NSTA's Science Matters Newsletter

May 2012

Here are your science education resources and announcements for May 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

First Public Draft of Next Generation Science Standards Released—Comment Period Open Until June 1

The first draft of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) was released on May 11 and will be online for public comment until June 1.

Access the vast variety of NSTA resources and materials on NGSS (including background information) and the FREE NSTA Reader’s Guide to A Framework for K–12 Science Education, an important companion to the Framework that will help science educators prepare for the standards. Visit NSTA’s Next Generation Science Standards Forums in the NSTA Learning Center or sign up today for the comprehensive NSELA/NSTA Summer Leadership Institute, which will focus on NGSS, scheduled for June 24–28, 2012, in Austin, Texas.

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New Report Links Students’ Interest in STEM to Technology in Classroom

A survey of students and educators finds children are more likely to have an interest in STEM fields when their classroom’s instructional model incorporates personalized learning strategies, digital technology, and social media. The survey results are contained in Mapping a Personalized Learning Journey—K–12 Students and Parents Connect the Dots with Digital Learning, from Project Tomorrow’s Speak Up 2011 National Research Project.

According to the report, only 20 percent of children in traditional classrooms—where instruction is teacher centered and the use of technology is minimal or nonexistent—expressed an interest in pursuing STEM fields, compared to 27 percent of technology-infused classrooms with both student-directed and teacher-directed instruction models.

The report also argues that the impending implementation of the common core state standards and the assessments that will accompany them, combined with the “continuing national self-interest in attracting more students to the STEM fields,” gives a “greater urgency” to transforming the in-school learning process through personalization enabled by technology.

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Feminizing Science and Math Role Models Discourages Female Students From Pursuing STEM Fields According to New Study

Efforts to promote more feminine role models in STEM fields may actually be discouraging middle schools girls from pursuing these fields, according to a new study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science.

The first study found middle school girls who read about the blatant female role models reduced the students’ interest, perceived ability, and future expectations in math, and they showed less interest in taking future math classes in high school and college than girls who read about role models with non-STEM-specific achievements. Study 2 suggested that girls who already disliked science or felt disconnected from it were even more likely to reject the feminine STEM role model than girls who like science already.

"The bottom line, though, is that this research suggests that we don't need to make role models or STEM fields 'girly' to motivate girls," they told me. "Instead, we should turn to what we already know makes a helpful role model. Girls have to feel like they can relate to or identify with the female scientists they see and learn about. ... Female role models should also be shown as actively involved in science rather than passive observers or tokens: show women really using equipment and conducting research. Teaching girls about what scientists and engineers really do, and especially highlighting their social usefulness and communal aspects, has been found to be motivating for girls."

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NSTA Announcements

U.S. Students Show Slight Improvement on Science Test; No Cause For Optimism, Says NSTA

The science results of the 2011 National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), also known as The Nation’s Report Card, were released last week by the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB). The results showed that the average eighth grade science score rose from 150 in 2009 to 152 in 2011, a small increase, but still far below 170, which is considered science proficiency on the test’s 300-point scale.

The NAEP data also revealed that score gaps between white and black students and between white and Hispanic students narrowed slightly from 2009 to 2011. In comparison to 2009, average science scores  in 2011 were one point higher for white students, three points higher for black students, and five points higher for Hispanic students.

NAEP tested a nationally representative sample of 122,000 students in 8th grade from 7,290 public and private schools. Among the 47 states that chose to participate in both years, scores were only higher in 16 states—Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Said Interim Executive Director Dr. Gerry Wheeler, “There is no cause for optimism regarding the science results of the 2011 National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP). Overall, the results show miniscule gains in student achievement. The majority of our eighth-grade students still fall below the proficiency level… When you consider the importance of being scientifically literate in today’s global economy, these scores are simply unacceptable.”

Click here to read NSTA’s official statement regarding the science results of the 2011 National Assessment of Education Progress.

Eight Student Teams From Across the U.S. and Canada Named National Winners in the 20l2 Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVision Program

Congratulations to the 2012 national winners recently selected for the 20th annual Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVision Program. The program’s eight national winners looked to the world around them to propose ideas for technologies that could make the future better, healthier and more eco-friendly. This year the program received 4,809 team projects representing the participation of 14,606 students from across the U.S. and Canada. National winning projects reflected in-depth research on the environment, important health issues, and ways to enhance the school experience.

Students on the four first-place ExploraVision national winner teams will each receive a $ 5,000 US Series EE Savings Bond (valued $10,000 at maturity). Students on second-place teams will each receive a $ 2,500 Savings Bond (valued $5,000 at maturity). (Canadian winners receive Canada Bonds purchased for the equivalent issue price in Canadian dollars.) The eight teams will also receive an expenses-paid trip with their families, mentor, and coach to Washington, D.C . for a gala awards weekend in June 2012. Activities will include a visit to Capitol Hill to meet with members of Congress, a Science Showcase during which the students will display and demonstrate their winning ideas, an appearance at the National Press Club, and sightseeing around the nation’s capital.

For more information or an application for 2013, visit the competition website or e-mail exploravision@nsta.org.

Disney's Planet Challenge Grand Prize Winners Celebrate

Disney's Planet Challenge (DPC), a project-based learning environmental competition for classrooms across the United States, teaches kids about science and conservation while empowering them to make a positive impact on their communities and planet. That impact was noted and rewarded last month when Disney celebrated two grand prize winning projects from an elementary and middle school classroom, along with their respective teachers, with a trip to Walt Disney World.

The fifth grade elementary class from Brickett Elementary in Lynn, Massachusetts, won on their project, “Think Before You Idle,” attempting to decrease needless vehicle idling by educating the community and encouraging community members to change their habits.

Seventh graders in Christa McAuliffe School, PS No. 28, Jersey City, New Jersey, and their two teachers, Jennifer Mulewski and Robert O’Donnell, took the grand prize for “Project Reservoir” where the goal was to transform the Jersey City Reservoir into a state-designated environmental learning center and to increase awareness of the reservoir, encouraging the community to become invested in its survival, revitalization, and success.

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Teacher Education, Professional Development, and Grant and Award Opportunities

Premier Award for Excellence in Engineering Education Courseware

Have you developed courseware—interactive websites, simulations, tutorials, case studies, software environments, or tools— designed to enhance engineering education? The Engineering Pathway Digital Library is hosting this annual international competition to recognize high-quality, engaging, noncommercial learning innovations designed to enhance engineering education. The winner will receive a cash prize, a trophy, and a travel stipend to attend the Frontiers in Education Conference in Seattle in October. Submissions are due by July 13, 2012. For more information visit the competition website.

Lawrence Scadden Teacher of the Year Award in Science Education for Students with Disabilities

The Lawrence Scadden Teacher of the Year Award recognizes excellence in science teaching for students with disabilities. The award is open to all current K–12 teachers (general education, special education, or science teachers, public or private) who have taught at least five years. Nominees must have made an outstanding contribution to science students with disabilities. The winner of the Scadden award is expected to attend the NSTA National Conference on Science Education to accept the award. A check for $1,000 is provided to offset travel expenses to the NSTA conference. Click here for information about the award.

2012-2013 Fulbright Scholar Competition

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. Click here for more information about the program.

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Teacher Resources

We Are the Explorers Video

This short video produced by NASA celebrates humankind's need for exploration. The video highlights NASA’s tradition of exploration, from the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs to the space shuttle and International Space Station. It also looks ahead to vehicles being built now that will take humans farther than they ever have gone, such as the new Orion crew vehicle and Space Launch System. Teachers can share the video with middle and high school students to inspire them to reach for the stars.

The Early Childhood Environmental Education Rating Scale

A new evaluative tool for early childhood educators from the North American Association for Environmental Education provides a framework to show educators how their programs align with established guidelines for high-quality environmental education programs for young children. The scale is useful in sparking discussion on program goals, considering a program’s strengths and areas of needed improvement, and charting a future direction.

Reinventing Professional Development

Education Week ’s Spotlight on Professional Development presents a collection of articles chosen by publication editors for their valuable insight on the subject. Article topics include applying co-teaching strategies in the classroom; integrating face-to-face and online professional development; using social media and networking for professional development; supporting educators to meet the needs of English-language learners; and seeking National Board certification. Access the articles and a resource guide here.

Science Fair Guide

Holt Science and Technology prepared this comprehensive science fair resource to help teachers, students, and parents navigate the difficult process of developing a successful science fair project. Most appropriate for the middle level, the guide provides specifically tailored advice for each group during five phases of a project: Generating an Idea; Research and Planning; Data Collection and Analysis; Writing a Report; and Creating and Exhibiting a Display. The guide includes project timelines, safety guidelines, checklists, and progress reports. Access the resource guide 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. E-mail us your suggestions and feedback at sciencematters@nsta.org. We look forward to hearing from you!

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