September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

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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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.