NSTA's Science Matters Newsletter April 2011

Here are your science education resources and announcements for April 2011 provided by the Science Matters Network. Please forward them on to other science educators in your school and/or school district.

Table of Contents

NAEP Study Finds Students Taking Harder Courses

Students who have a more rigorous course load in high school are more likely to perform well on achievement tests, according to America's High School Graduates, the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) High School Transcript Study.

According to the study released last week by the National Center for Education Statistics, the percentage of high school graduates completing a rigorous curriculum, with higher-level mathematics and science curricula, jumped from 5 percent in 1990 to 13 percent in 2009. Those who took a standard curriculum increased from 26 to 46 percent in the same period.

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New Study Shows U.S. Lagging Behind Other Countries In Using Technology

According to an annual study released earlier this month by the World Economic Forum, the United States continues to lag behind other countries in its use of technology. The U.S., for the second consecutive year, finished fifth out of 138 countries. Sweden was first, followed by Singapore, Finland, and Switzerland.

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2nd and 3rd Grade Combination Class from Louisiana Selected as the National Elementary Grand Prize Winner of Disney's Planet Challenge

Congratulations to Ms. Breigh Rainey and Ms. Kristy Gilpin and their second and third grade combination Zachary Elementary School class for being selected as the national elementary grand prize winner of Disney's Planet Challenge, an environmental and science competition for 3rd–8th grade classrooms.

Ms. Rainey's and Ms. Gilpin's class entitled their project "Zachary Elementary Wetland Warriors—Fighting to Save Our Coast." Spurred by concern over Louisiana's eroding coastline and the threat to the wetlands ecosystem, the class built a school nursery, grew hundreds of grass plants and replanted them along the coastal beach area of Grand Isle. They are currently raising nearly 2,000 plants for next year's 3rd grade classroom wetlands project. In addition, the students wrote and published books about the Louisiana Wetlands in an effort to educate the community. Money raised from the sale of those books will be used for wetland preservation. The Zachary students also secured a deal with local radio stations to broadcast their Coastal Roots podcast to help spread the word about their conservation efforts.

Winners were chosen by a judging committee comprised of scientists, environmental experts and educators including representatives from NSTA and WestEd K–12 Alliance. To learn more about the program or the 2011 elementary grand prize winners , visit the Challenge website.

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Participate in the largest chemistry experiment ever during the International Year of Chemistry

Water is the most abundant substance on the Earth's surface. Although it covers more than of our planet, water has become one of earth's most precious resources. Ninety seven percent of the water on Earth is sea water of high salt content and is not adequate for most uses. Therefore the availability of water around the world, in terms of both quality and quantity, requires that practical methods through chemistry be found for proper treatment.

To help students from all over the globe understand that water is a precious resource that can't be taken for granted, The Dow Chemical Company is supporting The Global Water Experiment. Launched on World Water Day, The Global Water Experiment encourages teachers and students to participate in a global experiment allowing students to test the water where they live and interact with other students around the globe to share results. This will teach students about sustainable water management and the role that chemistry plays in purifying water for human consumption. The results will be showcased on an interactive global data map throughout the experiment, which runs throughout 2011.

The Global Water Experiment is just one of many activities being hosted to get students excited about chemistry in 2011, which the United Nations has designated the International Year of Chemistry (IYC). Teachers and students are encouraged to learn more about IYC and to participate in what may be the largest chemistry experiment ever.

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"It's Elemental" Video Contest Winners Receive Dow Grants For STEM Education

The NSTA would like to recognize the science teachers and their student winners of the It's Elemental video contest! The online video contest designed to inspire interest in chemistry, invited students to create a short video to creatively depict an element from the periodic table of elements. The contest, sponsored by The Dow Chemical Company and hosted by the Chemical Heritage Foundation, attracted a robust 700 entries from 36 different U.S. states and resulted in 11 prize winners.

To read more about the It's Elemental contest winners and how each school will utilize its $5,000 grant from Dow, click here. To view the winning student videos on YouTube, click here.

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Teacher Education, Professional Development, and Grant and Award Opportunities

2011 NSTA New Science Teacher Academy

Science teachers located throughout the country, who will be entering their second or third year of teaching and whose schedule is a minimum of 51 percent middle or high school science, are encouraged to apply to the 2011 NSTA New Science Teacher Academy. Applications must be submitted no later than June 13, 2011, to be considered.

NSTA Fellows chosen for the program receive a comprehensive membership package, online mentoring with trained mentors who teach in the same discipline, and the opportunity to participate in a variety of web-based professional development activities, including web seminars. In addition, each NSTA Fellow receives financial support to attend and participate in NSTA's National Conference on Science Education, taking place in Indianapolis, March 29–April 1, 2012.

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 1and 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.

ASCD's Outstanding Young Educator Award

The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development is seeking nominations for its Outstanding Young Educator Award, which recognizes one full-time preK–12 teacher (age 40 or younger) who demonstrates excellence in his or her profession, has a positive impact on students, creativity in the classroom, and leadership in his or her school or district. The winner will receive $10,000 and honorees receive $500. ASCD memberships and funds for travel to the association's conference next March are also part of the prizes.

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Teacher Resources

New Web-based Tool for Accessing STEM Education Data

Earlier this month, the National Science Board launched the STEM Education Data and Trends, a web-based statistical tool for the STEM education communities. This new interactive tool provides easy access to data for teacher, administrators, students, parents and other stakeholders in precollege and undergraduate STEM education. It uses data from the latest volume of Science and Engineering Indicators and allows the user to explore and analyze answers to questions such as:

  • How much are states spending on their schools?
  • What is my state doing?
  • What is the science and engineering job market outlook for graduates in the U.S.?

K–12 Energy Lesson Plans

At the General Motors education web page, teachers can access lesson plans, games, and information in three grade bands: K–4, 5–8, and 9–12. Primary students can learn what a fuel cell is and make an edible car. Middle level students can build a model car from paper or explore electricity through The Power of the Plug lessons. High school students can learn how hybrid engines work and find tips on teen driving.

Gateway to 21st Century Skills Website

This website puts a collection of more than 50,000 educational materials—including lesson plans, units, and activities—at your fingertips. Sponsored by the National Education Association, the standards-based materials can be searched by keyword, grade level, and resource type. The blog called Joann's Weekly Picks highlights resources on a single topic, such as fractals, each week. Users can also join the 21st-Century Teaching Community to comment on the resources.

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Student Activities, Resources, Science Competitions and Grants

Design Squad Nation Wants YOU to Build it Big By Entering the 2011 Build BIG Contest

Design Squad Nation is challenging kids across the country to show their creativity by building a giant version of a Design Squad Nation activity. Form a team (that includes at least one adult), choose an activity, build it big, and upload a video of your design to YouTube. One prize (a flip camera) will be awarded to the winning team along with an opportunity to Skype with hosts Judy and Adam and pick their brains! Submissions may also be posted on the Design Squad Nation website. No purchase is necessary and entries must be received on or before August 1, 2011, at 12:00 p.m. to be considered. For more details and complete official rules go to the Build BIG Contest webpage.

INVENT AMERICA! National Contest

The INVENT AMERICA! program provides K–8 students opportunities to learn critical and creative thinking skills through the process of inventing. Enrolled members are eligible to submit entries in the annual national student invention contest. Each enrolled school, home school, or family may submit one entry per grade. Winners will receive Savings Bonds and award certificates.

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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 at www.nsta.org/sciencematters.

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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. Email us your suggestions and feedback at sciencematters@nsta.org. We look forward to hearing from you!

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