NSTA's Science Matters Newsletter

July 2012

Here are your science education resources and announcements for July 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

President Obama Announces $1 Billion Master Teacher Program

Earlier this week, the Obama Administration announced plans to create a new STEM Master Teacher Corps comprised of the nation’s best STEM educators from across the country. The program will start with 50 teachers and will expand over four years to reach 10,000 “master teachers.” Selected teachers will make a multi-year commitment to the program and in exchange for their service will receive an annual stipend of up to $20,000 on top of their base salary. The Teacher Corps will launch with the $1 billion included in the President’s 2013 budget request currently being considered by Congress.

The Administration also announced that the President will dedicated approximately $100 million of the existing Teacher Incentive Fund toward helping school districts implement plans to establish career ladders that identify, develop and leverage highly effective STEM teachers.

Read NSTA’s official response the President’s announcement here.

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New Study Finds Parents Play an Instrumental Role in Promoting Students Interest in STEM

A new study, Helping Parents to Motivate Adolescents in Mathematics and Science: An Experimental Test of a Utility-Value Intervention, published in Psychological Science, suggests that a simple intervention with parents led students to take on more math and science classes in their last two years of high school.

The experiment involved sending parents two brochures and the link to a website, all highlighting the importance and value of studying STEM subjects. To assure parents paid attention, they asked parents to evaluate the website. A control group of parents and kids received none of the information.

Parents and students completed a final questionnaire about their interactions with the brochures and the website and their perceived utility of math and science courses. Information about the classes that the students took was obtained through self-report and high school transcripts. The results showed that the intervention had an effect on the courses that the students enrolled in. The effect amounted to roughly an extra semester of advanced math or science

According to the lead author Judith Harackiewicz, of the University of Wisconsin, “Although some people question whether parents wield any influence, we think of parents as an untapped resource. This study shows that it is possible to help parents help their teens make academic choices that will prepare them for the future.”

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Students Find Schoolwork Too Easy, According to New Report

According to a new report released earlier this month by the Center for American Progress, many U.S. students think their schoolwork is too easy. The data comes from the background questionnaires of student in 2009–11, who participated in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

Among their findings:

  • 37 percent of fourth-grade students reported that their math work is often or always too easy. Among high school students, 21 percent of 12th-graders said their math work was often or always too easy.
  • Nearly one-third o f eighth-grade students report reading fewer than five pages a day either in school or for homework.
  • 72 percent of eighth-grade science students say they are not taught about engineering and technology.
  • 65 percent of middle schoolers say they always or almost always feel like they are learning in math class (this figure drops to just under 50 percent for seniors).

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NSTA Announcements

Connecticut Teachers Embark on Six-Week Long Summer Journey to Enrich STEM Education

Congratulations to the seven Connecticut science teachers recently selected as externs in the United Technologies Corporation/NSTA STEM Externship Program. The program, designed to improve teacher content knowledge and increase teacher understanding about the skills needed for a scientifically literate workforce, provides secondary school science educators with applicable, hands-on work experience in high-tech environments throughout Connecticut.

Through the program, qualified teachers are placed into local UTC sites for a six-week summer learning experience. During this period, teachers are paired with a UTC scientist/engineer, who serves as a mentor to the teachers. Under the guidance of their mentors, teachers work daily on an assigned engineering project, learning the foundational and industry-specific skills required for success in the field. After completing the externship, teachers are required to incorporate what they have learned into a lesson plan, strategy, or activity that they will implement as part of their classroom curriculum the following school year.

The teachers began their externships on June 25. In addition to the externship, each teacher receives a $6,000 stipend, a one-year NSTA membership, and access to NSTA’s various online resources and tools. To learn more about the United Technologies Corporation/NSTA STEM Externship Program, visit the program website. In the fall, the online application for the 2013 externs will become available. A link to the application will be posted on the site.

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Teacher Education, Professional Development, and Grant and Award Opportunities

Intel Community Grants

Intel Corporation is committed to maintaining and enhancing the quality of life in the communities where the company has a major presence. The company has a strong interest in supporting K–12/higher education and community programs. Intel vigorously supports education through grants for programs that advance science, math, and technology education, particularly for women and underserved populations.

Intel is also committed to the responsible use of natural resources, and funding for environmental programs will be considered. Within this broad category, Intel continues to give priority to programs with educational and technological components.

Applications are evaluated on a competitive basis each quarter. The quarterly submission deadlines are February 1, May 1, August 1, and November 1. For more information, click here.

Verizon Foundation Grants

Elementary and secondary schools (public and private) registered with the National Center for Education Statistics, as well as eligible nonprofits, may apply for grants of up to $10,000. Verizon awards grants to innovative, technology-based approaches to literacy and K–12 education. For more information, click here.

Association of American Educators Classroom Grants

AAE's Classroom grants (average amount: $500) can be used for a variety of projects and materials, including but not limited to books, software, calculators, math manipulatives, art supplies, audiovisual equipment, and lab materials. Classroom grants are available to all educators. Application deadlines are October 1 and March 1. For more details, visit the website.

Frances R. Dewing Foundation Grants

The Frances R. Dewing Foundation gives grants only to programs that deal directly with early childhood education. Within that context, support is given for preschool, elementary, and other education; conservation and environmental protection; the fine and performing arts and other cultural programs; and social services. Programs must serve children younger than age 12. Giving is limited to the United States, with emphasis on the New England states in the Northeast. The average grant amount is $15,000. April 1 and October 1 are the annual deadlines.

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Teacher Resources

Journey South and Journey North: Migrations, Climate, Plants, and More

K-12 classrooms are invited to sign up for Journey North's annual global study of wildlife migration and seasonal change. A free internet-based citizen science project, Journey North enables students in more than 23,000 schools to watch the seasons unfold. Students monitor migration patterns of monarch butterflies, hummingbirds, whooping cranes, and other animals; the blooming of plants; and changing sunlight, temperatures, and other signs of the seasons. Each study features many entry points and resources that address learning standards: reading booklets and lessons, photos and video clips, weekly migration updates, interactive maps, instructional units, and compelling migration “stories.” For more information, click here.

Teach Station Website

The new Teach Station website from NASA Education is a platform for space station–focused education resources, science and research information for students and teachers, crew updates, and the latest education news. Highlights include the A Teacher in Space page, where students can meet Joe Acaba, former middle school math teacher turned astronaut. Classroom resources include lesson plans like Build the Station Simulation (grades 5–8), in which students collaborate to create a paper model of the International Space Station (ISS), and interactive games like Station Spacewalk, in which students virtually repair the ISS.

Science of the Summer Olympics: Engineering In Sports Video Series

The latest installment in the Science of Sports franchise, explores the science, engineering, and technology that are helping athletes maximize their performance at the 2012 London Games. Each segment features a top athlete sharing his or her sports experiences, paired with perspectives from leading engineers about the technologies that aid the athletes or the mechanics that explain their craft. How does swimmer Missy Franklin use the principles of fluid dynamics to move more quickly through water? What are the unique biomechanics that have helped make sprinter Usain Bolt the world’s fastest human? What does weightlifter Sarah Robles have in common with a high-tech robot? How do engineers build faster pools, stronger safety helmets, and specialized wheelchairs for disabled athletes? Explore these and many other engineering and technology concepts in this ten-part educational video series.

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Student Opportunities and Resources

NPR Contest Seeks ‘Big Ideas’ From Young Innovators

Do your students have great ideas? Ones that could change the world?

NPR seeks to spark more ideas from the big brains of burgeoning innovators with a new video contest for students. The contes—"What's Your Big Idea?"—challenges 13- to 25-year-olds to dream up a science, technology or math-based invention that could impact everyday life. The grand prize: Advice on how to turn the big idea into reality. Finalists' videos will be featured on NPR's website and the "Joe's Big Idea" Facebook page.

To enter NPR’s "What's Your Big Idea?" contest, eligible contestants need to make an original video about the idea and post it to YouTube. Videos must be two minutes or less, and can be as simple as describing the idea, or involved as an animated short. Once uploaded to YouTube, videos must then be registered to the contest via NPR.org by August 12. Potential entrants can check out this video on the launch page to kick start their noggins. Full entry details and rules are available here.

Nature Works Everywhere

This new website for middle level teachers, students, and families explores how nature helps our everyday existence and the importance of environmental conservation. Resources include video tours, lesson plans, and interactive games. Click on Conservation Connection to learn how nature connects to favorite things, such as ice cream, sand castles, and lemonade. Meet the Scientists presents videos of Nature Conservancy scientists working to keep nature thriving. Lessons focus on themes of food, clean water, clean air, and protection.

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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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