NSTA's Science Matters Newsletter

July 2011

Here are your science education resources and announcements for July 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

National Research Council Releases New Science Framework

The National Research Council (NRC) released its much-anticipated report that presents a new framework for K–12 science education and identifies the key concepts and practices that all students should learn. A Framework for K–12 Science Education offers a new vision for K–12 education in science and engineering, and represents a significant shift in how these subjects are viewed and taught.

“This framework emphasizes the importance of engaging students more deeply in the process of doing science, not just learning content,” said NSTA Executive Director Dr. Francis Eberle. “NSTA applauds the NRC for its outstanding work on this document and for engaging the science education community during the development process. Much work lies ahead. We look forward to working with Achieve to translate the Framework into new science standards that can be supported by all states, and to involve science teachers in the development process.”

The framework will serve as the basis for the Next Generation Science Standards, a state-led effort managed by Achieve, Inc. The framework will also inform the work of curriculum and assessment developers, researchers, teacher educators, and others.

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Commerce Department Report Shows Fast-Growing STEM Jobs Offer Higher Pay, Lower Unemployment

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA) released a new report this month that profiles U.S. employment in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. STEM: Good Jobs Now and for the Future offers an inside look at workers who are driving our nation’s innovation and competitiveness and helping America win the future with new ideas, new companies and new industries.

In 2010, 7.6 million people or 5.5 percent of the labor force worked in STEM occupations. Key findings from the new report show that over the past 10 years, growth in STEM jobs was three times greater than that of non-STEM jobs, and STEM jobs are expected to continue to grow at a faster rate than other jobs in the coming decade. Meanwhile, STEM workers are also less likely to experience joblessness.

Further findings show STEM workers command higher wages, earning 26 percent more than their non-STEM counterparts. STEM degree holders also enjoy higher earnings, regardless of whether they work in STEM or non-STEM occupations. Likewise, college graduates—no matter what their major—enjoy an earnings premium for having a STEM job.

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New Study Finds Key to Generating More STEM Degrees Is Sparking Students Interest In the Subjects

According to a new study released last month in the journal Science Education, enrolling high school students into more advanced math and science classes does not have the greatest impact on generating more college graduates with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) degrees.

The researchers, Adam V. Maltese from Indiana University, Bloomington, and Robert H. Tai from the University of Virginia, found that “various indicators of student interest and self-confidence in science and math in high school are strongly associated with students continuing STEM studies through college, above and beyond enrollment and achievement factors.”

Using an analysis of 4,700 students participating in the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS:88) conducted by the U.S. Department of Education, Maltese and Tai examined student transcripts and responses from surveys taken in the eighth, 10th, and 12th grades about subject interest, course enrollment and achievement, and career plans.

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Teacher Education, Professional Development, and Grant and Award Opportunities

365: Chemistry for Life Contest

The American Chemical Society (ACS) is offering students, teachers, and others the chance to win cash cards and an iPad, iPod Touch, and iPod Nano in a contest to fill in empty dates in its IYC-365 online calendar. Called the “365: Chemistry for Life Contest,” it is part of ACS’ celebration of the International Year of Chemistry. ACS purposely left some days without content, as an invitation to the public to help fill in the gaps, and participate in the IYC. Entries should consist of the name of a chemistry-related person, place, innovation or everyday item with a 300-400 word description of the entry. The description should be written in non-technical language and include a discussion of how the entry improves and impacts everyday life. Entries accepted for use in the calendar will be eligible for a monthly drawing for a $50 Visa card, and a December drawing for the iPad, iPod Touch, and iPod Nano.

NEA Foundation-Nickelodeon Big Help Grants

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. Applications are reviewed three times per year, every year. The next application deadline is October 15, 2011.

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 teachers, is accepting applications for the 2011 Teacher Grant Program. The foundation rewards creative teachers each year with grants to fund exceptional classroom projects. Grant amounts are between $100 and $500. Applications will be available online through September 30, 2011.

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Teacher Resources

TIMSS Lessons

Teachers can now view the public-use lessons collected as part of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) video studies (free registration required). The videos are intended to spark discussion about teaching practices in different countries. Fifty-three full-length videos of eighth-grade mathematics and science lessons from seven countries are available. Each lesson includes English-translation subtitles, a searchable transcript, and teacher resource materials. Educators can share their comments on the site’s discussion forum.

Hurricane Katrina Learning Module, Grades 5–12

The U.S. National Ocean Service recently formed a task force to study the trends and impacts of hurricanes on coastal regions. Now, through a problem-based learning module from NASA on the same topic, students in grades 5–12 can conduct their own research to explore the question, “Is global warming causing an increase in hurricane frequency and intensity?” and compile their findings into a presentation to share with classmates. The project develops students’ critical-thinking and data-analysis skills.

Home, Where The Heart Is

Follow the course of blood through the heart and body; learn about the structure of the heart; and find tips on how to live a heart-healthy lifestyle. Produced by the Franklin Institute of Science, the website offers enrichment activities appropriate for upper-elementary and middle school students. For example, in Heartbeat, students use a simulated stethoscope (cardboard tube) to listen to heart sounds at rest and after exertion.

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Student Opportunities and Resources

AAPT’s Barbara Lotze Scholarships for Future Teachers

The American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) Executive Board offers scholarships for future high school physics teachers. These scholarships, supported by an endowment funded by Barbara Lotze, are available only to U.S. citizens attending U.S. schools. Undergraduate students enrolled, or planning to enroll, in physics teacher preparation curricula and high school seniors entering such programs are eligible. Successful applicants receive a stipend of up to $2,000. The scholarship may be granted to an individual for each of four years.

Applications will be accepted at any time and will be considered for recommendation to the Executive Board at each AAPT Winter Meeting. All applications in which all materials, including letters of recommendation, are received by December 1 will be considered for recommendation at the winter meeting of the AAPT Executive Board.

The Molecular Workbench

The Molecular Workbench, developed by the Concord Consortium, is a free, open-source software tool that helps students from grade 5 to college overcome challenges in understanding the science of atoms and molecules. Using sophisticated computation methods based on first principles, the Molecular Workbench simulates atomic-scale phenomena and permits students to interact with them. The Molecular Workbench models electrons, atoms and molecules, which make it applicable across physics, chemistry, biology and engineering. To learn more, visit the software tool 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. E-mail us your suggestions and feedback at sciencematters@nsta.org. We look forward to hearing from you!

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