NSTA's Science Matters Newsletter

February 2015

Here are your science education resources and announcements for February 2015 provided by the Science Matters Network. Please forward them on to other science educators in your school and/or school district.

Table of Contents


University Students Lend Hand to Local Middle School's STEM Program

University of Minnesota honors students spent some of last week in classrooms at Minneapolis’ Ramsey Middle School to help bolster the school’s elective STEM program. The volunteer program is unique because the University students work with middle school students in their classrooms, rather than tutoring after school, said Minnesota Student Association president Joelle Stangler, one of the program’s creators. About 20 volunteers will spend time at the school working with the students on group assignments. One of the program’s goals is to get students thinking about college—specifically pursuing degrees in the STEM field.

The Best Jobs are in Tech, and So is the Job Growth

If you thought that humble support technician was going the way of the telephone operator, you are in for a pleasant surprise. Job openings for the man or woman who picks up the phone when you call the help desk soared last year, and that job is now one of the fastest-growing occupations in IT. That fact is one of the hidden nuggets in a very bullish report by CompTIA, an industry group that issues certifications and follows trends in the industry. (CompTIA’s report is based in large part on a survey of 649 selected companies, ranging from mom-and-pop shops to members of the Fortune 500.)

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Teacher Education, Professional Development, and Grant and Award Opportunities

The Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program

The Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program seeks to encourage talented science, technology, engineering, and mathematics majors and professionals to become K–12 STEM teachers.

Track 1: The Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarships and Stipends
Track 2: The NSF Teaching Fellowships
Track 3: The NSF Master Teaching Fellowships
Track 4: Research on the Preparation, Recruitment, and Retention of K–12 STEM Teachers

This program provides educational opportunities for Undergraduate Students and K–12 Educators in support of STEM. Full Proposal Deadline: March 17.

Library of Congress Accepting Summer Teacher Institute Applications: Primary Sources in Science

The application for the Library of Congress Summer Teacher Institute for Primary Sources in Science is now available. This week-long professional development opportunity, taking place July 20–24, 2015, is designed for K–12 educators who teach science or collaborate with science teachers. In the Science Institute, participants will explore the benefits of using historical primary sources in the science classroom, particularly around the nature of science, the practices of scientists, and the relationship between science and society. Participants will build skills in teaching effectively with photographs, manuscripts, drawings, maps, and other formats from the Library's collections.

PAEMST 2014–2015 Application for 7–12 Grade Mathematics and Science Teachers Open

The Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) program is pleased to announce that the 2014–2015 application period for 7–12 grade mathematics and science (including computer science) teachers is now open! Please consider nominating a talented teacher or applying yourself by using the PAEMST website today. The nomination deadline is April 1, and the application deadline is May 1.

Notre Dame Center for STEM: STEM Teaching Program Seeking Applications

Early-career middle school teachers of STEM disciplines are invited to apply for a new, fully funded professional development program offered through the Notre Dame Center for STEM Education. The Trustey Family STEM Teaching Fellows program is recruiting highly motivated applicants for the initiative, with a March 31 deadline. Those selected will build their instructional, assessment, and leadership abilities while living in residence at the University of Notre Dame for three consecutive summer institutes—two weeks every summer. They must continue to teach—and to learn from master teachers and national experts—at their schools during two academic years.

Enter the Chemical Educational Foundation (CEF) Earth Day Challenge

Calling all K–8 educators! The Chemical Educational Foundation (CEF) is holding its second annual Earth Day Challenge video contest for K–8 classes. The Earth Day Challenge encourages students to explore the impact of chemistry on their world. Participants will create videos identifying and explaining a chemistry-related concept and sharing how people use this concept in real life to address an environmental issue. The school of the educator who submits the winning entry will receive $1,000 for the school’s science education programs, as well as a commemorative plaque. The winning educator will receive a $200 gift card to the Discovery Channel Store.

Spaces Still Available—Customized Learning with NSTA District Conference Package

When a team of 4–8 (teachers and at least one principal, curriculum leader, science and/or STEM leader, and/or district leader—anyone who provides instructional coaching for STEM educators) from a district registers for the NSTA National Conference in Chicago, NSTA will work one-on-one with you to tailor the conference learning experience for your district team at no additional cost beyond the price of conference registration. Interested? Check out NSTA's District Conference Package, then click over to the Chevron-supported NSTA Administrators Initiative and learn how administrators can explore effective instruction based on the science and engineering practices, participate in hands-on activities, view videos showcasing high-quality science instruction, and learn more about resources to support their teachers. See the full agenda, or complete the survey to register for the workshop.

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Teacher Resources

Million Women Mentors (MWM)

MWM in partnership with five states is proud to announce over 40,000 new commitments to mentor a girl or young woman in the career ladder in STEM skills. The goal of the movement is to garner one million mentors (women and men) in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) professions over the next three years, to collectively increase the interest and confidence of girls and young women in these academic areas. These new states join the Million Women Mentors® movement where already 22 states are working to engage their communities in mentoring women and girls. There are now 27 states with pledges, 58 partner organizations, and 30 major sponsors to date in the first year of the initiative. Designed to take place over a four year period (2014–2018) MWM will engage one million science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) mentors, both male and female through mentorship to increase the interest of girls and women. Many of you are already engaged in mentoring efforts; to continue to build this movement and learn about your states efforts please join MWM by signing up by visiting the MWM website.

New Formative Assessment Resource

Dylan Wiliam’s new book, Embedding Formative Assessment: Practical Techniques for K–12 Classrooms, is now available from the Learning Sciences store. With precision, authors Dylan Wiliam and Siobhán Leahy hone in on specific classroom techniques to sustain formative assessment and significantly impact student achievement. The book helps teachers determine when and how to use specific techniques. It also provides ways to support teachers in changing their practice as they adjust instruction in real-time—when research shows it matters most. 

Argument-Driven Inquiry in Chemistry: Lab Investigations for Grades 9-12

By Victor Sampson, Peter Carafano, Patrick Enderle, Steve Fannin, Jonathon Grooms, Sherry A. Southerland, Carol Stallworth, and Kiesha Williams

Transform your chemistry labs with this guide to argument-driven inquiry. Designed to be much more authentic for instruction than traditional laboratory activities, the investigations in Argument-Driven Inquiry in Chemistry give high school students the opportunity to work the way scientists do. They learn to identify questions, develop models, collect and analyze data, generate arguments, and critique and revise their reports. Thirty field-tested labs cover a broad range of topics related to chemical reactions and matter's structure and properties. You can use them as introduction labs to acquaint students with new content or as application labs to try out a theory, law, or unifying concept. Like Argument-Driven Inquiry in Biology, this book was written by veteran teachers who made it easy to use and aligned with today's standards. All labs include reproducible student pages, teacher notes, and checkout questions.

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Student Competitions and Grant Opportunities

The Next MacGyver

The U.S. National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and the University of Southern California’s Viterbi School of Engineering (USC Viterbi), in collaboration with The MacGyver Foundation and Lee Zlotoff (creator of the TV series MacGyver), today announced the launch of a worldwide crowdsourcing competition called “The Next MacGyver.” The contest was launched at a press event in Washington, D.C., hosted by "TODAY Show" digital lifestyle expert Mario Armstrong. Sponsored by the United Engineering Foundation, the project is seeking ideas for a scripted television show featuring a female engineer character in a leading role. The goal of the competition is to create a historic TV series that inspires young people, especially women, to pursue careers in engineering.  Five winners will each receive $5,000 and have the rare opportunity to be paired with top Hollywood producers, who will mentor them to develop the female character and an engaging pilot script. Ultimately, the finalists will work to develop viable concept packages for pitching to a network or distributor. The Next MacGyver” competition deadline for entry is April 17, 2015. Initial idea submissions will be roughly one page of content to include a proposed title and genre, short description of the show, breakdown of lead characters, and ideas for episodes beyond the pilot. A panel of judges from engineering, entertainment, and academia will select 12 contestants to further develop their ideas and pitch them to another panel of judges at a live event this summer. Five finalists will be selected at that time, and pilot scripts will be completed by the end of this year. More details about the contest and rules for entering can be found at www.thenextmacgyver.com.

2015 Google Science Fair

Science is about observing and experimenting. It’s about exploring unanswered questions, solving problems through curiosity, learning as you go and always trying again. That’s the spirit behind the fifth annual Google Science Fair. Together with LEGO Education, National Geographic, Scientific American, and Virgin Galactic, they are calling on all young researchers, explorers, builders, technologists, and inventors to try something ambitious. From now through May 18, students around the world ages 13–18 can submit projects online across all scientific fields, from biology to computer science to anthropology and everything in between. Prizes include $100,000 in scholarships and classroom grants from Scientific American and Google, a National Geographic Expedition to the Galapagos, an opportunity to visit LEGO designers at their Denmark headquarters, and the chance to tour Virgin Galactic’s new spaceship at their Mojave Air and Spaceport. This year they’re also introducing an award to recognize an Inspiring Educator, as well as a Community Impact Award honoring a project that addresses an environmental or health challenge.


Want a free trip to the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals? Or, maybe ever so slightly more exciting, a million dollars? Or, maybe ever so slightly more exciting than that, your share of 5 million dollars? Here’s how you can win all of these things. Robots4Us is a competition sponsored by DARPA where the winner gets an all-expenses paid trip to the DRC Finals in California this June. Luckily, you don’t have to teach a big expensive robot to climb a ladder, drive a car, or use power tools. Instead, all you have to do is (1) be a high school student (9th to 12th grade) and (b) make a video:

Create a 2- to 3-minute video that shows the kind of robot-assisted society you’d like to see in the years ahead. Videos should consider both current and anticipated advances in robotics technologies and address the implications of those advances for individuals, workplaces, and communities, as well as for national security and the ideals upon which American society is built. In particular they should address the choices we will face as the nation and the world strive to reap the benefits of the robotics revolution while minimizing the potential for harm.

Deadline is April 1 at midnight.

Look for Robotics events in your area.

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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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