NSTA's Science Matters Newsletter

June 2011

Here are your science education resources and announcements for June 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 From NRC Raises Question About Test-Based Incentives

Test-based incentives have not consistently generated positive effects on student achievement, according to a new report released last month by the National Research Council. The study analyzes evidence on incentive programs, which impose sanctions or offer rewards for students, teachers or school on the basic of student’ test performance.

School-level incentives—like those of No Child Left Behind—produce some of the larger effects among the programs studied, but the gains are concentrated in elementary grade mathematics and are small in comparison with the improvements the nation hopes to achieve, the report says.

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Edvantia Study on NSTA SciPacks Shows Significant Gains in Science Learning for Teachers and Students

A study released by the research firm Edvantia on online professional development experiences offered by the NSTA Learning Center shows significant gains in teacher content knowledge and student learning among participants from the Houston Independent School District . Results show that the use of SciPacks—interactive web-based modules developed by NSTA and offered through its online Learning Center—significantly increased teacher content knowledge of earth science and force and motion over the course of the study and gave teachers greater confidence in their ability to teach science. To read the press release about the study, click here. To read more about the study and to download a copy, click here.

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The Economic Stimulus: Investing in Innovation

This is the final installment of a three-part free webinar series on the economic stimulus offered by Education Week. In August of 2010, the U.S. Department of Education distributed i3 grants to 49 organizations around the county that had submitted proposals for a variety of innovative plans to improve schools. In total nearly 1,700 proposals were submitted for the $650 million that the Department of Education awarded to the winning organizations. Winners were split into three categories based on the size of the award and how much evidence the proposal had of past success. The webinar will feature guests from each of the three categories as they discuss what their organizations have accomplished, how effective their plans have been, and the challenges that are ahead. The webinar will take place on Tuesday, June 28, 2011, at 2 p.m. Eastern time.

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Congratulations to the 2011 Toyota TAPESTRY Awardees

Earlier this month, a group of 50 U.S. science educators were selected to receive $500,000 in grants through the Toyota TAPESTRY Grants for Science Teachers Program. Now in its 21 st year, the program recognizes and provides support to educators who are making a difference by demonstrating excellence and creativity in science education.

This year, 50 $10,000 grants were awarded to science educators, who submitted proposals in the category of environmental science education. A judging panel convened by the NSTA selected the award-winning projects that stood out in creativity, impact on the community and originality.

Projects ranged from creating bio-fuel in an effort to help school communities go green to increasing food production on farms in urban environments.

Click here to read about the 2011 winning projects.

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Teacher Education, Professional Development, and Grant and Award Opportunities

STEM Educator Award

Earlier this month NSTA unveiled a new award—the STEM Educator Award—sponsored by PASCO Scientific. The award recognizes excellence and innovation in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education at the elementary and secondary school levels. This applicant must be a K-12 STEM educator, must have a minimum of three years of teaching experience in the STEM fields and must implement innovative, inquiry-based, technology-infused STEM programs. One elementary, two middle level, and two high school level recipients will be awarded annually.

Each awardee will receive up to $1,500 to cover travel expenses to attend the NSTA national conference and be part of a STEM share-a-thon workshop; a $1,000 monetary gift; and a $2,000 certificate for PASCO Scientific products. Awardees will be honored during the awards ceremony and banquet at the NSTA National Conference .on Science Education. Applications are due November 1, 2011. For more information about the award, click here.

Entomological Society of America's President's Prizes

Sponsored by the Entomological Society of America (ESA), the President's Prizes for Outstanding Achievement in Primary and Secondary Education recognize educators who have gone beyond traditional teaching methods by using insects as educational tools. One winning primary school teacher (grades K-6) and one secondary school teacher (grades 7–12) will be chosen. The recipients are presented with $400 to purchase teaching materials to expand the use of insects in the teaching curriculum, $400 for travel expenses to present a paper or poster on the use of insects in primary or secondary educational programs, and $800 toward expenses related to attending the ESA Annual Meeting. Application/nomination packages must be received by the awards administrator by July 1, 2011. For more information about the award, click here.

Partnering for Excellence: Innovations in Science + Technology + Engineering + Math (STEM) Education

Carnegie Corporation of New York, The Opportunity Equation, and Ashoka’s Changemakers have launched an online collaborative competition to unleash the talent, passion, and real-world skills of experts to engage students of all ages in rich science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning. The competition, Partnering for Excellence: Innovations in Science + Technology + Engineering + Math (STEM) Education, calls for solutions from community partners and others that engage STEM experts from health care, technology, pharmaceuticals, academia, nonprofits/museums, architecture, graphic-design, banking, and beyond in our nation’s schools, particularly our high-need schools. The competition winners will receive more than $120,000 in cash and in-kind prizes. To learn more about the program, visit the competition website.

Kids In Need Foundation Teacher Grant Program

The Kids In Need Foundation, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to providing free school supplies to economically disadvantaged school children and under-funded K–12 teachers, is accepting applications for the 2011 Teacher Grant Program beginning July 15. The foundation rewards creative teachers each year with grants to fund exceptional classroom projects. Grant amounts are between $100 and $500. Applications are due September 30, 2011. To learn more about the grant program, click here.

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Teacher Resources

National Pollinator Week

Officially declared by the U.S. Senate and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, this celebration helps spread the message that pollination is vital to our survival and the existence of nearly all ecosystems on Earth. Teachers will find free materials online, including Nature's Partners: Pollinators, Plants, and You, an inquiry learning-based curriculum for grades 3–6 comprised of seven modules. The activities are appropriate for the formal classroom or for a non-formal education setting and can easily be adapted to fit the needs of the students and the teaching situation. The website also features news, information, and reports on pollinators, as well as pollinator ringtones and links to videos.

Teaching From Space

Collected by a group of former teachers dedicated to the STEM cause, this website highlights STEM opportunities and resources for K–12 students and teachers. Opportunities range from capturing images of Earth by remotely programming a camera aboard the International Space Station to launching an experiment on a NASA weather balloon. Teaching From Space can connect you with astronauts aboard the International Space Station to answer questions related to your classroom studies. Resources for the classroom include curricula, video clips, and hands-on activities. For example, teachers can access a series of animated videos describing a Day in the Life Aboard the International Space Station.

Water Life Game

This virtual game for students in grades 5–8 takes place in an unhealthy ecosystem in an estuary on the west coast of the United States. Players help Valerie and Oscar the sea otter complete challenges to bring the estuary back to health. Along the way, students learn about food webs, the factors for producing healthy estuaries, and the reasons estuaries are essential to ocean life and humans. In addition to the online game, the site presents information about marine science careers and NOAA’s role in protecting estuaries, and ideas for getting involved in estuary protection.

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Parent Opportunities and Resources

Lowe's Toolbox for Education Grant Program

This program funds school improvement projects initiated by parents in recognition of the importance of parent involvement in education. Maximum award: $5,000. Eligibility: K–12 schools (including charter, parochial, private, etc.) or parent groups (associated with a nonprofit K–12 school). For more information visit the program website.

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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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