NSTA's Science Matters Newsletter November 2010

Here are your science education resources and announcements for November 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 Governors Association Forms STEM Advisory Committee

Earlier this month, the National Governors Association announced the formation of an advisory panel to help the governors develop comprehensive STEM agendas in their states. Panel members will serve two-year terms, and represent expertise across education, policy, business, and the STEM fields.

The 19 committee members announced include Carlos Contreras, Intel’s U.S. education director; Jan Morrison, executive director, Teaching Institute for Excellence in STEM; Linda Rosen, chief executive office, Change the Equation; and Helen Quinn, chair, Board on Science Education, Center for Education, National Research Council.

The committee will guide the expansion of the NGA Center STEM agenda to include both K–12 and higher education; provide a series of recommendations for building and advancing comprehensive STEM education agendas; and inform the development of a national STEM meeting the NGA Center will host in the fall of 2011.

For more information about NGA Center STEM education efforts, visit www.nga.org/center/edu.

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Intel Survey of Teen Intends to Spark Debate about Math and Science Confidence vs. Performance

Despite high personal confidence in math and science, American teenagers are not confident in their country’s ability to compete in these subjects, a new survey released earlier this month by Intel suggests. The findings reveal that teens, as individuals, may not feel a part of what they acknowledge is a math and science problem plaguing the country—a problem illustrated by the United States’ poor performance on global rankings.

The teens surveyed primarily attributed their minimal confidence in our national math and science abilities to a lack of hard work and discipline, but not a lack of school funding or resources. This may suggest they need to be challenged more in the classroom. Yet, the silver lining is that, contrary to perceptions that American teenagers are apathetic about math and science, students highly value the importance of these subjects and understand the role of math and science to their futures.

This survey of 1,000 American teens was commissioned by Intel Corporation to offer a student perspective on the complex issues facing American education today and to spark a debate about how best to challenge American teens to excel in math and science. To read more about the findings, visit the Intel newsroom.

2011 National Environmental Education Week, April 10–16

Register today to join thousands of educators and students across the country in exploring our vital connection to the ocean during National Environmental Education Week (EE Week), April 10–16, 2011. EE Week, the nation's largest environmental education event held each year the week before Earth Day, inspires environmental learning and stewardship among K–12 students. EE Week connects educators with environmental resources to promote K–12 students' understanding of the environment. The 2011 theme is Ocean Connections. To learn more, visit the National Environmental Education Week website.

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Teacher Education, Professional Development, and Grant and Award Opportunities

Toyota TAPESTRY Grants for Science Teachers

Celebrating its 21st anniversary, the Toyota TAPESTRY Grants for Science Teachers program, the largest science teacher grant program of its kind in the nation, is now accepting entries for the 2011–2012 program year.

Sponsored by Toyota Motor Sales, (TMS) U.S.A., Inc., and administered by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), the program offers $10,000 grants to K–12 teachers for innovative science projects that enhance environmental science education in their school and/or district over a one-year period.

Fifty $10,000 grants totaling $500,000 will be awarded this year. Applicants must either be an elementary teacher who teaches science in the classroom or a middle or high school science teacher, with a minimum of two years teaching experience. Individual science teachers or a team of up to five teachers can submit proposals.

For more information about the Toyota TAPESTRY Grants for Science Teachers program or to learn how to apply, visit the TAPESTRY website. Applications must be submitted no later than February 23, 2011 to be considered.

New Competition: NSTA's Shell Science Lab Challenge

NSTA’s Shell Science Lab Challenge, an innovative new competition for middle and high school teachers that will bring much-needed laboratory resources to school districts nationwide, has begun accepting applications for its inaugural year. Through the Challenge, schools will compete for up to $93,000 in prizes, including a grand prize school science lab makeover valued at $20,000.

Educators who have found innovative ways to deliver quality lab experiences in schools with little or inferior lab equipment are encouraged to apply. Entries will be judged on the basis of several criteria, including uniqueness, creativity, and replicability of their submissions. 18 regional winners will be selected. Of the 18 winners, five national winners will be chosen, and from the national winners a grand prize winner will be selected.

All winners will receive donated science lab equipment or gift certificates, a grant to purchase additional science lab tools and resources, a $300 gift certificate to the NSTA Bookstore, and membership to the NSTA and the NSTA Learning Center. All entries will be put into an online library to create a repository of strategies and ideas that teachers, looking for exciting ways to create quality labs for their students, can access and use.

Schools in urban and rural areas, and those with underserved populations, are encouraged to apply. For more information, visit shellsciencelab.nsta.org. The deadline for entries is February 2, 2011.

Earth Expeditions and the Global Field Program Now Accepting Applications

Applications are now being accepted for 2011 summer/fall graduate field courses and a master’s program that offer international conservation studies in 12 countries throughout Africa, Asia, Australia and the Americas. New in 2011 are courses in Australia and Guyana.

Created in 2004 by Miami University’s Project Dragonfly and the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, Earth Expeditions graduate courses and now the Global Field Program (GFP) master’s degree bring together graduate students, scientists, educators and community leaders at critical conservation field sites worldwide. In addition to Australia and Guyana, sites for 2011 include the Amazon, Baja, Belize, Borneo, Costa Rica, Kenya, Mongolia, Namibia, Thailand, and Trinidad.

Earth Expeditions and the GFP, which can be completed part-time from anywhere in the United States or abroad, are open to educators and other professionals from all disciplines and settings, regardless of grade level or academic focus. For more information and to apply, visit the Earth Expeditions website and Global Field Program website.

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Teacher Resources

Faculty Institutes for NASA Earth and Space Science Education

Applications are now being accepted for the 2010–2011 Faculty Institutes for NASA Earth and Space Science Education, also known as FINESSE. These free two-day workshops assist university and community college science and education faculty in preparing future teachers in science. The 2011 institutes will incorporate the theme of Our Solar System in a New Light, in conjunction with the upcoming Year of the Solar System. During the workshops, NASA Earth and space scientists and educators share inquiry activities, data and resources.

FINESSE workshops will take place Dec. 11–12, 2010, at the American Geophysical Union fall meeting in San Francisco, California, and Feb. 24–25, 2011 at the National Association of Community College Teacher Education Programs conference, in San Diego, California.

Participants will receive a $300 stipend and lunches, and develop implementation plans. For more information, visit the FINESSE website .


This new website from the Department of Education’s Office of Scientific and Technical Information and the Office of Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists, educators can access thousands of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) resources from federal agencies. Content includes lesson plans, curricula, classroom activities, homework help, professional development information, and articles on education research. Resources can be searched by agency or by resource type; once you choose a topic, you can filter the resources by grade level. Users are encouraged to join the site so they can comment on and rate the resources, which can be useful for preK–12 teachers, university professors, administrators, or policy makers. New resources are added regularly.

The Inner Life of a Cell

BioVisions—a collaborative community of Harvard scientists, teaching faculty, students, and multimedia professionals—developed this award-winning animation to take cellular biology students on a journey through the microscopic world of a cell. Now educators from middle school to college can share this eight-minute animation with their students. Through its graphics, the video combines impressive multimedia techniques with rigorous scientific models of how biological processes occur.

Penguins Marching Into Your Classroom

Follow along as Adelie penguin families raise their chicks in the harshest environment on Earth! At the Penguins Marching Into Your Classroom site teachers will find fun and educational activities to help students learn about many interesting aspects of Adelie penguin life, history, and their relationship to climate change. Students can also send questions to the researchers who study penguins, check the nests of penguins as they look today, and (if the season is right) even receive a postcard from Antarctica! To learn more, visit www.penguinscience.com.

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Student Science Competitions and Grants

Disney's Planet Challenge "Imagine Your Planet" Video Series

Calling All Science Teachers, Grades 3–8! Check out the new "Imagine Your Planet" video series, brought to you by Disney’s Planet Challenge. With "Imagine Your Planet," Disney’s Planet Challenge goes into classrooms across the country, following students on their mission to create a better planet. In the latest video released, Disney’s Planet Challenge spotlights a fourth grade class and their teacher, Mrs. Cress, from Central Intermediate School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The clip highlights the students’ project, Saving the Wetlands, One Planet at a Time, which focuses on helping to fortify the native wetlands in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina and the recent oil spill in the Gulf threatened to destroy it.

Developed in collaboration with NSTA and the K–12 Alliance, the Challenge offers students the chance to use their imagination and creativity to help the planet while giving educators a fresh new way to motivate students with the help of an educationally sound curriculum that meets national and state guideline requirements.

For more information or to enroll in the program, visit disney.go.com/planetchallenge . Enrollment is open through December 17, 2010. Once enrolled, teams have until February 16, 2011, to complete their projects.

Pennies for the Planet

Kids around the country are gearing up for the third season of Pennies for the Planet, a nationwide campaign to help critical conservation projects. The program is powered by kids collecting pennies to help save wild places and wildlife in the United States. Working in groups and troops of all sorts, in school classrooms, with their families, and on their own, kids have turned pennies into a gold mine for wild spaces and wildlife in need of protection.

Pennies for the Planet change collected from now through August 2011 will be divided equally among the following three conservation projects:

  • Protecting habitat along Nebraska’s Platte River, a critical nesting and foraging site for majestic sandhill cranes, and endangered whooping cranes, least terns and piping plovers.
  • Boosting Monarch butterfly habitat in Arizonaso these unique creatures can rest during winter months and reproduce in the spring; and
  • Helping beach-nesting birds along Mississippi’s Gulf Coast combat future breeding challenges from the effects of the recent oil spill, as well as ongoing threats from beachgoers and lack of vegetation.

The school that raises the most funds will be awarded a grand prize. Last year, the highest donation came from Columbia Elementary School in Annandale, Virginia, which raised nearly 77,000 pennies. For their contribution, the school was the recipient of an Audubon BioBash, an assembly of environmental fun and learning.

Pennies for the Planet materials, including a full-color poster and educators guide, a newsletter for kids, and a participation form with incentives, and awards, are available for download for classroom or at-home use from www.penniesfortheplanet.org.

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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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