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Week of May 3, 2010

Table of Contents

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Announcing the 2010 ExploraVision National Winners

Winning K–12 student teams earned savings bonds valued at up to $10,000 for imaginative solutions to real-world problems. The Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVision Awards competition requires students to envision a technology that might exist in 20 years. Over 4,500 teams from across the United States and Canada submitted entries. The national winners, including four all-girl teams, addressed some of today's pressing medical and environmental problems. Creating biofuel from algae, having a "virtual doctor" in a box as a first aid kit in the home, treating eye diseases with brain implants, and creating a "protein cocktail" to regrow a lost limb are only a few of the extraordinary entries that were a part of this year's competition. One of the winning entries even recycles paper and ink. The impressive student research in fields such as nanotechnology, cellular differentiation, macular diseases, and economics is a harbinger of things to come from these outstanding students. The eight winning teams and their projects can be seen at www.exploravision.org/winners.

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NSTA Legislative Update: House Committee Approves America Competes Act

On April 28, the House of Representatives Science and Technology Committee voted to approve the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010. In addition to authorizing the National Science Foundation, Title III of the bill addresses STEM education across the federal government. It includes the STEM Education Coordination Act (H.R. 1709, which will coordinate STEM education activities carried out across the federal government. The bill would also require the White House to create an advisory committee on STEM education that would be required to solicit feedback from a variety of stakeholder groups in order to offer guidance to the president on how to better align federal programs with the needs of states and school districts and to improve the relationship between public and private STEM education efforts. It is anticipated the bill will come to the House floor for a vote in June.

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NRC Issues Report on Teacher Preparation Programs

A long awaited report from the National Research Council on teacher preparation concludes that the “paucity of data and well-targeted research on teacher preparation severely limits the capacity of policymakers and the education community to draw conclusions about which approaches are effective and how to design better ones.”

According to the report “Preparing Teachers: Building Evidence for Sound Policy.” more than 200,000 students complete teacher preparation programs in the U.S. every year.  Between 70 percent and 80 percent are enrolled in "traditional" bachelor's or master's degree programs housed in colleges and universities.  The rest enter through one of about 130 "alternative" routes, such as Teach for America or Teaching Fellows. “Which pathway produces better qualified teachers has been the subject of often-vigorous debate within the education community, but the distinction between traditional and alternative pathways is neither clear-cut nor particularly useful, the report says.”

The report concludes that both strong content knowledge and familiarity with how students learn a particular subject are important for reading, math, and science teachers. In addition, the committee found that “many, perhaps most, math teachers lack the level of preparation in mathematics and teaching that the professional community deems adequate to teach mathematics.” 

The NRC recommends that the U.S. Department of Education develop a national education data network to integrate existing information on teacher preparation, drive the collection of new data, and provide needed information to researchers and policymakers working toward better approaches to preparing K-12 teachers. 

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CCSSO's EdSteps Seeks Science Student Work

EdSteps, currently under development by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), will be a resource for teaching and assessment. Its centerpiece will be a large, public library of student work samples in five key skill areas that are typically difficult and costly to assess. For each skill area, student work will be presented in a continuum—a gradual progression—from emerging to accomplished work. The EdSteps continuums will allow teachers, parents, and students themselves to measure individual students’ progress over time and answer questions about whether students are on track to success. The continuums’ work samples will help teachers, parents, and students answer a central question for student growth: Where is a particular student now, and what should he or she do to improve?

EdSteps is currently collecting work in Writing and Global Competence.  EdSteps is explicitly seeking student work from science classrooms—from pre-school to twelfth grade—to ensure that the student work continuums reflect the work taking place in science courses.  Teachers who upload work samples are eligible to win $150 gift cards.

Please visit www.edsteps.org to learn more about EdSteps and to start submitting work.

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Upcoming Web Seminars from NSTA

Professional development through NSTA’s FREE Web Seminars is available to build your content knowledge. Register and join science educators (grades 5–12) across the country for one or more seminars. All web seminars run from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm Eastern time. Select the topics you are interested in for more details.

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From the NSTA Calendar: May 7 is Space Day

Promote science, technology, engineering, and math education by celebrating Space Day with your students. In formal and informal learning settings around the world, students, teachers, and families will celebrate the accomplishments of space exploration by engaging in math and science educational activities. Consult the Space Day website <link to http://www.spaceday.org> to find out what's happening in your area. Teachers will find a tool kit that provides lesson plans and an event organizer, while students can enjoy games that teach about space.

And remember: every day is science day at the NSTA online calendar.

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Knowledge is Power

Build your content knowledge through NSTA’s Learning Center this summer when you have more time for professional development. Teachers who need to brush up on science topics can access the most convenient, economical, and versatile resources right here: learningcenter.nsta.org.

Accessible whenever you are ready and from your laptop, teachers will find core resources that provide rich and robust PD activities and experiences to meet a variety of adult learning styles to build on basic levels of content knowledge.

  • 10 hours of learning sessions provide real world science content and concepts.
  • Content presented in an instructional context.
  • Final assessment, if passed, demonstrates proficiency in subject.
  • Custom lesson plans, vignettes, student work samples offered through our SciGuides.
  • Journal articles, peer-reviewed and searchable, on relevant content are accessible from K–16.
  • E-book chapters accessible from 120 science teaching titles.
  • 2-hour online learning experiences available on key concepts.
  • Web seminars led by PD experts provide content lectures and online discussion with participants.

For more information, visit the Learning Center or call 703.312.9201 for details.

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Recent Activity in the NSTA Blog

Active NSTA member Jean May-Brett points to several great websites to help teachers discuss the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The Early Years area offers volcano resources to help make sense of the recent eruption in Iceland and looked at how children use magnifiers. Ms. Mentor tackles some tricky issues—teaching several subjects simultaneously, for instance, and using clickers in the classroom. And our SciLinks blogger dips into community collaborations and weather. “Everyone talks about the weather,’ MaryB writes, “but the articles in this issue [of Science and Children] show students doing more than talking. Just look at the action words in the titles: blog, cruise, teach, make, watch, look, learn.”

There’s something new just about every day in the NSTA Blog.

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Professional development courses in your future?
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Take a look at these groups offering courses for science educators!

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