NSTA's Science Matters Newsletter March 2011

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Here are your science education resources and announcements for March 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 Report Shows Reduction in School Dropout Rates

According a report released today the number of U.S. schools with poor graduation rates fell by 6.4 percent between 2008 and 2009.

The nation had 1,746 schools with graduation rates no higher than 60 percent in 2008. The following year that number decreased to 1,634. From 2008 to 2009, there were 183,701 fewer students attending these low-performing schools, known as “dropout factories.”

The findings are highlighted in an update to the November 2010 report “Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Ending the High School Dropout Epidemic.” The update is being released in conjunction with the Building a Grad Nation Summit in Washington this week.

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Teacher Education, Professional Development, and Grant and Award Opportunities

K–12 STEM Education Policy Conference

This is one summer event you will not want to miss! Six leading STEM organizations—including NSTA, the American Chemical Society, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, International Technology and Engineering Educators Association, the STEM Education Coalition, and the Hands-On Science Partnership—will be hosting an amazing conference July 12–13, 2011, in Washington, DC. solely dedicated to STEM education policy. If you are interested in the future of STEM education, and want to make your voice heard, then plan now to join us this summer. For more information and to register for the event, visit stemeducationconference.eventbrite.com.

AAAS Leadership in Science Education Prize for High School Teachers

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Leadership in Science Education Prize for High School Teachers recognizes high school science teachers for the development and implementation of innovative methods for teaching and encouraging the next generation of scientists. Teachers must be currently employed as a science instructor in a public or private school for grades 9–12 in the United States or its territories. Teachers must be nominated by an administrator within their school, district or state. The winner will receive a $1,000 cash prize to support the development and continuation of the strategy, activity or program. Additionally, an announcement will be published in the AAAS website and in Science magazine and the winner will receive a one-year institutional subscription to Science magazine. Applications for the 2011 AAAS Leadership in Science Education Prize must be received no later than May 27 to be considered.

The AWG Outstanding Education Award

Is There a Women Geoscientist Professor Who Made a Difference in Your Life?

The AWG established the Outstanding Educator Award in 1988 to honor well-established college or university teachers who have played a significant role in the education and support of women geoscientists both within and outside the classroom.

Examples of support include encouraging women to enter and continue in a geoscience career, providing opportunities for field and laboratory experience, and serving as a positive role model. In addition, awardees are selected on the basis of their contributions as professionals, involvement with professional societies or groups, and/or participation in science education programs in their community.

The deadline for nominations is April 1. Nominations must include a current vitae and at least six letters of recommendation from professional colleagues, former students, and current students. Learn more.

Teachers in Space: Pathfinder Applications Now Being Accepted

Every journey begins with a single step. The Pathfinder program is the first step in the journey toward our goal of putting a thousand astronaut teachers into American classrooms.

The Pathfinder competition is open to K–12 teachers of all subjects. Applicants are asked to submit a proposal for an experiment that can be performed during a sub-orbital space flight and will be judged on these submissions as well as educational background and experience. Finalists will be contacted for personal interviews and additional screening.

The deadline to submit application is December 2, 2011. Candidates will be named in early summer of 2012. Click here for more information or to download an application.

Toshiba America Foundation Science and Math Improvement Grants

Toshiba America Foundation (TAF) awards grants for activities and programs that improve classroom teaching and learning in science and mathematics for students in grades K–12. U.S. public and nonprofit private schools, as well as universities collaborating with K–12 classroom teachers, may apply. Projects should provide direct benefits to students and are usually designed by individual teachers or small teams of teachers for their own students.

Grants for grades 6–12 of up to $5,000 are awarded each month. Applications are accepted year round. Grants for grades 6–12 of more than $5,000 are awarded twice each year. Applications for these larger grants are due February 1 and August 2.Requests should not exceed $25,000. Elementary school teachers may apply for $1,000 mini-grants from TAF in the fall semester. The two-page application forms are due on October 1 every year.

Teachers are encouraged to call TAF at 212-596-0620 or e-mail foundation@tai.toshiba.com to discuss their project ideas and the eligibility requirements before applying. Click here for application forms and guidelines.

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Teacher Resources

Find Local Scientists in Your Area with the National Lab Network

Planning and preparing for science fair and end-of-year projects? There are a number of ways that the National Lab Network can help.

Many of you participated in National Lab Day (NLD) last year. Well, NLD has expanded and rebranded to National Lab Network (NLN). NLN gives you instant access to thousands of volunteer scientists, engineers, technology experts and even mathematicians who are waiting to help you!

These STEM-professionals can:

  • Judge a science fair;
  • Mentor individual student projects;
  • Plan cool post-testing projects and activities;
  • Organize field trips; and
  • Much more!

Just go to www.nationallabnetwork.org, sign up (you're already signed up if you are part of National Lab Day), and check out the Community section. Click on STEM-based professionals, search in your area (zip code or city/state), e-mail one, two, a dozen people telling them how they can help YOU. Be sure to post a Project (include the date, time and location/contact information of any fairs, events, etc.) so the volunteers can also look for you.

NLN is designed to bring people together, but often you'll have to take the first step. Be assertive, send multiple emails to the volunteer "matches" and reach out to this exciting network of experts waiting to get involved in YOUR school, YOUR classroom and ultimately help you!


This groundbreaking series of digital short films presents different visions of American society in the not-too-distant future, fusing an exploration of social issues with elements of speculation and science fiction. Teachers can access standards-aligned lesson plans to accompany the series. Targeted for students in grades 9–12, the lessons address “hot” topics: the future of reproduction, genetic engineering, global warming, video games and social control, and the overabundance of plastic bags in the world. Watch the films here.

Gizmos Science and Math Simulations

Gizmos are interactive online simulations in science and math topics targeted for use with students in grades 3–12. Users can search the simulations by and topic, state standard, and textbook correlation. Each includes information for how to use it in the classroom and an accompanying student worksheet.

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Student Science Competitions and Grants

Conservation Connection

Conservation Connection, a program of Chicago's Field Museum, engages middle and high school students across the country in the stewardship of Fijian coral reefs and local ecosystems through direct involvement in the scientific process. Students can access WhyReef, a virtual coral reef game, and FijiReef, a digital community for teens and scientists interested in marine conservation. Additional educator resources include content from Encyclopedia of Earth and an activity guide. For more information visit the program website.

Sea Turtles and the Quest to Nest

This online game, developed by NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service and the National Ocean Service, is designed to help students understand how they can help protect turtles and their habitat. The game takes place in the southeastern United States. Students are introduced to all of the people and animals that play a role in the life of loggerhead turtles.

The Physics Classroom

In this online physics tutorial for high school students, 14 topics are addressed, including kinematics, Newton’s laws, vectors, electricity, momentum, thermal physics, work energy and power, refraction, and reflection. Click on any lesson in a topic to access background information and real-world applications of the principles discussed. Most pages include graphics, animations, and assessment opportunities to check students’ understanding.

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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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