NSTA's Science Matters Newsletter

April 2014

Here are your science education resources and announcements for April 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

Speak Up 2013 Findings Show Growth in Flipped Classroom Implementation and Interest

A quarter of administrators identified flipped learning as having a significant impact on transforming teaching and learning in their school district, surpassing other digital learning trends such as educational games and mobile apps (21 percent) and even online professional learning communities for teachers and administrators (19 percent), according to new findings from Speak Up 2013 National Research Project Findings: A Second Year Review of Flipped Learning.

Other key findings from Speak Up 2013 include:

  • One out of six math and science teachers are implementing a flipped learning model using videos that they have created or sourced online.
  • 16 percent of teachers say they are regularly creating videos of their lessons or lectures to students to watch.
  • While, almost one-fifth of current teachers have “learning how to flip my classroom” on their wish list for professional development this year,41 percent of administrators say pre-service teachers should learn how to set up a flipped learning class model before getting a teaching credential.
  • 66 percent of principals said pre-service teachers should learn how to create and use videos and other digital media within their teacher preparation programs.
  • 75 percent of middle and high school students agree that flipped learning would be a good way for them to learn, with 32 percent of those students strongly agreeing with that idea.

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National Academy of Sciences Releases New Report That Examines Current Efforts to Connect the STEM Disciplines in K–12 Education

A new report, STEM Integration in K–12 Education, released this month by the National Academy of Sciences, identifies existing approaches to integrated STEM education, both in formal and after-and out-of-school settings. The report reviews the evidence for the impact of integrated approaches on various student outcomes, and it proposes a set of priority research questions to advance the understanding of integrated STEM education. The report also offers a framework to provide a common perspective and vocabulary for researchers, practitioners, and other to identify and discuss specific STEM initiative within the K–12 education system. Check out the report here.

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Illinois Becomes 11th State (+ D.C.) to Adopt the Next Generation Science Standards

Illinois has officially adopted the Next Generation Science Standards. The state board of education voted in January to adopt the new standards, but was awaiting legislative confirmation. According to an Education Week blog, the Illinois Joint Committee on Administrative Rules has “no objection” to the adoption.

Read the Education Week blog here. For resources, tools and support to help explore, learn, and implement the Next Generation Science Standards, visit the NGSS@NSTA Hub.

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Teacher Education, Professional Development, and Grant and Award Opportunities

NBA Green “Reimagination!” Program

Help kids have fun learning about the 3 R’s with this free, STEM-friendly program. It encourages kids, schools, parents, and youth organizations to participate in the NBA Green Week initiative by reducing, reusing, and recycling old and discarded items to come up with something wonderful and new. The program is flexible: You can do it in less than an hour or spread it out over several days, and it can be completed any time before April 22 (Earth Day). Here's what to do:

  1. Collect reusable, recyclable materials.
  2. Have kids create something new.
  3. Upload classroom/group photos featuring kids’ treasures!

Click here for more information.

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.

Association of American Educators Classroom Grants

These grants (average amount: $500) can be used for a variety of projects and materials, including but not limited to books, software, calculators, math manipulatives, art supplies, audiovisual equipment, and lab materials. Classroom grants are available to all educators who have not received a scholarship or grant from the association in the last 18 months. Application deadlines are October 1 and March 1. Click here for more information.

Maley/FTEE Technology and Engineering Teacher Scholarship

The Foundation for Technology and Engineering Educators is sponsoring the $1,000 scholarship. Its purpose is to support teachers in their preparation to increase the positive outcomes of technology and engineering education. Criteria include: (1) evidence of teaching success, (2) plans for action research, (3) recommendations, (4) plans for professional development, and (5) the applicant's need. Applicant must be a technology and engineering teacher at any grade level who is beginning or continuing graduate study. For more information, click here.

The National Teacher Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award

This award is for career U.S. educators who may or may not qualify for consideration as an inductee and will provide recognition for individuals involved directly or indirectly with education for their significant contributions to in support of PreK–12 teachers and the teaching profession.

Generally, selection will be based on contributions made over a career or an extended period. Occasionally, however, the selection may be based upon a single incident or activity. Nominations for the award may be made by any person. The Award is an etched crystal optical tower and will normally be presented in Emporia during Hall of Fame Weekend or in Washington, D.C., during Hall of Fame ceremonies there. Click here for more information.

N-Visioning a Brighter Future Grant Program

Sponsored by Westinghouse, the program awards grants to U.S. K–12 schools that want their students to learn more about science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) through a hands-on project. Three schools will be awarded grants of $3,000—$1,000 to complete their projects and $2,000 for the schools’ science department needs—for any creative project dealing with STEM. Preference will go to projects that involve students directly, incorporate community resources, or use interdisciplinary or team-teaching strategies. Click here for more information.

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Teacher Resources


At newsela.com, middle and high school teachers can access current news stories that can be modified for multiple reading levels from fourth grade to college. The stories are organized by category (e.g., War and Peace, Science, Kids, Money, Law, Health, and Arts) and can be incorporated into lessons on almost anything—from stink bugs to sugary drinks to archaeological finds in Seattle. One benefit of using multiple versions of a story at varying text difficulty levels is that students don’t know they are reading an “easier” text, so teachers can discuss the issue with the whole class, leading to richer, more participatory student conversations.

The Making Stuff Activity Guide

The guide contains four materials science activities for after-school programs or other settings. The hour-long activities are geared for students in grades 4–6 and their families and focus on the science behind making materials stronger (e.g., Spoon Drop Strength Test), smaller (e.g., Magnetic Microbot Models), cleaner (e.g., Build a Cleaner Battery), and smarter (e.g., Smart Glove). In addition, educators can access related video clips that show cutting-edge developments in materials science that pertain to each activity.

Curious George STEM Collection

Let young students (grades preK–1) explore STEM concepts with a loveable, mischievous monkey. PBS LearningMedia’s early childhood science television series Curious George has educational resources including teaching tips, activities, and videos that introduce STEM concepts, such as stability, inclines, and recycling/reuse. In addition, teachers can access age-appropriate whiteboard activities that develop skills such as observation, counting and estimation, and reading a graph to interpret data.

Tablet-Friendly STEM Resources—Middle to College

Looking for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) activities for iPads and other tablets? The Concord Consortium offers a collection of tablet-friendly models exploring physics, chemistry, biology, math, and Earth and space science concepts. The models are appropriate for use in middle level to college classrooms. Many concepts are interdisciplinary, so the models appear in multiple discipline categories. Selected titles include Intermolecular Attractions and States of Matter; Diffusion of a Drop; Sunlight, Infrared, CO2, and the Ground; and Metal Forces.

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Student Competitions and Resources

NASA Exploration Design Challenge

K–12 students will have the opportunity to play a unique role in the future of human spaceflight through participation. NASA EDC invites students around the world to think and act like scientists to overcome one of the major hurdles of deep space long-duration exploration: the dangers associated with space radiation. Students will discover how to plan and design improved radiation shielding aboard the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, currently being developed to carry astronauts to space. Through a series of science, technology, engineering and mathematics engagement activities, K-8 students will analyze different materials that simulate space radiation shielding and recommend materials that best block radiation and protect astronauts. Students in grades 9-12 will think and act like engineers as they apply what they learn to design shielding to protect a sensor on the Orion crew module from space radiation.

After a review of the design solutions submitted by teams in the grades 9-12 challenge, five finalist teams will be selected and matched with a mentor from NASA to test their designs in a virtual simulator. The winning team will build a prototype radiation shield that will be analyzed and submitted to Lockheed Martin for flight certification on the inaugural flight of the Orion Exploration Flight Test. The five U.S. finalist teams from the grades 9-12 challenge will be invited to attend the EFT-1 launch, currently scheduled for November 2014. The names of all K–12 students will fly aboard the spacecraft as honorary virtual crewmembers for Orion’s first flight. The deadline to register students for the virtual crew is June 30, 2014. Click here for more information.

Q?rius Learning Lab

Q?rius (pronounced “curious”) is an interactive science education space for tweens and teens (students in grades 6–12) at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. In the Learning Lab, school groups and other visitors participate in natural history investigations led by museum educators on topics such as forensic anthropology and coral reef biodiversity. Students and teachers who can’t visit the museum can participate in Q?rius activities online. In addition to activities, the website features science articles and a database of 6,000 collection objects in categories such as human origins, mammals, and fossils. Students can conduct self-guided online investigations on coral reefs and Mars; create a digital field book and save photos, videos, collection objects, and notes; participate in live webcasts with museum scientists; and watch videos of scientists explaining their work, motivations, and passions. Check out Q?rius 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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