NSTA's Science Matters Newsletter

March 2012

Here are your science education resources and announcements for March 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

New Survey Finds Decreased Teacher Satisfaction

Teachers are less satisfied with their jobs than they have been in decades according to a new survey—MetLife Survey of the American Teacher: Teachers, Parents and the Economy—released earlier this month by MetLife.

Teacher job satisfaction has fallen 15 percentage points since 2009, the last time the annual Metlife survey queried teachers on this topic, from 59 percent to 44 percent responding they are very satisfied. This decline in job satisfaction is coupled with a large increase in the number of teachers reporting that they are likely to leave teaching for another occupation (17 percent in 2009 vs. 29 percent today). Teachers are also more than four times as likely now than they were five years ago to say that they do not feel their job is secure. In addition, 53 percent of parents and 65 percent of teachers today say that teachers’ salaries are not fair for the work they do.

To read more about the results from the survey, click here.

STEM: A Fast Growing and Vital Field with a Declining Share of Women, New Report Finds

Jobs in science, engineering, technology, and math (STEM) fields are expected to grow by 17 percent between 2008 and 2018, nearly double the growth of all other fields. A new report from the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) shows that women are underrepresented in all but one STEM field, and have been losing ground in receipt of STEM degrees from community colleges over the last decade.

According to the new report, Increasing Opportunities for Low-Income Women and Student Parents in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math at Community Colleges, the share of women pursuing degrees in STEM fields at community colleges is significantly declining. In 1997, women earned 33.8 percent of these degrees but that number dropped to 27.5 percent in 2007. Although women make up close to half of the labor force, only one in four STEM jobs is held by a woman.

Read more about the findings here.

NSTA Announcements

ExploraVision Announces 20th Anniversary Regional Winners

The 20th annual Toshiba/National Science Teachers Association ExploraVision program recently announced its 24 regional winners for 2012. Sponsored by Toshiba and administered by NSTA, ExploraVision is the world’s largest K–12 science and technology competition, challenging students to work in teams and design innovative technologies that could exist in 20 years. The program has reached a major milestone, celebrating its 20th anniversary of encouraging students to participate in science, look at problems critically and find solutions. Since its inception, more than 300,000 students have participated. This year the program saw an increase of 11 percent in the number of student participants – 4,807 team projects representing the participation of 14,602 students from across the US and Canada.

To celebrate the program’s 20th anniversary, the teacher who submitted the most student projects in each grade category received the ExploraVision “20th Anniversary Award,” a Toshiba Thrive tablet. The winning teachers are: Laura Haddad (K–3rd grade category) from The Dalton School in New York City, Debbie O’Brien (4–6th grade category), from Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale, Brian Knoop (7–9th grade category) from St. Henry Catholic School in Nashville, TN, and Barsoum Kasparian (10–12th grade category) from Chaminade College Prep in West Hills, CA. In addition to the individual teacher awards, Chaminade College Prep will also receive a Toshiba Classroom package consisting of a TV/DVD combo LED TV, a “kid-friendly” PC, 10 LED light bulbs, a Thrive Tablet and an award for being the school with the most overall submissions in 2012.

Shell Science Lab Challenge Names 2012 Regional Winners

Congratulations to the 17 middle and secondary school science teachers who have been named regional winners in the second annual Shell Science Lab Challenge. Sponsored by Shell Oil Company and administered by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), 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 finalists will be chosen, and from the national finalists a grand prize winner will be selected.

As a regional winner, each teacher and their school will receive science lab equipment provided by the Shell Science Lab Challenge in addition to Shell cash grants, membership to the NSTA, and support to attend an NSTA conference. VWR is also supporting the Shell Science Lab Challenge by providing equipment to the winners. Viable strategies submitted to the Challenge will be published in an online NSTA repository of science lab activities that can be accessed by other teachers looking for new ways to create quality lab experiences using limited resources. For more information about the program visit the competition website.

Clean Tech Competition Announces 2011–2012 Grand Prize Winning Teams and Finalists

Congratulations to the grand prize winning teams and finalists in the first-ever Clean Tech Competition, presented by Applied Materials. The competition, a collaborative student design contest developed to inspire the next generation of leaders and innovators in the field of clean technology, immerses high school students in real-world challenges that illustrate the powerful potential of clean technology to address problems that confront humanity.

The competition involved students, ages 13–18, from two global centers of innovation, the San Francisco Bay Area in California, and Xi’an, China. This year’s challenge posed to students was “Solar Solutions to the Rescue.” Teams of students, under the guidance of their teacher or other adult team leader, designed a solar-powered solution to a basic human need identified in the aftermath of a natural disaster. Participants identified a situation, explored the issue and then presented their clean tech solution to a panel of industry and education experts for judging. One grand prize winning team, two second place teams, three third place teams and four finalists were then selected from each region.

Project entries submitted by student teams ranged from a tracking system to locate victims swept away by a tsunami or flood to a light-weight, chemically-active filtration mask that utilizes solar and battery power to reduce the risk of developing respiratory problems from overexposure to volcanic ash. Other projects included a solar-powered reverse osmosis water supply system and an emergency communication station that can direct search and rescue teams to a trapped person’s precise location after an earthquake. To learn more about the program, click here.

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Teacher Education, Professional Development, and Grant and Award Opportunities

Green Schools! Action Project Grants

GreenWorks! is a service-learning, community action grant program for educators, students and communities to undertake environmental neighborhood improvement projects. Eligible schools must have established Green Teams and have completed one or more of the Project Learning Tree GreenSchools! Investigations. Learn more about the program here.

Living in a Material World Grants

To help K-12 teachers bring the real world of materials science into their classrooms, the ASM Materials Education Foundation awards 10 grants of $500 annually. The “Living in a Material World’ grants recognize teacher creativity. Their purpose is to enhance awareness of materials science and the role of materials scientists in society. Applicants must submit a two-page proposal describing a curriculum-based, hands-on project involving students' observations, communication, and mathematics and science skills that will increase their awareness of the materials around them. Submissions due May 25, 2012. For more information, visit the program website.

The Art of a Flipped Classroom—Turning Learning on its Head

During this free eSchool News webinar, sponsored by TechSmith & Eduvision by JDL Horizons, participants will learn more about Flipped Learning and how to reach all students in every class every day. Flipped Learning is when educators actively transfer the responsibility and ownership of learning to their students. The one-hour webinar takes place on Thursday, May 3, at 3:00 p.m. eastern time. For more information, click here.

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Teacher Resources

Free Download: Education Week Spotlight on STEM

Teachers and educators can access a selection of Education WeekSpotlights, including the Spotlight on STEM, now available for free download. Each Spotlight is a collection of articles and commentaries on important teaching topics. The Spotlight on STEM features insights on:

  • Targeting STEM curriculum to underrepresented students
  • Programs that prepare educators to teach STEM
  • A science framework for K-12 science students
  • Applying STEM in hands-on learning environments
  • Using after-school time for informal science learning
  • Integrating arts learning in science and math subjects
  • Understanding the causes of math anxiety

Download the Education Week Spotlight on STEM now. Other free Spotlights are available to download. The entire collection can be found here.

Greening STEM Planning Toolkits

EE Week’s 2012 theme is Greening STEM: The Environment as Inspiration for 21st Century Learning . In honor of this year’s them, EE Week is offering a set of planning toolkits for educators including STEM activities and resources for all grade levels around popular environmental topics. These topics include:

  • Gardens & Schoolyards
  • Energy Efficiency
  • Geography Connections
  • Water Resources
  • Climate & Weather

The toolkits highlight opportunities for project-based learning, service-learning and citizen science. Access the toolkits here.

CSI: The Experience, a Traveling Exhibit

Visitors to the exhibit, which is based on the hit CSI television series, play crime-scene investigators and try to solve one of three mysteries using video input from CSI actors, real-life forensic specialists, and two on-site crime labs. The exhibit gives teenagers and adults the chance to collect and analyze evidence.  CSI's creator helped to develop the exhibit with CBS, the National Science Foundation, and the Fort Worth Museum of Science.

Check the tour schedule on the website to see when it will come to your area.

High School Climate Change Lessons

Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP), a journal published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has released three new articles on climate change:In The Buffer Zone: Acid-base Chemistry in the World’s Oceans, students read an EHP article about global warming and its effect on coral reefs. They then conduct experiments that simulate ocean acidification and discuss the implications of climate change. Visit http://bit.ly/zBeuLH.Students who read “Continental Divide: Why Africa’s Climate Change Burden Is Greater” will learn about the Kyoto Protocol and the U.S. position on it (i.e, the treaty contains flaws), and how scientific data informs the debate on this and other controversial issues. Students then formulate and defend a position on what the United States should do next. This lesson, The Kyoto Protocol: What Should We Do?, is available here. In What’s All the Buzz About? Vector-Borne Diseases and Climate Change, students read an EHP article about vector-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, and West Nile virus. They then perform an experiment to model the transmission of such diseases and the impact of climate change on this process. Find this lesson and the article here. Each lesson includes a lesson summary, background information, and student worksheets.

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Student Opportunities and Resources

2012 U.S. Earth Day Contest

Project Earth is hosting a national Earth Day Contest for grades K–12 featuring environmental projects, activities and actions being taken to conserve resources and protect our environment. The submission deadline is April 15. Learn more about the contest here.

Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes

The award honors outstanding young leaders who have made a significant positive difference to people and our planet. Nominees, who may range in age from 8 to 18 years old, must have been the prime mover of a service activity, and demonstrated positive spirit and high moral purpose in accomplishing their goals. Nominees must be nominated by responsible adults who have solid knowledge of the young person's heroic activities, and who are not related to the nominee. Winners of the Barron Prize receive $2,500 to be applied to their higher education or to their service project. For more information, click here.

Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge

This science competition rewards middle school students (grades 5–8) for their science acumen, demonstration of innovation and curiosity, and communication skills. Through the Challenge, students have the opportunity to compete for $25,000 and the title of “America’s Top Young Scientist.” Encouraging students to share their passion for science, the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge asks students to create a one to two-minute video communicating the science behind a possible solution to an everyday problem. Submissions are due April 19. For more information about the Challenge, visit the Young Scientist Challenge 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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