Thursday, December 31, 2009

Dr. Richard A. Smith Passes Away

Dr. Richard Smith, retired San Jose State University geology professor and longtime member of the Far Western Section of the NAGT has passed away:

From the Redlands Tribune:

Richard A. Smith, 85, died December 13, 2009, at his home in Oakland. He was the son of Howard and Marcella Smith, original owners of Smith's Jewelers.

Richard was raised in Redlands, graduating from Redlands High School in 1942. He served with the U.S. Army Air Corps for two years during World War II, then returned to Stanford, graduating in 1948. He received his master's degree from Stanford in 1950 and his doctorate in education from Colorado State University in 1956.

Dr. Smith joined the faculty at San Jose State University in 1955, served as a coordinator for the Peace Corps from 1964 to 1966 and retired from SJSU in 1987 as associate dean of the geology and natural sciences department.

Dr. Smith was predeceased by his parents and his wife, Jane. He is survived by his present wife, Delcye, of Oakland, his sister, Patti, four children, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

For those who might be interested, Dick's memorial service will be held on Saturday, January 16 at 1:00 pm at:

First Lutheran Church
600 Homer Ave.
Palo Alto, CA 94301

There is a map and directions on their web site at

More on Dick's life can be found here.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Secondary Level Earth Science Classes and the University of California

From Wendy Van Norden, co-founder of CalESTA, California Earth Science Teachers Association (

California Earth Science educators:

Below you will find a petition to the Academic Council of the University of California. At this time, the "d" requirements for a lab science specifies only biology, chemistry and physics. If you are in favor of petitioning the UC Academic council to include Earth, Environmental, and Space Sciences as a choice for a "d" lab science, please "sign" the following petition by sending the following to Wendy Van Norden at

I support the petition from the California Association of Earth Science Teachers to the Academic Council to include Earth, Environmental and Space Sciences as a choice for the "d" lab requirement for admission to the UC system.




Please forward this petition to any interested educators. Thank you.



We, the undersigned request that the UC High School “d” requirements for laboratory science be amended to include “Earth, Environmental, and Space Sciences” as a choice for admission to the UC system:

I. Currently the UC High School area “d” requirement states that students shall take “two and preferably three courses from the following sciences: biology, chemistry, and physics.”

II. We, the undersigned, request that the “area d” requirements for laboratory science be amended to include “Earth, environmental, and space sciences” as an additional choice for admissions to the UC system. Earth, environmental, and space sciences broadly defined include content in astronomy, ecology, geology, meteorology, oceanography, Earth systems science, environmental science, planetary science, and other topics within the integrative study of all or parts of the Earth’s atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, and lithosphere; of the solar system, and of the cosmos. The text of the UC Area-d requirement is proposed to then read:

“two and preferably three courses from the following sciences: biology, chemistry, physics, and Earth, environmental, and space sciences.”

III. To be considered for certification in the “d” subject area courses (in Earth, environmental, and space sciences) must meet the same requirements as biology, chemistry and physics, which is described in

• specify, at a minimum, elementary algebra as a prerequisite or co-requisite;

• take an approach consistent with the scientific method in relation to observing, forming hypotheses, testing hypotheses through experimentation and/or further observation, and forming objective conclusions; and

• include hands-on scientific activities that are directly related to and support the other classwork, and that involve inquiry, observation, analysis, and write-up. These hands-on activities should account for at least 20% of class time, and should be itemized and described in the course description.

IV. We make this request in consideration of the following points

a. We California educators want to teach rigorous Earth , Environmental, and Space Science content to college-bound students. However, because the UC system does not accept Earth Science as a “d” laboratory course, administrators are actively discouraging us from doing so. The removal of Earth science courses from the “d” laboratory status has encouraged schools to drop Earth science courses, or to drop the laboratory component of Earth science courses. Even if we are able to teach a rigorous Earth Science course, college-bound students are discouraged from enrolling. The addition of Earth, Environmental, and Space Science in the “d” requirements can reverse this process.

b. Earth, Environmental, and Space Science classes can be taught as rigorous, problem-solving curricula that can easily fit into the “d” requirement. There are many courses already available. The Earth sciences have benefited enormously from the explosion of online data that are available for analysis in demanding problem-solving exercises, and providing students with important 21st century skills.

c. Earth, environmental and space sciences are included in several national standards recommended by several prestigious agencies (e.g., National Academy of Science/National Research Council, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Council of Scientific Society Presidents, the College Board), and those of California. UC’s science admission requirements are not in compliance with either the national or the California state secondary school standards.

d. Topics in the Earth, environmental, and space sciences comprise 30% of the questions on the 12th grade National Assessment of Educational Progress test (Nation’s Report Card). The National Academy of Sciences, the National Research Council, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Council of Scientific Society Presidents all recommend that Earth and space science classes be included a part of standard high school curricula.

e. It would be difficult to find a state more in need of Earth science literacy than California. The topics of earthquakes, landslides, water supply, water quality, climate change, flood control, resource use (and depletion), air/water pollution, and plate tectonics, are extremely relevant to California residents. Unfortunately, these topics are rarely found in the curricula of biology, chemistry or physics.

f. The Earth, environmental and space sciences are intrinsically interesting, and are likely to entice more students into the sciences

Wendy Van Norden

Harvard-Westlake School

3700 Coldwater Canyon

No. Hollywood, CA 91604

818 487-6665

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Present a Short Course at CSTA: Deadline Looming!

Only 2 days remain to submit a proposal to present a Short Course at the 2010 California Science Education Conference.

CSTA is actively seeking classroom science teachers to present one-hour workshops and three- or six-hour Short Courses at the 2010 California Science Education Conference, October 22-24 in Sacramento, CA.

Visit for more information about proposals. There you will find submission guidelines, links to the standards, and links to the on-line proposal system. Presenting at the conference can be fun and earn you a complimentary registration (please see the website for details regarding complimentary registration).

Deadlines for Proposals:
Short Courses: December 18, 2009 (submission must be completed by 11:59 pm)
Workshops: February 1, 2009


California Science Teachers Association
3800 Watt Ave., Suite 100
Sacramento, CA 95821
(916) 979-7004
Fax: (916) 979-7023

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

K-12 Tsunami Education from the California Geological Survey

California's northern coast, endangered during the 1964 Alaska tsunami

From the California Geological Survey:

With the fifth anniversary of the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami coming up on Dec. 26th, 2009, most of you recall the story of Tilly Smith, the 10-year-old credited with saving over 100 people on a beach in Thailand based on what she learned about tsunamis in school during a geography lesson.

The California Geological Survey (CGS) is looking for ways to best to educate and prepare California students about tsunamis, tsunami hazards, and what they should do if they are in an area at risk. Newly released statewide tsunami inundation maps produced by CGS, the California Emergency Management Agency, and the Tsunami Research Center at USC are now available (link below). The maps show the potential flooding hazard for all vulnerable populated areas based on some of the worst-case tsunami scenarios for California. In addition to the maps, the state is making available new tsunami education videos, a new CGS Tsunami Note, and other information that could be useful when teaching students about tsunamis and tsunami hazards in California. This information is posted at:

Several state agencies are working together to initiate a statewide tsunami education plan for March, during the proposed “National Tsunami Preparedness Week.” Your feedback on any aspect of using these new tsunami maps in the classroom over the next few weeks will be a great value to help us prepare for this new education campaign.

Rick Wilson

California Geological Survey

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Student Opportunity in Yellowstone National Park

From the National NAGT Newsletter:

Dear Colleagues,

Greetings from Montana! We would appreciate your help in advertising to your students an NSF/GEO site project we will be running this summer on Evolution of the Precambrian Rocks of Yellowstone National Park (Dave Mogk, Paul Mueller, Darrell Henry, and Dave Foster PIs). Please visit the project website for further details: . This project will be a comprehensive research experience that will include:.

• Field mapping and sampling in Yellowstone National Park to contribute to a new geologic map of the basement rocks of YNP; students will work in small groups in the context of the larger project to define and address specific research topics in their area of interest; Dates: June 27-July 25, 2010;

• Direct experience in modern analytical studies including sample preparation, training on modern instrumentation petrologic, geochemical and geochronological; visits to analytical labs will be scheduled for fall semester 2010, and

• Presentation of research results, by submitting an abstract for a poster presentation at the Rocky Mountain Section meeting of the Geological Society of America, and participating in a group reunion meeting to contribute to a peer-reviewed journal article. Dates: Spring 2011, to be determined; Logan, Utah.

We are looking for a group of students (12) with diverse interests in geology to contribute to the research group. To unravel the geologic history of these Archean rocks, our research team will need students with interests in igneous and metamorphic petrology, sedimentology, geochemistry, geochronology and structural geology and tectonics. Students who have taken most of their geology “core” courses and have had a field camp (or other field experience) will be preferred. This experience will provide a great foundation for follow-on senior thesis/research projects at their home institutions. Please note that this will be a true back country experience in Yellowstone National Park, so students need to know that the daily routine will be physically challenging in this rugged terrain.

How to Apply:

Please send: a) Your letter of interest, stating what you hope to learn, what you can offer to this project, b) two letters of support from faculty or work supervisors, and c) your academic transcript . These materials can be submitted to (e-mail or mail):

David Mogk

Dept of Earth Sciences (406) 994 6916

Montana State University

Bozeman, MT 59717

The deadline for applications is: January 30, 2010

Thanks in advance, and please, encourage your best, field-oriented students to apply!

Best to all,

Dave Mogk