NSTA's Science Matters Newsletter

December 2013

Here are your science education resources and announcements for December 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 Research Council Report Says New Types of Assessment Needed When NGSS Are Implemented

New forms of assessments will be needed to evaluate student learning once the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are implemented, according to a new report released earlier this week by the National Research Council. Current state tests have a big emphasis on factual knowledge and were not shaped to assess the type of understanding envisioned by the standards, which emphasize depth of knowledge based on the ability to integrate core content with science and engineering practices, according to the press release.

The report provides a detailed vision for a new system of assessments, and presents examples of the sorts of tasks and questions that could measure student knowledge. To monitor progress in meeting the standards, states should use information both from state-administered tests and from classroom-based assessments, as well as information about students’ opportunity to learn in the ways laid out in the science standards, said the committee that wrote the report.

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2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) Results Released

Results from the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) were released earlier this month. Key findings from the report include:

  • In science, the United States' mean score (497) trailed the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average (501);
  • The United States ranks twenty-seventh out of thirty-four OECD countries in math performance with a mean score of 481; and
  • In reading, the United States' mean score (498) was higher than the OECD average of 496.

NSTA also released a statement regarding the science results from the report, which can be found here

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Toshiba, the U.S.-Japan Council, and NSTA Join Together to Launch Exciting New Program

Toshiba, the U.S.-Japan Council, and NSTA have joined together to inspire student achievement in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education while addressing some of the world's most complex issues through an exciting new program, the TOMODACHI Toshiba Science & Technology Leadership Academy. During the week-long, cross-cultural academy, 16 high school students and eight teachers from Japan and the United States will work together to address global issues. Participants will work in teams to develop proposed solutions to these problems using learning experiences that are central to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The TOMODACHI Toshiba Science & Technology Leadership Academy will take place annually in August in Tokyo.

In the United States, regional and honorable mention winners from the 2013 and 2014 Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVision program in grades 8–11 are eligible to apply for the TOMODACHI Toshiba Science & Technology Leadership Academy. Students must write an essay describing their vision for a resilient, smarter community enabled by technology. High school teachers who are also NSTA members can apply by developing a hands-on activity about one of the following topics: rebuilding a community after a disaster, methods to meet increasing energy demands, solutions to rising CO2 emissions, solutions to population growth issues, or alternative energy technology. The call for submissions is open from March 15 to April 15. Eight student and four teacher winners from each country will be announced on May 9. U.S. teachers' and students' Japanese counterparts will be selected from high school students and teachers who promote strong achievement in science and mathematics education, and international student exchanges.

For more information or an application for the 2014 Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVision and the TOMODACHI program, visit www.exploravision.org or e-mail exploravision@nsta.org.

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NCES Report Finds Attrition Rate for STEM Undergrads About the Same as Other Fields

Approximately half of bachelor’s degree candidates in science, technology, engineering and math leave the field before completing a college degree, according to a report from the U.S. Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics.

The report, entitled “STEM Attrition: College Student’ Paths Into and Out of STEM Fields,” details the rates of attrition from STEM fields and non-STEM fields, characteristics of students who leave STEM fields, comparing the courses and performance of those who leave and persist in STEM, and an examination of the strength of different factors’ association with students’ leaving STEM, among other subjects.

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Teacher Education, Professional Development, and Grant and Award Opportunities

ASM’s Kishor M. Kulkarni Distinguished High School Teacher Award

This award, offered by ASM International, recognizes the accomplishments of a U.S. high school science teacher who has demonstrated a significant and sustained impact on pre-college-age students. Suggested candidates include past recipients of ASM Foundation K-12 Teacher Grants and graduates of the ASM Materials Camp Teachers Camp program. ASM Trustees and ASM Foundation Trustees may nominate a teacher candidate who does not belong to these two categories. The award includes a cash grant of $2,000 plus the recipient's travel cost of up to $500 (to receive the award at the ASM Awards Dinner).

Western Digital Foundation Grants

Grants are awarded to educational organizations that offer programs from primary through graduate levels. Of special interest are programs that focus on innovation in engineering (electrical, mechanical, chemical, and solid state physics) and personal computing literacy and science discovery.

Western Digital processes grant requests on a semi-annual basis. Please indicate which funding period you are requesting. Funding periods are January 1–June 30 (grant submittal postmark deadline is January 15) and July 1–December 31 (grant submittal postmark deadline is July 15). For more information about the grant program, click here.

Alan Shepard Technology in Education Awards

The Astronauts Memorial Foundation, in partnership with NASA and the Space Foundation, will recognize the accomplishments of one outstanding individual and his or her contributions to lifelong learning through the application of technology in the classroom or in the professional development of teachers. A $5,000 prize will be awarded. Technology personnel and K-12 classroom teachers who have demonstrated exemplary use of technology to enhance learning in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are eligible.

School principals, superintendents, or associate superintendents may nominate eligible candidates. The award will be presented in May 2014 at the Space Foundation's 30th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado. For more information, click here.

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 deepen 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. Application deadlines are February 1, June 1, and October 15. For more information, click here.

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Teacher Resources

Parks as Classrooms

New NPS curriculum-based lesson plans draw from the spectacular natural landscapes and authentic places preserved in America’s national parks. The lessons span the K-12 spectrum and offer plenty of possibilities for integrating science with other subjects. Selected titles include: Tree Ring Activity (elementary) from Arizona's Walnut Canyon National Monument; Acoustic 3: On the Trail of a Whale (middle level) from Alaska's Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve; and Sound Intensity and Loudness (high school) from Iowa's Herbert Hoover National Historic Site.

Interactive Cell Tour

Although the cell is the smallest unit of life, it is by no means simple. Take middle and high school students on this interactive tour of the cell to learn about the parts of a cell and their functions.

ScienceCasts Video Series

ScienceCasts, NASA’s new video series, offers middle and high school educators and the public a fast and fun way to learn about scientific discoveries and facts about Earth, the solar system, and beyond. The videos were produced by an astrophysicist and a team of agency narrators and videographers. The format is designed to increase understanding of the world of science through simple, clear presentations.

Inside Life Science

Inside Life Science, a digital publication from NiH's National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), contains numerous high-interest articles on cell biology topics appropriate for use with middle and high school students.The articles show how basic biomedical research—from the history of the field to the cutting-edge work scientists are doing today—becomes the foundation for advances in disease diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.

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Student Competitions

2014 NASA Space Settlement Design Contest

The NASA Space Settlement Design Contest encourages students to design a space settlement. Space settlements are permanent communities in orbit, as opposed to a place to work for a few months and go home. Designing a space settlement involves physics, mathematics, space science, environmental science, and many other disciplines. Individuals or teams may enter. Grade levels are judged separately, except for the grand prize. For more information about the competition, click here.

Stockholm Junior Water Prize Competition

Any high school student with a water-related science project is eligible to participate. Teams of up to three students may enter. Projects should focus on local, regional, national, or global issues and use scientifically accepted methodologies for experimentation, monitoring, and reporting, including statistical analysis. To be eligible for the state competition, students must complete the online entry form and electronically submit their research paper.

State winners must attend the U.S. competition in June 2014, when they will participate in a two-day, all-expense-paid program, during which they will display and present their projects to a panel of distinguished judges. The national winner and his or her science teacher will receive an all-expense-paid trip to the international competition in Stockholm, Sweden. For more information, click here.

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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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