NSTA's Science Matters Newsletter

September 2013

Here are your science education resources and announcements for September 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

California Adopts NGSS with Unanimous Vote

On September 4, California became the sixth state to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) after a unanimous vote by the State Board of Education. A timeline and plan for implementation will be decided in the coming months. According to Tom Torlakson, state superintendent of public instruction, "the adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards in California marks a crucial step in aiming [to be] sure our students are prepared to succeed after they leave our classrooms." Other states that have adopted the NGSS include Rhode Island, Kentucky, Kansas, Maryland, and Vermont.

Click here to read a blog post by Education Week's Erik Robelen. Click here to read the press release from the California Department of Education.

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Math Viewed by Americans as ‘Most Valuable’ School Subject, New Gallup Poll Finds

About one-third of American adults (34 percent) chose math as the most valuable subject to them in their lives, according to new survey results released earlier this month by Gallup. English came in second, at 21 percent, followed by science at 12 percent.

The results are—for the most part—similar to those from the August 5-8, 2002 poll. One notable difference is the sizeable increase in the percentage of respondents who picked science as the most valuable subject. In 2002, only 4 percent picked science, but in the most recent survey the figure jumped to 12 percent.

Read more about the results, from Gallup’s August 7–11 Work and Education poll, here.

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National Assessment Governing Board Seeks Nominees to Fill Open Positions

The National Assessment Governing Board—which supervises the suite of tests in the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the "nation's report card"—is recruiting new members.

The governing board will have five openings for four-year terms to start October 1, 2014:

  • A secondary school principal;
  • Two teachers, of 4th and 8th grades;
  • A state education chief; and
  • A representative of the public not employed by federal, state, or local governments.

Some of the governing board’s top priorities for next year include:

  • Research studies on students’ academic preparedness for college and job training;
  • A parent engagement initiative;
  • Innovative computer-based assessments; and
  • A computer-based assessment of technology and engineering literacy at grade 8.

Click here for information about nominating a board member. The deadline is October 18, 2013.

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Kick Off the School Year with NSTA Competitions

Slightly cooler air and the smell of freshly cut grass and sharpened pencils can only mean one thing—school is back in session! NSTA and its sponsors are kicking off another exciting school year of rewarding and recognizing high-performing science educators and students through our large-scale, nationally known competitions and grant programs. As you begin another year with fresh ideas, focused plans, and great expectations, consider participating in one of the following programs for you and your students:

Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVision

ExploraVision is a competition that encourages K–12 students of all interest, skill and ability levels to create and explore a vision of a future technology by combining their imaginations with the tools of science. Teams of two to four students research scientific principles and current technologies as the basis for deigning innovative technologies that could exist in 20 years. Students compete for up to $240,000 in savings bonds (maturity value) for college and cool gifts from Toshiba. First- and second-place teams also receive an expenses-paid trip with their families, mentor and coach to Washington, D.C. for a gala awards weekend in June 2014. Applications are now being accepted; the deadline for applications is January 30, 2014. For more information about the program or to learn how to apply, visit the competition website.


eCYBERMISSION is a free, online collaborative learning competition for students in grades six through nine. Sponsored by the U.S. Army and administered by NSTA, eCYBERMISSION is one of several science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) initiatives offered by the Army Educational Outreach Program (AEOP). The competition challenges student to think about real-world applications of STEM by working in teams to identify a problem in their community and use the scientific method, scientific inquiry or the engineering design process to find a solution. Students compete for state, regional and national awards, with potential winning of up to $8,000 (maturity value) in U.S. savings bonds. Registration for the competition is now open. To learn more about the eCYBERMISSION program and to register, click here or contact eCYBERMISSION Mission Control at 1-866-GO-CYBER (462-9237) or via e-mail at missioncontrol@ecybermission.com.

America’s Home Energy Education Challenge

America’s Home Energy Education Challenge (AHEEC) is a national student competition, created to help families save money by saving energy at home. AHEEC engages students in elementary and middle schools to make smarter energy choices that reduce U.S. reliance on fossil fuels and put money back in their parents’ pockets. This initiative aims to educate America's youth about the benefits of energy efficiency, motivate students to play a more active role in how their families use energy, and help families across the country reduce their energy bills. Participating schools compete for more than $50,000 in prizes that will be distributed at the regional and national levels of the competition. Official registration for the Challenge ends November 15, 2013. To register to join America's Home Energy Education Challenge or to find more information about the competition click here.

Shell Science Lab Challenge

The Shell Science Lab Challenge, sponsored by Shell Oil Company (Shell) and administered by NSTA, encourages teachers (grades 6–12) in the U.S. and Canada, who have found innovative ways to deliver quality lab experiences with limited school and laboratory resources, to share their approaches for a chance to win up to $93,000 in prizes, including a grand prize school science lab makeover support package valued at $20,000. The deadline for submissions is December 20, 2013. For more information about the Challenge or to download an application, click here.

The DuPont Challenge© Science Essay Competition

The DuPont Challenge Science Essay Competition is a student competition that invites seventh through 12th grade students to write a 700- to 1,000-word essay about a scientific discovery, theory, event or technological application that has captured their interest. Developed in collaboration with The Walt Disney World Resort, NASA and NSTA, the competition offers young students the opportunity to explore science, develop new skills and gain confidence in communicating scientific ideas. Created to honor the Challenger astronauts, students can win savings bonds up to $5,000, and a trip to Walt Disney World and to the Kennedy Space Center. Teachers win too! Along with the trips with their students, teachers can also win $500 grants. To learn more about the competition, check out the website.

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Teacher Education, Professional Development, and Grant and Award Opportunities

N-Visioning a Brighter Future Grant Program

Sponsored by Westinghouse, the N-Visioning a Brighter Future Grant Program awards grants to U.S. K–12 schools that want their students to learn more about science, technology, or mathematics through a hands-on project. Three schools will be awarded grants of $1,000—$3,000 to complete their projects and $2,000 for the schools’ science department needs—for any creative project dealing with energy, mathematics, science, and technology, but those involving students directly, incorporate community resources, and use interdisciplinary or team-teaching strategies will receive preference. Click here for more information. Applications are due November 15, 2013.

NEA Foundation Student Achievement Grants

The NEA Foundation Student Achievement Grants provide funds to improve the academic achievement of students by engaging in critical thinking and problem-solving that deepens knowledge of standards-based subject matter. The work should also improve students' habits of inquiry, self-directed learning, and critical reflection. Maximum award: $5,000. Practicing U.S. public school teachers, public school education support professionals, or faculty or staff at public higher education institutions are eligible to apply. Click here for more information. Application deadlines are February 1, June 1, and October 15.

Lowe’s Toolbox for Education Grant Program

Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation will donate $5 million to schools and school parent-teacher groups at more than 1,000 different schools during the school year. Grant applicants may request between $2,000 and $5,000 per school. Once 1,500 applications are received, the application process will be closed and the "Apply Now" button will no longer appear on the website. The program has two grant cycles in a school year: Spring (February 15) and fall (October 15). Click here for more information.

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Teacher Resources

Team Nutrition Curriculum: PreK–6

USDA’s Team Nutrition curriculum can help preschool and elementary students connect gardens with nutrition messages in the classroom and cafeteria and at home. The resources teach children to think positively about fruits and vegetables and foster an awareness of where foods come from. In Grow It, Try It, Like It! Preschool Fun With Fruits and Vegetables, very young students explore three fruits and three vegetables inside and out. In The Great Garden Detective Adventure (grades 3–4), students grow, harvest, prepare, and taste fruits and vegetables; develop a class cookbook; track their fruit and vegetable consumption; and share their knowledge with their school and families. In Dig In! (grades 5–6), students learn about plant behaviors and nutrition as they design, grow, and harvest a garden of fruits and vegetables.

Geoscience Resources

Use the materials at this website to introduce middle school to college students to the Global Positioning System (GPS) and the many ways GPS is used in geodesy. Resources include animations, tutorials, lesson plans, and links to geoscience projects. Student activities explore concepts such as creating and reading time series plots; learning to analyze GPS data; and using the web-based data viewing tool EarthScope Voyager Jr. to visualize relationships among earthquakes, volcanoes, and plate boundaries in the western United States.

Climate Education Resources

Teaching Climate, NOAA’s newly redesigned web page, offers a searchable database of reviewed K–12 climate education resources produced over the last 10 years as part of various NOAA, NASA, and NSF federal education grant projects. The resources have been rigorously reviewed by teams of subject experts for scientific accuracy, pedagogical soundness, and usability. Educators can search for resources by type (e.g., Visual, Videos, Demos and Experiments, and Interactive Tools) or by audience (e.g., grade levels from intermediate to upper and lower college, informal, and the general public). Click on Teaching Climate Literacy to access Climate Literacy: The Essential Principles of Climate Science, a standards-aligned framework for educators who want to teach climate science. The Professional Development section lists upcoming webinars and other events for educators to learn more about climate change.

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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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