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

November 2013 News and Notes

This month's photo shows a Tyrannosaurus rex greeting visitors to the Academy of Natural Science's Dinosaurs Unearthed temporary exhibit. You can view this image and all future 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:
From the PAESTA President - Conference Wrap-up and the Franklin Institute

First and foremost, thank you to all that attended our second annual PAESTA conference last month.  We had a great turnout at this year’s conference and the presentations were stellar.  I am so thankful to all of our presenters at the conference.  Also, a big thank you to our keynote speakers Dr. David Bauman from Pennsylvania Department of Education, Dr. Scott McDonald from Penn State University, and Theresa Lewis-King from AMY Northwest Middle School.  In addition, we awarded our second annual PAESTA Award for Teaching Excellence to Lauren Beal of AMY Northwest Middle School in Philadelphia, PA.  If you know a teacher that does outstanding work in Earth and Space Sciences that you want to nominate for an award, please do!  Nominate that special teacher to be our next PAESTAR!

This month, PAESTA will be at the Franklin Institute’s Educator’s Night Out on Wednesday, November 13.  PAESTA will be at the Franklin Institute supporting their new “One Day in Pompeii” exhibit and handing out a resource on volcanoes for teachers to use in the classroom.  I hope you can attend this great event!  With this in mind, this month’s PAESTA Current Topics forum will focus on volcanoes.  Do you teach about volcanic activity in your classroom?  If so, what fun activities do you want to share?  Be a teacher leader and submit your innovative ideas to our monthly forum.  I look forward to seeing some of you on November 13!!!

Kelly Hunter - PAESTA President

November PAESTAR - Pennsylvania Earth Science Teacher Achievement Recognition

This month, we recognize Susan Lauver for her daily attention and dedication she gives to our PAESTA organization.  Sue is the Project Manager for Penn State University's Earth and Space Science Partnership and has provided essential staff support for all of PAESTA's activities.  From ordering PAESTA conference bags and Earth Science Week kits, to creating name tags and checking in attendees at our annual conferences, Sue has played a critical role in helping the organization serve the needs of the Earth and Space Science teaching community.

Congratulations, Sue - you clearly are a

LET US KNOW! Are you presenting at PSTA or NSTA?

The PSTA conference is taking place next month in State College, and NSTA has just sent out their acceptances for presentations at their annual national conference to be held in Boston, April 3-6, 2014.  If you are giving a presentation at either conference, please let us know so we can add you to our PAESTA Citations page!


With a greater push for teachers to connect across disciplines and to integrate nonfiction reading and writing, we are creating an annual showcase that highlights outstanding student work with an Earth or Space science theme in written or multimedia formats. Student work may be a narrative, an essay, a poem, a photo, a video… any piece of nonfiction generated by a student of a PAESTA member. We are looking for something beyond a scientific report (for example, we do not want a student paper on “The 1980 Eruption of Mount Saint Helens”), and the topic must be related to Earth and/or Space science.

To learn more about this program and how YOU can contribute the innovations of one of your students, please visit:

Call for Abstracts - Geological Society of America Northeastern Conference 

Don't miss this regional conference for K-16 educators, March 23-25, 2014, in Lancaster, PA. The following session is looking for abstracts from teachers to give an oral presentation on their classroom innovations with NGSS!

T11. Examples of Next-Generation Science Standards Implemented in the K–12 Classroom by and for Teachers
Co-chaired by Tanya Furman and Laura Guertin

Description: This session seeks to encourage K–12 teachers to present their instructional methods and curricular innovations as they integrate the new NGSS (The Next Generation Science Standards) into their classroom teaching. We look forward to having K–12 teachers share early successes and challenges with the NGSS. In addition, we welcome university faculty and informal science educators to share their materials and resources that are benefitting K–12 teachers and classrooms.

Submit an abstract:
Questions?  Contact or

Abstract deadline:  December 10

Rocks in the Native American Cultures

November is Native American Heritage Month, and geology provides an exciting lens through which to study American Indian societies.  Geology is one of the many disciplines used by archaeologists in their search for evidence and understanding of past cultures.  A brief video featuring USGS geologist Ken Pierce presents an example of the use of geological techniques in the study of tribal life at Yellowstone.

To get your students applying their knowledge of rocks to other fields, visit the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian online collection.  There, students can search the database for stone tools by type or region.  Using photos and rock details, students can explain why certain materials were used for specific implements.

For a more hands-on experience, ask students to build Native American drills.  Using stones they have strategically selected based on mineral properties, perhaps along with sticks and twine, they can create a tool that can be tested in the classroom.  Making it a competition may add to student motivation, as might showing them how local tribes used drills in wigwam construction.  It makes for a fun Thanksgiving-week exploration!

Interactive: Mapping the Shale Gas Boom

From the Smithsonian Institution's Special Report on Energy Innovation - This online map tracks the shale gas boom in the United States. Click around the map to see where energy companies are using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to force tightly trapped oil and gas from the fine-grained sedimentary rocks known as shale. You can explore which states are leading production, which companies are involved, and zoom in to see wells in a local area. For each state, data shows production rates since 2009. This resource does not include a lesson plan but can serve as an excellent start for a classroom discussion or individual writing assignment.

You can access the map at:

New Online Teacher Resources from the National Park Service

The National Park Service has launched a new National Park Service online service for educators that uses spectacular natural landscapes to teach science and the authentic places where history happened to infuse an understanding of the challenges we have faced as a nation.

The website at  is user-friendly and easily searchable by location, keyword, and more than 125 subjects, ranging from archaeology to biology to Constitutional law.  An English class can study literature with a lesson plan from Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site, a history teacher can borrow a traveling trunk from Jefferson Expansion National Memorial to make the story of westward expansion come alive, science students can chat live with a ranger from Grand Canyon National Park, and future explorers can climb Mount McKinley in Denali National Park.

The site also features materials produced by National Park Service programs, including nearly 150 lesson plans from the National Register of Historic Places’ award-winning
Teaching with Historic Places program.

ISON is Coming!

Early pictures of Comet ISON have been fascinating!  This sungrazing comet, so classified because of its small perihelion, could become what NASA calls "The Great Comet of 2013!"

Astronomers will be watching closely in late November as the comet passes close by the Sun.  Organizations like the NASA Comet ISON Observing Campaign will be reporting regularly on their findings.  Check back frequently for new images. 

If ISON survives its stellar encounter, turn your students' eyes to the night skies as the comet has the potential to put on a show throughout December.

From our friends at NSTA: Win a Shell Science Lab Makeover Valued at $20,000 for Your School

Are you a science teacher succeeding in providing exemplary lab instruction with minimal equipment and resources? The Shell Science Lab Challenge offers you a chance to compete to win a school science lab makeover, valued at $20,000, by sharing your creative approach. Middle and high school science teachers (grades 6-12) in the United States and Canada who have found innovative ways to deliver quality lab experiences with limited school and laboratory resources are encouraged to apply! The deadline for submissions is December 20, 2013. All winners will receive science lab equipment, Shell cash grants, NSTA membership, and support to attend NSTA Conferences on Science Education. The grand prize winner and four national finalists will be honored at a special banquet and ceremony at NSTA's National Conference on Science Education in Boston in April 2014. For more information about the Challenge or to download an application, visit:

Did you miss the PAESTA Conference? You can still learn from conference materials posted online!

If you missed the morning keynote speaker, you are in luck - we recorded David Bauman's (Science Education Advisor for the PA Department of Education) talk on Scientific Thinking in Earth and Space Science, available for you to view on YouTube. Our conference speakers kindly provided their MS PowerPoint slides, images, and recommended links from their talks.  You can find these on the conference schedule and abstracts page.

We hope you are inspired and start thinking about how YOU can contribute next year to PAESTA's conference!
Copyright © 2013 PAESTA (Pennsylvania Earth Science Teachers Association), All rights reserved.
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