NSTA's Science Matters Newsletter

October 2014

Here are your science education resources and announcements for October 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

Black Women Express More Interest in STEM Majors Than White Women, But Earn Fewer STEM Degrees, Study Finds

Black women are more likely than white women to express interest in majoring in STEM fields when they enter college, but they are actually less likely to earn degrees in these fields, according to research published last month by the American Psychological Association.

The study also found that black men and women are also less likely than whites to subconsciously consider STEM fields as gendered or more masculine.

The study, published in the APA journal Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, analyzed nine years of data from about 1.8 million college freshmen—56 percent of whom were female—who participated in the Cooperative Institute Freshman Survey between 1990 and 1999. From that sample, 23 percent of black women said they planned to major in STEM fields, compared to just 16 percent of white women.

The researchers also conducted three more recent surveys of a total 1,108 students at several universities across the country. In one of those samples, the researchers surveyed 838 college students (212 of whom were black) between the ages of 18 and 56 at four universities in the South, Midwest, and West—two of which were primarily white, one historically black, and the other ethnically diverse. The researchers found that 38 percent of black women had declared a STEM-related major, compared to only 19 percent of white women.

To read the full report, click here.

Study: ‘Pygmalion Effect’ Links Teacher Expectations to Student Success

A new study released earlier this month from the Center for American Progress concludes that teachers' expectations for their students are strongly correlated with students' graduation rates. Unfortunately, the study also says that teachers don't necessarily have high expectations for all of their students, especially poorer students and those of color.

The study focuses on the Pygmalion Effect, the theory holding that higher expectations of a person lead to higher performance. The opposite can also be true: If low expectations are placed on someone, they're more likely to perform poorly. This means that a teacher's faith, or lack thereof, in a student's abilities may influence the student's future achievement.

Drawing on the results of a long-term study by the National Center for Education Statistics, the CAP study finds that students whose high school teachers had high expectations of them graduated from college at three times the rate of those whose teachers had low expectations.

Teacher expectations, according to the study, turned out to be "tremendously predictive," more so than student motivation or effort. Teachers, the study found, were also able to predict a student's college success with greater accuracy than parents or even the students themselves.

However, the study also reports that teachers generally have lower expectations of students of color and students from high-poverty backgrounds. Secondary teachers viewed high-poverty students as 53 percent less likely to graduate from college than their classmates from wealthier backgrounds. Black and Hispanic students were also deemed 47 and 42 percent less likely to graduate than white students, respectively.

Teacher Education, Professional Development, and Grant and Award Opportunities

Applications Deadline for the 2015 Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy extended to November 16

By visiting www.sendmyteacher.com, third-, fourth- and fifth-grade teachers can apply to attend a week-long, all-expense paid professional development program that equips them with new ways to inspire their students in math and science. Join the more than 4,000 teachers nationwide who have attended since 2005. You can nominate a teacher at www.sendmyteacher.com, or encourage them to visit the site themselves and apply. The deadline to apply has been extended to November 16th! Don’t let this opportunity slip away! Please share it with the teachers in your school today.

eCYBERMISSION Now Offering Mini-Grants to Educators and Their Schools

eCYBERMISSION is giving away mini-grants this year to support teachers and their schools to expand their STEM-based community projects in their classrooms. Grant recipients can also use the money for professional development or to purchase classroom materials and equipment. To apply for a mini-grant, teachers need to request an application from Chris Campbell (ccampbell@ecybermission.com) by October 22 and then submit the application by October 29. Applicants will be notified by November 3 if they are one of the lucky mini-grant recipients. All students and team advisors must be registered by November 5 to be eligible for grant funds.

Administered by NSTA, eCYBERMISSION is an online learning competition for students in grades six through nine. The competition challenges students to think about real-world applications of STEM by working in teams to identify a problem in their community and using scientific practices or the engineering design process to find a solution. Students can win on a state, regional, and national level, with national winning teams receiving up to $9,000 in U.S. EE Savings Bonds, valued at maturity.

For more information, visit the competition website or contact eCYBERMISSION Mission Control at 1-866-GO-CYBER (462-9237) or via e-mail at missioncontrol@ecybermission.com.

The Sow It Forward Garden Grants Program

This grant is for nonprofit causes or organizations (schools, 501c3s, food banks, community gardens, colleges, libraries, prisons, senior programs, etc.) interested in starting or expanding food garden projects that are of general benefit to their community. For the 2014 round of giving, Sow it Forward has offered 100 full grants and roughly 50 partial grants. The full grant has a worth of $500 and the partial a worth of $325. There are no geographic limitations on what types of food garden projects will be considered, but all grantees must be based in the United States.

Vernier Engineering Contest

Vernier Software & Technology is accepting applications for its Engineering Contest, which recognizes STEM educators for introducing students to engineering concepts and practices through innovative uses of Vernier sensors. Each award will consist of $1,000 in cash, $3,000 in Vernier technology, and $1,500 toward expenses to attend either the 2015 NSTA STEM conference or the 2015 ASEE conference. Three awards will be given: one for middle school, one for high school, and one for college.

Educators applying for this contest must submit a video showcasing the use of Vernier sensors in a project or experiment. The sensors may be used in conjunction with Vernier’s Logger Pro software, NI LabVIEW software, LEGO NXT or EV3, VEX, or any other system incorporating Vernier sensors. Applications will be judged on innovation, engineering objectives, and the ease by which others can replicate the project. Middle school and high school applicants are asked to specifically explain how the project addresses the engineering practices called for in the Next Generation Science Standards.

Bradley Stoughton Award for Young Teachers

This award, offered by ASM International, recognizes a teacher of materials science, materials engineering, design, and processing who has the ability to impart knowledge and enthusiasm to students. Nominees must be 35 years of age or younger by May 15 of the award year and must be a member of ASM International. The award winner will receive a check for $3,000 and a certificate. The annual deadline is March 1. Click here for more information.

AFCEA STEM Teachers Scholarships

The AFCEA Educational Foundation is offering scholarships of $5,000 each to students actively pursuing an undergraduate degree, graduate degree, or credential/licensure for the purpose of teaching STEM (science, technology, engineering, or math) subjects at a U.S. middle or secondary school. Students must be U.S. citizens with a minimum overall GPA of 3.0 (or equivalent). Undergraduate candidates must be attending an accredited U.S. college or university on-campus and majoring in secondary education or a STEM field for the purpose of teaching STEM subjects in a U.S. middle or secondary school.

Undergraduate applications will be accepted from current sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Graduate-level candidates must be currently enrolled in at least two semester-equivalent classes at an accredited U.S. college or university. Credential and licensure students must have completed a bachelor’s degree in a STEM major.

Teacher Resources

U.S. Public Lands: Learning Landscapes

Learning Landscapes, the Bureau of Land Management’s education web page presents a wide variety of resources for K–12 educators to learn about America’s public lands. Get informed about climate change through webinars and an educator’s toolkit produced by climate experts from the U.S. Forest Service and the Prince William Network. Introduce elementary and middle level learners to the challenges of managing public lands in the American West with the Junior Explorer Activity Guide: Wild Horses and Burros. Read a summary of BLM’s conservation efforts through various education and youth involvement programs. Download a series of posters depicting the beauty of public lands, produced as part of BLM’s Artists in Residence program. And you also can take virtual tours of many public land sites.

Plum Landing

Created by WGBH Educational Foundation in Boston with major funding from the National Science Foundation, this multimedia program uses animated webisodes, online games, live-action videos, a mobile app, and hands-on activities to inspire students ages 6–9 to learn about environmental science. At Plum Landing, Plum and his friends model the practices and habits of mind of scientists investigating the natural world. Children are encouraged to follow their lead and investigate their real-world surroundings, documenting their efforts through an online game, Nature Sketchpad, or the app, Plum’s Photo Hunt (available for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad). These tools allow students to draw scenes or take photographs, explain their findings, and submit them to the website—just as scientists do.


Interested in involving students in citizen science projects? ZooTeach helps elementary to college educators bring citizen science into the classroom with lesson plans and resources that correlate with the citizen science projects on the Zooniverse (www.zooniverse.org), a website compiling numerous citizen science projects relating to space, climate, biology, and nature. For example, in Do You Hear Me?—a ZooTeach lesson for students ages 8–12—students practice making sounds with water and determining the difference in pitches. Students then use this knowledge to help them classify sounds in the Zooniverse’s Whale Song Project.


This professional learning community is dedicated to helping K–12 and higher education institutions uncover funds to supplement budgets, expand innovative programs, and close the equity gap in educating students from all backgrounds and circumstances. The community hosts a collection of more than 2,300 active grants and awards, providing members with access to more than $2.3 billion dollars in educational funding opportunities. In addition, teachers can learn practical funding tips through interactive webinars such as Building Your Grant Writing Toolkit and The Funding Outlook in Education.

Student Competitions and Grant Opportunities

Global Experiment 2014: The Art of Crystallization

The Royal Society of Chemistry and International Union of Crystallography offer students worldwide the opportunity to participate in a Global Experiment 2014 to try to find the best conditions for growing crystals. This project is aimed at students aged between 7 and 16 years, working in consultation with their teachers to learn how to dissolve samples of different materials, to grow large and regular crystals from saturated solution, and to test the effects of changing temperature, water softness or other environmental conditions. Students may post their results on a central website, and help in analyzing the growing collection of data from all over the world to investigate what are the best conditions for growing crystals. The Global Experiment 2014 will remain open for the 2014–2015 academic year.

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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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