NSTA's Science Matters Newsletter

July 2014

Here are your science education resources and announcements for July 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

The Progress of Education Reform: Science in the Early Years

The Progress of Education Reform: Science in the Early Years, published last month by the Education Commission of the States, looks at the benefits associated with science education in early learning and includes recommendations for state policymakers.

The report outlines the case for including strong science curriculum and instructional supports in the early years by outlining the basic skills and knowledge that young children possess, describing ways that science supports learning in other subject areas and presenting evidence that supporting science instruction in the early years leads to future success in the classroom.

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New Census: Majority of STEM Graduates are not Pursuing STEM Jobs

The U.S. Census Bureau recently reported that 74 percent of those who have a bachelor’s degree in the STEM subjects are not employed in the STEM occupations.

"STEM graduates have relatively low unemployment, however these graduates are not necessarily employed in STEM occupations," said Liana Christin Landivar, a sociologist in the Census Bureau's Industry and Occupation Statistics Branch.

According to new statistics from the 2012 American Community Survey, engineering and computer, math and statistics majors had the largest share of graduates going into a STEM field with about half employed in a STEM occupation. Science majors had fewer of their graduates employed in STEM. About 26 percent of physical science majors; 15 percent of biological, environmental and agricultural sciences majors; 10 percent of psychology majors; and 7 percent of social science majors were employed in STEM.

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Analysis Shows Women and Blacks More Likely to Leave STEM Fields

New research by the American Institutes for Research found that one in six who earn a Ph.D. in STEM go on to pursue a career outside the field, with women and blacks are the most likely to do so. 

Using a weighted sample of 425,431 participants in the National Science Foundation’s 2010 Survey of Doctorate Recipients, the authors examined those who received a doctorate in a STEM discipline between 1959 and 2010, with most in the middle of their careers, with 78 percent earning their degrees 10 years ago or longer.

Other key findings include:

  • Female Ph.D. holders were more likely to leave STEM than male Ph.D. holders; black Ph.D. holders were more likely to leave STEM than members of other racial/ethnic groups.
  • Among STEM Ph.D. holders who left STEM, black females, black males, and Hispanic and white females were more likely compared with other groups to be employed in the government sector; Asian females, Asian males, and Hispanic and white males were more likely employed in the private, for-profit sector.
  • Female STEM Ph.D. holders who left STEM were less likely to be involved in research and development compared with male STEM leavers within each racial/ethnic group.
  • Female STEM Ph.D. holders who left STEM were less likely to be in management positions compared with male STEM leavers within each racial/ethnic group.

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Teacher Education, Professional Development, and Grant and Award Opportunities

NSTA New Science Teacher Academy

Applications for the 2014–2015 NSTA New Science Teacher Academy are currently being accepted. The year-long program was established to help reduce the high attrition rate in the science teaching profession by providing professional development and mentoring support to early-career science teachers.

Science teachers located throughout the country who will be entering their second through fifth year of teaching and whose schedule is a minimum of 51 percent middle or high school science, are encouraged to apply to the program. For more information about the NSTA New Science Teacher Academy or to learn how to apply to become a fellow, please visit the Academy website. Applications must be submitted no later than August 22, 2014, to be considered.

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.

FRED Technology Grants for Rural Schools

The Foundation for Rural Education and Development (FRED) created this program to meet the need for innovative technology in the classroom. The grants strive to help rural public schools connect to high-speed broadband, bring modern computers to every classroom, and ensure effective, engaging software and online resources are an integral part of the curriculum. The program runs annually and awards grants ranging from $1,000 to $5,000.

FRED programs are designated for rural communities, residents, and organizations in the United States and Canada. Eligibility for FRED programs is determined by the Donor Circle. Applicants must have a letter of nomination from a Donor Circle company for that program year and meet the basic requirements outlined in the individual program brochure. Click here for more information.

National Energy Literacy Virtual Town Hall

Join the Department of Energy for a dynamic virtual conversation of ongoing efforts from across the country in utilizing the Energy Literacy Framework to address one of our nations' biggest national challenges, "Energy Illiteracy." Most Americans don't know where their electricity comes from (coal) and cannot name a fossil fuel. During this webinar educators and collaborators will hear from organizations across the country engaging in national, localized and new media efforts for promoting energy literacy. Learn about energy literacy efforts, vision, and resources for integrating energy. The webinar will also include a discussion on how to engage diverse young learners in energy. Register today for this webinar on August 5 at 3 pm ET.

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Teacher Resources

Celebrating Women in STEM

For centuries, women have made groundbreaking discoveries in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields. Share these STEM–inspired ideas and activities to help K–12 students recognize and appreciate the contributions of women scientists. Each idea focuses on a different STEM contribution and presents interesting facts about the women behind them; accompanying activities help make the contributions relevant to students. For example, students can learn about Grace Mary Hopper, a Navy Admiral and computer programming pioneer who co-invented the first widely used computer programming language, COmmon Business-Oriented Language (COBOL), and coined the phrase “computer bug” for computer error after finding a moth in the Navy’s Mark II computer. Students connect to her contribution by using interactive programming tutorials. Other spotlighted women include astronaut Sally Ride, scientific illustrator Anna Botsford Comstock, and modern architect Zaha Hadid.

RNA Virtual Lab

In this interactive lab from the Public Broadcasting Service’s (PBS) NOVA Labs, high school biology students design RNAs, tiny molecules at the heart of every cell in our bodies. The game helps players discover that RNA molecules carry out a wide variety of essential functions in our bodies, from producing proteins to fighting viruses. They’ll also learn why the way an RNA molecule folds in three dimensions determines what it does (hint: in biology, structure equals function). Find this and other virtual labs from the PBS science series NOVA online.

TryEngineering.org

This website has engineering resources for students ages 8–18 as well as resources for their teachers, parents, and school counselors. Students can explore engineering concepts and careers through games such as Bionic Arm Design Challenge; iON Future: The STEM Career Education Game; and Solar Car Racing. Teachers can access more than 100 standards-aligned engineering lessons on topics ranging from engineering design to wind energy. Parents and counselors will find information on camps, competitions, scholarships, university programs, career requirements, and other opportunities to support children interested in engineering.

All About Bird Biology

To help curious minds of all ages learn about birds’ intriguing biological structures, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has launched an immersive website, All About Bird Biology. The website features All About Feathers, an interactive exploration of feathers, with articles, images, videos, animated slide collections, and more on the topic. Another interactive, Bird Song Hero, requires players to match a bird song recording to its visual representation. Additional interactives will be added, so check the website frequently for updates.

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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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