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Week of May 30, 2011

Table of Contents

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Energy Sec'y Chu, Education Sec'y Duncan, and NSTA Exec. Dir. Eberle Team Up to Announce New Energy Education Initiative

Last week U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu joined with U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan and NSTA Executive Director Francis Eberle to announce the launch of the America’s Home Energy Education Challenge, a competition that will be run by NSTA to educate students about the benefits of energy efficiency, motivate them to play an active role in how their families use energy, and help families across the country save money.

This fall, school teams in grades 3–8 participating in the Home Energy Challenge will be asked to implement energy efficiency activities that reduce the energy use in their homes. Teams will be asked to monitor and measure their energy consumption over a specific three-month period and compare it to data from the same period the year before, to track if they have successfully reduced their energy use. Participating schools can compete for more than $200,000 in prizes that will be distributed at the regional and national levels of the competition, including some additional prizes for honorable mention competitions. All participating schools and students will receive a DOE certificate of recognition, along with benefitting from the energy and money savings that come with energy efficiency improvements.

Students can also earn an Energy Fitness Award via a number of online activities where they will improve their knowledge of energy use in buildings, better understand energy-saving techniques, identify local energy-saving opportunities, develop an energy savings plan, and learn to undertake various energy use calculations.

“Energy efficiency is all about helping families save money by saving energy,” said Secretary Chu.  “America’s Home Energy Education Challenge leverages the passion and curiosity of students to encourage families across the country to reduce energy waste in their homes while inspiring the next generation of America’s energy leaders.”

“Science teachers nationwide will recognize that America’s Home Energy Education Challenge is a valuable teaching tool that encourages active learning about energy and science and will help students to connect science to real world applications,” said Dr. Francis Eberle.

To register to join America’s Home Energy Education Challenge or to find more information, please visit www.homeenergychallenge.org.

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Changes in Science Instructional Time Since No Child Left Behind

In a 2007 survey of more than 300 districts to learn more about changes to curriculum and instructional time since the enactment of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in 2002, the Center for Education Progress found that districts and schools were spending more time on reading and math in elementary schools—the two subjects tested for accountability under NCLB—and less time on subjects (including science) that are not included as accountability measures under the federal education law.

The survey found that 58% of districts reported increasing time in English/Language Arts by an average of 141 minutes a week while 45% of districts reported increasing time in math by an average of 89 minutes a week.

Twenty-eight percent of districts reported decreasing time in science instruction by an average of 75 minutes a week.

As the school year winds down, tell us about the instructional time spent in your elementary class. If you are an elementary educator, please take a few minutes to take the short NSTA survey.

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Partnering for Excellence: Innovations in STEM Education

Carnegie Corporation of New York, The Opportunity Equation, and Ashoka’s Changemakers® last week announced Partnering for Excellence: Innovations in Science + Technology + Engineering + Math (STEM) Education. The competition is looking for model solutions that deliver STEM content and skills to students by using existing resources from the private and not-for-profit sectors in new ways, demanding shared accountability for student achievement, and fostering long-term collaborations between schools and a wide array of partners.

The competition’s winners will receive more than $120,000 in cash and in-kind prizes, provided by a host of grantors. For more information go to the competition’s website.

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NSTA Shell Science Lab Challenge Names 2011 Grand Prize Winner

Congratulations to Andrew Goodin of Soldan International High School in St. Louis, Missouri, who was named the grand prize winner of the 2011 NSTA Shell Science Lab Challenge. The competition encouraged teachers (grades 6–12) in the U.S. and Canada, who have found innovative ways to deliver quality lab experiences with limited school and laboratory resources, to share their approaches for a chance to win a school science lab makeover support package valued at $20,000.

Four national finalists were also named in the inaugural year of the competition. They include:

  • Michael Barker, Newport High School, Newport, Kentucky
  • Jason Crean, Lyons Township High School, Western Springs, Illinois
  • Corey Dornack, Lincoln K–8 Choice School, Rochester, Minnesota
  • John Munro, Highroad Academy in Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada

As the grand prize winner, Goodin will receive a science lab makeover support package for their school valued at $20,000. The prize package includes an $8,000 Shell cash grant, $8,000 in donated lab equipment, $1,000 in NSTA prizes—to include an NSTA bookstore gift certificate and NSTA conference registrations, NSTA memberships and NSTA Learning Center subscriptions for two teachers—and $3,000 in sponsored trips to the NSTA National Conference on Science Education.

For more information about the program visit the competition website.

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Win Yearlong PD Scholarship to the New Science Teacher Academy

For new secondary science teachers, those first years of teaching often are stressful and anxiety-ridden. Research indicates new teachers’ performance and confidence is enhanced with professional development, engagement with like-minded peers, and solid professional mentoring. To that end, NSTA and sponsoring corporations established the New Science Teacher Academy, a program that fills those needs. Middle and high school science teachers in their second or third year of teaching are invited to apply to participate in the Academy. More than 200 teacher applicants will win a scholarship for the 2011–2012 Academy program. “Fellows” in the Academy will enjoy the following:

  • Membership in the NSTA with full benefits
  • Access to facilitate, web-based curriculum devoted to content and classroom pedagogy
  • One on one e-mentoring, specific to the Fellow’s discipline and grade band
  • All expenses paid to NSTA’s National Conference (lodging, airfare, meals, and registration included)
  • Attendance at a PD Institute or Research Conference

Visit www.nsta.org/academy to learn more or apply. The deadline is July 1.

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New from NSTA Press®: Team Teaching Science: Success for All Learners and Hard-to-Teach Science Concepts

For preservice and in-service special education teachers and K–12 science teachers, Team Teaching Science provides strategies for successful co-teaching partnerships. Methods professors in teacher education programs will also profit from sharing the many tips and techniques to their student teachers for building a co-teaching environment. Authors Ed Linz, Mary Jane Heater, and Lori A. Howard, experienced teachers themselves, address the challenges that may impact the co-teaching role; other teachers with different educational backgrounds, diverse student abilities ranging from advanced placement to special needs, and the task of transitioning to the practice of co-teaching. They devote attention to strong science instruction, seven chapters on team teaching, and include coverage of Standards, yearlong lesson planning, and communication with parents and administrators. Teachers will appreciate a list of rich internet resources, sample co-teaching models, co-planning checklists and recommendations for assessment and grading. A chapter is dedicated to teaching science to students with special needs in advanced classes. If team teaching is or will be a part of your school day, this guide will give and you and your students a head start towards success. Visit the NSTA Science Store to download a free chapter or purchase the book. 

In Hard-to-Teach Science Concepts, authors Susan Koba and Carol Mitchell introduce grades 3–5 teachers to a “conceptual framework” as a model for successful instruction of hard-to-teach science concepts. Four steps make up the methodology: (1) engage students about their preconceptions and address and dispel misconceptions; (2) target lessons to be learned; (3) determine appropriate strategies; and (4) use Standards-based teaching that builds on student understandings. This book is ideal for elementary teachers, preservice classes, and middle school teachers looking for a new approach and who want to boost their science instruction. Visit the NSTA Science Store to download a free chapter or purchase the book.

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