NSTA's Science Matters Newsletter

October 2013

Here are your science education resources and announcements for October 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

National Science Board Releases STEM Education Data and Trends Tool

Last month the National Science Board releases the STEM Education Data and Trendstool, which provides important information on the current state of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in the United States through an easy, straightforward interface. Organized as a "timeline" spanning prekindergarten through employment, the web-based statistical tool provides useful insights for all with a vested interest in STEM education: parents, students, teachers, policymakers, and others. The tool has been updated with the most recent federal government data, drawing on the latest edition of the NSB's biennial Science and Engineering Indicators report.

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College Board Report Reveals Most Students Are Academically Unprepared for College

Less than half of the students who took the SAT® in 2013 are prepared for college-level coursework, according to a new report recently released by the College Board.

Only 43 percent of those who took the test this year met or exceeded the benchmark score of 1550 out of a possible 2400. According to the College Board, those who meet that number have a 65 percent chance of achieving a B- or higher during their first year of college and continuing on to graduation.

The findings also showed that students who meet the SAT College and Career Readiness Benchmark are:

  • More likely to enroll in a four-year college. 78 percent enrolled in a four-year college or university, compared to only 46 percent of those who did not meet the benchmark.
  • More likely to complete their degree. 54 percent earned a bachelor’s degree within four years, compared to only 27 percent of those who did not meet the benchmark.

Read more about the results here.

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Study Shows U.S. Adult Workplace Skills Lag Internationally

International study results reveal that U.S. adults are not as strong as adults from other countries in important work-related skills.

Released this month, the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, found that U.S. adults’ literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving skills were below international averages. The study, which examined 16-to 65-year olds for a set of skills considered to be essential for success in the working world, also showed deep skills disparities within the U.S., corresponding to factors such as income, education, and health.

Only 12 percent of U.S. adults scored at the highest level of proficiency in literacy, compared with 22 percent in Finland and 23 percent in Japan.

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Teacher Education, Professional Development, and Grant and Award Opportunities

Take the Go Bananas! Challenge and Win Up to $5,000 For Your School

The Go Bananas! Challenge is a competition that asks schools and scout groups across the country to “Answer the Call” and create campaigns to collect and recycle cell phone to help save gorillas.

Coltan, a mineral found in cell phones, is mined in gorilla habitats. By recycling old cell phones you reduce the demand.

$4,000 will be awarded to the school/scout group that collects the most cell phones and another $1,000 will be awarded to the group with the most creative collection campaign. The Challenge ends April 1, 2014 and the winning group will be announced on Earth Day, April 22, 2014. For more information, including how to register, click here.

STEM Smart: Lessons Learned from Successful Schools

The National Science Foundation, in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institution, is hosting a workshop on Tuesday, December 3, 2013, at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C. This meeting will highlight issues from two reports published by the National Research Council: Successful K–12 STEM Education and Monitoring Progress Toward Successful K–12 STEM Education, with special focus on the critical importance of STEM learning and early intervention in pre-K through third grade. Sessions by national leaders in early childhood education will highlight projects, resources, and initiatives that align with the reports’ evidence base on effective instruction, access to high quality STEM for all students, and building supportive infrastructure. To register for the event or to learn more click here.

Nationwide Public School Contest Promotes Science Education

The Loh Down on Science—public radio’s witty syndicated daily 90 seconds of science hosted by Sandra Tsing Loh—in partnership with UC Irvine will launch a school contest in November to promote science education among K-12 students. The competition encourages participants to answer the daily science-themed questions.

The contest will be based on the number of participants from each school and on how often they answer November’s science-themed, multiple-choice “Questions of the Day.” The correct answer with a fuller explanation appears the next day, along with a fun, do-it-yourself activity from www.howtosmile.org.

Schools can begin registering for the contest on October 21. The competition runs November 4-29, with the winner announced December 2. All U.S. public schools are eligible to compete for a $1,000 cash prize. Full contest details can be found here.

Space Foundation Teacher Liaisons

The Space Foundation will select the new flight of Teacher Liaisons in January 2013. Those eligible to be Teacher Liaisons include any PreK–20 educator or other professional or informal educator in the PreK–20 arena. Teacher Liaisons tend to be Master Teachers who want to inspire the next generation of students to pursue and excel in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Teacher Liaisons do not need to be science or math teachers; they need only to have a desire to integrate space education within their curriculum. The application deadline is Friday, December 6, 2013. Click here for more information.

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Teacher Resources

Science Ideas Galore and More

Searching for classroom lessons, project ideas, or just plain science inspiration? Don’t miss author and science guru Janice Van Cleave’s website. Here K–8 teachers can find explorations in nearly every science discipline (e.g., astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, and Earth science), along with tips for teaching science, fun facts, and ideas for “Science Around the Year.” Recently added freebies are lesson plans or explorations using heat– or light–activated color-changing stickers.

Superhero Science

This educational video series from TED-Ed explores the scientific reasoning behind six superpowers: speed, strength, invisibility, body mass, immortality, and flight. Most appropriate for middle and high school students, each video focuses on a single superpower and considers what is and is not possible. After viewing, students can answer questions to reinforce learning (Think), access additional links (Dig Deeper), and have a guided conversation about the concept (Discuss). Teachers can customize the lesson by clicking Flip This Lesson.

Design Challenge Labs

Teachers can access engineering–design lab lesson plans from California’s Tech Museum of Innovation. Produced as part of the museum’s outreach efforts, the labs use readily available materials and explore electromagnetism, solar energy, force and motion, chemical properties, engineering and earthquakes, and genetics, solar energy, and electricity. Most are targeted for the middle level, but some can be adapted to other grade levels (e.g. The Physics of Roller Coasters, Grades 2–12, and Engineering for Earthquakes, Grades 5–12).

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Student Competitions

Youth Rover Challenge

Registration for the Youth Rover Challenge (YRC), a multi-tier robotics education development program, is now open.

Sponsored by The Mars Society, YRC is a STEM-related educational effort that is designed for schools and organizations with students or members in grades 5–12 to have the chance to build and compete at a global level with a LEGO Mindstorms NXT 2.0 based robotic rover and competition arena intended to simulate the surface of Mars. The sandbox where the robotic rover operates is intended to be replicated so participants can operate the competition locally. Winners of the best place times will be invited to one of four events held in each region.

The Rover built for the competition is pre-designed accomplish specific experiments (tasks) similar to what Mars Rovers accomplish today on the surface of Mars and other harsh environments on remote places on Earth. The competition is operated on-site at your self-built sandbox and the final operation of the field tasks are then videotaped and sent to YRC for submission. Teams that have submitted videos that show the final operation of the rover completing the tasks under a time limit are then ranked against other teams.

Registration for the competition closes January 31, 2014. For more information about YRC, click here.

President's Environmental Youth Awards

Since 1971, the President of the United States has joined with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to recognize young people across the United States for protecting our nation’s air, water, land, and ecology. One outstanding project from each region is selected for national recognition. Projects are developed by young individuals, school classes (K–12), summer camps, and youth organizations to promote environmental stewardship.

The deadline for submitting applications for the regional award is December 31, 2013. Following the December 31 deadline, the regional awards panel for each of EPA's 10 regional offices reviews applications to select the winner. The 10 regional award winners receive special recognition and a presidential plaque at an EPA-sponsored award ceremony in their region. Click here for more information.

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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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