NSTA's Science Matters Newsletter October 2010

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

Table of Contents

President Obama Hosts First Annual White House Science Fair

On Monday, October 18, President Obama hosted the first annual White House Science Fair. Winning students from 36 science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) competitions nationwide traveled to the White House to meet with the President and exhibit their winning project. Students from several NSTA competitions were selected to participate.

“If you win the NCAA championship, you come to the White House," the President said in November. "Well, if you're a young person and you produce the best experiment or design, the best hardware or software, you ought to be recognized for that achievement, too.”

Middle school students Anika Patel and Angela Riggins, from Forest Ridge School in Bellevue, Washington, exhibited their 2010 first-place Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVision Awards project titled Ecological Paper Printer and Ink Collection last week.

Teams from the other NSTA competitions included Team “No1Idling”—Novi (Michigan) Middle School students Raj Raina and Yash Sathe, who were being honored at the White House for their first-place entry in the Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge, which addressed the issue of reducing community pollution by raising awareness about the environmental impact of vehicle idling among area drivers.

Additionally, t wo students represented the DuPont Challenge Science Essay Competition at the science fair. Alex Sincere, a junior at Evanston (Illinois) High School, wrote an essay about stem cell research on mice that could lead to a treatment for human blindness. Alexander Xu, a seventh-grader at Tower Hill School in Wilmington (Delaware) wrote an essay that explores the use of algae as a sustainable biofuel.

The Science Fair was part of the Administration’s Educate to Innovate initiative, which the President announced has reached over $700 million in public/private partnerships aimed at improving K–12 STEM education.

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Department of Education Launches the TEACH Campaign

A great teacher can change the course of a student's life. A great teacher will light a lifelong curiosity within a student—for math, for science, for history and the arts. A great teacher will engender a sense of self-discipline and self-worth in a student. In the next few years, though, up to a quarter of the teaching workforce will leave the profession; most are retiring baby boomers.

In the effort to encourage more to join the teaching profession the U.S. Department of Education has launched the TEACH Campaign and TEACH.gov—a revolutionary new website dedicated to providing information, testimonials, and resources for students and prospective teachers—including a new interactive “path to teaching” tool designed to help individuals chart their course to becoming a teacher. Learn more about the TEACH campaign by visiting www.teach.gov.

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Teacher Education, Professional Development, and Grant and Award Opportunities

The Big Help Grant Program

Throughout 2010, Nickelodeon will award one million dollars in grants to schools and community organizations enabling kids around the United States to achieve the goal of a million acts of help. The Big Help Grant Program will support projects that inspire kids to take care of the environment; lead active, healthy lives; engage in community service; or improve their educational experience. Elementary and middle schools, and after-school community-based organizations can apply for one of two funding opportunities: a $2,500 grant; or a $5,000 matching grant. To learn more about the program, visit the website.

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Teacher Resources

Federal STEM Resources Are Just a Click Away

Check out the thousands of Federal science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education resources available across the science agencies of the Federal government at ScienceEducation.gov. Users can access these Federal STEM education resources from a single query, tag, comment, and rate material using social networking capabilities. In addition, all resources are automatically tagged by grade level. The free content includes lesson plans, curricula, classroom activities, homework help and information relating to professional development.

Digital Classroom Resource Guide

Back-to-School Guide: Jump Start Learning With New Media, a digital guide from the George Lucas Educational Foundation’s Edutopia, contains ideas and easy-to-use tools to engage students in collaborative, interactive learning. Directed at K–12 teachers and others interested in the education community, topics addressed in the guide include “Break the Digital Ice,” “Contribute to Science,” “Make Meaning with Infographics,” “Make Learning Social,” and “Work Better, Together.”

Google Docs for Educators

The Google Docs service allows users to create private spaces where they can share documents for joint composition, editing, feedback, and discussion. Now Google has created a page for educators with a basic tutorial for using Google Docs in the classroom, along with helpful teacher, principal, and student testimonials on how it actually works.

Math and Science @ Work Project

NASA’s Math and Science @ Work Project provides educators with challenging supplemental problems based on space exploration topics. The problems are designed for high school students in advanced classes and are formatted in a free-response style. They address real-world situations; promote critical thinking and problem solving; and introduce students to careers in space exploration. Problems are available in physics, biology, chemistry, U.S. history, calculus, and human geography. Each problem has a student edition containing background information and instructions, and an educator edition, with instructional objectives, degree of difficulty, standards correlations, background information, the solution, and a suggested scoring guide.

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Student Activities, Science Competitions, and Grants

Get Involved in the Youth Inspired Challenge

The Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) last month announced the Youth Inspired Challenge, a major new initiative designed to expand the impact of science centers and museums to assist the nation’s youth to become the innovative and creative thinkers needed for the 21st century workforce. ASTC member institutions will offer valuable science education and youth employment programs outside the classroom to engage at least 25,000 youth, ages 10–19, in a minimum of 2 million hours of science enrichment. For more information about the Youth Inspired Challenge, visit astc.org/youthinspired.

Free Science Activities for Kids

HowtoSmile.org—a joint project of UC Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science, the Exploratorium, the New York Hall of Science, Science Museum of Minnesota, Children’s Museum of Houston, and the Association of Science-Technology Centers—a free, online collection of thousands of hands-on interactive science and math activities for kids in nonclassroom settings.

HowtoSmile.org spotlights hands-on and interactive activities, both physical and virtual, that involve doing and learning. Activities take many forms, from downloadable lesson plans, to field trip activities, how-to videos and online interactive games. In addition to the collection of activities, the website offers list-making features that provide educators a public or private online space to collect their favorite activities and add teaching tips and ideas on how to use an activity in context; user-contributed videos, and other creative community functions that encourage users to rate and comment on activities and earn badges for community involvement.

Living on the Ocean Planet Video Contest

The National Ocean Sciences Bowl, in partnership with the National Marine Educators Association and the Ocean Today Kiosk, is sponsoring the 2011 Living on the Ocean Planet video contest. Any students currently enrolled in high school are eligible to submit a two-minute video on this year’s contest theme “Human Responses to Ocean Events,” which includes both natural and unnatural activities within marine and freshwater environments. Prizes will be awarded to the top submissions at both the regional and national level. The first place national video team will receive HD Flip video cameras and an all-expense paid trip to Galveston, Texas, April 29–May 1, 2011, to premiere their video. The first place team’s video will also premiere on the Ocean Today Kiosk. For more information, visit the contest website.

Amazing Animals and Creature Features

These online resources from National Geographic for Kids present animal information in an interactive way. Targeted at elementary students, the website features clickable facts and photos of more than 40 animal species from Adelie penguins to zebras. Users can watch videos of the animals, find maps showing where each animal lives, and print out a collector’s card for any animal described.

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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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