NSTA's Science Matters Newsletter June 2010

Here are your science education resources and announcements for June provided by the Science Matters Network. Please forward them on to other science educators in your school and/or school district.

Table of Contents

Public Agenda Releases New Survey, "Are We Beginning To See The Light?"

About half of parents say their local schools are doing a good job of preparing students for college-level mathematics and science instruction, according to a survey released earlier this month by Public Agenda. And the same percentage says their children are getting the right amount of math and science instruction in school.

The survey also found that, when a national sample of U.S. adults was asked to assess establishing a “national curriculum” in both math and science (in separate questions) as a way to improve instruction in those subjects, about half the respondents said that would help “a lot,” while nearly one-third said it would help “a little.”

The survey on math and science education issues was conducted in December by Public Agenda, a nonprofit polling firm based in New York City, with funding provided by the GE Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the General Electric Co.

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New Survey Finds Parents Need Help Encouraging Their Kids in Science

A new survey announced last month by NSTA and Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc. found that the vast majority (94%) of science teachers wish their students' parents had more opportunities to engage in science with their children. However, more than half (53%) of parents of school-aged children admit that they could use more help to support their child's interest in science. The survey was conducted among a sample of 500 science teachers and 506 parents, including 406 parents of school-aged children. To read more about the findings of the survey, visit the NSTA website.

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NCES Releases Report Examining Graduation, Dropout Rates

The National Center for Education Statistics has released "Public School Graduates and Dropouts from the Common Core of Data: School Year 2007–08." The new report presents the number of high school graduates, the Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate (AFGR), and the dropout data for grades 9 through 12 for public schools in school year 2007–08. The counts of graduates, dropouts, and enrollments by grade are from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Common Core of Data (CCD) nonfiscal surveys of public elementary/secondary education. Among the findings:

  • Across the United States, excluding South Carolina, a total of 2,965,286 public school students received a high school diploma in 2007–08, resulting in an Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate (AFGR) of 74.9 percent. This rate ranged from 51.3 percent in Nevada to 89.6 percent in Wisconsin.
  • Across all reporting states, the Averaged Freshmen Graduation Rate (AFGR) was highest for Asian/Pacific Islander students (91.4 percent). The rates for other groups of students were 81.0 percent for White students, 64.2 percent for American Indian/Alaska Native students, 63.5 percent for Hispanic students, and 61.5 percent for Black students.
  • There were 613,379 dropouts from high school (grades 9 through 12) with an overall event dropout rate of 4.1 percent across all 49 reporting states and the District of Columbia in 2007-08. Indiana and New Jersey were tied for the lowest dropout rate at 1.7 percent while Louisiana had the highest event dropout rate at nearly 7.5 percent.
  • Across the 47 states that were able to report high school dropouts by gender, the dropout rate was higher for males than for females at 4.6 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively. The dropout rate was higher among males in every state. The male-female gap ranged from 0.3 percent in Nevada to 2.7 percent in Louisiana.

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Teacher Resources

Evolution of Evolution: 150 Years of Darwin's On the Origin of Species

This interactive, multimedia report from NSF presents resources on evolution and Darwin himself, including interviews and essays by a team of international evolutionary experts and a clickable timeline summarizing major intellectual and technological achievements that advanced our understanding of evolution. The report shows how Origin drew attention to anthropology, biology, the geosciences, polar sciences, and even astronomy and why it likely will continue to serve as the organizing framework for the sciences. The report also details the criticisms, longstanding hoaxes, and dedicated scholarship Origin has inspired. The report is appropriate for teachers and students at a range of grade levels.

Amazing Space Teacher Resources

Reveal the beauty and wonder of the cosmos to your students with interactive activities, graphic organizers, science content reading selections, and more. A description, suggestions for using the resource in the classroom, and related materials accompany each tool. Learn some fundamentals of astronomy, and find the answers to your students' questions about many space-based themes. Check out the Amazing Space website.

You can make use of a newly released suite of educational materials and opportunities within the "Celebrating Hubble's 20th Anniversary" education portal. You will find a special Star Witness news story, an opportunity for classrooms to send their personal greetings to Hubble, Hubble "fun facts" and trivia, and the IMAX "Hubble 3D" educator guide. An anniversary poster with Hubble's hit images and associated classroom activities is also being offered. For more information, visit the Amazing Space website.

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Teacher Education, Professional Development, and Grant and Award Opportunities

Coral Reef Workshop for Educators

The Gulf of Mexico Foundation and ConocoPhillips are sponsoring this Down Under, Out Yonder (DUOY) workshop for K–12 and college-entry biology educators nationwide. DUOY is a five-day teacher workshop that includes three days of scuba diving in Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. The workshop includes a two-day land-based workshop in Galveston, Texas, featuring guest speakers and educational materials to bring back to the classroom. Afterward, participants travel to Freeport, Texas, for three days of scuba diving. Non-diving educators may participate in the land-based workshop only and forego the DUOY dive component of the workshop. For more information, visit the Gulf of Mexico Foundation website.

Climate Discovery Online Courses for Educators

Are you seeking a K–12 professional development opportunity that will enhance your qualifications, competency, and self-confidence in integrating Earth system science, climate, and global change into your science classroom? The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) offers a series of six and seven week online courses for middle and high school teachers that combine geoscience content, information about current climate research, easy to implement hands-on activities, and group discussion. The courses run concurrently from June 18 through August 8, 2010.

For complete course schedule and registration information, visit the NCAR website.

If you have questions or comments, please contact Becca Hatheway at hatheway@ucar.edu.

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Student Science Competitions

Grants from the Captain Planet Foundation

The Captain Planet Foundation funds and supports hands-on environmental projects for children and youths ages 6-18. Its objective is to encourage innovative programs that empower children and youth around the world to work individually and collectively to solve environmental problems in their neighborhoods and communities. Grant amounts range from $250 to $2,500. Deadlines for submitting grant applications are June 30, September 30, and December 31. For more information, visit the Captain Planet Foundation website.

Student Spaceflight Experiments Program

The National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) launched the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP), a historic opportunity for students to propose experiments for the final scheduled flight of the Space Shuttle, STS-134. SSEP provides middle and high school classes across the nation the ability to propose experiments to fly in low Earth orbit, and to celebrate that accomplishment with their local community and with national and global audiences. Entire school districts can participate, with student teams proposing experiments like professional scientists and engineers. Selected student experiments would fly for 10 days aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour. For more information about the program, visit the NCESSE website.

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Helpful Tools, Tips, and Projects for Parents

FamilyScienceQuest Features Fun Science Experiments For Families

Last month, Boehringer Ingelheim launched a new YouTube channel called FamilyScienceQuest. Families nationwide can take advantage of the information presented on this dedicated YouTube channel, featuring simple, fun science experiments that parents can conduct at home with their children—such as making colors explode in a puddle of milk, creating sidewalk chalk, and making a cloud. To access the video tutorials, visit this YouTube page.

National Wildlife Federation's "Be Out There" Newsletter

As part of the National Wildlife Federation's (NWF) "Be Out There" campaign to reconnect children to the natural world, NWF is offering a free newsletter that includes articles, initiatives, and resources for parents and teachers. To learn more about the campaign or to subscribe to the newsletter, visit the NWF website.

Science: It’s a Girl Thing!

Science: It's a Girl Thing! is using the power of social media to connect with parents and educators about how to foster girls' interest in science and technology, and why that is important. Funded by the National Science Foundation, the program offers web-based and easy-to-use resources for conducting science activities at home. It builds on everyday science that parents already know. Just as children are natural scientists, parents are natural teachers. Science: It's a Girl Thing! includes a series of short, entertaining, and educational videos and free downloadable PDF activity cards for parents to use in working with their daughters. The hub of this project is a Facebook page.

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What Is Science Matters?

Science Matters is an initiative by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) to bring content, news, and information that supports quality science education to parents and teachers nationwide.

Science Matters builds on the success of the Building a Presence for Science program, first launched in 1997 as an e-networking initiative to assist teachers of science with professional development opportunities. Building a Presence for Science—now Science Matters—reaches readers in 34 states and the District of Columbia.

Why does Science Matter? Science is critical to understanding the world around us. Most Americans feel that they received a good education and that their children will as well. Unfortunately, not many are aware that international tests show that American students are simply not performing well in science when compared to students in other countries. Many students (and their parents!) believe that science is irrelevant to their lives.

Innovation leads to new products and processes that sustain our economy, and this innovation depends on a solid knowledge base in science, math, and engineering. All jobs of the future will require a basic understanding of math and science. The most recent ten year employment projections by the U.S. Labor Department show that of the 20 fastest growing occupations projected for 2014, 15 of them require significant mathematics or science preparation to successfully compete for a job

This is why Science Matters. Quality learning experiences in the sciences—starting at an early age—are critical to science literacy and our future workforce. Feel free to publish this information in school newsletters and bulletins, and share it with other parents, teachers, and administrators.

Visit the Science Matters website.

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We Want to Hear from You

Do have a story idea or announcement that you think we should consider? Do you have a suggestion for how we can make this newsletter better? Let us know what you think. E-mail us your suggestions and feedback at sciencematters@nsta.org. We look forward to hearing from you!

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