September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

Two Lessons for Spring – BZZZZ

Posted: Sunday, April 1st, 2012

by Rick Pomeroy

Non-Verbal Communications, Aka The Waggle Dance


Bees have been observed communicating the location of rich pollen sites to other bees in their hives by doing a “dance” that indicates the direction and distance to a pollen source. In this activity, you will simulate the bee wiggle dance by creating a series of non- verbal body signals that will direct other students to a “flower’s” location.

For more information on the Bee Waggle Dance, check out the following link:


1. Select 2 people to serve as “Scout” bees for their respective hives (the classroom).  Hide two prizes in another area of your building to represent a flower that is a rich source of pollen.  Show the scouts the location of the “flower”

2. Demonstrate the Bee Wiggle Dance motions that represent direction and distance. These could include tail wagging, arm flapping, spinning or hopping.  For this activity, the dance motions are as follows:

a) Distance:  Steps- 1 step for near 5 steps for far.  Steps should come before spins

b) Direction: Spinning in circles.  After three rotations, the direction the bee is facing is the direction to the “flower”.

c) Elevation: Fold arms like wings.  Wings point to relative elevation of the “flower”

3. After showing the scouts the location of the “flower” have them dance the directions to the flower using only non-verbal cues.

4. Send the worker bees out to pollinate (bring back the prize).

5. Recognize the winning team.

Chemo Receptors in Bees


Bees utilize a very sensitive sense of smell to identify hive mates and queens so that they can be sure that they are in the correct colony when returning from pollination forays away from the hive.  In this activity, you will use smell (chemo receptors) to identify hive mates. Once you determine your hive mate, you will attempt to determine if you are in the correct hive. You will know you are in the correct hive if your scent matches the scent of the queen bee “Q”.  If you are in the wrong hive, the other bees will force you out.


Prepare two sets of scent vials using two common spices so that you have enough unique scents for every person in the class. Avoid any spices that might cause allergic reactions.  (A nice multi-cultural twist is to select cooking spices from stores that specialize in non-western cooking).   Be sure to use distinct scents to facilitate finding a hive mate.  Prepare one additional scent vial using one of the two scents marked “Q” to represent the queen bee.  You may need to poke small holes in the top of the scent vial and you may want to insert a thin layer of cotton or part of a cotton ball on the inside of the lid to prevent the scent substance from coming out. Students should rely solely on their sense of smell to find a partner.  No opening the containers or tapping out contents on the table. Film canisters make great sense containers but digital photography makes finding these canisters more and more difficult. It is important that the containers be opaque to emphasize the need to use only the sense of smell.


1. Distribute scent vials randomly throughout the classroom.

2. Give students an opportunity to identify hive mates.  It may help to turn lights down to facilitate a heightened sense of smell. It is often difficult for students to filter out visual or auditory stimuli in an effort to concentrate on the olfactory cues

3. Once hive mates have been identified, introduce the queen scent vial and have teams determine if they are in the correct hive.

4. Discuss clues students used.  Would it have been as easy to do if the scents were not familiar to them?

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Written by Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy is science education lecturer/supervisor in the School of Education, University of California Davis.

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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.