May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

UC Museum of Paleontology Wins the Prestigious SPORE Award

Posted: Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

by Judy ScotchmoorUnderstanding Science

[Editor’s note: In our January issue of CCS, CSTA announced that the UC Museum of Paleontology’s Understanding Science and Understanding Evolution websites had been awarded the prestigious Science Prize for Online Resources in Education—the SPORE award.  The following article by the project coordinator (and past CSTA board member), Judy Scotchmoor, describes the background and significance of the two websites.]

The journey for Understanding Evolution (UE) began in 2000 when UCMP hosted the National Conference on the Teaching of Evolution (NCTE)  Now known as “the conference with legs” due to the ongoing collaborations initiated at that meeting, NCTE brought together more than 45 scientific, educational, and media organizations to discuss how to better support evolution education.  Lack of good teaching resources was one of the identified needs and led to a successful proposal to the National Understanding EvolutionScience Foundation (ESI-0096613) to build a resource for K-12 teachers to increase their content knowledge, confidence, and access to resources that would, in turn, increase their teaching of evolution.  With additional funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the initial site immediately expanded to include materials for K-12 students and the general public and Understanding Evolution launched in 2004.Tibetan sample

Since that time, the site has continued to expand and attract a large, international audience, averaging more than 1.2 million pages accesses each month during the academic year.  Partnerships with other universities have resulted in translations in Spanish, Turkish, and Tibetan (see figures), and others are underway.  We continue to add new features based Turkish sampleupon audience input, offering a monthly feature called Evo in the News, research profiles, case studies, and interactive investigations, all of which help to reinforce the relevance of evolution and the science of evolution.  With an additional NSF grant (DUE-0918741), we are currently undergoing another expansion to provide resources to support undergraduate teaching.   This grant will also allow an Spanish sampleupgrade to our navigation system and access to new resources such as an image library, access to labs using real datasets, and the inclusion of an interactive syllabus that connects instructors to slide sets that encourage the integration of evolution throughout the biology curriculum.

With a focus on evolution education, the journey has not been free of challenges, and during the process, it became increasingly clear to us that some of the confusions about evolution were similar to confusions about climate change, conservation issues, etc.  The problem was really with a poor public understanding of science and how it works – thus the development of Understanding Science (NSF- EAR-0624436), which launched in 2009.  Barely two years old, this site provides resources that shift the paradigm from teaching science as a set of facts or a rigid, linear method to one that better reflects how science is really done.  By focusing on science as a dynamic and iterative process, we hope to better engage students and the general public with science, its relevance to their lives, its importance to society, and ultimately, the realization that evolution is good science.

Much of the success of these sites lies in (1) the active role of teachers (our primary target audience) in their development, (2) a full-team approach, and (3) extraordinary collaborations.  In both cases, we brought together the necessary scientists, science educators, teachers, writers, and Web designers to inform content and design from start to finish.  Through the various phases of development for Understanding Evolution, we have had invaluable input from 40 advisors from 30 institutions representing 14 states.  For Understanding Science, there are 35 advisors from 30 institutions and 14 states.  Project partners have included the National Center for Science Education, the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent), and the American Institute of Biological Sciences.  As a result, this award belongs to a huge number of people, who respond to review requests, check facts, add new ideas, suggest resources, and generally encourage.

UCMP is dedicated to maintaining these important educational resources, which ultimately will contribute to a more scientifically literate society.  We are extremely grateful to those who have offered financial support toward their sustainability.

Check out the Understanding Evolution and Understanding Science websites.  The  Their article on the projects was published in the December 24, 2010 issue of Science and is available online at:

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.

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CSTA Annual Conference Early Bird Rates End July 14

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

Teachers engaged in workshop activity

Teachers engaging in hands-on learning during a workshop at the 2016 CSTA conference.

Don’t miss your chance to register at the early bird rate for the 2017 CSTA Conference – the early-bird rate closes July 14. Need ideas on how to secure funding for your participation? Visit our website for suggestions, a budget planning tool, and downloadable justification letter to share with your admin. Want to take advantage of the early rate – but know your district will pay eventually? Register online today and CSTA will reimburse you when we receive payment from your district/employer. (For more information on how that works contact Zi Stair in the office for details – 916-979-7004 or

New Information Now Available On-line:

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.

Goodbye Outgoing and Welcome Incoming CSTA Board Members

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Jill Grace

Jill Grace, CSTA President, 2017-2019

On July 1, 2017 five CSTA members concluded their service and four new board members joined the ranks of the CSTA Board of Directors. CSTA is so grateful for all the volunteer board of directors who contribute hours upon hours of time and energy to advance the work of the association. At the June 3 board meeting, CSTA was able to say goodbye to the outgoing board members and welcome the incoming members.

This new year also brings with it a new president for CSTA. As of July 1, 2017 Jill Grace is the president of the California Science Teachers Association. Jill is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, a former middle school science teacher, and is currently a Regional Director with the K-12 Alliance @ WestEd where she works with California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative districts and charter networks in the San Diego area.

Outgoing Board Members

  • Laura Henriques (President-Elect: 2011 – 2013, President: 2013 – 2015, Past President: 2015 – 2017)
  • Valerie Joyner (Region 1 Director: 2009 – 2013, Primary Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Mary Whaley (Informal Science Education Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Sue Campbell (Middle School/Jr. High Director: 2015 – 2017)
  • Marcus Tessier (2-Year College Director: 2015 – 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.

Finding My Student’s Motivation of Learning Through Engineering Tasks

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Huda Ali Gubary and Susheela Nath

It’s 8:02 and the bell rings. My students’ walk in and pick up an entry ticket based on yesterday’s lesson and homework. My countdown starts for students to begin…3, 2, 1. Ten students are on task and diligently completing the work, twenty are off task with behaviors ranging from talking up a storm with their neighbors to silently staring off into space. This was the start of my classes, more often than not. My students rarely showed the enthusiasm for a class that I had eagerly prepared for. I spent so much time searching for ways to get my students excited about the concepts they were learning. I wanted them to feel a connection to the lessons and come into my class motivated about what they were going to learn next. I would ask myself how I could make my class memorable where the kids were in the driver’s seat of learning. Incorporating engineering made this possible. 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 California NGSS k-8 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.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Unveils Updated Recommended Literature List

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson unveiled an addition of 285 award-winning titles to the Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list.

“The books our students read help broaden their perspectives, enhance their knowledge, and fire their imaginations,” Torlakson said. “The addition of these award-winning titles represents the state’s continued commitment to the interests and engagement of California’s young readers.”

The Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list is a collection of more than 8,000 titles of recommended reading for children and adolescents. Reflecting contemporary and classic titles, including California authors, this online list provides an exciting range of literature that students should be reading at school and for pleasure. Works include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama to provide for a variety of tastes, interests, and abilities. Learn More…

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:

Teaching Science in the Time of Alternative Facts – Why NGSS Can Help (somewhat)

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn

The father of one of my students gave me a book: In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood by Walt Brown, Ph. D. He had heard that I was teaching Plate Tectonics and wanted me to consider another perspective. The book offered the idea that the evidence for plate tectonics could be better understood if we considered the idea that beneath the continent of Pangaea was a huge underground layer of water that suddenly burst forth from a rift between the now continents of Africa and South America. The waters shot up and the continents hydroplaned apart on the water layer to their current positions. The force of the movement pushed up great mountain ranges which are still settling to this day, resulting in earthquakes along the margins of continents. This had happened about 6,000 years ago and created a great worldwide flood. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

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