Legislative Update: Education Appropriations for FY2020

Guest blog post by Jodi Peterson, Assistant Executive Director of Communication, Legislative & Public Affairs, NSTA

Education Appropriations Part of Four-Bill “Minibus” Being Considered by U.S. House of Representatives

Members of Congress are currently working through a slew of amendments as the House of Representatives considers FY20 appropriations bills in four areas–State-Foreign Operations,  Energy-Water, Defense, and Labor-HHS-Education– that have been combined together into a “minibus” now making its way through the chamber.

The Education portion of the minibus, which would provide a 6 percent increase to the Department of Education, includes $1.3 billion for Title IV/A Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) grant and $2.5 billion for the Title IIA grant, an increase of $150 million and $500 million respectively. A previous legislative update on the appropriations for education under consideration is here.

While the bill is expected to pass the Democratic-controlled House, the appropriations process is still very unclear in the Senate due to the lack of a deal to raise the funding caps.

Top Democratic and Republican congressional leaders are also meeting with White House officials to try again to reach a budget deal before the FY20 budget year officially begins on Oct. 1 and automatic spending cuts kick in this year.  Lawmakers also have to come to an agreement to raise the government’s debt ceiling later this year too.

Of particular note (and good news for science and STEM ed advocates): the House report language on the Title IVA grant, which clarifies and signals Congressional intent as to the use of the grant funds, includes specific language on engineering education and computer science:

Engineering Education.—The Committee is aware that among science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) topics, there is a relatively limited focus on engineering education; however, engineering is important in its application of scientific and mathematical principles to innovation, analysis, design, evaluation, and manufacturing processes and systems. Therefore, the Committee is supportive of efforts by LEAs to use SSAE funds to support rigorous academic coursework or educator professional learning in engineering education programs and encourages the expansion of engineering initiatives in elementary and secondary schools through public-private partnerships.

Computer Science.—The Committee notes that States and school districts may use funds available under the SSAE Grant Program to strengthen instruction in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) fields, including computer science, and improve access to Pre-K–12 computer science and STEAM programming for underserved students, such as minorities, girls, and youth from families living at or below the poverty line. The Committee recognizes that supporting education in the STEAM fields, particularly computer science, is critical to ensuring that our nation continues to lead in innovation. As computer science is a basic skill in the 21st century global economy, the Committee intends for investments in Title IV–A to reduce the computer science enrollment and achievement gaps.

Report language on arming teachers also directs the Secretary of Education to issue guidance clarifying that Title IVA funds are not allowed to be used for the purchase of firearms or for firearms training.

Stay tuned.

Senate Committee  Approves STEM Bill

Last month the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee  approved S. 737 (116), a bill that would expand STEM education initiatives at the National Science Foundation for young children. The bill, titled “Building Blocks of STEM Act” was sponsored by Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), a former computer programmer. It would also provide  new research grants to help boost girls’ participation in STEM education. Companion legislation has been introduced in the House Science Committee. Read the bill here.

Administration Proposes New Rules on College Accreditation

Last week the Administration proposed a major overhaul of the federal regulations governing college accreditation.

The proposed Education Department regulations are based on language that a negotiated rulemaking panel agreed upon earlier this year after months of debate.

The department will solicit public comments on the proposals over a 30-day period. To view the proposed rule in its entirety, click here.

Presidential Campaigns Kick Off, Many Introduce Education Platforms

Former Vice President and now Presidential Candidate Joe Biden recently released his education agenda; the former vice president wants to triple grants under the Title I program, now funded at nearly $16 billion to ensure teachers in low-income districts receive “competitive” pay, provide 3- and-4-year-olds with access to preschool and ensure districts put in place “rigorous coursework across all their schools.” Read more from Education Week here: Biden, Sanders Lay Out Broad Education Platforms

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), also called for tripling Title I funding for low-income schools and for setting a minimum starting salary for teachers of $60,000. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) proposed spending $315 billion over 10 years to boost teacher pay, while former San Antonio Mayor and HUD Secretary Julian Castro has called for giving teachers a tax credit of up to $10,000.

And the National Education Association has announced it will hold a Presidential Forum on Education on July 5 during their annual meeting in Houston. Confirmed attendees include Julián Castro, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Sen. Bernie Sanders, (I-Vt.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren , (D-Mass.); other candidates are expected to join in coming days.

Toolkit on ESSA Funding for Science and STEM Now Available

The CS3 ESSA Title II and IV Toolkit explains ESSA grant programs and points to actions that state and district leaders and lead teachers can take to use this funding to support high quality science education for educators as well as students.

ESSA Title II (Preparing, Training, and Recruiting High-Quality Teachers, Principals, and Other School Leaders Grants) allow districts and states to fund teacher professional development.  Districts can also use this funding to provide stipends to recruit STEM teachers, and support generalists (like elementary teachers) who integrate more STEM into their classrooms.

ESSA Title IVA (Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants) will allow districts to provide students with a well-rounded education and improve instruction and student engagement in STEM by:

  • Expanding high-quality STEM courses;
  • Increasing access to STEM for underserved and at risk student populations;
  • Supporting the participation of students in STEM nonprofit competitions (such as robotics, science research, invention, mathematics, computer science, and technology competitions);
  • Providing hands-on learning opportunities in STEM;
  • Integrating other academic subjects, including the arts, into STEM subject programs;
  • Creating or enhancing STEM specialty schools;
  • Integrating classroom-based and afterschool and informal STEM instruction; and
  • Expanding environmental education.

Also check out the resources NSTA has available on ESSA here.

Stay tuned, and watch for more updates in future issues of NSTA Express.

Jodi Peterson is the Assistant Executive Director of Communication, Legislative & Public Affairs for the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and Chair of the STEM Education Coalition. Reach her via e-mail at jpeterson@nsta.org or via Twitter at @stemedadvocate.

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Building Classroom Community in an NGSS-Aligned Elementary Science Classroom by Gretchen Brinza

In an elementary science classroom, it’s not incredibly challenging to motivate students to want to do science and engineering. I find that the students at the grade-level I teach (fifth) are excited about school and learning and their attitudes mirror the words of the Framework for K–12 Science Education: The actual doing of science or engineering can also pique students’ curiosity, capture their interest, and motivate their continued study; the insights thus gained help them recognize that the work of scientists and engineers is a creative endeavor [5, 6]–one that has deeply affected the world they live in.” (Framework 2013, 42-43).

Because of this vision for science and engineering education, I recognize that I must capitalize on this incredible interest by building community, the natural glue, to serve as the foundation for our classroom culture of “figuring it out.” Over time, I have realized that this community-building process is slow, yet deliberate, and by doing it thoroughly and thoughtfully, the class gains so much more than ever intended. It not only increases their science knowledge, but also helps students  develop respectful relationships with one another. Students acknowledge the importance of listening meaningfully to one another while respectfully disagreeing with someone else’s ideas.  They also come to value the meaning and importance of consensus. 

First things first. We establish norms early, publicly post them, and revisit them daily. Building classroom community is a work-in-progress for these young students. It’s also a way to ensure that everyone has a voice, that science ideas are built together over time, and that we make sense of what we’re doing in a way that is collaborative, not isolating. We do a lot of “talk science,” moving between statements and questions that encourage us to not only value what someone has said but also try to bring meaning and understanding to their ideas.

For example, the statements “Are you saying…?”; “Say more”; and  “What do you mean by…?” encourage students to recognize that we value what they have to say.  This sense of respect between one another also enables us to accomplish more in the long run because we feel safe and trust one another with our ideas, even if we disagree with them.

Second, we build our classroom community together by recognizing that as a community of scientists and engineers, we design our learning together.  As the teacher, I am not the giver of information, but rather a facilitator who is also “figuring out” science ideas alongside students. This means that as we engage with phenomena, the investigation ideas are chosen by the students. If the class agrees on an idea to investigate that they think will hopefully answer class questions, these ideas are publicly posted alongside the norms.  These investigation ideas remind students that they are the ones who not only have to do the “figuring out,” but they also depend upon one another to build the ideas over time.  

Finally, a big idea that emerges from student-led investigations is that sometimes the classroom community’s investigations bring us somewhere, and at other times, they don’t. Either way, our class celebrates the roads we’ve traveled in this process, and we accept failure and success together.

For example, in a fifth-grade unit designed to show where our clean water comes from and where it goes after use, we wanted to discover which way treated water flowed once it left a wastewater treatment plant. Thinking that boat traffic or wind had something to do with it, we tried putting wind-up toy boats in containers of water and running fans over those same containers. To no avail, the water didn’t flow. But when we tilted the containers, water came rushing out, demonstrating how elevation plays a role in flowing water. Without the “failed” investigations, we never would have learned to what we needed to figure out, and missed out on a success story for our class!  From here, we could then uncover where treated water ended up in our city.

Each year, as a new group of students walks in, or I loop with another group of students, I am excited to build community with them, either by starting new, or picking up where we left off.  My excitement for building community in science inspires my students, and we hit the ground running…with one another, working together.

Gretchen Brinza is a fifth- and sixth-grade science teacher in the Chicago Public Schools. She is NGSX trained and an author and pilot teacher for both NextGen Storylines and PAGES curriculum development. She is the 2016 PAEMST Awardee for K-6 Science in Illinois and was honored as the 2017 Illinois STEM Educator of the Year. She is always willing to learn more about three-dimensional learning and the positive impact it has on student learning in science.

Note: This article is featured in the June 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 National Conference

STEM Forum & Expo

2019 Fall Conferences

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Three Strategies for Building Classroom Community by Nicole Vick

As I reflect on the end of this school year, I think about how successful I was in building a classroom community. A key aspect of transitioning my classroom to three-dimensional teaching and learning was discussion. Knowing this, I spent a lot of time at the beginning of the year building my classroom community.

One way I accomplished this was to give students with a list of classroom discussion norms, including those from the “green sheet” featured in “Establishing Classroom Discussion Norms by Cathy O’Connor. Because I teach several different groups of students throughout the day, I decided to use the same norms rather than have students develop their own. I used those listed on the “green sheet” and developed a Classroom Discussion Norms sheet for students.

To help students to clearly understand the rights and responsibilities, I created an activity around the sheet. First, I put students into small groups and had them brainstorm what the three guidelines would look like during a discussion. We had a whole-group discussion to share their ideas and create an indicator list. Then, I had them return to their small groups, read the norms and student rights sections, and identify which of the three guidelines they relate to and why. Finally, each group shared their ideas and I recorded the group’s consensus.

Not only did they explore how a discussion should look in the classroom, they also modeled this as we worked through the activity. This helped students begin working with one another in small groups to discuss, and learn how to respect one another’s ideas, even if they don’t agree. Spending time on this at the beginning of the year begins to build a sense of community with the group because they have taken time to build an understanding around the classroom norms, rather than just hearing about them.

A second strategy I use to help build a classroom community is to change it up! I have students work in groups quite often. Instead of letting them pick their own groups, which typically results with them being with the same people every time, I choose the groups and change them up every few lessons. This helps build community because students become comfortable working with everyone in the class. By strategically putting people in different groups, sometimes encourages the quieter students to find their voice. Because they have been able to talk to everyone in a small-group setting, they feel less pressure and anxiety to speak to the large group. Another skill that can be improved by strategic grouping is listening. Students who struggle with listening to others can be grouped together, which encourages them to listen rather than talk over one another.

A final strategy I use to build a classroom community is to be honest with my students and ask for their feedback. Part of the transition to a three-dimensional classroom means my classroom is often “ground zero” to try out new things. If I sense that something went well, or didn’t go so well, we talk about it! I am open with my students and will often tell them, “you’re guinea pigs today” when we are trying out something I’ve never done before.

We work together, sometimes on the fly, to improve a lesson when things aren’t working so well. Sometimes this means that we take a step back and re-do a portion of the lesson, especially when productive struggle becomes just struggling. Other times, we alter an activity sheet we are working with, either changing a data table or creating a digital, collaborative one using Google Sheets.

Sometimes we take longer than expected to complete a lesson, but I reassure my students that it’s okay if we do. Letting them know we are all in this together and that they have a voice in how a lesson is presented continues to build that community.

Using these three strategies, as well as building relationships with my students, helps to build a classroom community for the time that I have my students. Since using these strategies, I have found that student engagement has increased and students have grown in their ability to make sense of phenomena. And, looking forward to next year, I am always thinking about ways we can improve the process, because it’s not perfect! Like classroom lessons, some classes are more successful than others.

My most meaningful reflection on this school year is that teaching on a trimester schedule has added new challenges to maintaining a classroom culture because I gain and lose students at the start of each new trimester. Next year, I plan to spend time at the beginning of each trimester establishing, or reestablishing, my classroom community. 

Nicole Vick is a 16-year veteran high school science teacher and has taught a wide variety of science courses. She currently serves as District XII Director for NSTA and is a Regional Director for the Illinois Science Teachers Association. Vick has helped develop curriculum and provide professional development for teachers. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling and taking her daughter to concerts and musicals.

Note: This article is featured in the June 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 National Conference

STEM Forum & Expo

2019 Fall Conferences

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Under Indefinite Construction: Creating an NGSS-Friendly Classroom Community by Megan Rowlands Elmore

When the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) were first released, I struggled with how to create opportunities that allowed the students to investigate and question. These standards ask alot of our students and require more planning and instructional finesse in the classroom. After attending a two-week modeling camp held by the American Modeling Teachers Association (AMTA), I felt I knew all the moving parts of the NGSS, but I did not know how to establish the foundation of instruction to support the transition. 

At the beginning of this school year, my department received the mother lode of professional development that helped me change how my classroom functions. Our principal had arranged to participate in a NSTA coach/mentee pilot. We had already started to shift to phenomena-led units using storylines, but we wanted our students to productively participate in scientific processes, similar to Strand 4 from A Framework of K-12 Science Education.

Scientists work in communities; they start with phenomena or problems to solve, then investigate, discuss, design, and work to find the answers. For this to happen we needed to build a classroom community that encouraged collaboration and discourse. As a team, we crafted lessons that created an inviting place for students to share their questions and ideas then brainstorm and discuss possible solutions.

The first major change to improve engagement was to start each unit with a phenomenon that was interesting, multifaceted, and not “Google-able.” We had been using phenomena to start lessons in the past, but having an anchoring phenomenon with supporting smaller phenomena created a greater scaffold for student learning. We observed this phenomenon together, then every student was encouraged to write down and share their questions. This provided a common shared experience for all students to brainstorm together and share ideas. We used their questions and ideas throughout the unit as our guide for learning. We returned to these questions or groups of questions as they were answered, and decided where to go next. This process validated student ideas, helped build our classroom community by sharing a common purpose, and increased student engagement. Students were definitely challenged by phenomenon-based instruction. They initially did not like it when I answered  their questions with,  “I don’t know” or “That’s a good question; let’s figure it out”; they wanted me to give them the answers. My hope was that using phenomena in this way would provide the time and space for my students to work together to make sense of what they were exploring and to ask more questions that would lead to next steps. 

As students became more comfortable with our classroom community, we used whiteboards, incorporated group-thinking, and engaged in more peer collaboration throughout the year. On any given day groups of 3-4 students would be at the whiteboards discussing data, arguing from evidence, creating models, and explaining the phenomena. As the classroom shifted to a discourse model, norms were being followed regularly without prompting, which naturally encouraged more students to be actively engaged in our community of student scientists. 

With any new approach there has been some trial and error. As we became more comfortable with the changes, I assumed that students would be able to continue to work in groups effectively without too much direction. However, after some timely student surveys and observations I found that the most driven students were doing all the work while others hung back. I returned to the practice of assigning student roles and discussed with the students how these roles made the group work better. The roles alternated from member to member so no one person was stuck doing the work. I also switched the type of whiteboard activities (an idea fromAMTA) to increase everyone’s chance to share their ideas. One strategy I used was a science version of the game Four Square. We invited each student to write their ideas on the whiteboard in a quadrant then we spun the board, and they would add more ideas to the quadrant that landed in front of them. We used peer review and feedback with sticky notes and gallery walks to keep one another accountable, which prompted me to ask them more probing questions.

I learned that guiding the students through their learning and allowing them to drive the classroom activities would ignite many students’ desire to participate. However, this was not an easy shift for me, and it took time and practice. I had to learn to embrace my new role as facilitator and get out of the mindset that teaching in this way seemed like I was being lazy. Facilitating a learning experience for my students still required a good amount of prep work and planning. 

Watching these student scientists discuss, diagram, erase, redraw, and finalize their ideas on whiteboards throughout the year has been such a pleasure. Even this late in the year, they continue to hold one another accountable in their discussions, and it makes me very proud of the work they have done. It has definitely required a lot of work to ensure that no matter how hard the science is, we worked on it together in a classroom community that allows for failure and questions…and lots of questions and whiteboard markers.

Resources

American Modeling Teachers Association. How effective is modeling instruction? Transforming STEM Education.2018. https://modelinginstruction.org/effective.  Dec. 13.

Bacolor, R., et al. How can I get my students to learn science by productively talking with each other? StemTeachingTools. http://stemteachingtools.org/brief/6.

Morrison, D., and A. Rhinehart. 2017. How can teachers guide classroom conversations to support students’ science learning?” StemTeachingTools. http://stemteachingtools.org/brief/48.

National Research Council. 2012. A framework for K–12 science education: Practices, crosscutting concepts, and core ideas. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/13165.

Megan Rowlands Elmore is a 13-year veteran science teacher at Glenn Westlake Middle School in Lombard, Illinois. Elmore has a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Minnesota and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Drake University. Her experiences have ranged from a Fermilab internship to outdoor education in Wyoming, and from leading student trips to Washington, D.C., to zero-gravity training in airplanes, and she loves to foster discussion and interest in all types of scientific and life endeavors. 

Note: This article is featured in the June 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 National Conference

STEM Forum & Expo

2019 Fall Conferences

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Over the Moon

What are some ways to improve my students’ understanding of the phases of the moon? Are there more inquiry-based activities for grade 2 students?
—S., West Virginia

Popular activities like labelling handouts, cutting out paper or cardboard, and the popular (and tasty) turning cream-filled cookies into the different shapes only demonstrate that students can tell you what a waning gibbous or waxing crescent moon looks like. I add that these two-dimensional, hands-on activities may actually reinforce some children’s misconception that the moon could be flat!

Ask your students to observe the moon. What’s its shape, color, placement in the sky? Does it change during the day? Have them take photos or draw on calendars over a few weeks or months. The great thing: observe the moon during the day in your own school yard. Can they create a model that explains what they observe? [ Don’t worry if they don’t – western cultures didn’t really figure it out until Copernicus and Galileo came along.]

Conduct a demonstration by putting a projector at one end of a darkened classroom or, better yet, a large space like a library or gym. Have the students stand in a cluster in the middle with a large ball (Earth) and face the projector. Spinning in place they should discern how day and night occurs. With the students still in the middle, you walk counter-clockwise around the periphery with a ball representing the moon. They should observe and record the “Moon’s” lit and unlit portions at different points in your orbit. Change a variable—walk clockwise; create eclipses; spin the moon at different rates—and have discuss the effect.

Your students should understand that the phases of the moon are caused by it’s spherical shape reflecting sunlight as it orbits around the Earth.

Hope this helps!

Image by andrasgs from Pixabay

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Ed News: Teacher Attrition Demands New Approaches to Leadership, Preparation

News Roundup banner

This week in education news, educators in Indiana have a hard time finding quality resources that focus on climate change; new study finds that the differences in summer learning between poor and wealthy students may not affect long-term achievement gaps; quality teacher recruitment and retention remains among top concerns for school districts; K-12 spending in recent years has eaten up a larger and larger share of states’ tax revenue; in many schools, administrators perceive makerspaces as environments for play rather than opportunities for enriching assessment; and new studt highlights challenges LGBTQ workers in STEM face.

Indiana Teachers Struggle To Find Credible Materials On Climate Change

For many students in Indiana, eighth grade is the first and last time that they’ll focus on climate change in class. It’s the only class required for all students that specifically talks about climate change in the Indiana education standards. Many high school students are encouraged to take courses that prepare them for college like chemistry and biology, instead of environmental science. That puts a lot of pressure on eighth grade science teachers to teach the subject right. But many struggle to find current, reputable materials for their lesson plans. Read (or listen to) the full story featured on WBAA.org.

NYC Teacher Leadership Program Touted as International Model

In a survey, 70% of the principals who responded agreed a joint district-union program helped them attract teachers, and 81% said it helped with retention of the most effective educators. Read the article featured in Education DIVE.

How Does Summer Learning Really Affect Students’ Academic Achievement?

Differences in summer enrichment between poor and wealthy students may not contribute much to long-term achievement gaps, according to a new analysis. Read the article featured in Education Week.

Teacher Attrition Demands New Approaches to Leadership, Preparation

Experts say demanding rigorous preparation, building a career ladder, and facilitating teacher collaboration are some ways to address ongoing shortages and high turnover rates. Read the article featured in Education DIVE.

Students in Tech Say Soft Skills and the Arts Set Them Up for Success

When Dolica Gopisetty was applying for summer internships earlier this year, employers kept telling her that what they valued most in potential hires was strong communication skills and a willingness to learn new things. And when Nathan Wallace was transitioning from college to the workforce a few months ago, he noticed a similar trend. “A lot of employers are looking for a well-rounded individual with multiple skills, including the ability to communicate effectively,” he said, adding that a penchant for experimentation came up a lot, too. Read the article featured in EdSurge.

Public Torn Between Support for School Spending and Actually Paying the Tab

The most remarkable thing about the recent wave of teacher strikes may be the widespread public support for something that’s ultimately going to put a squeeze on the taxpayer’s wallet. In its latest Quality Counts school finance analysis, however, the Education Week Research Center found some big disparities in the proportion of total taxable resources states are willing to spend on education based on the latest federal figures—from highs of 5.4 percent in Vermont and 5.1 percent in Wyoming, to lows of 2.3 percent in North Carolina and 2.4 percent in Arizona. Read the article featured in Education Week.

It’s Time to Remake the Makerspace, But Schools Shouldn’t Got It Alone

Across America, students are learning in new ways many of us could only imagine, tinkering, creating and experimenting in makerspaces to solve real-world challenges. Read the article featured in EdSurge.

‘Now I Know I’m Not Alone.’ Study Highlights Challenges LGBTQ Workers in STEM Face

Sandra is one of 55 STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) workers—including faculty members, students, and staff—who were interviewed for a study about what it’s like to identify as LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) in STEM. Since the study was published last month in the Journal of Homosexuality, the authors have received a slew of responses along the lines of, “Thank you for doing the work, because now I know I’m not alone,” says Allison Mattheis, an associate professor of education at California State University (CSU) in Los Angeles and the lead author of the study. Read the article featured in Science magazine.

Stay tuned for next week’s top education news stories.

The Communication, Legislative & Public Affairs (CLPA) team strives to keep NSTA members, teachers, science education leaders, and the general public informed about NSTA programs, products, and services and key science education issues and legislation. In the association’s role as the national voice for science education, its CLPA team actively promotes NSTA’s positions on science education issues and communicates key NSTA messages to essential audiences.

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How NSTA Expanded My Small Town World

Guest blog post by Pam Devers

I grew up as the typical “small town girl living in a small town world” (Journey).  In the eighth grade my mind was set that I was going to be a science teacher and teach in my hometown.  It took about a decade of working in a lab and jobs in even smaller schools to make it back to my town with a population of nine thousand.  Contentment was mine at this point, but then I found out through NSTA that there was more than just the NE corner of the fly over state of Oklahoma.

For years I had gone to workshops locally, but then I heard about NSTA having a conference in San Diego.  A fellow teacher and I asked our principal if we could go.  We figured the least they could say was no, which would not have hurt us.  Instead, we got a yes and did our little victory jig.  The whole conference weekend kept my mind in overdrive from all the new ideas discussed and shown at the sessions.  I was hooked, so of course we asked the next year and the next.  Sometimes we got a quick yes, sometimes we heard others should be allowed an opportunity to attend in their fields but many never applied.  For years we did our little dance and opened our world.

I have seen famous people speak telling about their insights.  My claim to fame that I tell my students, is when I touched Bill Nye.  Really, I was going up an escalator as I saw him making his way up the stairs beside my sloth way of maneuvering.  I got off fast then walked swiftly to tap him on the shoulder to get his attention.  He turned around, politely listened to my rambling introduction and admirations then we parted.  My students know me well enough, so I tell the true story as they grin and roll their eyes at me.

I emulate demonstrations and lessons learned from teachers around the country.  They also explained the success and failures to avoid they experienced.  Exhibit booths of equipment beckon to be in my classroom.  During the conference, I make a list to write grants for more TOYS (T.angible O.bjects Y.ielding S.cience).  The main downfall to this is when I have to pack all my collected toy boxes to get my room ready to paint for the summer.

The conferences have taken me to major cities within our nation, which I would not have seen otherwise.  NSTA also has shown me other opportunities to learn more from others outside of conferences.  I was truly blessed with a trip of a lifetime to Japan for the TOMODACHI STEM Leadership Conference with amazing teachers and students.  I just saw on Facebook one of our students won the Toshiba ExploraVision competition which thrills me.  This year, I applied and get to go to Canada for the EINSTIENPLUS workshop which I am super excited about attending.  I would not have known about it if I did not get NSTA’s publication listing it as an available resource for teachers.

I was fifty when I went to Japan and started filling out applications of opportunities outside of my little world.  I have been told no a few times, pouted a little, but then filled out more applications.  My classroom career has a few more years left.  If I had things to do over, I would have looked out into the big picture sooner but I will always be thankful for my membership with NSTA.

Pam Devers teaches Chemistry I, Honors Chemistry II, Honors Physics, and Teach Oklahoma at Pryor High School in Pryor, Oklahoma.  This year marks Devers’ 30th year of teaching.









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Experience STEM by the Bay This Summer With NSTA

Guest blog post by Jeffrey LeGrand Douglass

The exhibit hall at the 8th Annual STEM Forum & Expo, hosted by NSTA, is gonna be so LIT that even the rolling fog of San Francisco won’t be able to hide the excitement and experiences that await all who are attending! Enjoy the beauty of the City by the Bay while benefiting from the enrichment of attending the NSTA STEM Forum & Expo. Our exhibit hall is truly not to be missed, and with over 70 amazing companies already on board to exhibit, there will definitely be something for everyone to see and do.

NSTA will kick off exhibit hall activities Wednesday night with a two-hour exclusive preview reception from 4:30 to 6:30pm. Enjoy eating and drinking while exploring the hall, networking with fellow educators, and mingling with exhibitors followed on Thursday and Friday by two additional days of fun activities and engagement.

A special shout out to STEMScopes for sponsoring this year’s attendee bags. Bags can be picked up with your registration materials, and be sure to stop by their booth to thank them for their generosity and support. Use your bag to hold all of the amazing swag you are sure to collect from our participating exhibitors.

So what can you expect to see on our exhibit hall floor? Check out just some of the highlights from a small group of our current exhibitors.

  • Learn about ODYSSEY, the unique instruction program for general chemistry from Wavefunction.
  • Let 3Doodler show you how you can reach learners who have trouble grasping abstract concepts with their 3D printing pens.
  • Carolina Biological can help you prepare your students for STEM careers with their STEM products.
  • Lodestone is offering FREE resources for the K-12 educational community that include topics for math, physics, and chemistry, to name a few.
  • If you like robots, then go see Kinderlab Robotics to find out about KIBO, a screen-free robot kit that lets 4–7 year olds build, code, and run their own robots.

Just in case that wasn’t reason enough to make sure that you don’t skip the exhibit hall this year, NSTA is very excited to announce that TeacherGeek will be sponsoring a brand new engaging makerspace area for all attendees right on the exhibit hall floor. According to Darren Coon, CEO of TeacherGeek:

Zip, Bang, Grab, Woo-hoo!!! These are the sounds you will hear coming from the TeacherGeek Maker Space area at the STEM Forum & Expo. Are you up for the challenge? Compete against other attendees for fun prizes: creating racecars, breaking bridges, performing undersea tasks.”

These and many other wonderful companies will be on the exhibit floor; they all want to meet you, talk with you, and demonstrate to you that they share your devotion to STEM education and are there to help you succeed in preparing the next generation of learners.

New exhibitors are signing up every day, and you won’t want to miss one second of the fun that is sure to take place. Make sure you register to attend the 8th Annual STEM Forum and Expo, hosted by NSTA, July 24–26, 2019, at Moscone Center West in beautiful downtown San Francisco.

Tony Bennett may have left his heart in San Francisco, but what you will be taking with you from San Francisco will leave an impression on you for years to come.

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Ed News Roundup: Women Engineers You Should Know

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In this week’s Education News Roundup, USA Today takes a look at salaries and housing costs for teachers; Education Week examines how to make teacher leadership roles more effective; some women engineers you should know, and more.

Women Engineers You Should Know

There are many women engineers whose lives, careers, and achievements might go unnoticed – yet each has a compelling, dynamic, and thought-provoking story. To celebrate their contributions and lives, SWE Magazine reached out on SWE’s social media channels, asking “Who are the women engineers we should know?” Read the story featured in SWE Magazine.

Charters were supposed to save public education. Why are Americans turning against them?

The vanguard of this unrest is organized teachers, political progressives and public education activists. Yet public opinion, even if it is moving more slowly, is tilting in the same direction. According to the school-choice-favoring EdNext Poll, support for charters slipped noticeably in 2017. Though it rebounded a bit in 2018, it did so mainly among Republicans, with “only 36 percent of Democrats now supporting their formation” — a phenomenon likely due to the polarizing influence of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. The most recent polling on charters in Los Angeles County found that 75 percent of residents favor “improving the existing public schools” over pursuing “additional charter school options.” Read the story featured in The Washington Post.

Science News: Increase in Education Specialists In University Science Departments

Science professors go through years of training to learn about their field, yet they often don’t receive any formal education in how to teach students about it. A new study takes a decade-long look at one way that science departments in the California State University (CSU) system are trying to amend that by bringing faculty with educational expertise into the fold. Read the story featured in Science Daily.

Can’t pay Their Bills With Love–In Many Teaching Jobs, Teachers’ Salaries Can’t Cover Rent

New teachers can’t afford the median rent almost anywhere in the U.S, the analysis shows.  But that’s not the full story.  Despite widespread demand for higher salaries, teachers in some regions are actually making ends meet, especially as they approach the middle of their careers.  In other areas, mid-career teachers are right to say they can’t afford to live on their salaries without picking up side hustles or commuting long distances. Some of those places are only affordable for the very highest-paid teachers. And then there are places that no teacher can afford, no matter how much they earn. Read the story featured in USA Today.

How Can States and Districts Make Teacher-Leadership Roles More Effective?

This form of professional learning—in which an accomplished teacher is given instructional leadership responsibilities while still remaining in the classroom—has become popular in many places, but there is a lack of explicit guidance on how to build this capacity. Read the story featured in Education Week.

Limiting Science Education: Limiting Ourselves

We’ve landed men on the moon, mapped out our genomes, and split atoms, but for the past 20 years, nobody knew why two grapes produced plasma in a microwave. Energy is conserved. Carbon’s atomic number is six. The mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell … Throughout my entire high school career, I’ve heard all of these facts presented to me, but never once have I felt as intrigued as I have from this bizarre phenomenon. Welcome to the world of high school science education. This essay, by James Chan, age 17, is one of the Top 12 winners of the New York Times Sixth Annual Student Editorial Contest. Read the story featured in The New York Times.

New Science Standards Approved For Utah Students after Five Hours of Debate

The Utah State School Board approved new science standards last week, the first updates in science standards in high school biology, chemistry and physics since 2002, and in Earth science since 2012. It is also the first update of science standards for kindergarten through second grade since 2010. Read the story featured on KSL TV website.

Stay tuned for next week’s top education news stories.

The Communication, Legislative & Public Affairs (CLPA) team strives to keep NSTA members, teachers, science education leaders, and the general public informed about NSTA programs, products, and services and key science education issues and legislation. In the association’s role as the national voice for science education, its CLPA team actively promotes NSTA’s positions on science education issues and communicates key NSTA messages to essential audiences.

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Rock On!

I am planning to teach a lesson on rocks with a third grade class in the fall, but I am unaware as of where to find inexpensive rock/mineral kits. How did you teach the lesson in a way that engaged the students?
– A., Pennsylvania

Studying rocks is such a great, hands-on unit and is a natural subject for kids to immerse themselves into!

In almost every state and province there are mineral and mining organizations and government agencies that have kits/resources available. Do a quick search in your region to find where you can order inexpensive sample kits.

A few good resource sites:
American Geosciences Institute: A huge repository of educational resource links
Mineralogical Society of America
Mining Matters (Canada)

Once you get some kits students can go through several of the properties: hardness, streak (use the back of sample subway tiles), lustre, color, maybe even fluorescence (you can use inexpensive “black light” pens but make sure to review safety procedures).

It is easy to combine other subjects into this topic! Resource maps identifying the locations of significant mineral deposits in your region not only bridge to social studies but can lead to discussions on where communities arose, conservation issues, pros and cons of mining, and so on. Finding out where we use solid minerals in our homes and consumer products connects what students are learning to their everyday lives. Research projects and presentations on specific minerals are great language arts activities. Incorporate engineering practices by designing mines that have the least environmental impact.

Hope this helps!

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