NSTA's Science Matters Newsletter

November 2014

Here are your science education resources and announcements for November 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

ACT Releases New Report: The Condition of STEM 2014

Many high school students are interested in science, technology, engineering, and math, but very few of them want to teach in those fields, according to a new report released last week by ACT. “The Condition of STEM 2014,” reviewed data gathered from 1.8 million 2014 U.S. high school graduates who took the ACT exams. Just under half of those students said they were interested in STEM subjects, but only 4,424 said they were interested in teaching math, and 1,115 said they were interested in teaching science.

Read the full report here. In addition to a national look at students' interest in STEM jobs, ACT also breaks the data down state by state.

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NSTA Unveils 2015 List of Top Science Trade Books for K–12 Students

NSTA, in conjunction with the Children’s Book Council, unveiled its annual list of “Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K–12: 2015.” Representing the best trade books published in 2014 for students in kindergarten through 12th grade, the list includes everything from Batman to engineering and features beautifully illustrated picture books, heart-warming stories, reference and encyclopedia-type texts, and poetry.

NSTA and CBC have collaborated on the list of Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students since 1973 in an effort to help science educators access quality books that support student learning in science education. In addition to the website, the list will appear in the March 2015 issues of NSTA’s elementary, middle level, and high school journals for teachers.

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Retiring Congressman to Take Helm of Science Group

Congressman Rush D. Holt, who will retire from the U.S. House of Representatives at the end of his eighth term, will join the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), as chief executive officer and executive publisher of the Science family of journals. He will succeed Alan I. Leshner, who had previously announced that we would be stepping down as AAAS CEO.

Holt, a research physicist and former teacher, will serve as the 18th chief executive of the AAAS after his legislative term ends, during the association’s 2015 Annual Meeting in San Jose, Calif. Read the announcement here.

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Teacher Education, Professional Development, and Grant and Award Opportunities

Don’t Miss the Deadline and your Chance to Win a Shell Science Lab Makeover

The deadline to submit applications for the 2014–2015 Shell Science Lab Challenge is less than a month away! Middle and high school science teachers (grades 6–12) who have found innovative ways to deliver quality lab experiences with limited school and laboratory resources and are located in the U.S. and Canada are encouraged to apply. The deadline for submission is December 19.

Through the competition—now in its fifth year—science teachers compete to win much-needed laboratory resources for their schools. In addition to the lab equipment provided by Ward’s Science, winners receive Shell cash grants, NSTA membership, and support to attend NSTA Conferences on Science Education. The grand-prize winner and four national finalists will be honored at a special banquet and ceremony at NSTA’s National Conference on Science Education in Chicago in March 2015. For more information about the Challenge or to download an application, visit the competition website.

Lawrence Scadden Teacher of the Year Award in Science Education for Students with Disabilities

This award recognizes excellence in science teaching for students with disabilities. The award is open to all current K–12 teachers (general education, special education, or science teachers, public or private) who have taught at least five years. Nominees must have made an outstanding contribution to science students with disabilities. The winner of the Scadden award is expected to attend the NSTA National Conference on Science Education to accept the award. A check for $1,000 is provided to offset travel expenses to the NSTA conference. Applications are due on January 20 of each calendar year for the previous year’s award. Click here for more information.

Together Counts: Smart from the Start Awards

The contest provides teachers an opportunity to win cash to be used to improve the school’s preK wellness program and a selection of books appropriate to the preK curriculum. Entrants must develop an action plan identifying a need, write a goal statement, do background research, develop an action plan, explain how the plan will be implemented and how its success will be measured, and describe how he or she would use the prize to create long-term improvements for balancing nutrition and physical activity within their school community.

Those employed at an early childhood education center or elementary school with a preK program or Head Start program in the United States are eligible to enter. The Grand Prize–winning preschool will be awarded $20,000, and 10 runners-up will each receive $2,500. In addition, each winning school will receive a prize pack of books worth $1,000. Click here for more information about the program.

The Follett Challenge

The contest rewards innovation in education in schools/districts in the United States and Canada (except Quebec). Don’t miss the opportunity to be one of the winners of $200,000 in Follett products and services for your K–12 public or private school. The goal is to reward top-notch educators who are designing innovative teaching and learning programs that focus on student outcomes to help students master the multidimensional abilities required of them in the 21st century.

Show Follett the innovative ways you are preparing students for the skills they will need. Your video and written entry will be judged by a panel of education thought leaders and voted on by the world. The grand-prize winner will be selected from among the four semifinalists and will receive a total of $60,000 in Follett products and services. For more information, click here.

NEA Foundation Learning and Leadership Grants

Grants support public school teachers, public education support professionals, or faculty and staff in public institutions of higher education for one of two purposes. Grants of $2,000 to individuals fund participation in high-quality professional development experiences, such as summer institutes or action research. Grants of $5,000 to groups fund collegial study, including study groups, action research, lesson study, or mentoring experiences for faculty or staff new to an assignment. Public school teachers of grades K–12; public school education support professionals; or faculty and staff at public higher education institutions may apply. Deadlines are February 1, June 1, and October 15. More information can be found here.

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Teacher Resources

Education Materials to Accompany the Film “Interstellar”

Are you a high school science teacher or college science instructor? Visit www.interstellar-education.com for STEM activities for your class, and plan a field trip to the movie! The website features:

  • An Interstellarexperience app for students;
  • A study guide for teachers and facilitators;
  • Three student science activities for grades 9 through college;
  • A classroom poster about the movie and program; and
  • A digital trivia game for students.

The Water Cycle for Kids

This interactive diagram produced by the U.S. Geological Survey and the United Nations allows you to “mouse around” the parts of the water cycle and view explanations, pictures, and more. Available for beginner, intermediate, and advanced students, the diagram introduces an increasing number of terms at each level. For example, the beginner diagram focuses on understanding six essential terms (precipitation, condensation, evaporation, sun, runoff, and groundwater), while the intermediate and advanced versions cover those terms and add others. The intermediate diagram includes terms such as seepage, plant uptake, and transpiration, while the advanced diagram delves into concepts such as sublimation, evapotranspiration, and infiltration. PDF and jpg versions of the diagrams are available for higher resolution printing, as is a version of the diagram as a placemat.

RadTown USA

EPA’s Radiation Protection Program has launched the RadTown USA website, created to allow middle and high school students to explore radiation—where it is found and how it is used—in four different environments: the “Burbs,” Countryside, Downtown, and Waterfront. Click on each environment to learn facts about the radioactive material found there, rules and guidance, what you can do, and where to go for more information. The website also has classroom activities aligned with the Common Core State Standards on radiation topics such as the history of radiation protection, ways to reduce exposure risk, radiation warning and protecting equipment, careers in radiation protection, and the benefits of radiation.

Gamestar Mechanic

Students and teachers in grades 4–9 can use this gaming website to learn how to design their own online games. Through the game design process, students develop skills in systems thinking, writing and storytelling, and creative problem solving. The website offers video tutorials and other support materials, including a Getting Started Teacher Pack and sample lessons from teachers that demonstrate how Gamestar can be used to teach game design and core subjects.

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Student Competitions and Grant Opportunities

DuPont Challenge Science Essay Competition Expands to Include K–5

The DuPont Challenge Science Essay Competition recently announced that it has expanded the program to include students in grades K–5 (Elementary Division). In addition to the elementary division, the competition is open to students in grades 6–8 (Junior Division) and students in grades 9–12 (Senior Division), from across the U.S., Canada and the U.S. Territories.

The Elementary Division asks teachers to help their students explore STEM topics in a classroom-based challenge that gives students the chance to participate in a creative, inquiry-based exploration. The challenges are based on the Next Generation Science Standards and ask students to research, observe, analyze, interpret and communicate creatively. Together, the teachers and students will show their imagination and originality by writing a science story about what they discovered. Submissions are accepted from November 1, 2014, to March 1, 2015.

All students in the Junior and Senior Divisions (grades 6–12) may submit a 700–1,000-word essay, from Nov. 15, 2014 to Jan. 31, 2015, addressing one of the following four categories:

  • Together, we can feed the world.
  • Together, we can build a secure energy future.
  • Together, we can protect people and the environment.
  • Together, we can be innovative anywhere.

For more information including official rules, entry forms and award details about the Elementary Division, please click here and for the Junior and Senior Divisions, please click here.

Still Time to Register for the eCYBERMISSION Competition

The deadline to register students for the 2014-2015 eCYBERMISSION competition is right around the corner!

Sponsored by the U.S. Army and 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.

If you haven’t registered your students, it’s not too late—register today. The deadline for registration is December 17th. For more information, visit the competition website or contact eCYBERMISSION Mission Control at 1-866-GO-CYBER (462-9237) or via email at missioncontrol@ecybermission.com.

Team America Rocketry Challenge

All students in grades 7–12 participate in a team of 3–10 individuals to design, build, and fly a rocket. Like aerospace companies work within specific design parameters, every year the challenge requires teams to achieve the same basic mission-oriented goals of hitting a precise altitude, landing within a specific flight time window, and returning a raw egg (”the astronaut”) without cracking. Each year a unique task is also included; this year they are challenging those students who win a spot at the National Finals to be able to fly their rockets to two separate altitudes. The target flight heights will differ between the first and second flight. For more information about the program, visit the Challenge website.

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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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