NSTA's Science Matters Newsletter

January 2012

Here are your science education resources and announcements for January 2012 provided by the Science Matters Network. Please forward them on to other science educators in your school and/or school district.

Table of Contents

Does Money Matter In Education?

Does money matter in providing a high-quality education? It absolutely does, according to a new report entitled Revisiting the Age-Old Question: Does Money Matter in Education? that reviewed research on spending and educational quality.

In this report, written by Rutgers University professor Bruce Baker and released by the Albert Shanker Institute, Baker concludes that:

“Despite recent rhetoric, on average, aggregate measures of per-pupil spending are positively associated with improved or higher student outcomes while schooling resources which cost money, including class size reduction or higher teacher salaries, are positively associated with student outcomes. Sustained improvements to the level and distribution of funding across local public school districts can lead to improvements in the level and distribution of student outcomes.”

To read the report in its entirety, click here (PDF).

NGA Releases Guide on STEM Education

Last month the National Governors Association released, Building A Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Education Agenda (PDF), a guide focused on strengthening science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. The report’s six chapters cover the following topics:

  • Goals of the STEM agenda, focusing on specific measures;
  • Why the STEM agenda is important in terms of jobs, prosperity and future economic success;
  • Weak links in the system;
  • Implementing a state STEM agenda; and
  • Moving forward, a look at the work ahead.

The Flipped Classroom

The Flipped classroom, a teaching method in which the lectures are watched at home and class time is used to work on what used to be assigned as homework, has been increasing in popularity recently as a teaching model used among K–12 educators. The model is hailed by many who say that the technique helps increase student-teacher interaction and peer-to-peer learning among students. Read the recent York Daily Record article that highlights several teachers who have adopted the flipped classroom model of teaching. NSTA Executive Director Dr. Francis Eberle is quoted.

NCSE Launches Climate Change Initiative

The National Center for Science Education (NCSE), an Oakland, CA-based nonprofit organization that supports the teaching of evolution through advocacy and educational materials, launched a new initiative this week aimed at defending the teaching of climate change. NCSE is now offering teachers advice on how to deal with students, parents, and school authorities demanding they drop classes on climate change.

NCSE's Executive Director Eugenie C. Scott explained, “We consider climate change a critical issue in our own mission to protect the integrity of science education." She added, "Climate affects everyone, and the decisions we make today will affect generations to come. We need to teach kids now about the realities of global warming and climate change, so that they're prepared to make informed, intelligent decisions in the future.”

Check out NCSE’s new section of the website devoted to their climate change education initiative.

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Teacher Education, Professional Development, and Grant and Award Opportunities

ASM’s Albert Easton White Distinguished Teacher Award

The Albert Easton White Distinguished Teacher Award offered by ASM International, recognizes long (not less than 20 years) and devoted service in teaching materials science and engineering. The ability to inspire and impart enthusiasm to students, and significant materials accomplishments, are key considerations. Nominated individuals must have five years of current, continuous ASM membership. For instructions on how to nominate a teacher click here (PDF). Nominations are due by February 1 (two years prior to presentation).

NEA Foundation Student Achievement Grants

The NEA Foundation Student Achievement Grants provide funds to improve the academic achievement of students by engaging in critical thinking and problem-solving that deepen their knowledge of standards-based subject matter. The work should also improve students' habits of inquiry, self-directed learning, and critical reflection. Maximum award: $5,000. Practicing U.S. public school teachers, public school education support professionals, or faculty or staff at public higher education institutions are eligible to apply. Application deadlines are February 1, June 1 , and October 15.

Intel Schools of Distinction Program

Every year, Intel honors U.S. schools demonstrating excellence in math and science education through innovative teaching and learning environments. To be considered as an Intel School of Distinction, schools must develop an environment and curricula that meet or exceed benchmarks put forth by national mathematics and science content standards.

Up to three schools at each level—elementary, middle, and high school—will be named as finalists in the math and science categories. The 18 schools will receive a cash grant of $5,000 from the Intel Foundation and a trip to Washington, D.C., for a four-member team from their school and district. Six winners will be selected from the finalists and receive an additional $5,000 cash grant. One of these winners will be selected as the "Star Innovator" and will receive an additional $15,000 grant. All five winning schools and the Star Innovator will also receive products and services from program sponsors. For more information, including how to apply, click here.

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Teacher Resources

Data in the Classroom

Middle and high school teachers interested in using real scientific data in their teaching should visit the NOAA Ocean Data Education Project website. The website offers four learning modules covering El Niño (grades 6–8), Sea Level (grades 6–8), Water Quality (grades 6–8), and Ocean Acidification (grades 10–12). Each module contains five lessons at increasing levels of sophistication. In El Niño, for example, students move from learning how to access and interpret sea surface temperature data, to identifying and measuring changes in temperature over time, to exploring how these changes relate to physical and biological systems.

Schools of Thought Blog

This new blog from CNN.com offers food for thought in the national conversation on education. Edited by a team of education experts with contributions from Cable News Network (CNN) journalists and others, the blog covers umbrella issues in education, such as student, teacher, and parent accountability; bullying; and financial concerns, as well as current topics in the news. Each day the blog’s editors present “Today’s Reading List,” a selection of thought-provoking education stories of the day.

Multimedia Learning Series

Produced by NSF and NBC Learn, these multimedia learning series for middle and high school levels feature videos, documents, images, and lesson plans. Chemistry Now! examines the chemistry behind everyday items such as cheeseburgers, chocolate, soap, and plastics. Changing Planet follows the scientists studying the effects of rising temperatures in Earth’s air, water, and land. Science of NFL Football explores the physics, engineering, materials science, and math of the sport. Science of the Olympic Winter Games spotlights the scientific principles of skating, snowboarding, skiing, and other sports.

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Student Opportunities and Resources

The DuPont Challenge Science Essay Competition

The 2012 DuPont Challenge deadline is fast approaching. Essays must be submitted by January 31 to be considered.

The competition invites students in grades 7–12 to write a 700- to 1,000-word essay about a scientific discovery, theory, event or technological application that has captured their interest. Developed in collaboration with NSTA, NASA, Kennedy Space Center, The Walt Disney World Resort, NBC Learn, and A+ Media, the competition offers young students the opportunity to explore science, develop new skills and gain confidence in communicating scientific ideas.

Click here for the official entry form.

Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge

There is still plenty of time to register your team for the Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge. Join K–12 students and teachers nationwide in this exciting sustainability competition to solve environmental problems and win over $250,000 in prizes. The deadline for all entries is March 15, 2012. Finalists will be announced by April 23 and the national winners will be announced May 15. For more information, visit the Challenge website.

Bob the Bunny’s Cartoon Competition

Bob the Bunny's Cartoon Competition, sponsored by Volvo Adventure in partnership with the United Nations Environment Program, is aimed at children ages 10 to 12 years old. To enter, students form a team of one to three members, identify a local environmental issue, and create an A4 cartoon strip illustrating the issue and actions that they might take to solve it. The winning team will be sent to the 2012 Volvo Adventure final in Goteborg, Sweden. The submissions should be sent before the competition deadline of 24:00 CET on February 28 2012.

Christopher Columbus Awards

This national, community-based science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) program challenges middle school students to work in teams of three to four, with an adult coach, to identify a problem in their community and apply scientific methods to create an innovative solution to that problem. Eight finalist teams and their coaches will receive an all-expense-paid trip to Walt Disney World to attend National Championship Week and compete for U.S. Savings Bonds and the $25,000 Columbus Foundation Community Grant, plus a $200 development grant to further refine their idea. Teams do not need to be affiliated with a school to enter.

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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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