NSTA's Science Matters Newsletter May 2011

Here are your science education resources and announcements for May 2011 provided by the Science Matters Network. Please forward them on to other science educators in your school and/or school district.

Table of Contents

New Report Say Elementary Teachers Critical to Advancing STEM Education

A new report released earlier this month by the Center for American Progress, contends that an often neglected but critical focus on improving STEM learning in U.S. school is a concerted emphasis on strengthening the selection and preparation of elementary school teachers so that they can adequately teach math and science to students.

“We cannot wait any longer to get serious about STEM policy,” said the report. “Strengthening our elementary school teachers in math and science is the first critical step in the right direction.”

The report includes five specific recommendations:

  • Implement teacher compensation policies that make elementary teaching more attractive to college graduates and career changers with strong STEM backgrounds;
  • Include more math and science content and pedagogy in schools of education;
  • Require teacher candidates to pass math and science subsections of licensure exams; and

Explore innovation staffing models that extend the reach of elementary level teachers with an affinity for math and science and demonstrated effectiveness in teaching them.

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17 Regional Winners Selected in Inaugural Year of NSTA’s Shell Science Lab Challenge

Congratulations to the 17 middle and secondary school science teachers who have been named regional winners in the inaugural year of NSTA’s 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. From the 17 regional winners named, five national winners will be chosen, and from the national winners a grand prize winner will be selected.

As a regional winner, each teacher and their school will receive donated science lab equipment or gift certificates, a grant to purchase additional science lab tools and resources, and a gift certificate to the NSTA Bookstore. The school will also receive memberships to the NSTA and the NSTA Learning Center and paid registration for two teachers at the school to attend a 2011 NSTA area conference.

For a list of the 2011 regional winners or to learn more about the program, visit shellsciencelab.nsta.org.

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Teacher Education, Professional Development, and Grant and Award Opportunities

2012–2013 Fulbright Scholar Competition Now Accepting Applications

The 2012–2013 Fulbright Scholar Program competition has opened. U.S. citizens with a Ph.D. or equivalent professional/terminal degree (including a master's depending on the field) are eligible to apply. The core Fulbright Scholar Program sends 800 U.S. faculty and professionals abroad each year. Grantees lecture and conduct research in a wide variety of academic and professional fields. Applications are due August 1, 2011.

Win a $2,500 Gift Card for Your School with the Make My LabWoRx Video Contest

In honor of the flasks, beakers and pipettes that help bring science to life for your students, Science WoRx invites you to celebrate National Lab Day by entering the 2011 Make My LabWoRx challenge!

This year’s challenge is a Facebook video contest with a big prize on the line: The winning teacher’s school will receive a $2,500 gift certificate for lab equipment! Entering is as easy as 1, 2, 3:

  1. Record a two- to five-minute video of yourself performing and explaining a cool science demonstration.
  2. Share your demonstration with the Science WoRx community of science educators by 12 noon ET on Friday, June 24 th, 2011.
  3. Get your friends, family and colleagues to “like” your video by 12 noon ET on Friday, June 24, 2011. The video with the most “likes” wins! (Hint: the earlier you submit your video, the more time you’ll have to generate “likes”.)

To enter the Science WoRx “Make My LabWoRx” challenge, visit and become a fan of the Science WoRx online community forum on Facebook, where science teachers come together to network with peers, access tools and resources and exchange ideas to advance their careers (www.facebook.com/scienceworx). Once there, click on “Make My LabWoRx” on the left panel menu bar to review the eligibility criteria and instructions for how to enter.

NEA Foundation-Nickelodeon Big Help Grants

The NEA Foundation-Nickelodeon Big Help Grants are available in the form of Student Achievement grants to K-8 public school educators. The Big Help Grants program is dedicated to the development and implementation of ideas, techniques, and approaches for addressing four key concerns: environmental awareness, health and wellness, students’ right to a quality public education, and active community involvement.

Proposals for work resulting in low-income and minority student success with honors, advanced placement, or other challenging curricula are particularly encouraged. Practicing U.S. public school teachers, public school education support professionals, and faculty and staff members at public institutions of higher education may apply. The maximum grant amount is $5,000. Deadlines are February 1, June 1,and October 15 each year.

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Teacher Resources

K-12 Science Resources from NSF

K–12 science lessons and web resources for teachers, students, and families are available at this website. Choose from subject areas ranging from the Arctic to Physics, and then use the materials to create lesson plans or at-home activities. For example, among the Biology resources you’ll find Cornell University’s Bird sleuth program for elementary and middle level students, and CellsAlive.com, which has cell-related animations and videos for use in high school and college classrooms.

The Balanced Equation Curriculum

This standards-aligned curriculum introduces students in grades 9–12 to global sustainability and chemistry’s role in developing long-lasting solutions. It features 10 interdisciplinary lessons that involve students in discussions about the importance of considering people, their needs, and their environment. For example, in The Sustainability Corps, students explore the chemistry of healthy water through role play and experimentation with different water filtration techniques.

Spider in Space

In April 2011, an orb weaver spider joined the STS-134 astronaut crew aboard space shuttle Endeavour for a trip to the International Space Station. Now scientists are observing the spider’s behaviors in microgravity. With the Spiders in Space Teachers Guide, K–12 students can also participate in this real-life research, comparing ground spiders with the one in space. The guide contains instructions for setting up spider habitats in the classroom and helping students design their own “spider” investigations. Registration is required to download the guide.

Bill Nye’s Climate Laboratory

Emmy-award-winning science educator Bill Nye has become Bill Nye the Climate Guy—complete with his own Climate Lab—courtesy of Chabot Space & Science Center of Oakland, California. To accompany its new permanent exhibition, Bill Nye’s Climate Laboratory, the center has created an educational website for elementary and middle school teachers, students, and families. Join Nye on fun missions and activities to reduce energy consumption and thwart climate change. You'll hunt down energy vampires, design a “green” home, grow a virtual garden—and compete to become a climate champion!

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Student Activities, Resources, Science Competitions and Grants

Ten80 Student Racing Challenge

The Ten80 Student Racing Challenge features an integrated science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) curriculum for students in grades 6–12. Student teams work collaboratively to design, build, and race model remote-controlled cars against those of other student teams across the country. The curriculum teaches students about aerodynamic design, chassis setup, mechanical engineering, and math modeling (collecting data and making graphs). Preview a sample activity from the curriculum and learn more here.

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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 at www.nsta.org/sciencematters.

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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. Email us your suggestions and feedback at sciencematters@nsta.org. We look forward to hearing from you!

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