NSTA's Science Matters Newsletter December 2010

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

Table of Contents

American Students' Science Performance Increased Slightly to the Average for Leading Industrialized Nations

Last week, the results of the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) were released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). American student’s science performance increased slightly to the average for leading industrialized nations, while their mathematics performance remained below the average, despite gains in that subject from the last round of testing in 2006. U.S. students ranked 17th in science and 25th in math.

Secretary Arne Duncan said, “The PISA results, to be brutally honest, show that a host of developed nations are outeducating us. Americans need to wake up to this educational reality.” With respect to the gains in science Secretary Duncan said, “[There is] not much to celebrate. Being average in science is a mantle of mediocrity—and especially in a knowledge economy where scientific literacy is so central to sustaining innovation and international competitiveness.”

  • Read the results of the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment here.
  • Read Secretary Duncan’s remarks on the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment here.
  • Read NSTA’s statement on the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment results here.

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Global Study Analyzes Parents Actions and Attitudes on Math-Related Learning

Earlier this month, Raytheon Company unveiled new research exploring parental attitudes toward math, parents’ perceived math capabilities and the level of active engagement in math-related learning among 10–14-year-olds across the U.S., England, and Singapore.

The study reveals a clear trend: while parents in the U.S. are more confident in their abilities to help their 10–14-year-old children, these children are tasked with performing math at a lower level than their Singaporean peers. This higher performance in Singapore reflected in the survey indicates parents there feel less able to support their children and therefore turn to experts for help. Parents in Singapore are four times as likely as those in the U.S. to hire a tutor. Further, Singapore students are more likely to engage in active math-related learning, which contributes to greater ongoing math proficiency.

The research was conducted in October 2010 by Educventures, an independent education research firm. Eduventures surveyed 1,144 parents of middle school age students (ages 10 to 14) with 110 questions related to math education, homework and activities related to math and preparedness for college and careers. The study was designed to allow cross-country comparison of parent information from three countries of focus: the United States, England, and Singapore. In addition, twelve scholars and in-country educational experts participated in in-depth interviews as part of the research project.

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High School Mentors Wanted for the U.S. National Chemistry Olympiad

High school educators are invited to apply for a position as mentor for the U.S. National Chemistry Olympiad program, a chemistry competition for high school students. Duties during the three-year term include helping to conduct the two-week national study camp for high school students held at the United States Air Force Academy located in Colorado in June of 2012, 2013, and 2014. Generally, in their second and third year, mentors accompany four U.S. student competitors to the International Chemistry Olympiad. Successful applicants are expected to have a background in one or more of the areas of organic, inorganic, analytical, physical, or biochemistry with classroom experience and should demonstrate involvement with students in special projects or activities. The American Chemical Society pays all expenses and travel costs, as well as an honorarium. For more information, visit the U.S. National Chemistry Olympiad mentor web page.

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Teacher Education, Professional Development, and Grant and Award Opportunities

Toyota TAPESTRY Grants for Science Teachers: Key to Success in Winning a $10,000 Grant in 2011

The Toyota TAPESTRY Grants for Science Teachers program, sponsored by Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. and administered by NSTA, is again offering grants to K–12 science teachers this academic year for innovative projects that enhance science education in the school and/or school district. Fifty large grants totaling $500,000 will be awarded. To apply for funding, qualified teachers must write a Toyota TAPESTRY proposal according to the proposal requirements. The deadline for the completion of the online application is 11:59 p.m. EST Tuesday, February 23, 2011. Recipients of Toyota TAPESTRY grants will be notified in April 2011. Non-recipients will be notified in June 2011.

On Wednesday, January 5, at 6:30 p.m. Eastern, two former TAPESTRY awardees (one of whom is a former TAPESTRY judge) will be leading a special interactive web seminar about the keys to writing a successful grant proposal. They will discuss ways to make projects stand out when the judging is done, common pitfalls that trip up teachers, and give participants lots of suggestions on how to get their grant proposal going or to wrap things up! Those interested in submitting a grant proposal are encouraged to participate. For more information about the Web seminar or to register for the event, visit the NSTA Learning Center.

NSTA's Shell Science Challenge to Award $20,000 Lab Makeover

NSTA’s Shell Science Lab Challenge, a competition for middle and high school teachers, will provide needed science laboratory equipment to schools across the country. Schools will compete for up to $93,000 in prizes, including a grand prize school science lab makeover support package valued at $20,000.

Educators who have found innovative ways to deliver quality lab experiences in schools with little or no lab equipment are asked to illustrate and submit their strategies to the Challenge. Entries will be judged on the basis of several criteria, including uniqueness, creativity, and replicability of their submissions. Eighteen 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 cash grant to purchase additional science lab tools and resources, a $300 gift certificate to the NSTA Science Store, memberships to the NSTA and the NSTA Learning Center, and support to attend NSTA conferences. 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 or an application, visit shellsciencelab.nsta.org. The deadline for entries is February 2, 2011.

Reminder: Apply Now for the Mars Education Challenge

The deadline to submit proposals for the Mars Education Challenge is fast approaching. High school science teachers located throughout the country, who have developed or are interested in creating new and innovative curricula support materials that focus on Mars science and exploration, are encouraged to apply.

The Challenge will recognize six winning entries with five regional awards and one national award. Regional winners will receive $2,500 grants and the national winner will receive a $5,000 grant. Additionally, all of the winners will have an opportunity to do field research with well-known planetary scientists. The national winner will receive an expense paid trip to NSTA’s 2011 National Conference on Science Education in San Francisco where he or she will be recognized at a special awards ceremony. Winning lesson plans will be shared with classrooms nationwide.

Don’t delay, register today! Visit the Explore Mars website for complete Challenge details and e-mail info@exploremars.org to register. Submissions must be received by Wednesday, January 19, 2011, at 11:59 p.m. EST to be considered.

Alan Shepard Technology in Education Award

Educators who have demonstrated a commitment to inspiring students' interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) may apply now to receive the 2011 Alan Shepard Technology in Education Award. Given annually by the Astronauts Memorial Foundation (AMF), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the Space Foundation, the award recognizes outstanding contributions to technology education by K-12 educators or district-level education personnel.

The Space Foundation will present the award, which is named after Mercury Astronaut Alan Shepard, on April 11 at the Opening Ceremony of the Space Foundation's 27th National Space Symposium at The Broadmoor Hotel 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 monetary award of $1,000. In addition, the Award winner's name will be placed on a plaque honoring past recipients that is housed in the Center for Space Education at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Applications are due January 15, 2011. For more information visit the competition web page.

Knowles Science Teaching Foundation (KSTF) Teaching Fellowships

The Knowles Science Teaching Foundation (KSTF), an advocate for beginning teachers and the teaching profession, is now accepting applications for its KSTF Teaching Fellowships. Renewable for up to five years and valued at up to $150,000, the competitive Fellowships support America’s best and brightest high school science and math teachers at the critical early juncture of their career. The Teaching Fellowships are awarded annually in the areas of biological sciences, mathematics, and physical sciences. For more information, visit the Foundation website.

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Teacher Resources

Energy Curriculum

At this website, teachers can access energy resources and games for K–8 students. Lessons address the themes of Energy Exploration, Energy Expertise, What Is Energy?, Energy Consumers, Energy History, Fossils to Tank, Energy and Transportation, and Energy for the Future. These lessons are differentiated for three levels: K–2, 3–5, and 6–8. Visitors can also contribute to an online Idea Book, a clickable montage of responses to this question: What will fuel the future? Check it out!

Fire Safety Lesson Plans

The U.S. Fire Administration has developed three lessons for preK–3 students that present basic fire safety information. In Escape Planning, students learn what to do during a home fire and why they should have a fire safety escape route. In Home Fire Safety, students examine pictures of three different rooms and identify the fire safety hazards. Smoke Alarms informs students about the importance of smoke alarms and how to keep them operating.

The Science of NFL Football

NBC Learn, in partnership with the National Science Foundation and the National Football League, unravel the science behind professional football for students in grades 5–9. Each three- to four-minute video in this series includes accompanying standards-based lesson plans. Topics explored include kinematics (position, velocity, and acceleration); nutrition, hydration, and health; projectile motion and parabolas; and vectors. Click here to watch the videos and download the lessons.

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Student Science Competitions and Grants

ExploraVision, Science and Technology Competition for K–12 Students

The Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVision Awards Competition encourages K-12 students to create a vision of a future technology using their imaginations and science. Many teachers incorporate ExploraVision into their classroom lessons to inspire their students in science. Students choose a technology topic they are interested in, research the current technology, and then propose how that technology might work 20 years into the future. Winning students receive savings bonds up to $10,000 and Toshiba-branded electronics; national winners also earn an expense-paid trip to the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., with their teachers, mentors and families. The deadline for applications is February 2, 2011. To learn more and apply, go to www.exploravision.org.

Apply Now for the Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge

Students in grades K–12 can win over $300,000 in scholarships and prizes by entering the Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge! By developing solutions to environmental problems in their schools and communities, students have the power to make a difference. Visit the Challenge website to learn more, access free resources and enter today!

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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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