October 2012
News and Notes

SWITCH Energy Expert Videos
For those that were unable to join us for the special screening of Switch on the first night of the PAESTA conference, be sure to check out these online video clipls from the Switch website - all appropriate to share with your students in the classroom.  Keep an eye out for their supporting curricular material when it becomes available in the spring.

Science Bulletins
The American Museum of Natural History has an excellent collection of short video clips on current scientific events and discoveries titled Science Bulletins.  Science Bulletins uses HD video and animation to deliver the latest developments in the fields of astrophysics, Earth science, biodiversity and human biology.  The videos can be viewed online or downloaded.

For our members that teach younger students... Invite your students to visit the American Museum of Natural History's science website for kids - Ology. The website contains hands-on activities, games, and scientist interviews in Earth science, paleontology, water, climate change, and other science disciplines.

NOVA Presents Making Stuff: Cleaner
Can innovations in materials science help clean up our world? In "Making Stuff: Cleaner," David Pogue explores the rapidly developing science and business of clean energy and examines alternative ways to generate it, store it, and distribute it. Is hydrogen the way to go? What about lithium batteries? Does this solve an energy problem or create a new dependency? Pogue investigates the latest developments in bio-based fuels and in harnessing solar energy for our cars, homes, and industry in a program full of the stuff of a sustainable future.  Watch the entire program online, and check out their educational resources.

PAESTA Conference a Success - Thanks to Our Members!

We don't think the sun could have shined any brighter on the Penn State Brandywine campus, host site of the first annual PAESTA conference on October 12-13.  From the screening of the energy documentary Switch on Friday evening to the Saturday sessions of geoscience content and pedagogical approaches, Earth and space science educators from across Pennsylvania (as well as Virginia and Maryland!) connected with colleagues, shared best practices, and make connections with new collaborators and communities.  We thank everyone for their participation and attendance at our first confernece, and we look forward to continuing conversations and opportunities throughout the year, leading up to our next conference!

Congratulations to Heather Spotts - Our First Award Winner for Teaching Excellence!

At our conference, we recognized a dedicated Pennsylvania K-12 teacher who has made exemplary contributions to the field of Earth and Space Science education.  Congratulations to Heather Spotts, a 6th grade general science teacher from Bellefonte School District, as our first winner of the PAESTA Award for Teacher Excellence!

Heather is in her 8th year teaching 6th grade general science in this rural school district in Centre County.  Several years ago, three of the rural districts in central PA partnered together with higher ed faculty from Penn State and Lock Haven to form the "Rural Multidistrict Academic Space Alliance", which has since been renamed the "Academic STEM Alliance" (or ASA).  Heather has been a major partner in the ASA since the beginning, because she is always seeking out opportunities for her students and for herself to enrich their understanding of science.

Heather has also been extremely active in Penn State's Earth and Space Science Partnership and has been serving in the role of a teacher leader during this academic year. Heather has worked to build strong partnerships with her colleagues, and has built the foundation of a professional learning community in her district.  She is currently working on a master's degree and feels that her experiences in the partnership, which has included a networking and sharing of ideas with teachers from other districts throughout the state, have strongly influenced her decision to look at how teachers can be agents of change in their districts and how they can be active partners in their own professional development.
For her dedication to the profession of teaching, her leadership in her district, and her efforts to document her work and disseminate it to her fellow professionals throughout PA, we are proud to honor Heather as the first honoree of the PAESTA Award for Teaching Excellence.

Let Earth Science Week Begin!

Taking place October 14-20, 2012, the 15th annual Earth Science Week will celebrate the theme “Discovering Careers in the Earth Sciences” with a wide range of exciting activities, programs, and resources designed to promote awareness of the many exciting career opportunities available in the geosciences.  Be sure to share with young people the important work of Earth scientists. Conduct activities described on the Earth Science Week web site at  For those of you that attended the PAESTA conference, don't forget to utilize the resources you received in your Earth Science Week kit!

NASA Earth Explorers Join Earth Science Week!

Throughout Earth Science Week 2012 (October 14-20), students of all ages can connect to an incredible group of NASA Earth Explorers - from scientists and engineers to multimedia producers, educators and writers. Find out about their careers, how they study the planet, and what their typical day is like.  Blog posts, Google+ Hangouts and Twitter chats, as well as a webinar and radio interview in Spanish, are just some of the media activities that will allow explorers to tell their stories. You can directly participate by asking questions during the live events or by sending in questions beforehand.

Visit the 2012 NASA Earth Science Week web site ( for a collection of articles, event information, blog posts, videos, and other educational resources in English and Spanish.

October PAESTAR - Pennsylvania Earth Science Teacher Achievement Recognition

This month, we recognize Meredith Hill Bembenic, a postdoctoral researcher with the Earth and Space Science Partnership project at The Pennsylvania State University in State College.  Meredith began working with middle and high school teachers in Pennsylvania, Michigan and North Carolina as a graduate student fellow with the NSF-funded Transforming Earth System Science Education (TESSE) program for two years. With the ESSP project, Meredith has continued to develop and implement new curricular materials in several areas including energy and Earth sciences.  One example where Meredith has made a valuable contribution to classroom curricular materials is by serving as a collaborator on a six-day unit on coal and energy, which can be viewed on the PAESTA website.  Meredith is the lead author on a peer-reviewed publication about this unit, titled “Adaptable inquiry-based activities about national patterns of coal and energy use,” appearing in Science Scope.

Congratulations, Meredith - you are clearly a PAESTAR!

Volunteers Needed! Seeking members for committee service

PAESTA’s Teacher Advisory Committee is looking for 2-3 experienced Pennsylvania science teachers.  Please contact Theresa ( if you have questions or are interested in serving.  A new PAESTA committee, the Teaching Resources Committee, is looking for Pennsylvania teachers to organize and curate PAESTA’s online collection of teaching resources.  The committee is looking for five experienced Pennsylvania teachers.  Please contact Kelly ( with questions or if you are interested in joining this group critical in moving PAESTA forward with providing curricular materials online.

Copyright © 2012 PAESTA (Pennsylvania Earth Science Teachers Association), All rights reserved.
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