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

December 2016 News and Notes

This month's image is from PAESTA member Greg Collins, where he captured Bear Run, coursing through the woods of Fayette County. In the background, Pottsville Formation rocks like those used in the exterior of Frank Lloyd Wright's iconic Fallingwater. You can view this image and all past images geospatially located on a map at: 

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:

December PAESTAR - Pennsylvania Earth Science Teacher Achievement Recognition

This month we recognize the Penn State Brandywine Vairo Library for their support of national Earth science celebrations. This fall, the library staff created a display with books and an iPad with TED videos during Earth Science Week in October. In November, the library had a similar display table for Geography Awareness Week and even issued a formal proclamation to celebrate GAW. We are pleased to see the Vairo Library call attention to their Earth science resources and encouragement for their visitors to learn more.

Congratulations, Penn State Brandywine Vairo Library - you clearly are a

Congratulations 2016 PAESTA Award Winners 

We congratulate our TWO award winners that were recognized at the 2016 PAESTA Science Conference held at Penn State Brandywine last month. Our Award for Teaching Excellence was awarded to Veronika Paluch (Agnes Irwin School, read the press release). And we instituted a new award, the Outstanding Service Award, to recognize the volunteer contributions of our members. Our first honoree is Greg Collins, former Assistant Editor for News and Notes (read the citation). Congratulations to Veronika and Greg!

Wrap-Up for 2016 PAESTA Science Conference - and next conference in Pittsburgh in March 2017  

We thank everyone for a successful 2016 PAESTA Science Conference! This new format allowed us to engage with scientists and sharpen our content knowledge on climate science. The PAESTA Meetings Committee will be reviewing your conference feedback as we plan for future events. The PowerPoints of our speakers and their contact information, as well as electronic copies of some of the materials in the conference bag, are posted on the conference website. You can also review photos from the conference.

If you are heading to Regional NSTA in Columbus, stop by the NESTA Share-A-Thon and say hello to President-Elect Christie Orlosky on Friday, Dec. 2, 11AM-12PM.

PAESTA is working with the K-12 programming committee to have a K-12 Teacher Weekend at the regional Geological Society of America Meeting in Pittsburgh, PA, March 18-19. Visit the PAESTA conference page to learn more about the conference and the opportunity to present your pedagogical innovations on climate and energy! Note that the abstract deadline is January 3, 2017, and there will be a registration fee to attend this conference.

From the EPA - Are you climate ready?  

The EPA has a fun quiz that allows you to check your climate change personality. The quiz has nine multiple-choice questions, and the responses are used to determine your awareness.

The quiz can be accessed at:

CONTEST: Cassini Scientist For a Day 2016-17

An essay contest for students in grades 5-12

The Cassini Scientist for a Day contest challenges students to become NASA scientists studying Saturn. Participants examine three possible observations taken by Cassini and are tasked to choose the one they think will yield the best scientific results. This choice must then be supported in essay. The contest meets U.S. National English and Science Education Standards.

Contest deadline is February 24, 2017. For more information, please visit:

Junior Paleontologist Program  

The Junior Paleontologist Program is a part of the National Park Service Junior Ranger Program. The goal of the Junior Ranger Program is to connect young people to their national parks through a variety of in-park activities that are designed to introduce them to the national park system and cultivate future generations of park stewards. Programs range from simple scavenger hunts for younger children, to multi-day ranger-led activities. Over 200 National Park Service areas currently have Junior Ranger programs. To learn more about NPS Junior Ranger programs, visit The NPS WebRanger program is an online Junior Ranger program. Learn more about National Park Service kids programs at There is a Junior Paleontologist Activity Booklet that can be downloaded at low resolution and high resolution. Learn more at

Nat Geo Explorer Classroom

Want to show your students that science, exploration, and conservation are alive outside of their textbooks? Join a live video conference with a National Geographic explorer.

All you need to participate in an Explorer Classroom session is the ability to access YouTube. Many classrooms also use a projector or a series of tablets for the live stream. Register for an Explorer Classroom session by clicking “Register Now” next to the live stream you’d like to attend. You’ll find the link to the live stream on the registration form. There’s also a teacher’s guide to support your lesson planning around the Explorer Classroom session. The first six classrooms to register will be awarded on-camera spots. Those students will have the opportunity to interact with the featured explorer directly—just like in a Skype call. If you are one of the six, you’ll hear from Nat Geo by email one week before the event. If you do not secure a camera spot, no worries! An unlimited number of people can watch live, and you can still interact and ask questions by tweeting #letsexplore. The Explorer Classroom sessions will record directly to YouTube, so you can always view them again later. Simply click the same link you used to watch the event live.

To view the upcoming live video sessions and to register, please visit:

The Sands of Earth, and Beyond

Science Friday has published a fascinating article that profiles Gary Greenberg and how he uses 3D microscopes to inspect the diversity of sand grains. Along with the article, the Science Friday website has Reading Questions and Activity Ideas for students. There are also links to online sand atlases.  

New online tool takes students to the microscopic world  

MyScope Outreach is a free, online tool designed to make microscopy education fun and accessible to students everywhere. It is an easy-to-use platform that teaches students about electron microscopy and gives them a glimpse of the microscopic world. Very few schools have access to high-powered scanning electron microscopes. But this new resource lets students see the microscopic world via an SEM simulator—among other tools. Basic information, glossary, and activities are also included. Be sure to check out the Celtic Sea Salt!

Start exploring at:

Educational blogs for the latest in science and pedagogy 

If you are looking for some quick reads and fresh ideas over the holiday break, we encourage you to check out these blogs:
  • National Geographic Education Blog
  • NSTA Blog - the National Science Teachers Association has a collection of blogs on topic from mentoring to safety to books. They also have an article on blogging with students in your science classroom.
  • GeoEd Trek - a blog on the American Geophysical Union website that discusses geoscience education, educational technology, and science communication.
Example post (from NSTA Blog) - Science and the Star Wars Universe
When Rogue One: A Star Wars Story debuts later this month, science teachers who use the Star Wars films in their classrooms will have another tool not just for teaching science, but also for integrating it with other subjects. The films “are a great place to integrate science and the arts,” ... “If teachers are worried about STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) leaving out the arts, [the films] are a great place to make that connection.”   (*note image is from public domain in Wikimedia Commons)

NEW BOOK: Science Literacy: Concepts, Contexts, and Consequences  

Science is a way of knowing about the world. At once a process, a product, and an institution, science enables people to both engage in the construction of new knowledge as well as use information to achieve desired ends. Access to science—whether using knowledge or creating it—necessitates some level of familiarity with the enterprise and practice of science: we refer to this as science literacy.

Science literacy is desirable not only for individuals, but also for the health and well- being of communities and society. More than just basic knowledge of science facts, contemporary definitions of science literacy have expanded to include understandings of scientific processes and practices, familiarity with how science and scientists work, a capacity to weigh and evaluate the products of science, and an ability to engage in civic decisions about the value of science. Although science literacy has traditionally been seen as the responsibility of individuals, individuals are nested within communities that are nested within societies—and, as a result, individual science literacy is limited or enhanced by the circumstances of that nesting.

Science Literacy studies the role of science literacy in public support of science. This report synthesizes the available research literature on science literacy, makes recommendations on the need to improve the understanding of science and scientific research in the United States, and considers the relationship between scientific literacy and support for and use of science and research.

The book can be purchased or downloaded for free from National Academies Press at:

From our friends at PAEE

Registration is now open! The deadline to submit proposals for presentations and workshops has been extended to December 16th. Visit the PAEE website to learn more:

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:

There Could Have Been Life On Venus! (from DNews)

Scientists believe Venus was once Earth-like. How is this possible and what caused the planet to turn toxic?  Here is the direct video link:
"Scientists call Venus Earth's twin planet and for good reason. Our two planets are similar in size, mass, density, gravity, and composition. Of course, they have some enormous differences as well; differences that would kill you instantly if you tried to step foot on Earth's twin planet. Earth's evil twin planet, maybe."
Was Venus Alive? 'The Signs Are Probably There'
"Only 20 percent of the sunlight that hits Venus makes it through the cloudcover, while the other 80 percent is reflected back into space. This reduced sunlight doesn't make Venus a cold world, however, because the thick carbon dioxide atmosphere traps the planet's heat. This greenhouse effect on Venus is often cited as a nightmare example of what could happen to Earth if we don't get our pollution under control."
"Venus is-without a doubt-Earth's toxic sibling. Although both worlds are similar in size and density, our planetary neighbor has temperatures so high they can melt lead, winds that whip around it some 60 times faster than the planet itself rotates and an atmosphere that slams down with more than 90 times the pressure found on Earth's atmosphere."
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  --  (vacant)
Copyright © 2016 PAESTA (Pennsylvania Earth Science Teachers Association), All rights reserved.

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