All posts by Stephanie Burns - SAR Earth Science

Geological Society of America Annual Meeting in Seattle: Tales and Take-Aways from the West Coast

The Geological Society of America held their annual meeting in Seattle, WA, in late October. This year, I had the privilege of attending and presenting with a fellow New York State Master Teacher about training pre-service and in-service teachers to write and implement inquiry labs in an outdoor setting, in an Earth Science classroom. We had an amazing trip, saw and did a lot in our short time on the West Coast, and I have several take-aways to share.

Items I want to share, in no particular order:

  • Take advantage of excursions offered by conference planners. We thoroughly enjoyed the Foodie Tour of the Public Market (more commonly referred to as Pike Place Market). We enjoyed a variety of cuisines from creamy Greek yogurt to dungeness crab cakes, and the best New England clam chowder (yes, even though it’s on the West Coast, it is the national award winning recipe)! Our tour guide Heather was informative, dramatic at times, and gave a nice behind-the-scenes tour of this world famous location! Oh, and the “original” Starbucks is not actually the original…
  • The Sun shines in Seattle! A LOT!
  • The Seattle Monorail goes from downtown to the Space Needle in 90 seconds!
  • From the top of the Space Needle we saw the Olympic Mountains, the Cascades, Mt. Baker, Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens. It was a perfect day.
  • If I ever head back to the area, I would like to go and visit the Olympic Bike and Skate Shop, in Port Orchard, WA. You see, we met Fred Karakas, the shop’s owner atop the Space Needle. Fred is the MAN! He is a Vietnam veteran, leading a reunion of fellow vets to the Space Needle. With a background in biochemistry, Fred spent the better part of an hour teaching us how to get muscle cells to operate at their maximum level by completing his method of High Intensity Interval Training. We met Fred’s daughter, fighter pilot buddies, got a history of the entire area, saw him at lunch at The Collections Cafe, and ran into him again in the Chihuly Glass Gardens.
  • The ladies from Eastern Oregon deserve an award more so than their own bulleted section. These ladies are public school teachers who presented directly next to us. Their topic? The implementation of NGSS in Oregon public schools over the last four years. They have great ideas, and more importantly… they have experience in writing and implementing year’s worth of NGSS lessons! We are invited to Zoom with their planning group, and I cannot wait to learn from their expertise. Work smarter, not harder, people!
  • Great resources for implementing NGSS-aligned lessons include GETSI – GEodesy Tools for Societal Issues at: and also InTeGrate – Interdisciplinary Teaching about Earth for a Sustainable Future at: 
  • I am particularly interested in this from GETSI – Ice Mass and Sea Level Changes: 
  • It would be nice if there was a clearinghouse of sorts for people to share and save NGSS aligned lessons, for the rest of us to see, adapt, and share on a national level.
  • I need to join NAGT.
  • Dr. Lee is a professor at the University of Waterloo in Ontario. He is interested in working to promote better hydrogeology labs, and will share his expertise and an absolutely great artesian aquifer lab with us in the very near future!
  • There is a severe underrepresentation in geoscience education in the United States. We need to promote and develop geoscientists from all fields in the very near future. If not, the future of our nation may very well be in peril!

Here’s my view, looking south, from the Space Needle! Spectacular!

Here’s my view, looking south, from the Space Needle! Spectacular!

The Science Event of the Summer

It is difficult to get the Sun, Moon and Earth to align for a total solar eclipse. The last total solar eclipse to cross a large portion of the United States was in 1979. The last annular solar eclipse to cross New York was May 10, 1994, when I was in 8th grade. That was amazing to see and since then, I have waited patiently for 2017’s totality event.
After a year of planning our eclipse trip, our path is set. On August 21, 2017, we will be in Mount Juliet, Tennessee, northeast of Nashville, nearly on the centerline of totality! There is a lot to do in the area, and when I searched for hotel rooms in late April, there were still many available.
Originally, we intended to view the eclipse from Carbondale, Illinois. A shady hotel cancelled the reservations I made a year in advance, and left us scrambling for a new location. Luckily, it is not too late to find a room, or a campsite, and see one of nature’s rare and beautiful events.

Eclipse Resources:

General Eclipse Info and Maps: 

NASA’s Eclipse Page: 

Rice Space Institute’s Eclipse Page (sign up for the eclipse listserv!): 

Totality App (from Big Kid Science): Free!

Safe Viewing Practices:

NASA GSFC’s Eclipse Safety Page (with links ranging from eye protection to taking travel precautions): 

Purchase your Eclipse Eyewear ASAP, before they sell out! 

Eclipse Lesson Plans:

NSTA Eclipse Booklet:

Big Kid Science Lesson Ideas:

NASA/JPL Eclipse Yardstick Model:

Other NASA Activities: 

Eclipse Animations:

Eclipse as viewed from the Earth, accounting for the Earth’s topography and Lunar Rim features from the LRO: 

2017 Eclipse Shadow Cones (my students thought this was so cool!): 

Other NASA Animations (a treasure trove of resources from the Scientific Visualization Studio): 

What will you see from New York?

Depending on your latitude, you will see 70% (southern New York) or less of the Sun covered by the New Moon this coming August.

Finding a Place to Stay on Eclipse Day:

Camping (and Glamping) at the Oregon SolarFest: 

Casper, Wyoming Eclipse Festival: 

Nebraska Sandhills: 

St. Louis, Missouri Eclipse Day: 

Tennessee State Parks: 

Mount Juliet, TN (where we will be stationed): 

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What if you miss the eclipse this summer?

The next American total solar eclipse will be Monday, April 8, 2024. This will take a different path from the 2017 eclipse, with the Moon’s shadow crossing over far western and northern New York State! We will have to work on our local school boards to plan our spring break that week, so we are all able to travel for the event.