Committed to the advancement, extension, improvement and coordination of Earth Science education across all levels

September 2016 News and Notes

This month's image is a snapshot of some of our PAESTA leaders! Leading us through this academic year are (left to right) Theresa Lewis-King, Chair of Teacher Advisory Committee; Christie Orlosky, President-Elect; Dave Curry, President; Kathy Tait, Past President. Missing from photo is Kelly Hunter, Secretary/Treasurer.

Don't forget, YOU can have one of your Pennsylvania Earth science photos featured in our eNewsletter and on our website and social media sites! Visit this link to learn how:
From the PAESTA President - Greetings from your President!

If you are like me and many of my teaching colleagues, your summer vacation ended not in a whimper, but in an immediate full sprint from teacher in-service meetings to parent/student emails, unpacking science standards and curricular frameworks to anxiety about whether your new students will like you. I wonder if the nearly three dozen students sitting in those chairs in front of me fully comprehend how nervous the teacher is on the first day of school! As I write this, my first teaching day was today!

But as busy as you are, remember that PAESTA is your go-to resource. One of the many goals of PAESTA is to provide our diverse teacher-members with useful information and supportive curricular resources to make their jobs easier and to improve the quality of Earth  and Space Science Education across the region. As you begin preparing for your science courses, you may be grappling with questions about what Earth science is really all about. Our PAESTA website can be a valuable resource for you when students, parents, or colleagues ask you for clarification. So as you start to plan your upcoming year of instruction, I invite you to visit our popular definitions page to help strengthen your understanding of the terms that are often used interchangeably in the Earth and Space Sciences. A few of the most viewed and frequented pages of our website concern basic content questions such as: What is the difference between Earth Science, Geology, and Geoscience? (answer) What is Earth Systems Science? (answer) and many others. These pages are a great place to start with your introductory lessons. Why not assign these links to students as required reading? Kudos go out to PAESTA members for building this extremely informative and popular section of our PAESTA website. Please check it out!

Are you ready for Earth Science Week from October 9-15? Earth Science Week is coming up, and it is time to start making plans for how you will bring this week alive in your classrooms! Please visit our special section of the PAESTA website to get ideas and hints on how to make the most of this event: link. For 2016, the theme of Earth Science Week is Our Shared Geoheritage. I would like to call your attention to the opening focus day of Earthcaching, which is an outstanding way to get your students out of the classroom and into nature where geologists do most of their fieldwork. Earthcaching is not the exact same thing as geocaching. To learn more, please visit We would love to hear your plans and what you and your students are doing for Earth Science Week. Please consider submitting a picture or short blurb about your school activities so we can add them to our PAESTA website.

Finally, I urge you to consider having your students perform Earth/Space Science research outside the classroom at some point during the upcoming school year. Whether it is through Google Science Fair, the Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science (PJAS), The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF), or the many regional and state Science Olympiad competitions; some of the most valuable experiences I have had during my twenty plus year career as a science teacher has been in seeing what students are capable of outside the bounds of the traditional classroom. There is a great under-representation of Earth Science and Astronomy projects at most of the science fairs I judge, and I would love for PAESTA through our membership to help be the agent of change in this arena. Please consider sponsoring a student or group entry at your school/institution for science research events and encourage them to choose projects focused on the Earth Sciences and Astronomy. If you are not sure where to begin, please reach out to me personally and I would be happy to give you some direction of how and where to get started. September is the perfect time to start planting the seeds of this idea with your community of learners. School administrators are often extremely supportive of this kind of activity, so bring them on-board early. Also look for PAESTA to take a more active role in shaping the direction of regional science fair competitions and their judging criteria in the future, especially through our member connections with the PJAS.

Dave Curry

September PAESTAR - Pennsylvania Earth Science Teacher Achievement Recognition

This month we recognize Nicole Fuhrman of Strong Vincent High School in Erie, Pennsylvania, for being the District IV winner of the 2016 NSTA/Shell Science Lab Challenge. Because most of Nicole's students did not learn science concepts in primary school years, they lack the knowledge to understand more abstract, complex concepts in high school. Hands-on activities make these abstract concepts concrete and give students confidence to delve deeper into the content. Because Erie City School District has budget challenges, the school's lab facilities are incomplete and have very few technology resources. However, Nicole has improved student learning by using simple materials in creative ways to have students understand concepts such as the formation of igneous rocks. The opportunity to work with real scientific tools adds authenticity to classroom experiences and legitimacy to students' work, which is why NSTA/Shell has recognized Nicole for her creativity and innovation.

Congratulations, Nicole - you clearly are a

Now Accepting Nominations - PAESTA Award for Teaching Excellence 2016  

Deadline: November 1, 2016
Application online at PAESTA website:

PAESTA annually recognizes a dedicated Pennsylvania K-12 teacher who has made exemplary contributions to the field of Earth and Space Science education. The award will be presented at the PAESTA Annual Conference, where the recipient will be awarded a plaque. Please take time to nominate someone (or perhaps yourself) that has made a difference in any or all of the following criteria.

  • Demonstrated sustained excellence and exemplary Earth and Space Science teaching
  • Effective use of Earth and Space Science printed and technological materials
  • Presented and/or published in the field of Earth and Space Science
  • Served as an advocate for Earth and Space Science teaching and learning beyond the classroom
The application is to be submitted online. Application deadline is November 1.

***NEW*** PAESTA Favorite Books 

In addition to building up our collection of podcasts and videos, we are adding to our collection of favorite books! We hope you will use these books for your own information gathering and/or with your upper-level students. We are looking to expand the collection to books for earlier grades and readers. If you have suggestions, please contact us and let us know!

The Big Thirst - The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water, by Charles Fishman  --  On the PAESTA website, you will find a description, supporting materials such as a reading guide, and questions for students to respond to outside of class or in class during a gallery walk exercise.

Harvest for Hope - A Guide to Mindful Eating, by Jane Goodall  --  On the PAESTA website, this book, "
an exploration of the global meaning of food and what all of us can do to exercise power over the food industry and, ultimately, our environment," has questions for students to respond to outside of or inside class.

National Geographic Educator Certification program  

Do you believe in empowering students to think like explorers? In building geographic competency across disciplines? In inspiring students to be global thinkers who can change the world? If so, consider being a part of the first cohort in the National Geographic Educator Certification program. The program seeks to inspire educators to teach students about the world in innovative and interdisciplinary ways. The experience will provide you with professional recognition and development; connections and community with like-minded educators; and relationships, resources, and perks with National Geographic. Teachers may complete the program in fall, winter, or spring, beginning on September 12. Learn more at:

Recycle Bowl Competition

Keep America Beautiful announced registration is now open for their K-12 Recycle Bowl Competition designed to invigorate student participation in recycling. The objectives of the competition include: new recycling programs established within schools, the increase of recycling rates in schools that currently recycle and the provision of teacher/student educational opportunities about recycling and waste reduction. The deadline for registration is October 11. The competition begins October 17 and runs through November 15, America Recycles Day.

At Nat Geo Website - Print Free Topographical Maps


National Geographic has simplified the interface and process to access and print free copies of the U.S. Geological Survey topographical maps. Anyone can quickly find any quad in the country for downloading and printing. Each quad has been pre-processed to print on a standard home, letter size printer. These are the same quads that were printed by USGS for decades on giant bus-sized presses but are now available in multi-page PDFs that can be printed just about anywhere. Get started at:

Resources from Science Friday Educate

Science Friday Educate emails a weekly guide that links teachers to a curated set of classroom-length audio excerpts, videos, and articles from Science Friday. Each piece of media accompanied by questions for students and a printable transcript. You can also search by grade level, duration, and subject. Here's an example of their weekly email. Start exploring at:

Get Science News magazines for free in your high school

For 2016-2017, issues of Science News are free to 4,000 public high schools and public charter schools. Teachers and schools can sign up now to receive 10 print copies of each issue and full digital access to the Science News website and archive. Each issue will also come with an educator guide that includes discussion questions to help students interact with the material. Sign up now at:

Flipside Science - youth-powered videos on environmental issues  

Flipside Science is a youth-powered series that tackles complex environmental topics. This engaging and upbeat collection of videos, hosted by youth from the California Academy of Sciences, explores local environmental solutions ranging from vertical farming to greywater recycling. Designed with a middle-school audience in mind, Flipside Science is a media-rich unit perfect for educators looking to engage their students in design thinking activities around environmental issues. The series will appeal to anyone wanting to learn more about science and sustainability. To explore and download free educator resources, visit:

Case Study -  Radioactivity and Half-Lives  

This case study discusses a possible national security crisis of a terrorist group stealing radioactive materials in an attempt to build and detonate a dirty bomb over a densely populated metropolitan area. Specifically, this case discusses radioactive decay, which has many applications from carbon-14 dating of ancient manuscripts to dating the age of the solar system to radiation sickness. Radioactive decay can be discussed in a number of courses, in physics, chemistry, earth science, health science courses and others. The case study questions cover a range of applications, and instructors can choose a subset of these questions depending on the main interest of their class. This exercise can easily be scaled to the level of your students.
To directly access the case, teaching notes, and key, go to the case record at:

Opportunities at the Independence Seaport Museum (Philadelphia)  

A message from our friends at the Independence Seaport Museum  --  At Independence Seaport Museum, water is the unifying thread, bridging the Museum’s National Historic Landmark ships with exhibitions and programs that let visitors discover the science, history and culture of our waterways. Featuring such popular educational programming as Deep Sea Science, Sound Under the Sea, Ecological Stowaways, and Ecology of the Delaware, a field trip to Independence Seaport Museum is perfect for all ages! Please contact Alexis Furlong, Assistant Director of Sales, at 215-413-8622 or to start planning your trip today. Visit the website:

How Are Your Students Visualizing Geoheritage?

When you hear the term "geoheritage," what image does it conjure in your mind? Visualizations can be an effective way of exploring "Our Shared Geoheritage," the theme of Earth Science Week 2016 (October 9-15).

Visualizations are graphic depictions of data. Using technologies ranging from on-site data collection to satellite-based remote sensing, geoscientists investigate Earth systems. And geoscientists display their findings in visual media such as charts, diagrams, illustrations, videos, computer-generated animations, and 3D-printed creations.

Now you can explore our planet's geoheritage through "Visualizing Earth Systems," a recent addition to the Earth Science Week website. The page links you to dozens of recommended visualizations dealing with energy, climate, minerals, water, hazards, and other topics linked to Earth's natural history and its relationship to society.

Visit the Visualizing Earth Systems page at In addition, the page links you to overviews of these topics provided by AGI's Critical Issues Program (, featuring additional information on timely topics. You may also want to explore the content we have compiled for Earth Science Week on the PAESTA website.

National conversations about Earth science and Earth Science education

It is important for teachers across all levels, K-16 and beyond, to be aware of the national conversations and discussions as they relate to our discipline and profession. Here are some interesting reads on Earth science and Earth science education taking place at the national level:

Additional information on the PAESTA website

We have lots of news and notices this month - too many to put in our newsletter! We encourage you to check out these announcements (and more!) on the PAESTA website:

A Rare Look Inside The Doomsday Seed Vault Deep In The Arctic (from DNews)

If society endures an apocalypse what will we eat?! Seed vaults are our food-preservation time capsule for the future.  Here is the direct video link:
"Deep inside a mountain on a remote island in the Svalbard archipelago, halfway between mainland Norway and the North Pole, lies the Global Seed Vault."
First Withdrawal From Doomsday Vault
"Earlier this month (October 19, 2015), seeds deposited in 2012 from war-torn Syria became the Svalbard Global Seed Vault's first-ever withdrawal. The seed vault - located in Norway, sometimes called the Doomsday Vault - was built in 2008. Since then, researchers there have been storing containers of seeds from all parts of the globe in the vault, and this is the first time they've removed seeds."

Crop Diversity In The Sustainable Development Goals
"The biggest challenge of our time. Agricultural biodiversity is a prerequisite for sustainable agriculture and food security."
Do you have any items or announcements to share in News and Notes? Contact us!
News and Notes Editor  --  Laura Guertin
News and Notes Assistant Editor  --  Greg Collins
Copyright © 2016 PAESTA (Pennsylvania Earth Science Teachers Association), All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp