NSTA's Science Matters Newsletter May 2010

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

Table of Contents

National Lab Day 2010 Kicks Off

Last week, NSTA Executive Director Dr. Francis Eberle joined Education Secretary Arne Duncan, students, volunteers and other members of the scientific community at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Washington D.C. to launch National Lab Day 2010. Other Administration officials, including OSTP director John Holdren, Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra, and NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden also participated in National Lab activities in the DC-metro area.

National Lab Day (NLD) is a nationwide effort to support science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education in schools by connecting teachers with STEM professionals to bring discovery-based science experiences to students in grades K–12. NLD, a component of President Obama’s “Educate to Innovate” campaign, was launched in response to the President’s call at the National Academy of Sciences last spring for all Americans to join the cause of elevating STEM education as a national priority.

The first annual National Lab Day was Wednesday, May 12th, though National Lab Day projects are taking place in schools throughout the year. To date, NLD has created over 1700 projects, matched 11,000 teachers and volunteers, and made over 69,000 connections between volunteers and supporting organizations and resources to help bring discovery-based science experiences to students across the country.

To learn more about National Lab Day, please visit www.nationallabday.org.

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2010 Horizon Report: K–12 Edition Released

Earlier this month, the New Media Consortium (NMC) released the 2010 Horizon Report: K–12 Edition, the second in an annual series of reports focused on emerging technology use in elementary and secondary education. The report identifies and describes six emerging technologies that will likely have a significant impact on K–12 education in the next one to five years. The report also outlines key trends associated with adoption of these technologies, including:

  • Technology is increasingly a means for empowering students, a method for communication and socializing, and a ubiquitous, transparent part of students' lives.
  • Technology continues to profoundly affect the way we work, collaborate, communicate, and succeed.
  • The perceived value of innovation and creativity is increasing.
  • There is increasing interest in just-in-time, alternate, or non-formal avenues of education, such as online learning, mentoring, and independent study.
  • The way we think of learning environments is changing.

The K–12 report springs from the renowned Horizon Project, the research effort that each year produces the Horizon Report for higher education. It was produced by the NMC in collaboration with the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), with the generous support of HP. This is the first year the report has been released with a companion toolkit to foster a dialogue at educational institutions about how emerging technologies can improve learning in K–12 education.

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Celebrate Endangered Species Day

Celebrate the fourth annual national Endangered Species Day (ESD) on May 21, 2010. The purpose of ESD (first approved by the U.S. Senate in 2006) is to emphasize the importance of protecting threatened/endangered plant/animal species and to highlight success stories of species recovery. Visit the website for activity ideas for in and out of the classroom. Resource materials, including sample curricula, are also available.

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Teacher Resources

Hands-on Engineering Challenges from PBS's Design Squad

Design Squad, PBS's engineering reality competition series, goes to school with the Design Squad Teacher’s Guide. Written specifically for middle school science and technology teachers, the guide features three units that focus on topics found in physical science curricula—force, electricity, and sound. In each of the guide’s open-ended challenges, students use the engineering design process and apply core science concepts. In the process, they develop a working understanding of these concepts, increase their enthusiasm for engineering, and see engineers as creative problem solvers who make a difference in the world. The challenges use low cost, readily available materials and are linked to national science and technology standards. Order your free copy of the Design Squad Teacher’s Guide.

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Teacher Education, Professional Development, and Grant and Award Opportunities

NEA Foundation Student Achievement Grants

The NEA Foundation provides grants to increase the academic achievement of students in U.S. public schools and public higher education institutions in any subject area. The proposed work should engage students in critical thinking and problem solving that deepen their knowledge of standards-based subject matter. The work should also improve students’ habits of inquiry, self-directed learning, and critical reflection.

Proposals for work resulting in low-income and minority student success with honors, advanced placement, or other challenging curricula are particularly encouraged. Practicing U.S. public school teachers, public school education support professionals, and faculty and staff members at public institutions of higher education may apply. The maximum grant amount is $5,000. Deadlines are February 1, June 1, and October 15 each year. For more information, visit the NEA website.

NAAEE Conference Scholarships

The North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) is offering scholarship opportunities for their 2010 conference, which will be held at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center in October. For information about scholarships offerings, as well as directions and access to online nomination forms, visit the NAAEE website.

NAGT Outstanding Teaching Assistant Awards

The National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT) recognizes outstanding teaching assistants in geoscience education. Both undergraduate and graduate teaching assistants are eligible for the award, which consists of a one-year membership in NAGT, a one-year subscription to the Journal of Geoscience Education, and a certificate. Nominations must be submitted by the department chair or faculty member coordinating teaching assistants. For more information, visit the NAGT website.

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Student Science Competitions

2010 Trash to Treasure Competition

PBS's Design Squad is offering kids at home a chance to get in on the action: the 2010 Trash to Treasure Competition challenges kids to take everyday discarded or recycled materials and re-engineer them into functional products. Three grand-prize winners will win a trip to Boston to see their designs built and will appear on the TV show and website. Twenty-five finalists will also be featured on the series website. Enter online at the Design Squad website.

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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.

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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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