their parents, the majority will not. That’s where we can step in with fun-filled educational experiences.

Hermann2Social media and online sources are playing a large role in the development of our culture. It is a free communication channel that we can use to reach out to students and their families without requesting any extra effort from parents who already have their hands full. In addition, it is a tool that many students and parents use on a daily basis. Allowing you to tap into a communicative device that in many cases is literally in your student’s hand all summer. Following are some ideas to integrate into a social media platform that may get students thinking:

  • DIY Experiments – Check out some cool science experiments that could be done from the comfort of their own home. Additionally maybe find a video camera allowing the students to follow along, as they might in class. If you’re feeling really ambitious, add some light comedy. There’s nothing more fun then laughing at your science teacher’s jokes, pop-culture references, or failed video takes! (Kinesthetic, Spatial learners)
  • Science in the News – Find interesting scientific discoveries or advancements. The best ones would most likely include compelling images or videos, which provide a visual. (Spatial Learners)
  • Discuss Local Scientific Occurrences – One example might be when (or if) a rainstorm happens to pass overhead. Posting a discussion question about something the students might have experienced first-hand is a good way to create discussion not only with yourself, but with their neighborhood friends, or other family members as well. (interpersonal/linguistic learners)
  • Weekly Science Question – Such questions could be constructed around topics discussed throughout the year, or could lead the students to discover the answer. For example: What happens when you put a glass out in the yard on a sunny day? This is a question that gets the students thinking. Even if they don’t test it out, they will likely take a guess only to wait for the answer to be revealed. (intrapersonal/mathematical)

Hermann3Now that ideas have begun to materialize, the next step is to formulate the plan. Without a clear strategy you will likely find yourself lost amidst an overwhelming variety of activities. Develop a list of topics related to the curriculum you taught throughout the year. Students will already have a basic understanding of the activity’s topic, making their interest more likely. Once a list is created, turn to whatever resources are necessary (i.e. news resource for “science in the news” or activities for “DIY experiments”).

Here is an example schedule with topics from the NGSS learning goals for 5th grade:

June Subject – Matter & Energy

  • Photosynthesis – Leaf Stamps
  • Atomic matter – Density Matters
  • Energy transfer – Bouncing Ball

July Subject – Interstellar activity

  • Gravitational pull – Pendulum Painting
  • Orbiting Objects – NASA Satellite Viewer
  • Planetary motion – Elliptical Orbit

August Subject – Earth systems & cycles

  • Water cycle – Indoor rain
  • Food web – Food Web Game
  • Weather/climate – NOAA Climate at a Glance

Ultimately the amount of interest and participation of our students will always be dependent upon the degree of parental involvement. As a teacher the only contact you will likely have with your students after the summer bell rings is an “accidental” encounter. While these do happen from time to time, we as teachers can increase the likelihood of them happening more frequently by being an active part of community events and encouraging families to do the same.

Create a summer calendar of various cultural, scientific, or community events that you will be attending. Some parents may receive this handout and toss it, but many others may post it up on their fridge. Events might include:

  • Free day at the museum or zoo
  • Farmers market
  • Cultural celebrations

Get the students library cards by inviting in your local librarian. This may sound old-fashioned but students are much more likely read if they have the resources to do so.

These suggestions are both long shots, but if nothing else it gets the parents thinking about ways to encourage their student’s academic interests. In the end this parental support is the key to advanced education.

Through the ideas presented, we at Mission Springs Outdoor Education hope that you are able to encourage and support your students’ academic adventure far beyond your physical reach. They are our future, and what we do, as educators will dictate the academic wealth of our future generation.

If you have any questions or comments, we would be happy to speak with you! We can be reached via email at or call (831) 335-3205.

Thank you for all that you do. We hope that this coming summer brings you great joy and rest for the following year!

Adam Hermann is a marketing specialist at Mission Springs Outdoor Education.

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy:

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Participate in Chemistry Education Research Study, Earn $500-800 Dollars!

Posted: Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

WestEd, a non-profit educational research agency, has been funded by the US Department of Education to test a new molecular modeling kit, Happy Atoms. Happy Atoms is an interactive chemistry learning experience that consists of a set of physical atoms that connect magnetically to form molecules, and an app that uses image recognition to identify the molecules that you create with the set. WestEd is conducting a study around the effectiveness of using Happy Atoms in the classroom, and we are looking for high school chemistry teachers in California to participate.

As part of the study, teachers will be randomly assigned to either the treatment group (who uses Happy Atoms) or the control group (who uses Happy Atoms at a later date). Teachers in the treatment group will be asked to use the Happy Atoms set in their classrooms for 5 lessons over the course of the fall 2017 semester. Students will complete pre- and post-assessments and surveys around their chemistry content knowledge and beliefs about learning chemistry. WestEd will provide access to all teacher materials, teacher training, and student materials needed to participate.

Participating teachers will receive a stipend of $500-800. You can read more information about the study here:

Please contact Rosanne Luu at or 650.381.6432 if you are interested in participating in this opportunity, or if you have any questions!

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.

2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption Reviewer Application

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

The California Department of Education and State Board of Education are now accepting applications for reviewers for the 2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption. The application deadline is 3:00 pm, July 21, 2017. The application is comprehensive, so don’t wait until the last minute to apply.

On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson forwarded this recruitment letter to county and district superintendents and charter school administrators.

Review panel members will evaluate instructional materials for use in kindergarten through grade eight, inclusive, that are aligned with the California Next Generation Science Content Standards for California Public Schools (CA NGSS). 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.

Lessons Learned from the NGSS Early Implementer Districts

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

On March 31, 2017, Achieve released two documents examining some lessons learned from the California K-8 Early Implementation Initiative. The initiative began in August 2014 and was developed by the K-12 Alliance at WestEd, with close collaborative input on its design and objectives from the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education, and Achieve.

Eight (8) traditional school districts and two (2) charter management organizations were selected to participate in the initiative, becoming the first districts in California to implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Those districts included Galt Joint Union Elementary, Kings Canyon Joint Unified, Lakeside Union, Oakland Unified, Palm Springs Unified, San Diego Unified, Tracy Joint Unified, Vista Unified, Aspire, and High Tech High.

To more closely examine some of the early successes and challenges experienced by the Early Implementer LEAs, Achieve interviewed nine of the ten participating districts and compiled that information into two resources, focusing primarily on professional learning and instructional materials. 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.

Using Online Simulations to Support the NGSS in Middle School Classrooms

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

by Lesley Gates, Loren Nikkel, and Kambria Eastham

Middle school teachers in Kings Canyon Unified School District (KCUSD), a CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative district, have been diligently working on transitioning to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) integrated model for middle school. This year, the teachers focused on building their own knowledge of the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs). They have been gathering and sharing ideas at monthly collaborative meetings as to how to make sure their students are not just learning about science but that they are actually doing science in their classrooms. Students should be planning and carrying out investigations to gather data for analysis in order to construct explanations. This is best done through hands-on lab experiments. Experimental work is such an important part of the learning of science and education research shows that students learn better and retain more when they are active through inquiry, investigation, and application. A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2011) notes, “…learning about science and engineering involves integration of the knowledge of scientific explanations (i.e., content knowledge) and the practices needed to engage in scientific inquiry and engineering design. Thus the framework seeks to illustrate how knowledge and practice must be intertwined in designing learning experiences in K-12 Science Education” (pg. 11).

Many middle school teachers in KCUSD are facing challenges as they begin implementing these student-driven, inquiry-based NGSS science experiences in their classrooms. First, many of the middle school classrooms at our K-8 school sites are not designed as science labs. Learn More…

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the NGSS Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

Celestial Highlights: May – July 2017

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

May Through July 2017 with Web Resources for the Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graphs of planet rising and setting times by Jeffrey L. Hunt.

In spring and summer 2017, Jupiter is the most prominent “star” in the evening sky, and Venus, even brighter, rules the morning. By mid-June, Saturn rises at a convenient evening hour, allowing both giant planets to be viewed well in early evening until Jupiter sinks low in late September. The Moon is always a crescent in its monthly encounters with Venus, but is full whenever it appears near Jupiter or Saturn in the eastern evening sky opposite the Sun. (In 2017, Full Moon is near Jupiter in April, Saturn in June.) At intervals of 27-28 days thereafter, the Moon appears at a progressively earlier phase at each pairing with the outer planet until its final conjunction, with Moon a thin crescent, low in the west at dusk. You’ll see many beautiful events by just following the Moon’s wanderings at dusk and dawn in the three months leading up to the solar eclipse. 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.