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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!

The Partners in Science Program, Accepting proposals for OSTA18, OSTA logo contest, Summer PD, Telescopes, Apply to develop OAKS, The octet rule



Partners in Science, a program of the MJ Murdock Charitable Trust, is a 2-year opportunity that pairs high school teachers with mentor researchers at various universities across the Pacific Northwest. High school teachers have the opportunity to select a research topic of interest, and spend two summers engaging in real research with their mentors. The teams then have the opportunity to share what they learned at a conference in San Diego every January.
Rachel Stagner, a high school teacher at Madison High School in Portland, is currently in her second year of participation in the Partners in Science program. We asked her a few questions to learn more about her experience.

TOST: What made you interested in applying for the Partners in Science program?

Rachel: A colleague here at Madison recommended it to me because he was a current participant. It sounded like a great opportunity to be back in a lab setting and to learn new things that I could bring back to the classroom. I also wanted to feel like I was "walking the talk" that I give to my students. As a science teacher, I tell my students all the time that research is important, that scientists have to take good notes, that they need to communicate clearly, but I wasn't actually doing those things myself outside of the classroom. I wanted to have that extra bit of leverage to talk about what scientists need to know and do because I was also doing these things. Finally, it sounded like a great way to collaborate with other teachers and get great PD provided directly through the Van Andel Institute and indirectly through grant money that can be spent on PD of my choosing.

TOST: Tell us a little bit about your research on caloric restriction and effects on the aging brain of rhesus macaques!

Rachel: As the human population gets older, medicine is searching for better interventions to keep people healthier for longer. Caloric restriction is a promising lifestyle change that might fit the bill. Caloric restriction is a long-term, daily, 30% reduction in calories, and studies in shorter-lived animals have shown increased lifespan, decreased brain atrophy, and lesser rates of mortality due to common age-related diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Eventually, the results in short-lived animals led to questions about the effects in longer-lived animals like macaques (and humans). There were two long term studies that started several decades ago, and OHSU got the brain sections of some of the animals involved. Using immunohistochemistry, I stained the brain sections for the presence of the obligate NMDA receptor, NR1, in the post-synapse of neurons. NDMA is a neurotransmitter that is critical for memory retention, formation, and neural plasticity, thus we predict that a significant difference between the numbers of NR1 receptors between rhesus macaques in the different treatment groups will suggest a mechanism through which CR affects increased cognition in aged monkeys.

TOST: That sounds like exciting research to be a part of! How has your participation in the program affected your classroom teaching?

Rachel: It's opened a lot of doors. It's helped me feel more confident in what I am teaching the kids to do. I bring in my research notebook and show them how important it is to keep track of what I'm doing on a day-to-day basis. I presented my research to them at the beginning of the year to inspire them that they can also pursue careers in science. I am planning a field trip to OHSU so that they can experience what it's like to be at a research institution, in a lab. It also reinforces the important of inquiry-based science in the classroom, and has given me access to like-minded educators who are working towards the same goals.

TOST: What would you tell other teachers who might be interested in applying for the Partners in Science program?

Rachel: Do it! When I first thought about applying to the program, my husband was really skeptical. He couldn't believe that I would willingly give up my entire summer and was worried that I would burn out without a break. I told him that it was something that I thought I had to do, and I couldn't have been more right. I felt energized and empowered every day when I was at the lab. Doing research again reminded me of why I wanted to go into science and education in the first place. Being a teacher is hard work, and sometimes it feels like there isn't a lot of recognition for what we do. Being in this program makes you feel recognized and appreciated in a different way and reminds you of the skills that scientists need and that you have, too! The program also gives you a stipend, connects you to rich network of dedicated educators and experiences, provides money for PD and technology, and an opportunity to apply for a supplementary grant at the end of your experience for classroom materials. Oh, and you also get to attend the National Conference in San Diego in January and get treated like a rockstar. That's pretty nice, too!

Thanks to Rachel Stagner, MST, MED, OSTA Board Member At-large and chemistry and forensic science teacher from Madison High School in Portland for sharing her experiences! To learn more about the Partners in Science program, visit their website. Mark your calendars - the next deadline for applications is 12/1/18!


The 2018 Fall Conference in Newport is approaching fast, and we're accepting your conference session and workshop proposals! This year's conference strands are: Navigating Phenomena-Based Storylines, Buoying Math and Literacy with Science and Technology Integration, and Learning Where You Live with Place-Based Education. Visit our website to view detailed strand descriptions, and submit your proposal. Please share with any colleagues who are doing great work in science education! Submission deadline is April 30.


Are you tired of OSTA's low resolution, outdated logo? We are too! We're excited to announce that we are currently accepting submissions for a new digital logo design from Oregon students. We're offering a cash prize both to the student designer and to their school graphic design program. To learn more about criteria and how to submit, visit our websiteSubmission deadline is May 1.


ODE is seeking four science specialists interested in participating in the development of performance level descriptors for the OAKS Science Test. Successful applicants will travel to Denver, Colorado to work with a multi-state group of teachers and specialists on May 18-19, 2018.

The deadline for submitting an application is Friday, April 13, 2018. Selection will be based on responses to application questions as well as geographic and grade-level experience distributions. Participants will be eligible for daily stipends or sub coverage, depending on whether they are under contract for those dates. Participants will travel on Thursday, May 17, 2018 and may return the evening of May 19 or on May 20th. Travel, lodging, and incidentals will be covered. For additional information please contact Noelle Gorbett, Science Assessment Specialist, at Noelle.gorbett@state.or.us or 503-947-5928. Click here to apply.


Click here to view a list of summer science professional development opportunities, both free and fee-associated, with brief descriptions and links. Many remote opportunities include scholarships for room, board and travel. Deadlines are approaching soon, and new opportunities are being added regularly! Many thanks to Angie Arends from Clackamas for compiling and maintaining this list.


This two day workshop, located at Opal Creek on August 15-16, will provide hands-on opportunities in the field as well as classroom time to develop curriculum tools and strategies that promote student-driven field-based science inquiry projects from kindergarten through high school. Attending teachers can also apply for a $2,000 grant ($6000 if you work collaboratively with at least two other teachers) for classroom equipment and resources for field-based inquiry investigations from the Diack Ecology Education Program. Participating teachers will receive a $100 stipend for attending. Read the brochure to learn more.


While most people have a basic idea of how lenses work, they frequently don’t know how telescopes use lenses and mirrors together to organize light to form images of distant objects. The behavior of light is examined with a pinhole projector and lenses of differing focal lengths. An exploration of the properties of both light and lenses will help develop a more complete understanding through constructing a simple telescope. Participants will receive a set of 24 Galileoscopes shipped directly to your school. Workshop is presented by Brian Kruse from the Teacher Learning Center at the Astronomical Society of the Pacific and hosted by Pacific University.

Workshop will take place June 16, 9am-12:30pm in Woodburn, OR. Click here to learn more and register.


Oregon STEM week is coming up! The purpose of STEM week is to raise awareness, celebrate and engage in STEM activities. Learn more about STEM week events, and register your STEM week activities here.



Online learning

Central Oregon

Greater Oregon

Lane County

Oregon Coast

Portland Metro

South Metro-Salem

Southern Oregon


NGSS Rollout: This month, we're interested in finding out how NGSS rollouts are going. Last month, we asked for feedback from you about the reality of teaching science in your context. We don't have a large enough dataset to make any definitive statements about how the NGSS rollout is proceeding in Oregon, but we thought it might be interesting to read thoughts from other teachers. This document contains responses that we received. 

California has recently released a report on NGSS implementation in their state. While their context is very different from Oregon, there may be opportunities to learn from how implementation is going there. Read the report from the Public Policy Institute of California. Would you be interested in participating in a more formal survey about NGSS implementation in Oregon through OSTA? We welcome your feedback on whether this information would be useful for science education advocacy in Oregon.

The Octet Rule: High school chemistry teachers: have you struggled with finding ways to make learning certain aspects of chemistry, like the octet rule, more engaging and hands-on for students? Emily O'Loughlin, an MAT student at the University of Portland, created an activity to address this very issue, and you can read about it here. Many thanks to Emily for submitting this article!

What Are Conferences For?: With the OSTA Regional Fall Conference on the horizon, we appreciated this NSTA Blog post about one teacher's take-aways from the 2018 NSTA Conference in Atlanta. Why do you attend professional conferences?

The Development of Children's Gender‐Science Stereotypes: A Meta‐analysis of 5 Decades of U.S. Draw‐A‐Scientist Studies: Historically, when asked to draw a scientist, students have predominantly drawn white males. With the increased representation of women in science, are we seeing changes in these Draw-A-Scientist student responses? This meta-analysis uses results from 78 studies and over 20,000 responses over the last 5 decades to find out how student perceptions of scientists have changed over time.


Consider the difference between these two Snow Water Equivalent maps from January 30 and March 29 :

Click here for an interactive comparison (credit to the Statesman Journal for the idea)

How is your area affected? How do scientists decide what snowpack levels are "normal"? Why is it important to study snowpack, anyway? Here are some more recently published articles about this phenomenon that might spark some ideas:

To find the SNOTEL maps used above and more interactive data about weather and climate, explore the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) website for Oregon

The Oregon Basin Report from USDA/NRCS contains region-specific information about water conditions in Oregon. Contained in this report are streamflow forecasts, graphs comparing the current snowpack with historical snowpack, and data tables galore.

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4110 SE Hawthorne Blvd, PO Box 1025
Portland, Oregon

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