NSTA's Science Matters Newsletter

June 2013

Here are your science education resources and announcements for June 2013 provided by the Science Matters Network. Please forward them on to other science educators in your school and/or school district.

Table of Contents

“Hidden” STEM Jobs Require Different Levels of Training

A new report released earlier this month by the Brookings Institution shows policymakers could be overlooking an important segment of the STEM workforce as they appropriate funds for higher education. According to the report, The Hidden STEM Economy, 20 percent of all U.S. jobs are in the STEM fields, with half of those occupations available to workers who don't have a four-year bachelor's degree. Other key findings from the report:

  • "STEM jobs that require at least a bachelor's degree are highly clustered in certain metropolitan areas, while sub-bachelor's STEM jobs are prevalent in every large metropolitan area. Of large metro areas, San Jose, CA, and Washington, D.C., have the most STEM-based economies, but Baton Rouge, LA, Birmingham, AL, and Wichita, KS, have among the largest share of STEM jobs in fields that do not require four-year college degrees. These sub-bachelor's STEM jobs pay relatively high wages in every large metropolitan area."
  • "More STEM-oriented metropolitan economies perform strongly on a wide variety of economic indicators, from innovation to employment. Job growth, employment rates, patenting, wages, and exports are all higher in more STEM-based economies. The presence of sub-bachelor's degree STEM workers helps boost innovation measures one-fourth to one-half as much as bachelor's degree STEM workers, holding other factors constant. Concentrations of these jobs are also associated with less income inequality."

Click here to download the full report.

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Colorado School District To Pay Science and Math Teachers More Than English

Going against the norm for most public schools in the U.S., a Colorado suburban school district has decided to pay salaries based on supply and demand—according to an article that appeared in Reuters earlier this month—meaning high school science and math teachers will earn more than their colleagues in the English department.

Under the new system, which will take effect next month, the Douglas County School District will start paying their 3,330 educators based on subject and grade level. Special education therapists will earn the most, maxing out at $94,000. Most elementary, art, and physical education teachers are in the lowest bracket, earning up to $61,000. Middle and secondary English teachers will make up to $72,000, while high school science and math teachers will top out at $82,000.

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OECD Releases New Report: Education at a Glance 2013

A new report that examines education trends in several countries around the world, including the U.S., found that the U.S. is lagging behind in early childhood education despite spending more and that American teachers spend more time in class than their international colleagues.

The report—Education at a Glance 2013—released earlier this week by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), is a compilation of comparable national statistics that give an idea of the state of education around the world. Below are some of the findings in relation to the U.S.:

  • The United States ranks 5th in the attainment of a college degree among 25-64 year-olds, but 12th when considering 25-34 year-olds.
  • The United States was one of the few countries that cut spending on public education during the financial crisis.
  • Despite the drop, the United States still spent more on public education on a per-student basis than any other surveyed country.
  • Early education in the United States is not as well developed as in many of the other countries.
  • Teachers salaries increased far less in the United States than in most other countries from 2000-2011, and these salaries are not competitive with those of similarly educated workers.
  • Teachers in the United States spend more time in front of the class than their peers in other countries.
  • The United States spends more private money on education than most other countries.

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Teacher Education, Professional Development, and Grant and Award Opportunities

NSTA New Science Teacher Academy Application Deadline Extended

Good news! The deadline for applications for the 2013-2014 NSTA New Science Teacher Academy has been extended to August 26, 2013. Science teachers located throughout the country, who will be entering their second through fifth year of teaching and whose schedule is a minimum of 51 percent middle or high school science, are encouraged to apply.

The year-long professional development program provides online mentoring with trained mentors who teach in the same discipline, personalized support and high-quality resources intended to heighten teaching skills and content knowledge, and financial support to attend and participate in NSTA’s 2014 National Conference on Science Education in Boston.

For more information about the program or to learn how to apply to become a fellow, visit the Academy website.

Green Thumb Challenge Grant

The Green Education Foundation (GEF) and Gardener’s Supply Company have teamed up on a funding opportunity for established youth garden projects nationwide. The organizations are calling on schools and youth groups to submit chronicles of their garden projects in a race to win a $1,000 prize. The award is designed to support the continued sustainability of an exceptional youth garden program that has demonstrated success, and has impacted the lives of kids and their community. Click here to learn more about the grant or the application process.

AIAA Foundation Classroom Grants

The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Foundation gives up to $250 for science and math programs. AIAA Educator Associates who are K-12 teachers who develop or apply science, mathematics, and technology in their curriculum are eligible. (Apply to become an AIAA Educator Associate Member here at no charge. Scroll to the bottom of the list to access correct membership.)

Grants may be used for classroom demonstration kits, classroom science supplies, or other materials that energize science, math, and technology hands-on learning. Grants will be considered in November, January, and April or until funding is exhausted. Click here for more information.

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Teacher Resources

Science Behind the News Video Series

NSF and NBC Learn, the educational arm of NBC News, have developed Science Behind the News, a fast-paced video series exploring the STEM content of current events. Each video runs between 4 and 10 minutes long and features at least one interview with an NSF-funded scientist or researcher. Titles include Bio-Inspired Materials, Quantum Computing, Drug-Resistant Bacteria, Tomato—Decoded, Extrasolar Planets, Predictive Policing, and Tornadoes.

Environmental Science Resources for Middle and High School Levels

This website offers middle level and high school environmental science teachers a diverse collection of activities, PowerPoint presentations, worksheets, and labs covering everything from environmental history and laws to environmental toxins and energy use. Click on Current Events Articles to access a custom database of recent environmental news briefs from reliable sources, including National Geographic, BBC News, The New York Times, and Discover Magazine.


K–college educators can share ideas, suggestions, and stories about using NASA resources to enhance STEM teaching and learning at the NASATalk website. The site offers opportunities to view, comment on, and contribute to the blogs, NASA Connections, and featured NASA education stories. In addition, educators can organize and participate in “collaboratives”—discussion groups focused on specific NASA topics—and publish new blogs on NASATalk. Collaboratives on a wide range of subjects are featured: from global climate change to the Mars Curiosity Rover. Also, don’t miss the Cool NASA Careers section, which presents profiles and videos of NASA scientists working and would be appropriate to share with middle and high school students interested in learning about or pursuing careers in STEM fields.

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Student Resource, Opportunities, and Resources

NFL Play 60 Invention Contest

By Kids for Kids and the National Football League (NFL) are launching this national contest, which challenges students to develop new ways to stay active and healthy. The contest encourages students to create fun ideas for fitness-focused games, equipment, or football-themed training gear. Three finalists will earn the opportunity to present their inventions to a panel of NFL VIPs–including league executives and players–who will select the Grand Prize winner. The Grand Prize winner will receive $5,000 and an NFL Prize Pack, and the NFL will work with the winning child to bring his or her idea to life. The two runner-ups will each receive $500 and an NFL Prize Pack. Click here to learn more.


The Whyville website invites children ages 8–15 to a virtual world of educational entertainment. Whyville, created by CalTech scientists, has built-in security and offers kids and teenagers numerous educational games related to math, science, technology, archaeology, and more. Inside Whyville, “citizens” experience hands-on, inquiry-based learning among peers.

New to Whyville is the ACT Career Club. Using this prototype career discovery site, students can gather information on more than 500 occupations, grouped into six categories ranging from science and technology to the arts.

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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, sponsored by the ExxonMobil Foundation and Shell Oil Company, 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.

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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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