NSTA's Science Matters Newsletter

July 2013

Here are your science education resources and announcements for July 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

Six Lockheed Martin–NSTA Fellows Experience Behind-the-Scenes Look at U.S. Military Satellite Launch and Human Spaceflight Program Tour

Lockheed Martin-NSTA Fellows
Lockheed Martin–NSTA Fellows at the launch of the U.S. Navy's second MUOS satellite. Left to Right: Mary Maddox, Valerie Christou, Robin Barkes, Lauren Case, Robin Hockey, Steve Kirsche.

Last Friday, six science teachers from Florida and Colorado traveled to the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida to watch the launch of the U.S. Navy’s second Mobile User Object System (MUOS) satellite atop the Atlas V rocket.

Lockheed Martin-NSTA Fellows
U.S. Navy's second Mobile User Object System (MUOS-2) satellite atop the Atlas V rocket.

Additionally, the teachers—who are Lockheed Martin–NSTA Fellows in the 2012–2013 NSTA New Science Teacher Academy—got up-close tours of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle Operation and Checkout Facility and a Cape Canaveral U.S. Air Force Station launch pad, and met with Lockheed Martin management and representatives of the U.S. Navy to gain a better understanding of the skills required of next generation space scientists and engineers.

The MUOS spacecraft, built by Lockheed Martin for the U.S. Navy, vastly improves current secure mobile satellite communications by linking mobile users for the first time to a powerful voice and data system that delivers high speeds and data streaming, similar to consumer smartphone capabilities.

For the last six years, the NSTA New Science Teacher Academy has provided personalized support and high-quality resources to more than 1,000 science teachers nationwide. Applications for the 2013–2014 Academy are being accepted through August 26, 2013.

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Curiosity is the Most Important Traits for Success in the Science Classroom, New Survey Finds

According to the findings of a new pulse survey conducted by the FMC Corporation, FMC scientists, parents, and teachers in the Philadelphia School District agree that curiosity is the most valuable traits for kids’ success in the science classroom.

The survey revealed that the majority of FMC scientists believe that curiosity (59.6 percent) and creativity (50 percent) are the most important traits for success in their field. The majority of scientists (84.6 percent), teachers (79 percent), and parents (65.5 percent), said that curiosity is the most important trait for a science student. Students had a different view, and the majority said that being smart (56.1 percent) led to success in the science classroom. About half of students (47.6 percent) also believed that successful scientists need to be smart.

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AFT Report Reveals U.S. Students Receive Subpar Education Due to Pervasive Test Preparation and Testing

A thorough analysis of two school districts’ standardized testing programs concluded that students are not receiving a top-quality education because of extensive test preparation and testing, according to a new report—Testing More, Teaching Less: What America's Obsession with Student Testing Costs in Money and Lost Instructional Time—released this month by the American Federation of Teachers.

Test preparation and testing took up 19 full school days in one school district and a month and a half in the other in heavily tested grades, making clear that cutting that amount in half would restore needed instructional time and provide additional funds for other instructional purposes, the report found. The study also found:

  1. Direct financial cost of testing:
  • The Midwestern school district spent more than $80 per pupil tested in grades 5–6 and grade 8, but less than $60 per pupil in grades K–2 and grade 12.
  • The Eastern school district spent between $50 and $70 per pupil tested in most grades.
  1. Annual cost of testing per pupil—combining costs for test purchasing and licensing, costs for logistics and administration, and time costs at $6.15 per hour, per student, to account for instructional time lost to testing:
  • The Midwestern school district's annual cost of testing per pupil in grades 3–8 was $600 or more. For grades K–2, testing costs were around $200 per student. In high school, except grade 12, per-student testing costs ranged from $400 to $600.
  • The Eastern school district's annual cost of testing for per pupil in grades 6–11 exceeded $1,100. For grades 1–2, testing costs were around $400 per student; for grades 3-5, costs ranged between $700 to $800 per pupil.

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Teacher Education, Professional Development, and Grant and Award Opportunities

2014 Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy

Applications are now being accepted for the 2014 Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy. The Academy is an intensive one-week, all-expense-paid professional development program designed to help teachers develop innovative math and science teaching skills. Third- through fifth-grade teachers located in the U.S. are encouraged to apply. Applications for the 2014 Academy are due October 31, 2013. For more information about the program, click here.

James Bryant Conant Award in High School Chemistry Teaching

The award recognizes outstanding teachers of high school chemistry in the United States, its possessions or territories, at the national level. Any individual, except a member of the award selection committee or currently enrolled student of the nominee, may submit one nomination or support form in any given year. The nominee must be actively engaged in the teaching of chemistry in a high school (grades 9 -12).

The award consists of $5,000 and a certificate. Up to $2,500 for travel expenses to the meeting at which the award will be presented will be reimbursed. A certificate will also be provided to the recipient's institution for display. Click here for more information.

Captain Planet Foundation Grants

The Captain Planet Foundation funds and supports hands-on environmental projects for children and youths ages 6–18. Its objective is to encourage innovative programs that empower children and youth around the world to work individually and collectively to solve environmental problems in their neighborhoods and communities. Grant amounts range from $250 to $2,500. Deadlines for submitting grant applications are September 30 and February 28. Click here for more information.

American Honda Foundation Grants

The foundation awards grants of up to $75,000 to K-12 schools, colleges, universities, trade schools, and others for programs that benefit youth and scientific education. ("Scientific education" encompasses the physical and life sciences, mathematics, and the environmental sciences.) The foundation is seeking programs that meet the following characteristics: scientific, dreamful (imaginative), creative, humanistic, youthful, innovative, and forward thinking. Deadlines to apply for the grants are May 1, August 1, November 1, and February 1. Click here for more information.

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Teacher Resources

Scope It Out! Game

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) may look unusual and not much like a telescope, but it has much in common with simple tube-shaped telescopes. NASA’s Scope It Out! Game, most appropriate for high school students and adult astronomy buffs, uses puzzles to teach players about the basics of common refracting and reflecting telescopes you might have in your backyard. Then the game introduces the JWST and shows how it has the same basic parts as a typical telescope. Finally, the game compares the JWST to the Hubble Space Telescope and shows that while they don’t look alike, they have the same essential parts. Inform students to pay close attention as they play the game because the information presented in each level will help them solve the puzzles in the next round. Users who want to run the game at an exhibit, museum, observatory, or university can download special files from the site.

Climate Science Activity Book

Discover Your Changing World With NOAA: Ten Activities to Introduce You to the Essential Principles of Climate Science introduces middle and high school students to the principles of climate science and the factors involved in climate change. Students explore climate science concepts as they make a solar cooker, set up a home weather station, construct an electronic temperature sensor, create a unique message about climate change, and play the Are You Climate Literate? board game. Each activity includes detailed instructions and illustrations.

BirdSleuth Project

With lesson plans, videos, images, facts about birds, and opportunities to participate in citizen science projects, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s BirdSleuth website can hook students of all ages on science through the study of birds. In Get a Bird’s-Eye View of Nesting Birds, elementary and middle school students watch footage from live bird cams and learn about nesting behaviors and habitats through accompanying lessons. In Evolution in Paradise, high school students explore evolution concepts through lessons and videos inspired by birds of paradise.

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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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