Designing Engineering Projects That Teach Science Concepts by Cory Culbertson

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the engineering projects in my courses. On the surface, they don’t seem like something I need to worry about. My students love these projects and talk about them all year. My administration likes the student-centered activities and the final products that students can showcase. I look forward to these projects as well. So why am I trying to fix what is already working?

My motivation is that when I consider what seems to be “working” in an engineering project, I often see a lot of student engagement and some good engineering practices, but the science content is hard to find. I know many other teachers have also noticed this shortcoming in engineering projects: There are some science connections to introduce the project, and there might be time to review some concepts at the end, but in the middle of most engineering projects, there is embarrassingly little student contact with science DCIs. Or as a colleague recently said with a sigh, “Now we have three days of messing around with cardboard and hot glue.”

So over the past few years, I’ve been on a mission to ensure that my students will strengthen their understanding of science concepts through their engineering projects, not just before and after them. I’d like to share some of the things I’ve learned, along with an example of how revising one particular project improved science learning for my students.

Lessons Learned

  1. Start with the science ideas, then find a project that fits. It’s tempting to start by finding an appealing engineering activity, then making a place for it in the curriculum. But that leads to tenuous connections between the science and the engineering. Focus on the science first, then choose a project that creates a need for students to develop and apply the science to meet the project criteria.
  2. Provide structure for the design process. Students who are given a lot of unstructured project time tend to use trial-and-error methods to make progress. (Or they find other ways to occupy their time!) One technique that has been very effective is to review a written design proposal prepared by students before they do any hands-on building. In the design proposal, students document how they plan to build their design and justify their proposed solution with research data, science reasoning, and/or calculations. The design proposal is a natural way to guide students through applying science DCIs and SEPs, and it makes for an excellent assessment point early in the project.
  3. Limit the scope of the engineering challenge. Even a modest-sized engineering project has so many choices students can make. I want them to focus on the design decisions that connect directly with the science ideas. By providing procedures and materials for some of the more peripheral design problems, I free my students to focus on the engineering problems that are more instructionally productive.

Designing My Engineering Project for the NGSS

A few years ago, I sadly realized that the engineering project that had been part of my electricity unit for years simply wasn’t doing much for the overall goals of the course. This project involved students designing and building a model electrical system with series and parallel circuits. While the project was polished and popular with students, they spent most of their time running wires and fixing loose connections. I wanted them to be learning some science.

Instead of trying to patch up this project, I went back to square one, considering what science ideas I really wanted my students to learn. This unit included electricity and circuits, but the core science ideas from the NGSS are really elements of PS3.A, B, and D (see table below). It was time for brainstorming: Was there an engineering application that relied on understanding how energy is conserved as it is converted to and from different forms?

Among other possibilities, what came to mind was the rooftop solar system that some colleagues had recently installed. They had made careful calculations to match energy flows into and out of the system, and even installed a nifty display that tracked watts moving through the system in real time. A solar energy project also has connections to the ideas from ETS1.A about addressing global and local resource needs. There was some good engineering and science in this, and my students could do it, too.

Disciplinary Core Idea HS-PS3 Energy and HS-ETS1 Engineering Design

Component Ideas Element
PS3.A: Definitions of Energy
  • Energy is a quantitative property of a system that depends on the motion and interactions of matter and radiation within that system. That there is a single quantity called energy is due to the fact that a system’s total energy is conserved, even as, within the system, energy is continually transferred from one object to another and between its various possible forms.
PS3.B: Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer
  • Conservation of energy means that the total change of energy in any system is always equal to the total energy transferred into or out of the system.
  • Energy cannot be created or destroyed, but it can be transported from one place to another and transferred between systems.
  • Mathematical expressions, which quantify how the stored energy in a system depends on its configuration (e.g. relative positions of charged particles, compression of a spring) and how kinetic energy depends on mass and speed, allow the concept of conservation of energy to be used to predict and describe system behavior.
  • The availability of energy limits what can occur in any system.
PS3.D Energy in Chemical Processes
  • Although energy cannot be destroyed, it can be converted to less useful forms—for example, to thermal energy in the surrounding environment.
ETS1.A
  • Humanity faces major global challenges today, such as the need for supplies of clean water and food or for energy sources that minimize pollution, which can be addressed through engineering. These global challenges also may have manifestations in local communities.

As a concept for the project began to solidify in my mind, I thought about how to structure the engineering design process for my students. The engineering challenge would be to design and build a system that converts sunlight to electricity, stores the energy in a rechargeable battery, and powers electrical loads. Students would be modeling the energy transfers within the system and predicting the level of charge in the battery, which is an element of the SEP Developing and Using Models—Develop and use a model based on evidence to illustrate and predict the relationships between systems or between components of a system. The science and engineering core ideas working in tandem would allow students to design a system that was guaranteed to supply enough energy for the required uses, not unlike the tasks of a professional solar engineer.  

The design proposal that students would submit to me could also mimic a real-life proposal for a rooftop solar system, complete with the calculations needed to show the system would function as intended. After I approved their proposals, students would build the system and measure energy flows to see if they matched their predictions.

The first time I tried out this new project, I learned a big lesson about giving students too many design choices. Students had almost complete freedom in their choice of batteries, voltages, loads, and wiring layout. They spent so much time choosing and connecting components that we ran out of time to do the data collection that was so critical to the project. Oops!

When we do this project now, each student group receives the same basic components to work with. I also give students instructions for connecting some components together so they can focus on designing the core parts of the system. This change alone has restored several class days and time to collect the data needed for the mathematical analysis of energy flows.

Revising this project has been time well spent. Students are developing understanding of engineering and science ideas in the same amount of class time as I devoted to the old circuit project. It’s not perfect yet, but it’s working. I’m already thinking about what I want to do differently this year…

I love sharing project ideas with other teachers. Do you have an engineering project that does a great job connecting to the science “big” ideas? Do you have one that you wish did so?

Cory Culbertson teaches engineering technology at University High School, part of the Laboratory Schools of Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois. He co-authored the book Engineering in the Life Sciences from NSTA Press. His work has also included curriculum writing, editing, and presenting professional development for Project Infuse, the National Center for Engineering and Technology Education, and Project ProBase. Culbertson was an Educator-at-Sea aboard the Exploration Vessel Nautilus in 2011 and 2012. Before becoming an educator, he worked as a test engineer for a large manufacturing company. Culbertson earned a bachelor’s of science in engineering degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan–Ann Arbor and a master of science in technology education from Illinois State University.

Note: This article is featured in the August issue of Next Gen Navigator, a monthly e-newsletter from NSTA delivering information, insights, resources, and professional learning opportunities for science educators by science educators on the Next Generation Science Standards and three-dimensional instruction.  Click here to sign up to receive the Navigator every month.

Visit NSTA’s NGSS@NSTA Hub for hundreds of vetted classroom resourcesprofessional learning opportunities, publicationsebooks and more; connect with your teacher colleagues on the NGSS listservs (members can sign up here); and join us for discussions around NGSS at an upcoming conference.

The mission of NSTA is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all.

Future NSTA Conferences

2019 Fall Conferences

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Linking Science and Engineering Through Good Questions by Greg Bartus

Engineering design projects are a wonderful opportunity for students to develop science disciplinary core ideas (DCIs). (As many of you know, with the release of the NGSS, learning in engineering must be integrated with developing DCIs in physical, life, and/or Earth and space sciences.) To take advantage of this opportunity, it is important to ask questions that encourage (or necessitate) students to use specific science ideas to explain choices they make.

Let’s say I ask my students to take part in an engineering design challenge in which the goal is to design a device that will prevent a cold beverage from warming up (DCI PS3.B: Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer—Energy is spontaneously transferred out of hotter regions or objects and into colder ones.) I give students a can of cold soda, an infrared temperature gun, and a few materials they can use to cover the can. The device has to keep the soda’s temperature from increasing more than 5°F in 20 minutes. Student designs are constrained by time, budget, and/or materials.

Students test materials, analyze their data, and design their solutions. As the instructor, I want to know how my students are applying scientific ideas or principles to design their solutions (an element of SEP Constructing Explanations). I find out by asking questions to surface students’ mental models of 1) energy moving from hotter objects to colder ones (PS3.B) and 2) the relationships among temperature, heat, and thermal energy (an element of PS3.A). These questions push my students to think more deeply about how their understanding of these “big” science ideas fits with what their observations from testing the materials are telling them. Research suggests that this questioning is the best way to help students’ thinking advance from a preconception toward the correct scientific idea.1

These are examples of the questions I ask to start conversations with my students:

  • What inspired your ideas?
  • How does your design address the criteria?
  • Why did you select the materials you did?
  • How did the constraints affect your design choice?
  • How does the data collected during material testing support your choice?

These “kick-off” questions offer an opportunity for my students to share their design thinking. Students typically say their ideas come from prior experiences like using the foam holders that keep cans and bottles cool. I’ve seen my students use this type of mimicry as the basis for creative and innovative designs, but I have to be sure to dig a little deeper to get at the science ideas they are using to justify them.

My follow-up questions are drawn from elements of the DCIs PS3.A and PS3.B and the crosscutting concept (CCC) Energy and MatterThe transfer of energy can be tracked as energy flows through a designed or natural system and Structure and FunctionStructures can be designed to serve particular functions by taking into account properties of different materials, and how materials can be shaped and used. For example, I ask the students whose inspiration comes from using foam can holders questions like these:

  • Why do you think that the foam holder works so well?
  • What materials did you select to use to mimic the foam holder? Why?
  • How does this material work to keep the can cold?

I listen carefully to answers students provide to see if they reveal any common preconceptions that did not surface before. Being mindful of PS3.A: Definitions of EnergyThe term “heat” as used in everyday language refers both to thermal energy (the motion of atoms or molecules within a substance) and the transfer of that thermal energy from one object to another. In science, heat is used only for this second meaning, it refers to the energy transferred due to the temperature difference between two objects, when students say their design is “trapping cold” or “preventing the temperature from moving” or containing heat,” I ask questions like these:

  • What is cold?
  • Is temperature a substance?
  • Are there different “substances” such as hot and cold?
  • What might be the nature of the “substance”?
  • How could we determine which way this “substance” flows?
  • What is heat?

Each of these questions can lead to great student discussion and allows me to formatively assess student understanding and move students from partial understanding toward scientific accuracy. For example, if students say that “cold” and “warm” are substances, I might do a demonstration such as hitting a nail with a hammer, then ask my students why the nail head becomes warm after it’s hammered. [Note: Repeatedly throwing a ball at the same spot on a wall will yield a similar result.] Students typically arrive at the conclusion that the hammer added vibrations (motion) to the nail and that vibration is what we recognize as “warm.”

We then discuss how the temperature of the nail cools, and students say the vibrations (motion) passed from the nail to the surroundings. We’ve moved from the idea of warm and cold being substances toward the concepts of thermal energy and heat. (This is just a brief example; admittedly, the issue doesn’t usually get resolved that fast.) Then I ask students how they can use these same ideas to explain how their device keeps the soda can from warming up.

I hope these questions are helpful and inspire you to engage students in the science ideas they are learning when they take part in engineering activities. Feel free to share your experiences and any questions you use to connect science and engineering.

Reference

1National Research Council. 1997. Chapter 4: Misconceptions as barriers to understanding science. In Science teaching reconsidered: A handbook. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

Greg Bartus will teach Earth science at Broome Street Academy in New York City this fall. He previously taught high school science courses in upstate New York for five years. In between teaching gigs, he spent 15 years leading professional development workshops on all things STEM, and providing classroom coaching for middle school teachers. Bartus has a master of arts in teaching in science education and a bachelor of science degree in Agricultural and Biological Engineering from Cornell University.

Note: This article is featured in the August issue of Next Gen Navigator, a monthly e-newsletter from NSTA delivering information, insights, resources, and professional learning opportunities for science educators by science educators on the Next Generation Science Standards and three-dimensional instruction.  Click here to sign up to receive the Navigator every month.

Visit NSTA’s NGSS@NSTA Hub for hundreds of vetted classroom resourcesprofessional learning opportunities, publicationsebooks and more; connect with your teacher colleagues on the NGSS listservs (members can sign up here); and join us for discussions around NGSS at an upcoming conference.

The mission of NSTA is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all.

Future NSTA Conferences

2019 Fall Conferences

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Science and Humanities Classes Collaborate for Engineering Integration by Kathy Kennedy

As my school’s new K–4 science teacher, I wanted to expand the limited time I had for dedicated science instruction by connecting science and engineering to established student activities in the homeroom classes. Successful integration depends on three features:

  1. Identify opportunities to collaborate with colleagues.
  2. Be explicit with the use of the Engineering Design Process (EDP) and Science and Engineering Practices (SEP).
  3. Remain flexible with timelines.

I looked at projects the homeroom teachers were already implementing and identified those in which the science and engineering were inherently present. I met with the teachers to discuss the instructional goals of their projects and share my thoughts on the potential to redesign them to include opportunities to learn science and engineering ideas. As we discussed the projects, we began to experience a shared purpose, an essential step in creating an integrated approach! I committed to dedicating science time for the homeroom project so I could ensure coherent instruction on the engineering design cycle and the science and engineering ideas and practices.

Finding the connections to these homeroom projects also made the science and engineering relevant and accessible to students and teachers. Their engagement with the science and engineering ideas carried beyond the science classroom, and students recognized the presence of science and engineering in other subject areas.

Examples of engineering design crossover into homeroom projects included these:

  1. Designing a Kachina doll as part of the second-grade social studies program, which examines First Nation cultures. Science connections focused on the properties of materials.
  2. Designing a roller coaster as part of the third-grade social studies, ELA, and STEAM program. Science connections focused on force and motion.
  3. Designing a piñata as part of the fourth-grade Spanish class exploring Mexican culture. Science connections focused on the properties of materials.

For the piñata project, for example, I met with the Spanish teacher to learn more about her goal to have students create a piñata as part of a unit on Mexico. Originally, students were going to follow a set procedure to create the piñata. We decided instead to present the project to students as an engineering design challenge. The SEP element Defining Problems—Define a simple design problem that can be solved through the development of an object and include several criteria for success, and the DCI element ETS1.A Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems—The success of a designed solution is determined by considering the desired features of a solution (criteria). Different proposals for solutions can be compared on the basis of how well each one meets the specified criteria for success served as the instructional framework from which I started.

Students discovered in Spanish class what made an object a piñata. Then teams had planning discussions, partly in Spanish, and identified the criteria for designing a successful piñata. They documented these features as criteria in their planning log in science:

  1. A cavity in the body of the piñata
  2. A weak spot in the body (so an opening could be made after it dried)
  3. A star-shaped body with at least five points to represent cultural features
  4. Intentional use of color and decoration to enhance cultural significance

While discussing these criteria, students realized they needed to figure out what type of paper they could use in the paper-mache process to create the required physical features. We decided the paper needed to be absorbent. Developing and using the DCI elements PS1.A: Structure and Properties of Matter—Different properties are suited to different purposes and Matter can be described by its observable properties was one of my instructional goals. These DCI elements are identified as a second-grade science idea in the NGSS.

I purposefully chose these elements because they were most appropriate and reflected the level of student understanding within the class. We had done other investigations earlier in the year that revealed the students had not developed an understanding of the properties of the materials to the depth I had hoped. In my instructional planning, I try to ensure that I meet students at their level and help them to progress; therefore, this project contained a mix of second-grade and fourth-grade elements.

While the DCI was at a second-grade level, students engaged in elements of grades 3–5 SEPs. Student teams designed and carried out their investigations to determine which types of paper were the most absorbent, which is SEP element Planning and Carrying Out Investigations—Plan and conduct an investigation collaborative to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence, using fair tests in which variables are controlled and the number of trials considered and ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions—Research on a problem should be carried out before beginning to design a solution. Students evaluated wax paper, paper towels, toilet paper, and newspaper. I was surprised and excited by the novel approaches students took to determine absorbency!

Having students determine how they would collect and analyze data did take more time than I anticipated, but remaining flexible with timelines is necessary to support student learning, as I noted earlier. Students used the data they collected to make informed design choices in constructing the piñata.

The piñata construction reflected the engineering design cycle. We used class time to document their thinking with teams filling out engineering design planning sheets. I mini-conferenced with each student group to make sure all of the criteria were accounted for in their design plans. Timelines were also adjusted to accommodate Spanish class discussion of the cultural significance of piñatas, including their color, five-point star design, and use.

A display of the finished piñatas allowed teams to recognize that while their piñatas had common elements, each team created something unique. During small-group to large-group discussion, teams justified how and why they incorporated particular features in their piñata designs. The Spanish teacher commented that the experience had moved from an arts and crafts activity to a thoughtful building process that led to deeper understanding of another country’s culture and science and engineering.

I’d love to hear about what interdisciplinary engineering projects you have developed and what were the successes and challenges with these projects. Let’s continue this conversation!

Dr. Kathy Kennedy is the K–4 science specialist at The Peck School in Morristown, New Jersey. She has previously taught at the middle, high school and college level. Kathy is a co-author of the NSTA publication Engineering in the Life Sciences, 9-12 and has published in Science and Children and in Science Scope. She holds a BS in Biology from Siena College, an MS in Biomedical Sciences from Baylor University and a Ph.D. in Education from Walden University. Follow her @kbkennedy7

Note: This article is featured in the August issue of Next Gen Navigator, a monthly e-newsletter from NSTA delivering information, insights, resources, and professional learning opportunities for science educators by science educators on the Next Generation Science Standards and three-dimensional instruction.  Click here to sign up to receive the Navigator every month.

Visit NSTA’s NGSS@NSTA Hub for hundreds of vetted classroom resourcesprofessional learning opportunities, publicationsebooks and more; connect with your teacher colleagues on the NGSS listservs (members can sign up here); and join us for discussions around NGSS at an upcoming conference.

The mission of NSTA is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all.

Future NSTA Conferences

2019 Fall Conferences

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Join NSTA’s Book Study and Gain 40 Hours of Personalized Professional Learning

If you’re beginning the school year feeling like you need more support with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), NSTA has the answer for you! This September and October, NSTA is offering Shifting to the NGSS: Professional Book Study for Secondary Teachers, an online book study for secondary school educators (grades 6–12) that provides a comprehensive introduction to the NGSS.

The book study centers around the Enhanced E-book: Discover the NGSS: Primer and Unit Planner and takes place during four live web seminars scheduled from 7:15–8:45 pm Eastern time, September 17 and 24, and October 1 and 8. Participants can also join in on asynchronous discussions with other participants and with the web seminar presenters, Tricia Shelton and Jessica Holman.

The book study allows for six hours of live exchange with experts and other educators, in addition to time spent participating in the moderated discussion forum. And, the nice thing is you can participate from your home or office—no travel or fancy dress is required! 

Kick off the school year with this online program and learn how to identify phenomena that can drive student learning and design NGSS lessons that work coherently within a storyline or unit of study. And, be engaged along the way! As one previous participant wrote, “It was flexible, relevant, interesting and engaging. It was not a dry lecture with a brilliant philosopher speaking jargon that was undecodable. I like that although the final session is over, I have enough resources to continue my personal planning.”

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Two New NSTA Books Make It Fun and Easy to Engage Students in Physical Science

Teachers: We know that your instructional hours are short but that your list of teaching priorities is long. If you are seeking convenient, time-saving, and easy-to-use formative assessment tools (for grades 3-12), then you need Page Keeley and Susan Cooper’s book, Uncovering Student Ideas in Physical Science: 32 New Matter and Energy Formative Assessment Probes.

This book, part of the bestselling Uncovering Student Ideas in Science series, offers the following:

  • 32 different probes, each designed to uncover what students know (or think they know) about everything from a particle model of matter to ways to describe energy.
  • Field-tested teacher materials that provide the best answers – along with distractors – which are connected to A Framework for K-12 Science Education and the NGSS.
  • Clear, everyday language used to explain content, which helps improve teachers’ own understand of what they are teaching. 
  • English- and Spanish-language activities that are immediately ready to reproduce. 

Keeley is the author of 21 bestselling and award-winning books on formative assessment, curriculum topic study, and teaching for conceptional understanding. Cooper is an assistant professor at Florida Gulf Coast University where she teaches science education. She has also worked with a faculty team for FGCU to create week-long summer STEM institute for K-12 teachers where many of the formative assessment probes developed by Keeley have been implemented. They enlisted the help of lots of teachers, science coordinators, and preservice instructors in trying out drafts of each of the probes to get their feedback, student data, and ideas, Keeley and Cooper dedicated their book to two middle school teachers, Luiza Holtzberg and Susan German, who “model what it means to uncover students’ ideas and use them as springboards for learning.” 

What student doesn’t like being told by their teacher to “see what will happen”? In Discovering Engineering in Physical Science: Case Studies for Grades 6-12, teachers have 22, real-world case studies from which to choose, each blending science, engineering, and serendipity. Middle and high school students learn that innovations were sparked by accidental observations and they are encouraged to use their natural curiosity to explore ideas for new engineering applications and products. 

Authors M. Gail Jones, Elysa Corin, Megan Ennes, Emily Cayton, and Gina Childers dedicate their book to “all the youth who remind us that the smallest things can be the most important.” 

Their case studies start with an actual scientific discovery that students explore via historical accounts as well as primary documents. Students investigate physical materials, conduct research, examine data, create models, and design new products or problem-solving ideas. 

While this book is ideal for classroom use, the content can be applied in flexible, interesting ways, making it a great resource for informal education settings too, such as STEM camps, science centers, etc. 

With engaging titles such as “Corn Flakes: Waste Not, Want Not,”; “By the Teeth of Your Skin: Shark Skin and Bacteria”; and “From Ship to Staircase: The History of the Slinky,” and many more, this book helps students understand that there’s no one way to do science and many paths to innovations in engineering. 

Spoiler alert: That smiling gecko on the front cover is more than just a pretty face!

NSTA Press’ Back-to-School gift to you is 20% off any of our newest 20 books if you order from August 12-31, 2019. Take advantage of this great offer and stock up on books that cover all grade ranges and span science disciplines. Until August 31, 2019, take 20% off our newest 20 titles when you use promo code 20BKS to purchase them online in the NSTA Science Store.

Order a copy of Uncovering Students Ideas in Physical Science: 32 NEW Matter and Energy Formative Assessment Probes. An e-book version is also available. Read a sample chapter here.

Order a copy of Discovering Engineering in Physical Science: Case Studies for Grades 6-12. An e-book version is also available. Read a sample chapter here.

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Solid lessons, fluid performance

What are some fun, engaging hands-on activities or demonstrations about the three states of matter for a third grade class?
—B., Tennessee

I think that the best activities with the states of matter involve the changes between states. You may want to review a recent post in which I shared several ideas for activities related to gases. (http://bit.ly/2MnnbnR)

Ideas for liquid/solid activities:

Ice cream in a zip-top bag
Ice cream is more than a sweet treat—it also can be a lesson on depressing the freezing point of water using salt. Record the temperature of the water during the activity. Always double-bag the liquids to avoid salty ice cream! Make sure to provide alternatives to accommodate any dietary restrictions.

Gelatin or chocolate molds
Candy molds take advantage of major properties of liquids and solids: Liquids flow and take on the shape of their container; solids maintain their shapes. Use a gummy formulation for the gelatin. Be careful with hot liquids.

Resin casting jewelry
Purchase two-part resin or epoxy to make jewelry in molds. (Don’t reuse the same molds for edible treats). Prepare the molds with a release agent like vegetable oil. There are resins which are free of harmful out-gassing. Make sure to practice beforehand and always use gloves.

Non-Newtonian fluids
Students will be astounded when they play with these bizarre starch solutions which behave both as solids and liquids. Easy, safe, but messy! Be sure to cover surfaces and wear smocks.

Hope this helps!

Image credit: CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48897

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The High School Teacher’s Guide to the #NSTA19 Area Conferences on Science Education

What does a typical high school science teacher’s week look like? If you rolled your eyes and think that’s a trick question, you’re not alone! Typical, predictable, boring… those just aren’t words that describe your job. And you’re not alone. NSTA Area Conferences on Science Education bring together educators at every level, with dozens of sessions and workshops crafted just for high school teachers. Plus, you’ll get to try all kinds of new products and pick up great freebies in the exhibit hall. There are three dates and cities:

  • Salt Lake City, UT | October 24–26 | more info
  • Cincinnati, OH | November 14–16 | more info
  • Seattle, WA | December 12–14 | more info

Browse below for events and opportunities that high school teachers will particularly want to pay attention to during these fall conferences.

Keynote speakers kick off each conference with high energy and talks that make you proud to be a science teacher! (See pages 5, 13, and 21 in the program preview.)

  • Salt Lake City, UT | Mireya Mayor, Primatologist and National Geographic Explorer
  • Cincinnati, OH | National Geographic Explorer and Bashore Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Environment and Sustainability, Catawba College; and Adjunct Professor of the Environment, Duke University
  • Seattle, WA | Nalini M. Nadkarni, Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, The University of Utah, Salt Lake City
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NSTA’s 2019 Area Conferences: 3 Dates, 3 Cities, Endless Ideas for Elementary Teachers

NSTA’s position statement on elementary school science recognizes that elementary science instruction often takes a back seat to math and reading and receives little time in the school day. But it’s also the time when children are easily interested in science and have extraordinary sense of wonder. Join us to learn how to make the most of the time you have for science and children’s innate sense of curiosity. NSTA Area Conferences on Science Education bring together educators at every level, with dozens of sessions and workshops crafted just for elementary school teachers. Plus, you’ll get to try all kinds of new products and pick up great freebies in the exhibit hall. There are three dates and cities:

  • Salt Lake City, UT | October 24–26 | more info
  • Cincinnati, OH | November 14–16 | more info
  • Seattle, WA | December 12–14 | more info

Browse below for events and opportunities designed for elementary school teachers at our fall conferences.

NSTA Press sessions that will give teachers an “aha” moment! Below is a sample:

  • Argument-Driven Inquiry in Grades 3–5: Three-Dimensional Investigations That Integrate Literacy and Mathematics
    Salt Lake City, UT | Thursday, October 24, 2:00 PM–3:00 PM | Salt Palace Convention Center, 155B
  • Eureka! K–2 and Grades 3–5 Science Activities and Stories
    Cincinnati, OH | Thursday, November 14, 3:30 PM–4:30 PM | Duke Energy Convention Center, Junior Ballroom A
  • Picture-Perfect Science Lessons, Using Children’s Books to Guide Inquiry K–5
    Cincinnati, OH | Thursday, November 14, 9:30 AM–10:30 AM | Duke Energy Convention Center, Junior Ballroom A
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Middle School Science Teachers: NSTA’s Area Conferences Are for You

Does teaching middle school science require superhuman powers? Maybe, but no matter how you answer this question, one thing is certain—three days away from the classroom surrounded by educators who understand and can teach you tried-and-true ways to reach this unique bunch of people we call tweens may just save your sanity and will definitely make your career more rewarding.  NSTA Area Conferences on Science Education bring together educators at every level, with dozens of sessions and workshops crafted just for middle school teachers. Plus, you’ll get to try all kinds of new products and pick up great freebies in the exhibit hall. There are three dates and cities:

  • Salt Lake City, UT | October 24–26 | more info
  • Cincinnati, OH | November 14–16 | more info
  • Seattle, WA | December 12–14 | more info

Browse below for events and opportunities that middle school teachers will love at our fall conferences.

Dozens of sessions designed for middle school educators. Below is a small sampling of what you’ll find when you search each conference’s session browser for events targeted for midle school science teaching. Salt Lake City Sessions | Cincinnati Sessions | Seattle Sessions

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Courage

Guest blog post by Valeria Rodriguez

Walking into the Moscone West Center in San Francisco on Wednesday afternoon, I had a few personal issues I was tackling, when I overheard a teacher saying: 

“ I am almost 50 and I have had so many firsts since yesterday: I traveled to San Francisco, took an Uber, and ate at Whole Foods Market… and I still have three more days here. Friday I will present at this conference, which is another first. I know these things may seem small, but to me, they aren’t. I almost took my life a few years back, so the way I see it they are huge. It’s heartbreaking that I needed to almost die to really appreciate the gift that life brings and the new opportunities that it offers every day. I hope that you do not have to almost die before you realize it too.” 

-Kim Konczyk

I apologized for eavesdropping and thanked her for sharing so openly. Those words were spoken by Kim, a pre-service teacher from Philadelphia who lives in chronic pain has had a few recent spine surgeries, and yet wore a smile ear to ear the entire conference going out of her way to inspire and make others smile while she was at it. She has 1 semester of coursework and 1 semester of student teaching left before she gets to grace a lucky classroom somewhere.

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