September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Technology Partners with Citizen Science

Posted: Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017

by Lori Walsh

On a beach walk in Carlsbad, I noticed a child playing a game on a phone while sitting in the sand. The child ignored the beauty of the waves, birds, and water to play in the virtual world. During my childhood, my days were filled exploring on bikes and swimming at the pool. My early experiences with my ‘bug box’, playing with a sand pendulum and kayaking, combined with trips to nature centers, parks, and other informal science centers inspired and created my love of everything in the natural world. These early “wow” moments eventually led to my career that is dedicated to educating families about wildlife and conservation in an aquarium. While technology has presented many advantages, it gives parents and educators a new set of challenges, and we are still deciphering how to navigate the waters. How can we harness the power and attention that technology has to immerse children in nature and inspire future conservation heroes? Our lives are irreversibly intertwined with technology and this provides us with new tools and opportunities to expose kids to the beauty they may be missing in the natural world.

Many of us are still struggling to adapt to ever changing technology, and it may be difficult to see how we can make it work in tandem with natural experiences. People are no longer content to just watch animals at an aquarium; they record and photograph them on their phones, and often they go further by sharing these experiences with the world through social media. We can use these exact same behaviors to engage with kids through citizen science. There have been many successful citizen science programs that make brilliant use of technology to allow everyone to experience nature in new ways and actually contribute to the scientific community.

Bioblitzes are events where scientists and the public conduct short but intensive surveys to document species abundance and distribution in particular areas. The statewide Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) Bioblitz occurs in early summer. Participants submit photos and observations through an app, helping scientists and policy makers create a detailed picture of the health of the network of MPAs across our coast. These events are usually very short, lasting only a couple of hours. One year, over 300 observations of tide pool species were made in the Swami’s State Beach MPA in Encinitas. In 2016, over 7,000 people made 146,870 observations about 13,290 species nationwide in the iNaturalist BioBlitz app. Increased information about the creatures in MPAs and national parks will determine the impact of protecting shared resources. These informal learning opportunities make families slow down and observe an area for science. A day at the beach could be turned into a contest to see which person could log the most number of observations. Schools and youth groups organized bioblitz events, but you can join an event nearby with your kids as well. If you do not live near the coast, bioblitz events have occurred in parks and rivers. A united group of citizen scientists can influence research and support of ocean conservation.

Another event that enhances skills in observation while working with technology is the annual King Tides photo project. This citizen science event helps to see the effect of sea level rise on our local coastlines. It’s a quick way to help scientists predict the impact of climate change. During winter king tides, volunteers photograph the highest tides of the season. Citizens take photos at high tide at the coast, and scientists use this data from ‘boots on the ground’ all along our coast. The high tide level is used to document our changing shores. Once again, this science concept encourages technology use to make natural observations with a definite purpose.

With the pressures on increasing integrated science instruction in the classroom, you can turn visits to informal natural experiences into learning opportunities. When at the beach, your child can use their phone to take observational photos with a determined goal. Can they mark the tide line in the sand and document how it changes throughout the day? If you are in an aquarium, make a list of goals for your child’s photos. Can they document how many sharks are resting on the bottom versus swimming constantly? Are you ready to take the leap into an organized citizen science volunteer opportunity? Your outdoor adventures can inspire your budding scientists to enter a career in science.

Lori Walsh is the Education/Operations Supervisor at SEA LIFE® Aquarium at LEGOLAND® California Resort and the Informal Science Director for CSTA.

Brandon Lewis is the Education Technical Specialist at SEA LIFE® Aquarium at LEGOLAND® California Resort

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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CSTA Is Now Accepting Nominations for Board Members

Posted: Friday, November 17th, 2017

Current, incoming, and outgoing CSTA Board of Directors at June 3, 2017 meeting.

Updated 7:25 pm, Nov. 17, 2017

It’s that time of year when CSTA is looking for dedicated and qualified persons to fill the upcoming vacancies on its Board of Directors. This opportunity allows you to help shape the policy and determine the path that the Board will take in the new year. There are time and energy commitments, but that is far outweighed by the personal satisfaction of knowing that you are an integral part of an outstanding professional educational organization, dedicated to the support and guidance of California’s science teachers. You will also have the opportunity to help CSTA review and support legislation that benefits good science teaching and teachers.

Right now is an exciting time to be involved at the state level in the California Science Teachers Association. The CSTA Board of Directors is currently involved in implementing the Next Generations Science Standards and its strategic plan. If you are interested in serving on the CSTA Board of Directors, now is the time to submit your name for consideration. 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.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2017 Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Posted: Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated eight exceptional secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“These teachers are dedicated and accomplished individuals whose innovative teaching styles prepare our students for 21st century careers and college and develop them into the designers and inventors of the future,” Torlakson said. “They rank among the finest in their profession and also serve as wonderful mentors and role models.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partners annually with the California Science Teachers Association and the California Mathematics Council to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program—the highest recognition in the nation for a mathematics or science teacher. The Science Finalists will be recognized at the CSTA Awards Luncheon on Saturday, October 14, 2017. 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.

Thriving in a Time of Change

Posted: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

by Jill Grace

By the time this message is posted online, most schools across California will have been in session for at least a month (if not longer, and hat tip to that bunch!). Long enough to get a good sense of who the kids in your classroom are and to get into that groove and momentum of the daily flow of teaching. It’s also very likely that for many of you who weren’t a part of a large grant initiative or in a district that set wheels in motion sooner, this is the first year you will really try to shift instruction to align to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a challenging year – change is hard. Change is even harder when there’s not a playbook to go by.  But as someone who has had the very great privilege of walking alongside teachers going through that change for the past two years and being able to glimpse at what this looks like for different demographics across that state, there are three things I hope you will hold on to. These are things I have come to learn will overshadow the challenge: a growth mindset will get you far, one is a very powerful number, and it’s about the kids. Learn More…

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Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is President of CSTA.

If You Are Not Teaching Science Then You Are Not Teaching Common Core

Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn 

“Science and Social Studies can be taught for the last half hour of the day on Fridays”

– Elementary school principal

Anyone concerned with the teaching of science in elementary school is keenly aware of the problem of time. Kids need to learn to read, and learning to read takes time, nobody disputes that. So Common Core ELA can seem like the enemy of science. This was a big concern to me as I started looking at the curriculum that my district had adopted for Common Core ELA. I’ve been through those years where teachers are learning a new curriculum, and know first-hand how a new curriculum can become the focus of attention- sucking all the air out of the room. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Tools for Creating NGSS Standards Based Lessons

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Elizabeth Cooke

Think back on your own experiences with learning science in school. Were you required to memorize disjointed facts without understanding the concepts?

Science Education Background

In the past, science education focused on rote memorization and learning disjointed ideas. Elementary and secondary students in today’s science classes are fortunate now that science instruction has shifted from students demonstrating what they know to students demonstrating how they are able to apply their knowledge. Science education that reflects the Next Generation Science Standards challenges students to conduct investigations. As students explore phenomena and discrepant events they engage in academic discourse guided by focus questions from their teachers or student generated questions of that arise from analyzing data and creating and revising models that explain natural phenomena. Learn More…

Written by Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke teaches TK-5 science at Markham Elementary in the Oakland Unified School District, is an NGSS Early Implementer, and is CSTA’s Secretary.