1999 Summer Step-Up

How old is the universe? What was Montana like 60-70 million years ago? Why do earthquakes happen where they do? How do sunspots affect the Earth?

For approximately 1200 students in San Francisco, the summer days of June and July 1999 were anything but lazy as they tackled these tough questions as part of "Summer Step-Up," a program designed to prepare incoming 9th grade students for high school.

ISTAT worked with eight teachers at four high schools to deliver exciting hands-on and on-line materials to the classroom during Summer Step-Up. For teachers, it was an opportunity to test new Earth and space sciences materials that they might be able to use during the regular school year. For the ISTAT team, working with teachers during Summer Step-Up was a chance to field test previously developed educational modules and receive feedback from teachers working in a variety of classroom situations.

teacher with 
students viewing sunspots

Teacher Dahv Ellingson assists
Lincoln High School students at the
telescope (B. Desroches, CSE@SSL)


Aftermath of the 1906
San Francisco earthquake

Each of the four UC Berkeley ISTAT partners provided training, materials and support for a science unit integrating hands-on activities with the use of technology.

The Berkeley Seismological Laboratory prepared teachers with content and activities for Plot that Quake!, a unit on earthquakes that included plotting current seismicity along with a range of other hands-on lessons on earthquakes and plate tectonics. Among other activities, students could download earthquake data from the Web and plot the earthquake locations, using basic skills such as collecting, recording, and displaying data and learning to make inferences from those observations. Follow this link to the ISTAT Digiguide for more information.

The Center for Particle Astrophysics offered Desktop Stars, in which students explored a wide range of topics, from the properties of light emitted by atoms to the evidence that leads scientists to believe the universe is expanding. The unit mixed hands-on and computer based activities, and incorporated the use of fundamental skills such as graphing, taking and organizing scientific data, and making predictions from observations.

The UC Museum of Paleontology presented Studying Life in the Past, which concentrated on the identification and interpretation of fossil evidence in order to reconstruct an ancient ecosystem. Both hands-on activities and web-based technology were used to explore topics including: the Geologic time scale and methods of relative and absolute dating; fossils and what they can tell us about life in the past; and real research questions using on-line data sets to investigate, ask questions, propose hypotheses, analyze, make inferences, and communicate their findings for review.

at computer

A San Francisco student explores
paleontology on-line (J. Johnson, UCMP)

student using telescope

A Lincoln High School student group
records sunspot data (B. Desroches, CSE@SSL)

The Center for Science Education @ Space Sciences Laboratory contributed Sunspots, a unit that utilized a rich on-line resource to explore the nature of sunspots and the history of the human effort to understand them. Features included interviews with solar physicists and archeoastronomers, historic images, modern NASA images and movies, and a sunspot research activity.

Teachers and students provided feedback and ideas to the UC Berkeley partners that will be invaluable as ISTAT continues refining existing materials and developing new units. Teachers adapted the lessons to fit a variety of classroom and computer laboratory situations, and pulled in materials from other sources to complement and extend the ISTAT materials as appropriate for their own classrooms. ISTAT partners reported that Summer Step-Up helped them to identify numerous ways to strengthen their materials, from pairing hands-on activities with on-line lessons, to distilling core components that should be included in future teachers guides, to breaking units into modular pieces for flexibility in the classroom.


project on sunspots

A student project about
the Sun (B. Desroches, CSE@SSL)

Return to ISTAT News (Fall 99)