NSTA's Science Matters Newsletter

November 2012

Here are your science education resources and announcements for November 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 NRC Report Identifies Key Indicators for Gauging Progress in K–12 STEM Education

The National Research Council (NRC) released a report last week, “Monitoring Progress Toward Successful K–12 STEM Education,” that identifies key indicators for measuring progress in K-12 science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. The indicators are meant to serve as a guide for Congress and other federal agencies to develop and implement a “national-level monitoring and reporting system.”

Some of the indicators identified in the report include

  • How much time elementary teachers devote to science instruction
  • The extent to which districts are adopting instructional materials aligned to the common-core standards in math and recent guideline for new science standards
  • The level of teachers’ STEM content knowledge
  • Number of, and enrollment in, different types of STEM-focused schools and programs in districts
  • Extent of teacher participation in STEM-specific professional-development activities
  • Inclusion of science in federal and state accountability systems
  • Amount of state and district staff dedicated to supporting science instruction
  • Federal funding for STEM-focused research (in keeping with priorities previously spelled out by the NRC)

The report builds on the previous NRC publication, “Successful K–12 STEM Education: Identifying Effective Approaches in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics,” released last year.

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Study Finds Little Correlation between Time Spent on Homework and Better Course Grades for Math and Science Students

A new study led by Indiana University found that there is little correlation between time spent on homework and better course grades for math and science students, but a positive relationship between homework time and performance on standardized tests.

The authors of “When Is Homework Worth the time?: Evaluating the Association Between Homework and Achievement in High School Science and Math” reviewed survey and transcript data of more than 18,000 10 th-grade students to identify explanations for academic performance. The authors suggest that factors like class participation and attendance may mitigate the association of homework to stronger grade performance, while the type of homework assigned may cater to standardized test preparation versus retaining knowledge of class material.

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NSTA Announcements

27th Annual DuPont Challenge Kicks Off Competition Year with a New Focus

Year 27 of the DuPont Challenge—a national writing competition for middle and high school students—kicked off last week with a new focus on addressing global challenges. The DuPont Challenge calls on students in grades 7–12 from the United States, Canada, and U.S. territories to research, think critically, and write an essay that provides innovative ideas on the world’s most pressing challenges, or demonstrates the application of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to our daily lives. 

This year, the Challenge asks students to take a solutions-focused approach and address one of four categories in their 700–1,000-word essay:

  • Together, we can feed the world.
  • Together, we can build a secure energy future.
  • Together, we can protect people and the environment.
  • Together, we can be innovative anywhere.

Students and sponsoring teacher prizes include savings bonds, teaching grants, exciting trips, and much more. The deadline for submissions is January 31, 2013. For more information, including official rules, entry forms, and details on awards, please visit the Challenge website.

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Teacher Education, Professional Development, and Grant and Award Opportunities

Alan Shepard Technology in Education Awards

With this award, the Astronauts Memorial Foundation, in partnership with NASA and the Space Foundation, will recognize the accomplishments of one outstanding K–12 teacher or district-level administrator and his or her contributions to lifelong learning through the application of technology in the classroom or professional development of teachers. The award will be presented at the 29th National Space Symposium (April 2013) in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The winner will be flown to Colorado Springs, where hotel accommodations will be provided. The winner will receive a commemorative trophy with his or her name engraved and a $1,000 monetary award. In addition, the recipient's name will be placed on a plaque honoring past recipients that is housed in the Center for Space Education at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. For more information, click here.

Distinguished Fulbright Awards in Teaching Program

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs offers Fulbright grants for U.S. primary and secondary classroom teachers, guidance counselors, curriculum specialists, curriculum heads, Talented and Gifted coordinators, Special Education coordinators and media specialists/librarians to participate in international exchanges for three to six months. By living and teaching or conducting research overseas, U.S. teachers gain new skills, learn new instruction and assessment methodologies, and share best practices with international colleagues and students. Teachers also have the opportunity to expand their understanding of other cultures and international education systems that will enrich their U.S. home schools and local communities with global perspectives. Participants must

  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • Be employed full-time at an accredited school in the United States or a U.S. territory
  • Hold a master’s degree
  • Be in at least their fifth year of full-time teaching
  • Demonstrate experience conducting professional development activities
  • Have received teaching awards or exemplary evaluations from a school administrator

Opportunities for the 2013–2014 school year are available in one of eight countries: Argentina, Finland, India, Mexico, Morocco, Singapore, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. Applications are due December 15, 2012. For more information, click here.

Knowles Science Teaching Fellowships

The Knowles Science Teaching Foundation, an advocate for beginning teachers and the teaching profession in general, is now accepting applications for its 2013 Teaching Fellowships. Valued at up to $175,000 and renewable for up to five years, the highly competitive Fellowships are awarded to new teachers committed to teaching science, technology, engineering, and math in schools nationwide. For more information, click here.

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Teacher Resources

Encouraging Girls in Engineering

The Society of Women Engineers Aspire website provides K–12 teachers with curriculum, learning resources, and outreach programs to involve girls in the world of engineering. For example, click on Get Girls Involved in Engineering to access Engineering Guides for middle and high school girls, as well as a list of opportunities for girls to participate in engineering–based after-school programs. The Teaching Resources section includes video biographies of female engineers.

ACS Guidelines and Recommendations for Teaching High School Chemistry

These guidelines are designed to help teachers, supervisors, and school administrators strengthen high school chemistry programs nationwide. Not a course or a professional development outline, the guidelines focus on the broad requirements necessary to teach chemistry to all high school students from diverse populations. Topics include classroom and laboratory environments, safety, the big ideas in chemistry, strategies and technologies for teaching diverse learners, and the professional responsibilities of chemistry teachers.

Teaching About Hurricane Sandy

The National Wildlife Federation’s (NWF) EcoSchools USA program has created new web pages and resources for schools and students to better understand Hurricane Sandy, climate change, and natural disasters. Education pages contain information, links, and resources for the following topics:

  • What are hurricanes?
  • What is the link to climate change?
  • How can you help kids cope with natural disasters?
  • How do you plan for natural disasters?

In addition, teachers can find valuable information on NWF’s Education Blog on Helping Kids Cope with Hurricane Sandy.

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Student Opportunities and Resources

NASA Optimus Prime Video Spinoff Contest

Sponsored by the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, the contest asks students to choose one of the stories from the NASA Spinoff 2011 book, then use the information in the spinoff story to make their own 3-minute video. The finalists from each grade level will be flown into a NASA location (still to be determined) and win prizes including scholarship funds for college. Register an “intent to participate” now. Video submissions are not due until January 2013. For more information visit the competition website.

TEAMS 2012 Student Competition

TEAMS (Tests of Engineering Aptitude, Mathematics and Science) is a one-day competition for students in middle and high school that allows them to apply their knowledge of skills in science, technology, engineering and math to issues facing our global society. Focused on and annual theme, original academic and innovative concepts are developed for the competition based on the National Academy of Engineering’s Grand Challenges. Engaging in the challenges requires critical job-readiness skills such as teamwork, analytical thinking and thinking, and multi-dimensional problem solving. In 2013, students will discover the engineering involved in cyberspace security.

TEAMS competition registration and information can be found here.

International Students Carbon Footprint Challenge

This project unites high school students worldwide as they calculate their individual footprints using an online “footprint calculator” (a series of questions) and post class data on a world map. They then enter discussions about their footprints and how to work toward solutions to globally shared environmental issues. The website includes instructions and lesson plans for introducing the footprint calculator to students and using the collected data in the classroom.

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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, sponsored by the ExxonMobil Foundation and Shell Oil Company, 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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