NSTA's Science Matters Newsletter

February 2012

Here are your science education resources and announcements for February 2012 provided by the Science Matters Network. Please forward them on to other science educators in your school and/or school district.

Table of Contents

Undergraduate STEM Education Report Released

Earlier this month, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) released it report entitled, Engage to Excel: Producing One Million Additional College Graduates with Degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. The report provides a strategy for improving STEM education during the first two years of college.

PCAST found that there is a need for producing, over the next decade, approximately one million more college graduates in STEM fields. According to the report, “fewer than 40 percent of students who enter college intending to major in a STEM field complete a STEM degree. Merely increasing the retention of STEM majors from 40 percent to 50 percent would generate three-quarters of the targeted 1 million additional STEM degrees over the next decade.”

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National Science Foundation Releases 2012 Science and Engineering Indicators

Last month, the National Science Foundation released its 2012 Science and Engineering Indicators. Among many other findings, the report shows that the U.S. remains the global leader in supporting research and development (R&D), but “only by a slim margin that could soon be overtaken by rapidly increasing Asian investments in knowledge-intensive economies.”

A chapter of the 2012 Science and Engineering Indicators is devoted to elementary and secondary education, and includes key information on student learning and course taking in math and science, teaching, and transitioning to higher education.

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President Obama Reveals STEM Education Plans at White House Science Fair

President Obama hosted the second White House Science Fair last week, using the event to both spotlight some of the country’s most talented students and to unveil several initiatives his administration and private industry would be pursuing this year to strengthen STEM education.

So me of the key components of President Obama’s new plan, according to a press release issued by the White House include:

  • The President’ upcoming budget will request $80 million for a new competition by the Department of Education to support effective STEM teacher preparation programs.
  • An upcoming Race to the Top competition will once again include STEM education as an area of focus in the criteria.
  • The Department of Education will devote a portion of its upcoming $300 million Teacher Incentive Fund competition to support state and local efforts to improve compensation, evaluation, and professional development systems for STEM educators.
  • To support comprehensive reform efforts in K–16 education, the President’s budget will fund a jointly administered initiative to improve mathematics education, with $30 million from the Department of Education and $30 million from the National Science Foundation. This initiative will develop, validate and scale up evidence-based approaches to improve student learning at the K–12 and undergraduate levels through a “tiered-evidence framework” to maximize of impact of mathematics education investments.

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Parents and Educators Seek Greater Balance in Student Testing According to New Survey

Parents and teachers want timely, actionable assessment that monitors individual student performance and progress across a range of subjects and skills to improve teaching and learning, according to a new study released by the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) and Grunwald Associates LLC.

For Every Child, Multiple Measures: What Parents and Educators Want From K–12 Assessments asked parents, teachers and district administrators which assessments they found most useful, tested the most relevant knowledge and were most cost-effective.

Key findings from the study include:

  1. Child centered teaching and learning is a top priority for parents and educators.
  2. Parents, teachers and district administrators think it’s important to measure student performance in a full range of subjects—and in the “thinking” skills that will be critical in life.
  3. Parents, teachers and district administrators agree on local decision-making about teaching and learning.
  4. Formative and interim assessments are perceived as more valuable by parents and educators.
  5. Many parents, teachers and administrators question the money, time and stress spent on assessment.

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Teacher Education, Professional Development, and Grant and Award Opportunities

ING Unsung Heroes Grants

Are you an educator with a class project that is short on funding but long on potential? Do you know a teacher looking for grant dollars? ING Unsung Heroes could help you turn great ideas into reality for students.

For 15 years, and with nearly $3.5 million in awarded grants, ING Unsung Heroes has proven to be an A+ program with educators. The program’s “alumni” have inspired success in the classroom and impacted countless numbers of students. Each year, 100 educators are selected to receive $2,000 to help fund their innovative class projects. Three of those are chosen to receive the top awards of an additional $5,000, $10,000 and $25,000.

Applications for the 2012 awards are available now. The deadline for submission is April 30, 2012. To learn more about the program click here.

Air Force Association Educator Grants

The Air Force Association provides grants to public schools to support science and environment programs. Grants cannot exceed $250 per request. Grants must be used for aerospace education-related items/activities such as books, videotapes, aerospace-oriented field trips, and aerospace education days. Deadlines are March 31 for the spring cycle and September 30 for the fall cycle. For more information, visit the program website.

Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

The National Science Foundation is currently accepting nominations and applications for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) program. The 2012 PAEMST will award U.S. mathematics or science teachers in grades K–6. Awardees serve as models for their colleagues, inspiration to their communities, and leaders in the improvement of mathematics and science education. Presidential awardees receive a citation signed by the President of the United States, a trip for two to Washington, D.C., to attend a series of recognition events, professional development opportunities, and a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation. Click here for more information.

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Teacher Resources

Lightning Safety Tools for Teachers

NOAA’s National Weather Service has provided a variety of teacher materials on lightning safety. Two curriculum guides for preschool and K–8 teachers offer lesson plans and activities to integrate safety instruction and disaster preparedness into standard academic classes. Slide presentations that can work on any personal computer cover topics appropriate for middle and high school students, such as lightning inside and outside and ways to stay safe. Videos can educate students about the science of thunderstorm development and electrification.

Life Science Games for Middle School Students

With funding from the U.S. Department of Education, Filament Games has developed three life science games for middle school students. Topics explored include cell theory (Cell Command), plant genetics (CrazyPlant Shop), and how bacteria and viruses transmit disease (You Make Me Sick!). Students can play initial levels of the games for free at www.filamentgames.com/store. Click on “Read More” for a short video explaining each game and its learning objectives.

CSI—The Experience: Web Adventure

This collection of adventure games for middle level students, produced by Rice University, is based on the popular television series. In Case One, students learn about forensic analysis as they work as rookie crime scene investigators alongside characters from the television series. Subsequent cases require students to apply what they learned in rookie training to solve a crime. An educator’s guide presents classroom lessons in forensics, including Sticky Fingers (understanding fingerprints); I-Witness (How reliable is an eyewitness?); and The Writing on the Wall (handwriting analysis).

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Student Opportunities and Resources

Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge

Only one month left to shape your planet and win big! The Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge is the premier national environmental sustainability competition for grades K–12. Students learn about science and conservation while creating solutions that impact their planet. At stake is more than $300,000 in scholarships and prizes. Encourage your students to change their world. Learn more here.

National STEM Video Game Challenge

Middle school (grades 5–8) and high school (grades 9–12) students can design games individually or in teams with a chance to win prizes like laptop computers and money for their schools or the nonprofit organization of their choice. The Challenge also has categories for College (undergraduate and graduate) students and Professional Educators. These categories offer a variety of entry streams that encourage designers to create original learning games with an opportunity to win funds, research support, the opportunity to work with industry experts, and publicity. Entries are due March 12, 2012. For more information about the Challenge, visit the competition website.

AFSA National High School Essay Contest

The American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) has partnered with the Semester at Sea study abroad program and technology consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton to present the National High School Essay Contest. The 2012 high school essay topic is: "Explain what you would do as a diplomat in the U.S. Foreign Service to improve the relations between the U.S. and your country/organization of choice, and how the major foreign policy differences between them might best be handled in our national interest." The winning essayist will receive a full scholarship for an upcoming Semester at Sea voyage as well as a trip to Washington, D.C., for an awards ceremony.

The deadline for submissions is April 15, 2012. For more information about AFSA's National High School Essay Contest, please contact Coordinator for Special Awards and Outreach Perri Green or 202-719-9700.

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

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