NSTA's Science Matters Newsletter

May 2013

Here are your science education resources and announcements for May 2013 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 Study Finds Understanding Students Misconceptions Critical to Improved Science Learning

According to a new study release earlier this month, recognizing students’ common misconceptions is the key to improved science teaching and learning. The study, conducted by researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, targeted middle school physical science. The researchers had 181 teachers administer a multiple-choice standardized test of student knowledge of science concepts. Twelve of the 20 questions were deliberately created to have a wrong answer corresponding to commonly held misconception.

Teachers were also asked to take the test and identify the correct answer and also the answer they believed their students were most often likely to incorrectly select. Overall the teachers did well at selecting the correct answer, the results were mixed in predicting students’ incorrect response. The researchers acknowledge that many educators question the value of tests composed of multiple-choice items, but said in the study that when items are written to include popular misconceptions as "distractors, they function well in diagnosing misconceptions that impede the learning of science."

Check out the study here.

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National Center for Education Statistics Releases The Condition of Education 2013 Report

This month, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released its annual report, The Condition of Education. This year’s report presents 42 indicators of important developments and trends in U.S. education. These indicators focus on population characteristics, participation in education, elementary and secondary education, and postsecondary education. Highlights include:

  • Enrollment in Full-Day Preschool Increased: In 2011, almost two-thirds of three to five year olds were enrolled in preschool, and nearly 60 percent of these children were in full-day programs
  • More High Poverty Schools in America: At the elementary and secondary level, about one in five public schools was considered high poverty in 2011, meaning that 75 percent or more of the students qualified for free or reduced-price lunch. This number was closer to 1 in 8 in 2000.
  • Enrollment in Charter Schools Continues to Rise: Enrollment in charter schools has steadily increased over the last decade from 300,000 students in 1999-2000 to 1.8 million in 2010-11.
  • For-Profit Colleges Attract Older Students: At four-year colleges in 2011, nearly 90 percent of full-time students at public and private nonprofit institutions were under the age of 25. However, only about 29 percent of full-time students at private for-profit colleges were, while 39 percent were between the ages of 25 to 34 and another 32 percent were 35 and older.

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Teacher Education, Professional Development, and Grant and Award Opportunities

Maley/FTEE Technology and Engineering Teacher Scholarship

The Foundation for Technology and Engineering Educators is sponsoring the $1,000 Maley/FTEE Technology and Engineering Teacher Scholarship. Its purpose is to support teachers in their preparation to increase the positive outcomes of technology and engineering education. Criteria includes:

  • Evidence of teaching success;
  • Plans for action research;
  • Recommendations;
  • Plans for professional development; and
  • The applicant's need.

Applicants must be a technology and engineering teacher at any grade level who is beginning or continuing graduate study. Click here for more information about the scholarship.

President's Prizes for Outstanding Achievement in Primary and Secondary Education

Funded by the Entomological Society of America (ESA), these awards recognize educators who have gone beyond the traditional teaching methods by using insects as educational tools. One winner will be chosen from among primary teachers (grades K–6) and one from among secondary teachers (grades 7-12). Awardees will receive a $400 donation made payable to the winner's school; a $400 award paid directly to the winner; gratis registration to attend ESA’s Annual Meeting; and an $800 award paid directly to the winner. Membership in ESA is not required. Also, a separate nominator is not required; applicants may nominate themselves. Click here for more information.

“From Failure to Promise” Grant

The purpose of this grant is to assist educators in moving students from "failure to promise" in science, literacy, math, or technology. A $1,000 grant will be awarded to a school, community-based organization, or library with creative ideas. Click here for more information.

Toshiba America Foundation Science and Math Improvement Grants

The foundation seeks to improve the quality of U.S. science and mathematics education by investing in projects designed by classroom teachers. Previously funded projects include materials for the hands-on study of environmental science issues, the implementation of innovative mathematics curricula, and equipment for a teacher-designed astronomy curriculum. Grades 6–12 applications for $5,000 or less are accepted on a rolling basis, throughout the calendar year. Grant requests of more than $5,000 are reviewed twice a year. Applications for grants of more than $5,000 are due on August 1 and February 1 each year. Toshiba America Foundation offers grants of up to $1,000 to K–5 teachers. Applications for those grants are due on October 1 each year. Click here for more information.

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Teacher Resources

Special Report: Tornadoes

"The devastation that tornadoes such as the one in Moore, impact not only the people but also the wildlife, and is a stark reminder of the increasing impacts from climate change," says a special online report from the National Wildlife Federation's Eco-Schools USA program. Visit this website for information, articles, and curriculum that can help students understand why natural disasters happen and why this storm in particular made such an impact.

Rock Around the World

Involve students of all ages in real-world science with this citizen science project at Arizona State University’s (ASU) Mars Space Flight Facility. Students send rock samples to ASU for analysis in the university’s Thermal Infrared Spectral Laboratory. Each rock is read by a thermal spectrometer, and a resulting spectral graph is created, showing what the rock is made of. Data from “Earth” rocks can then be compared to data from “Mars” rocks, providing both students and scientists with information about the similarities and differences between the planets.

Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network (CLEAN) Resources

This digital collection of vetted teaching materials for students in grades six to college contains activities, visualizations, and videos on climate science, climate change, and energy concepts. The resources can be used in biology, chemistry, physics, environmental science or engineering, geology, and geography courses. Educators can search the collection by topic, resource type, or grade level. In addition, users can join the CLEAN community to participate in webinars, workshops, and discussions about climate change.

NAVY STEM for the Classroom

Visit this website for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) resources highlighting the Navy’s innovative applications of science and math. Through lessons such as Jets in Flight, The Science of Diving, Future Fleet, and Oceanography and Meteorology, high school students learn how the principles of physical oceanography and meteorology affect ocean navigation and how gas laws apply to deep ocean diving. In addition, you’ll find profiles of science-related naval careers, including a Navy Seal, helicopter pilot, cryptologic technician, nuclear engineer, and linguist.

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Student Opportunities and Resources

60SecondScience Video Competition

60SecondScience is a global science video competition involving students and citizens from 40 countries. The competition aims to celebrate peoples’ ability to better understand the world around them. Students are asked to create a short video that explains an invention, an experiment, a science concept, or an idea. Judging criteria are based on science accuracy, communication, and video production values. Visit the competition website for more information.

NFL PLAY 60 Invention Contest

By Kids for Kids and the National Football League (NFL) are launching the PLAY 60 Invention national contest, which challenges children to develop new ways to stay active and healthy. The contest encourages children to create fun ideas for fitness-focused games, equipment, or football-themed training gear. Three finalists will earn the opportunity to present their inventions to a panel of NFL VIPs—including league executives and players—who will select the grand prize winner. The grand prize winner will receive $5,000 and an NFL prize pack, and the NFL will work with the winning child to bring his or her idea to life. The two runner-ups will each receive $500 and an NFL prize pack.

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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.

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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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