Monday, February 11, 2008

What You Need to Know About the November 2007 WSTA Journal

When the November 2007 journal shows up in your mailbox in January of 2008, there’s a problem.

The Washington Science Teachers Association (WSTA) does a great job. They’ve got the most active email listserv of any of the professional groups that I belong to, and I’ve heard nothing but good things about their yearly conference. I’ve praised them here on the blog before for the good works they do.

I can’t praise them this time around, though, because they really did a poor job with their November magazine. Some thoughts:

*This month’s journal reads like it’s sharing the highlights of the WSTA conference from October, but that’s something you have to work hard to infer because there’s nothing in the beginning to tell you about the journal. No editor’s note, no word from the president, nothing. There is a table of contents, which is good, but there’s a reason that a letter from the editor is a standard convention in the magazine business.

*There are two articles to begin about LASER; one shares the success that a California district had with the initiative, while the other is a closer look at the Washington State LASER website ( The second especially by Sherry Schaaf is useful for teachers and is one that I’ll copy for my staff. A byline on Ms. Schaaf saying who she is would make this article better, but that’s a small quibble.

*The next article is simply terrible. Called “Sustainability as an Introduction for Dr. Terry Bergeson,” the article is the text of a speech that an Eric Wuersten gave introducing Dr. Bergeson at a conference. We have no idea who Mr. Wuersten is, because the article doesn’t tell us, nor do we know why he was introducing Dr. Bergeson, nor do we really know what conference this introduction was made at.

*Why does that matter? Because without context to attach it to, an article like this is like a Christmas ornament that has fallen off the tree. Hooked on it’s something special, but without a connection it’s nearly meaningless. Let’s acknowledge, too, that it takes a special skill to convert a speech into printed form and maintain coherence; this article would have been improved greatly had it been based on the speech instead of being the speech itself.

*Let’s not throw out the good with the bad, though. The information on the Facing the Future curriculum was intriguing; I had hoped to be able to pilot it with my summer school kids, but that sadly fell through. I very much enjoyed Halie Mills’s article on weather activities that she is doing with her 1st graders, and I’d like to get some of these Sun Beads she talks about and use them with my own class.

*Going from page 8 to page 22 without a single illustration or header beyond the article titles is a bit jarring. I know that you can see journals like that within 2 minutes of walking into any university library, but in a journal for K-12 science teachers?

Looking at the front cover I see that they have an interim editor. I hope that they’re able to work through this and get back to their usually impeccable form soon; everyone will benefit.

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