NSTA's Science Matters Newsletter

March 2014

Here are your science education resources and announcements for March 2014 provided by the Science Matters Network. Please forward them on to other science educators in your school and/or school district.

Table of Contents

Oregon Becomes 10th State (+D.C.) to Adopt Next Generation Science Standards

Add Oregon to the list of states to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The Oregon State Board of Education voted unanimously on March 6 to adopt the new standards that will prepare students to be college and career ready. Oregon was a lead state in the development of the NGSS and has gone through an 8–9-month state review process after release of the standards last April.

According to Crystal Greene, communications director for the Department of Education, “Oregon educators were very involved in the review process. We had a great team of educators who provided feedback.” She also noted the high level of enthusiasm for the NGSS from science teachers and from the state board.

Plans moving forward include looking at professional development needs for teachers and material alignment. Oregon is a local control state so implementation and integration will be led by local districts. The timeline for assessment is 2018–19.

Other states that have adopted the NGSS, include Rhode Island, Kentucky, Kansas, Maryland, Vermont, California, Delaware, Washington, District of Columbia, and Nevada.

Check out the NGSS@NSTA Hub, the central source for science teachers to NSTA-approved resources and materials to help teachers implement the NGSS.

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New Report Suggests Smaller Private Colleges Outperform Public Universities in STEM

New report findings released this month by the Council of Independent Colleges, suggested that small and mid-sized private colleges outperform public universities in students’ persistence and undergraduate degree completion rates in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. The report, Strengthening the STEM Pipeline: The Contributions of Small and Mid-Sized Independent Colleges, noted that the findings are contrary to the general public’s belief that larger public institutions are better equipped to prepare undergraduates in STEM fields.

The report also found that small and mid-sized private colleges perform better on the time-to-degree metric. Eighty percent of bachelor’s degree recipients in STEM fields earned their degrees in four years or less at these institutions, compared to 34 percent at public four-year nondoctoral institutions and 52 percent at public four-year doctoral institutions. Additionally, the study reported that STEM graduates of the smaller private colleges are more likely to plan to attend graduate school and are just as likely to enroll immediately in a graduate program as their peers who graduate from larger public universities.

Read the full report here.

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Study Finds Perseverance and Passion for Long-Term Goals Linked to Higher Rates of Effectiveness and Retention Among Novice Teachers

According to a new study, True Grit: Trait-level Perseverance and Passion for Long-term Goals Predicts Effectiveness and Retention among Novice Teachers, published in the peer-reviewed journal Teachers College Record, University of Pennsylvania researchers Claire Robertson-Kraft and Angela Duckworth, found that, for early-career teachers in high-poverty school districts, higher levels of “perseverance and passion for long-term goals” (or “grit”) were correlated with higher rates of effectiveness and retention. Check out the study here.

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Shell Science Lab Challenge Names 2014 District Winners

Congratulations to the 2014 district winners recently selected for the fourth annual Shell Science Lab Challenge. The Challenge’s 18 district winners—middle and secondary school science teachers (grades 6–12) located in the U.S. and Canada—found innovative ways to deliver quality lab experiences with limited school and laboratory resources and then shared their unique instructional approaches for a chance to win a school science lab makeover support package valued at $20,000. From the 18 district winners named, five national finalists will be chosen, and from the national finalists a grand prize winner will be selected.
As a district winner, each teacher and their school receive a $3,000 science lab prize package that includes:

  • $1,000 Shell grant to purchase lab equipment and other science education resources;
  • $1,000 in donated science lab equipment from Ward’s Science;
  • $300 gift certificate to the NSTA Science Store;
  • One year NSTA membership for two teachers;
  • NSTA Learning Center subscription for two teachers; and
  • Paid registration for two teachers to attend a 2014 NSTA Area Conference on Science Education.

Recognizing that the laboratory experience is integral to science education and that many schools, especially schools in urban and rural areas, do not have the resources to invest in quality lab equipment, NSTA and Shell partnered on the Shell Science Lab Challenge to bring much needed lab materials and resources to school districts nationwide and in Canada. For more information about the program visit the competition website.

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Teacher Education, Professional Development, and Grant and Award Opportunities

IEEE-USA’s Precollege Education Committee’s Precollege Teacher Reward/Grant Program

This Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) program helps teachers sponsor innovation and creativity in or outside of the classroom. These grants provide small amounts of funding for novel ideas that introduce engineering to students. Grants of up to $500 are typically awarded.


  • The program/project must be a new or unique idea
  • The teacher must work with an IEEE member (the IEEE member can be a partner, mentor, or a resource member)

Applications are currently being accepted and will be considered on a rolling case-by-case basis. Click here for more information.

Award for Excellence in Polymer Education by High School and Middle School Teachers

POLYED provides awards to high school and middle school science teachers for excellence in polymer education. The national award winner receives an expense-paid trip to an NSTA National Conference and will have opportunities there to interact with a Polymer Ambassador. The national winner also receives a $1,000 cash award. Click here to learn more.

Thanks A Million Teachers Grants

Farmers Insurance is giving away $2,500 grants to America’s teachers who have made a difference in the lives of students and their communities. As teachers, mention this grant opportunity to students, parents, or colleagues and you can be "thanked." The winners must use the money to purchase school supplies through AdoptAClassroom.org or have the funds applied toward a professional certification through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. To be considered for the grant a teacher must:

  • Have received a thank you post;
  • Be a current K–12 teacher in the United States; and
  • Submit a qualified proposal (the proposals will be evaluated and presented for voting on a recurring two-month basis)

Proposals will be accepted through the end of October 2014. For more information, click here.

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Teacher Resources

Teaching with Games

Have you tried to create games for the classroom but been stymied by the amount of time and effort required? If so, the EdGames website from the University of North Carolina Wilmington is for you. The site contains downloadable games, templates, and utilities that K–12 teachers can use to enhance any lesson. Click on a game type (PowerPoint, Excel, Word, etc.) to read abstracts of available games and whether they are best suited for a single student or the whole class.

The Great Diseases

This curriculum, created collaboratively by Tufts University scientists and Boston Public School teachers, engages high school students in real-world science through learning modules based on “the great diseases.” Each module—Infectious Disease, Neurologic Disorders, Metabolic Disease, and Cancer—contains five units; each unit has five, 45-minute lessons, corresponding to a week’s worth of lessons. Modules include background information for teachers and a final project requiring students to synthesize the information they learn into a document, such as a presentation or a brochure.

Science of Innovation Video Series

Whether it happens among students in a classroom or engineers in a laboratory, innovation is a process—a series of steps that begins with imagination and results in the creation of something of value for society. That process is emphasized in the Science of Innovations video series for middle and high school students from NSF and NBC Learn. The series describes the development and benefits of a different innovation in each episode; students will hear about biotic limbs, biofuels, 3D printing, electronic tattoos, fuel cell efficiency, “smart” concrete, synthetic diamonds, and self-driving cars.

Project NEURON (Novel Education for Understanding Research on Neuroscience)

Project NEURON unites scientists, teachers, and students to develop and disseminate curriculum materials that connect frontier science with national and state science education standards. The focus is to produce science curricula linking modern advances in neuroscience with middle and high school level concepts. The project materials have been classroom-tested and revised. Unit titles ask questions like these: Do You See What I See? What Can I Learn From Worms? What Makes Me Tick…Tock? Why Dread a Bump On the Head?

Science, Speed, and Safety: Rev Up Your Knowledge

This educators’ resource guide accompanies the film NASCAR: The IMAX Experience, which gives students a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the world of NASCAR racing. The guide offers standards-based lessons for grades 4–9, as well as extension activities, background information, and a recommended reading list. The lessons for grades 4–6 emphasize math skills, the history and development of car safety measures, and the importance of working as a team. The lessons for grades 7–9 involve physics concepts, such as calculating a vehicle’s speed, velocity, and acceleration; investigating the role of friction as a vehicle turns; and the effect of air on moving vehicles, such as drag, resistance, and flow.

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Student Competitions

Scientific American Science in Action Award

The third annual $50,000 Scientific American Science in Action award, powered by the Google Science Fair, has launched. The Scientific American Science in Action award honors a project that can make a practical difference by addressing an environmental, health, or resources challenge. The finalists and winner of the award will be frawns from the entry pool of the Google Science Fair. In addition to the $50,000 cash prize, the winner will receive one year of mentoring to help realize the goal of her or his project and will be recognized at the 2014 Google Science Fair finalist event in September.

The Google Science Fair is open to students (ages 13–18) and entries are due May 12, 2014. More information is available at http://www.scientificamerican.com/pressroom/education/science-in-action/ and https://www.googlesciencefair.com.

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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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