The Oregon Science Teacher

One way that OSTA supports science teachers across Oregon is to publish a monthly newsletter, The Oregon Science Teacher (TOST). Through TOST, we share stories from teachers across the state, disseminate information about NGSS implementation, share upcoming science events by region, and more. We're always interested in hearing from you if you have something to contribute! 

Below, you'll find our latest issue. Members can access our TOST Archives and read issues all the way back to 2013!

Journey's Flight, OSTA Fall Conference, OSTA Awards, OSTA Elections, New Logo, Giveaways

Photo by Marc Gunn/CC By 2.0



by Leah Plack 

Jean Nave knows a thing or two about communication. Over the course of her career, she has worked in sales, motivational speaking, as a cable television host and published author. So, when the time came to step back from her professional career to take care of her health, Jean looked for opportunities to use her skills and experience to help others. Her first project was publishing a series of books, titled Harry and Lola, to benefit her local Scottie rescue. When a young boy named Kellen fell in love with her stories, a new volunteer opportunity emerged.

Kellen’s mom, Susie Werts, is a special education teacher at Sisters Middle School. At the urging of her son, Susie contacted Jean. Jean, herself dyslexic, was immediately drawn to Susie’s work as an educator and advocate for students with learning differences. Together, they collaborated on publishing a book written by Sisters Middle School students. The first book focused on students in the special education classroom, and subsequent books included students from the broader school population. Their more recent publication Journey’s Flight, inspired by the discovery of a tagged butterfly on the schoolyard, tells fictional stories about a real-life phenomenon: the yearly migration of monarch butterflies.

In order to prepare for writing the book, Jean, Susie and Sisters students got to work researching monarch butterflies. As Jean remembers, “I didn’t know a thing about monarch butterflies other than they were pretty!” She spent the next month learning more, so that she would be able to help student writers who had already spent the last four months researching. Her next task was to coach student writers through the process of creating fictional stories based on scientific concepts. Jean found that key strategies were to start with an idea and let the students build off of it and make it their own, and to create a safe space where students could share ideas. Jean told us, “You have to get them moving and they have to feel safe. These were kids I didn’t know, so you have to create a safe environment where they won't be told it’s a dumb idea.”

Jean discovered that current technology can provide fantastic tools for self-publishing. Jean published Journey’s Flight, as well as her other books, through CreateSpace. Using CreateSpace, Jean was able to take the stories of the Sisters Middle School students and turn them into a real, tangible book that could be purchased through Amazon. This elevated the project to another level in the eyes of the students and their community. Jean recalls, “We saw the magic of being ‘really’ published. Where I really saw magic was with the parents....every kids’ parents have said, ‘Wow, my son or daughter is wanting to come to school for the first time in years!’”

As it turns out, there is research that supports this observation of how engaging authentic learning opportunities can be. A two-year study with 2nd and 3rd grade students in a science class showed that students who engaged in reading and writing that was more authentic had greater growth in reading comprehension and writing (Duke, Purcell-Gates, Hall & Tower 2007, full article linked below). The researchers defined authentic literacy as two-part: students engage in authentic literacy tasks, and with authentic texts. Authentic tasks serve a real-life purpose for an audience outside of the classroom, such as writing an informational brochure or a nonfiction article. Authentic texts are real-world texts that serve a specific purpose, like a newspaper, or for younger students, texts that are very similar in style and language while being age-appropriate. The key to the magic of authentic literacy: students are interacting with and creating materials that are meant for an audience outside of their classroom.

For Jean, helping students write for a global audience was indeed magical. She says, “My dream is to help inspire a few more teachers to make some bigger magic that they had never dreamed of making. I hope to light a fire under somebody. As an outsider, what I am seeing is that the science education community is adapting and adjusting to the new world opportunities for kids, and that’s really exciting.” If you’re interested in publishing a book with your students, Jean is here to help! You can catch her keynote address at our upcoming Fall Conference on Science Education, where she will go more in depth into how Journey's Flight was created, and the impact that it has had on her community. Jean has also graciously offered to lend her personal support to any teachers who might want to try self-publishing, including help with creating a book cover. You can reach her

Duke, N. K., Purcell-Gates, V., Hall, L. A., & Tower, C. (2007). Authentic literacy activities for developing comprehension and writing. Reading Teacher, 60(4), 344-355.


Do you have a passion for science education? Are you a current or future leader at your school, district or at the state level? Do you have questions about how to implement the Next Generation Science Standards? Are you excited to share ideas from your classroom, school or district with colleagues from across the state? If you answered yes to any of these questions, the OSTA Fall Conference on Science Education is for you!

Follow the links below for more information about each of the OSTA sponsored events. Come join us for one event or all three days! Registration rates are discounted through September, so register early and save.

October 11

October 12

October 13

  • Field Trips at various locations around Newport are family-friendly opportunities to explore the area with a science education lens.
  • Workshops offer a deeper dive into subject matter, and are designed with experiential learning and collaboration in mind.
  • Registration for field trips and workshops can be added to your conference registration, or may be registered for separately from the conference.
We're excited to learn alongside you in Newport! 


Do you know a fabulous science teacher who deserves recognition for their work? OSTA is currently accepting award nominations. Visit our website to learn more about the process and complete nomination forms. Being a teacher is incredibly challenging work. Let's take a moment to lift each other up and appreciate what our colleagues do for students across Oregon. 


Are you looking for an opportunity to expand your science education leadership in Oregon? Do you know someone who has the potential to do great work for our organization? We want to hear from you!! We're seeking nominees for the following positions: Regional Director, Member at Large, President-Elect and Membership Coordinator. To nominate yourself or a colleague, use this form.


Back in March, we put out the call for students across the state of Oregon to try their hand at designing our new organizational logo. Thanks to many wonderful graphic design teachers, we received over 90 submissions from all over the state. OSTA is excited to announce that we have selected a winner! Connor Henkle, from Gresham High School, designed our sleek and modern new logo. To read more about Connor and the meaning behind his logo design, visit our website. We also want to thank his graphic design teacher, Brad Cook, for his role in supporting Connor. 


Are you a high school teacher in need of lab tables? OSTA has been in touch with a contact from American Scientific who has four large laboratory benches available for pickup in Portland. More details: “The benches are the free standing pedestal type with square tubular steel stands, fiberglass bodies and octagonal 56”x 56” heavy epoxy tops with inset sinks. Three have round sinks in the center (with covers) and one has a trough sink that runs its entire length diagonally. They all are plumbed for both cold water (2 faucets per table) and natural gas (four valves per table) and electrical outlets.” Pictures available upon request. Please contact us at if you are interested and we will connect you.


Teachers - do you know a high school student who loves is interested in marine science? Whether they plan to study engineering, anthropology, digital communication, business, animal science, art, food science, journalism, pharmacy, education or still deciding...they can include their interest and love for the coast and ocean in it! OSU announces their new Marine Studies Initiative, including a new Marine Studies major or minor. Learn more here.


Teachers, join us Friday, Sept 14 at ScienceWorks Museum in Ashland from 5:30 - 7:30 pm! We appreciate you and want to share more information about the resources that ScienceWorks can offer you, your classroom, and your students! We will provide food, drinks, and tons of give-aways. Browse our free teacher supplies, explore the museum, connect with partner organization and one another. 10% discount will be given on everything in the ScienceWorks gift shop. Bring your families and come have fun with us. RSVP by sending your name and email to


OregonASK, in partnership with the State Library of Oregon and Oregon Center for Career Development, is pleased to offer a FREE training on Leap into Science Balance-themed Workshops. Leap into Science is a nationwide program from The Franklin Institute Science Museum that integrates open-ended science activities with children’s books, designed for children ages 3-10 and their families. It is designed to bring high quality STEM and literacy resources to community settings to engage families in accessible & familiar settings.

All educators who attend training will receive:

  • Access to high-quality science & literacy curriculum
  • A kit of materials valued at $300
  • Access to the Leap into Science online resources
  • Ongoing support and participation in Leap into Science National Network

Training events will be held September 14-15 at Rogue Community College, and September 20 in Beaverton. Click here to learn more and register.


Discover the Project Learning Tree (PLT) guide through the senses of the Discovery Trail at HJ Andrews Forest. Our primary objective is to engage students in learning about ecosystem science, while guiding them to reflect upon their relationships with places and personal responsibility for stewardship behavior. The curriculum, delivered via iPads, covers several Next Generation Science Standards cross-cutting concepts like cause and effect, systems, stability and change, and patterns. This free workshop is geared towards 6th-12th grade teachers, and will be held Friday, September 28 in Blue River, OR. Guides, curriculum, and resources are offered at no cost to educators that attend the entire workshop. Substitute reimbursement is available on teacher work days, for educators who attend the entire workshop. PDUs also available. Click here to learn more.


Join us at our annual gathering September 28-30 in Canby, Oregon at The Grove Camp and Retreat Center. Enjoy many opportunities to network with others across the state, to try new technology, learn best practices, and celebrate EE and more! This is the only statewide environmental education conference in Oregon. 

Come expand your horizon with talks, hands-on activities, discussions, round tables, and more within the following strands on connecting: state of EE in Oregon and Beyond; Tools, Technology, and Science-based Education; DEI Initiatives and Practices in Action; Nature, Arts, Spirit and Science; and Educators and Students to Outdoor School. Click here to learn more and register. Registration deadline is September 17.


Celestron Optics, in partnership with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, are supporting 15 classrooms who participate in citizen-science projects and could benefit by having 10 high-quality optics. Whether you’re watching a bird feeder, going out on regular bird walks, or participating in a bioblitz, share with us how your students are practicing their science skills and what you could accomplish with 10 of these great Celestron Outland X 8×42 binoculars. Application closes Friday, October 1 at 8:59pm PT. As a giveaway recipient you will be required to share your citizen-science experience using the binoculars through the BirdSleuth Action Map. Teachers at any school (both public and private) in the United States are welcome to apply. Click here for more information and to apply.


All elementary teachers interested in making change in the structures of their classroom to explore teaching the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) science and STEM are welcome to apply for the first cohort of the STEM Regional Teacher Collaborative. This opportunity is designed for teachers seeking to share and learn from each other about how to change how we teach to reach more students.

No experience teaching STEM or NGSS required to participate! Please let your administrators know you are applying so we can invite them to the principal strand of this work. The collaborative will meet October 1-2, 9am-3pm in Redmond. To register, visit this link.


ChickTech is a non-profit dedicated to getting more girls and women into technology related careers through hands-on events. Through generous donations, our high school program is offered free-of-charge to participants. This program includes food during events, transportation to and from events, accommodations for students with different abilities, and child care if needed.

Our 2018-2019 program kicks-off with a two-day immersive tech weekend at Portland State University on November 10th and 11th. We are currently seeking nominations for eligible students. Our large events tend to fill up and have waiting lists, so we encourage you to get your list in ASAP to give your students the best chance of getting in. Click here for nomination guidelines, and to nominate 15 female or gender nonconforming students to our program. Nominations end 11:59 PM Friday, October 5.


Genes in Space provides the opportunity for 7th -12th students to send a DNA experiment to the International Space Station! This free workshop is for middle and high school teachers interested in: DNA, genetics, biotechnology, hands-on science for students, a free opportunity for student DNA experiment proposal to be entered into Genes in Space competition, access to loaner miniPCR to use with students, space science and education!

This workshop will take place Saturday, October 6 at the Digital Health Collective in BeavertonTo register, follow this link! Spots are limited.



Online learning

Central Oregon and the Columbia Gorge

Greater Oregon

Lane County

Oregon Coast

Portland Metro

South Metro-Salem

Southern Oregon


Photo by Timothy Bullard/AP

Across the state of Oregon, wildfire smoke has played a major role in our summer, whether it forced sensitive people indoors, canceled large events like the Ashland Shakespeare Festival, or adversely affected agriculture across the state. For those of us who were (and continue to be) negatively affected by smoke in the air, there hasn't been much positive to say about it, except for one thing: the light sure does look pretty. On days of heavy smoke, the sun appeared orange or red in the middle of the day. This is one of many phenomena involving light that you, or students, may have observed when there are high levels of fine particulates in the air. 

How would students explain this phenomenon? As an educator, our first task is to think about the age level of our students, and the appropriate level of complexity with which to engage with a phenomenon. For example, first grade students might observe that the sun appears less bright on smoky days, while middle school students might create a model explaining how different frequencies of light interact with particles in the air. Below, we have included the progression of DCIs addressing light waves (click here to see full NSTA document of DCI progressions)

 PS4.B: Electromagnetic Radiation

 K-2  3-5  6-8  9-12
Objects can be seen only when light is available to illuminate them. Some objects give off their own light. (1-PS4-2)
Some materials allow light to pass through them, others allow only some light through and others block all the light and create a dark shadow on any surface beyond them, where the light cannot reach. Mirrors can be used to redirect a light beam. (Boundary: The idea that light travels from place to place is developed through experiences with light sources, mirrors, and shadows, but no attempt is made to discuss the speed of light.) (1- PS4-3)
An object can be seen when light reflected from its surface enters the eyes. (4-PS4-2) When light shines on an object, it is reflected, absorbed, or transmitted through the object, depending on the object’s material and the frequency (color) of the light. (MS-PS4-2)
The path that light travels can be traced as straight lines, except at surfaces between different transparent materials (e.g., air and water, air and glass) where the light path bends. (MS-PS4-2)
A wave model of light is useful for explaining brightness, color, and the frequency-dependent bending of light at a surface between media. (MS-PS4-2)
However, because light can travel through space, it cannot be a matter wave, like sound or water waves. (MS-PS4-2)
Electromagnetic radiation (e.g., radio, microwaves, light) can be modeled as a wave of changing electric and magnetic fields or as particles called photons. The wave model is useful for explaining many features of electromagnetic radiation, and the particle model explains other features. (HS-PS4-3)
When light or longer wavelength electromagnetic radiation is absorbed in matter, it is generally converted into thermal energy (heat). Shorter wavelength electromagnetic radiation (ultraviolet, X-rays, gamma rays) can ionize atoms and cause damage to living cells.(HS-PS4-4)
Photovoltaic materials emit electrons when they absorb light of a high enough frequency. (HS-PS4-5)
Atoms of each element emit and absorb characteristic frequencies of light. These characteristics allow identification of the presence of an element, even in microscopic quantities. (secondary to HS-ESS1-2)

How have your students demonstrated their understanding of light waves? Tweet at us:

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Portland, Oregon

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