NSTA's Science Matters Newsletter

February 2014

Here are your science education resources and announcements for February 2014 provided by the Science Matters Network. Please forward them on to other science educators in your school and/or school district.

Table of Contents

ACT Releases New Study: The Condition of STEM 2013

The Condition of STEM 2013, released earlier this month, reviews the ACT-tested 2013 graduating class in the context of STEM-related fields. It also highlights four ACT-defined STEM categories related to highly skilled STEM careers and majors as well as areas where a two-year degree and/or certification are needed. The report provides data on the measured and expressed interest levels of students in STEM majors and occupations while aligning the data with student aptitudes in math and science. Key findings from the report include:

  • Interest in STEM is high.
    Almost half (48.3%) of students in the 2013 ACT-tested graduating class have an interest in STEM majors or occupations. While these are encouraging numbers, more must be done to keep these students engaged in STEM fields.
  • More female than male students are interested in STEM, although the opposite is true among higher-achieving students.
    The overall percent of females interested in STEM majors and occupations is a surprising 46%, of which the largest percentage (24%) are interested in nursing (LPN and BS/RN). Across all four STEM areas, however, males consistently outperformed females in math and science, with the exception of the females interested in Engineering and Technology.
  • The academic achievement gap that exists in general for ethnically diverse students is even more pronounced among those interested in the STEM fields.
    With the exception of Asian students, 61% of whom were interested in STEM, the number of ethnic minority students (African American, Hispanic, and Native American) interested in STEM fields is low, as are their achievement levels in math and science.
  • Students interested in STEM have higher educational aspirations, and their parents are more likely to have attended college than those not interested in STEM.
    There are significant differences in math and science achievement levels for students interested in attaining an associate’s degree or lower versus those aspiring to attain a bachelor’s degree or higher.

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Science Education Advocate—U.S. Rep. Rush Holt—Retiring from Congress At End of Current Term

U.S. Representative Rush Holt of New Jersey, a research physicist who became one of Congress’s primary advocates for scientific research and better science education, announced this month that he won’t seek re-election to a ninth term.

In a statement on the retirement of Congressman Holt, President Obama said, “Just the second research physicist elected to Congress, no one has worked harder to keep America on the cutting edge of innovation than Rush. Time and time again, he has led efforts to fund science education and basic research. His legacy will live on in our labs, our universities, and our classrooms, where countless math and science teachers have been able to afford college thanks in part to the TEACH grants he helped create.”

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National Science Board Releases Biennial Science and Engineering Indicators Report

The U.S. could be losing its edge in science and technology as other countries increase their investment in research and development (R&D), according to a new report released this month by the National Science Board. According to the press release highlighting the findings from the report, “the major Asian economies, taken together, now perform a larger share of global R&D than the U.S., and China performs nearly as much of the world’s high-tech manufacturing as the U.S.”

In addition to R&D, the report provides insight into the place of science and technology in education, the labor force and public opinion. Click here to read the Science and Engineering Indicators 2014 report.

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Teacher Education, Professional Development, and Grant and Award Opportunities

Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

The nomination period for mathematics and science teachers of grades K–6 for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) program is open until April 1, 2014. Awardees serve as models for their colleagues, inspiration to their communities, and leaders in the improvement of mathematics and science education. Each awardee receives a certificate signed by the President of the United States; a trip for two to Washington, D.C.; and a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation. Awardees and their guests are honored during events that take place in Washington, D.C., including an award ceremony, professional development programs, and discussions with policy makers on how to improve mathematics and science (including computer science) education.

Awards are given to mathematics and science (including computer science) teachers from each of the 50 states and four U.S. jurisdictions. The jurisdictions are Washington, D.C.; Puerto Rico; Department of Defense Education Activity schools; and the U.S. territories as a group (American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands). Click here for more information.

ECO Classroom Program

To provide teachers with resources and learning opportunities in environmental science, the Northrop Grumman Foundation has collaborated with Conservation International (CI) to launch the ECO Classroom program. This nationwide teacher professional development program is designed to equip teachers so they can inspire students to pursue science and technical careers and become our next generation of environmental stewards and innovators. Teacher participants will travel to CI’s Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring (TEAM) Network sites in summer 2014, where teachers will experience firsthand field collection of biodiversity and climate data using TEAM scientific protocols. The program is open to middle and high school biology, ecology, environmental, or Earth systems science teachers. Click here for more information about the program.

James Bryant Conant Award in High School Chemistry Teaching

The award recognizes, encourages, and stimulates outstanding teachers of high school chemistry in the United States, its possessions or territories, at the national level. Any individual, except a member of the award selection committee or currently enrolled student of the nominee, may submit one nomination or support form in any given year. The nominee must be actively engaged in the teaching of chemistry in a high school (grades 9–12).

The award consists of $5,000 and a certificate. Up to $2,500 for travel expenses to the meeting at which the award will be presented will be reimbursed. A certificate will also be provided to the recipient's institution for display. Click here for more information.

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Teacher Resources

BirdSleuth Investigator 2013

Educators can download a free copy of this student research magazine from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. In addition to student research projects investigating questions such as Which seed attracts more birds? Does the time of day affect when birds come to the feeder? and How does the type of tree affect the type of bird?, the issue contains bird illustrations and science writing and poetry from K–12 students nationwide.

One Minute Mysteries

Each month, Science Naturally posts a different “mystery” from their award-winning One Minute Mysteries book series for students ages 8–14. The mysteries are literature-based math and science brainteasers that take just one minute to read. The brainteasers work well as independent reading for students, a bell ringer for teachers, or an assessment tool for math and science knowledge and literacy. Recent mysteries include The Tune-Up, Halloween Hippie, Slow Boat, and Cool as a Cucumber.

Videos from Curiosity Quest

Curiosity Quest, a national Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) children’s television series, explores what viewers of all ages are curious about. In each episode, host Joel Greene travels across the United States to find answers to questions posed by children and families. Each quest takes the audience on location for an unscripted, hands-on, educational and humorous exploration. Past episodes have featured such diverse topics as water education, skateboards, car recycling, firefighter training, hot air balloons, and cranberry harvesting.

Soil Infographics

Unlock the Secrets in the Soil, a collection of infographics from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, colorfully illustrates soil health: what soil is made of, what’s underneath it, and what soil does. The downloadable images would be useful additions to K–12 Earth science and environmental science classrooms; teachers can also use the infographics to share conservation messages in class or on community websites and e-newsletters.

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Student Competitions

Stockholm Junior Water Prize Competition

Any high school student with a water-related science project is eligible to participate. Teams of up to three students may enter. Projects should focus on local, regional, national, or global issues and use scientifically accepted methodologies for experimentation, monitoring, and reporting, including statistical analysis. To be eligible for the state competition, students must complete the online entry form and electronically submit their research paper.

State winners must attend the U.S. competition in June 2014, when they will participate in a two-day, all-expense-paid program, during which they will display and present their projects to a panel of distinguished judges. The national winner and his or her science teacher will receive an all-expense-paid trip to the international competition in Stockholm, Sweden. Click here for more information.

Youth Voices of Change: The Climate Change Youth Video Contest

The Will Steger Foundation encourages youth to propose climate change solutions through video. Youth in grades 4-12 are invited to submit a video (maximum 2 minutes long) that shares solution projects or helps raise awareness about climate change issues for a chance to win prizes, including money for their project, new video equipment, and gift certificates to local businesses. Ten lucky finalists and their videos will be featured on the big screen at the Youth Voices Film Festival in the evening of August 22, 2014, on the Sustainability Stage at the Eco Experience at the Minnesota State Fair. Awards will be announced at that time. Visit the competition website for more information.

Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge

The 16th annual Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge is a science competition for American students in grades 5-8. The Challenge rewards students for their science acumen, demonstration of innovative thinking, 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 Challenge asks students to create a one to two-minute video communicating the science behind a possible solution to an everyday problem.

Evaluated on their creativity, scientific knowledge, persuasiveness and overall presentation, 10 finalists will be selected to participate in an exclusive mentorship program working directly with a 3M scientist. During the program, each finalist will be challenged to create an innovation that solves a problem in society. The students will meet virtually with their mentor and will receive resources and support from 3M and Discovery Education. Each finalist will also receive a trip to the 3M Innovation Center in St. Paul, Minn., to compete at the final event in October 2014. Videos will not be judged on production skills and may be recorded on cell phones or basic digital cameras. Visit the Challenge website for more information.

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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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