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

Meet the NSTA staff and leadership in the bookstore and at the membership area. Ask about NSTA’s awards for high school science teachers, including the Ron Mardigian Memorial Bio-Rad Explorer Award and many others. Applications are open now!

Chemistry and Engineering Days—Fridays at each conference
These content-focused days are held in addition to all the regularly scheduled presentations on all aspects of science education. If you want to take a deep dive into these areas, put these on your schedule. If not, no problem, go directly to #3, below.
(See pages 8, 16, and 23 of the program preview for more information.)

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

  • Literacy, Content Reading, and the Promotion of Metacognitive Learning Strategies in STEM
  •  Using Case Studies in the High School Classroom
  • NGSS@NSTA Forum Session: The NSTA Atlas of the Three Dimensions
  • NSELA-Sponsored Session: Developing Science Practices with Citizen Science

    Graduate-Level Credit Opportunities are available at each conference from local universities.
    (See pages 10, 18, and 24 of the program preview for more information.)

    Learn how to get published in The Science Teacher (NSTA’s high school level journal)
    Salt Lake City, UT | October 24 | 2:00–3:00 PM | Room 260B, Salt Palace Convention Center

    The Exhibit Hall—Daily
    Check out the VIRTUAL EXHIBIT HALL
    Preview and create your own list of exhibitors before the conferences using these links: www.nsta.org/saltlakecityexhibits
    www.nsta.org/cincinnatiexhibits
    www.nsta.org/seattleexhibits

    The NSTA Exhibit Hall, with more than 125 of the leading science education companies and organizations in the world, has the newest products to show and share with educators. Don’t forget to leave room in your suitcase for all the swag.
    (See p. 30 of the program preview for more information.)

    Meet your fellow high school teachers at the First-Timers Session
    Look for tables marked “High School” (among other topics you may choose from like STEM and NGSS), where you can meet other attendees with similar interests, get to know the NSTA leadership, win prizes, and have a lot of fun. It’s the best way to kick off your conference experience. (See p. 3 of the program preview for more information.)
  • Salt Lake City |Thursday, October 24, 8:00–9:00 AM  | 155F, Salt Palace Convention Center
  • Cincinnati | Thursday, November 14, 8:00–9:00 | Junior Ballroom D, Duke Energy Convention Center
  • Seattle | Thursday, December 12, 8:00–9:00 AM | Ballroom 6B, Washington State Convention Center

Can’t Attend But Want the Experience?

Follow along on Twitter and Instagram using #NSTA19, like NSTA on Facebook, and check out our area conference albums. And don’t forget, NSTA members save up to $90 off the price of registration. Not a member? Join here.

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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

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

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

  • Nurture Through Nature (How Four Teachers Stumbled Their Way into Building the Most Innovative School Club in the Country)
  • Fairy Tale Forensics
  • Full STEAM Ahead
  • Inquiry in Action: Investigating Matter K–5
  • ASEE Session: Literacy-Infused Engineering for Middle School and Elementary Students 
  • Experience Three-Dimensional Learning in the K–2 Classroom Around the Principles of Flight
  • Inviting Play into the Classroom

Meet the NSTA staff and leadership in the bookstore and at the membership area. Ask about NSTA’s awards, including the Sylvia Shugrue Award for Elementary School Teachers and many others. Applications are open now!

Seattle-bound conference goers may enjoy this educational trip: Fermentation Science: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Hale’s Brewery and Westland Distillery. In the spirit of STEM, you’ll learn firsthand from master brewers how biology, chemistry, and physics converge in the different processes of brewing beer. (See p. 26 of the program preview for more information.)

Short Courses
These half- or full-day content-focused sessions are held in addition to all the regularly scheduled presentations on all aspects of science education. These require tickets and are worth the extra planning if you want to take a deep dive into areas like three-dimensional teaching and STEM, citizen science, increasing student engagement through “aha” moments, and more. (See pages 9, 17, and 25 of the program preview for more information.)

Graduate-Level Credit Opportunities are available at each conference from local universities.
(See pages 10, 18, and 24 of the program preview for more information.)

The Exhibit Hall—Daily
Check out the VIRTUAL EXHIBIT HALL
Preview and create your own list of exhibitors before the conferences using these links: www.nsta.org/saltlakecityexhibits
www.nsta.org/cincinnatiexhibits
www.nsta.org/seattleexhibits

The NSTA Exhibit Hall, with more than 125 of the leading science education companies and organizations in the world, has the newest products to show and share with educators. Don’t forget to leave room in your suitcase for all the swag.
(See p. 30 of the program preview for more information.)

Meet your fellow elementary school teachers at the First-Timers Session
Look for tables marked “Elementary School” (among other topics you may choose from like STEM and NGSS), where you can meet other attendees with similar interests, get to know the NSTA leadership, win prizes, and have a lot of fun. It’s the best way to kick off your conference experience. (See p. 3 of the program preview for more information.)

  • Salt Lake City
    Thursday, October 24, 8:00–9:00 AM  | 155F, Salt Palace Convention Center
  • Cincinnati
    Thursday, November 14, 8:00–9:00 | Junior Ballroom D, Duke Energy Convention Center
  • Seattle
    Thursday, December 12, 8:00–9:00 AM | Ballroom 6B, Washington State Convention Center

Can’t Attend But Want the Experience?

Follow along on Twitter and Instagram using #NSTA19, like NSTA on Facebook, and check out our area conference albums. 

And don’t forget, NSTA members save up to $90 off the price of registration. Not a member? Join here.

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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

  • STEM-ify Your Middle School Science Classroom
  • Making Detectives in Middle School: Using Ecology Mysteries to Explore Content and Integrate Writing Practices
  • Middle School Magic: Choice, Song, and Play
  • NMLSTA-Sponsored Session: Engaging Students with Authentic Data
  • Food Chains: Using Field Surveys That Give Real Results
  • ASEE Session: Literacy-Infused Engineering for Middle School and Elementary Students
  • Makerspaces: Why, What, How

    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

      Meet the NSTA staff and leadership in the bookstore and at the membership area. Ask about NSTA’s awards for middle school science teachers and students, including the Angela Award and many others. Applications are open now!

      Seattle-bound conference goers may enjoy this educational trip: Fermentation Science: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Hale’s Brewery and Westland Distillery. In the spirit of STEM, you’ll learn firsthand from master brewers how biology, chemistry, and physics converge in the different processes of brewing beer. (See p. 26 of the program preview for more information.)

      Short Courses
      These half- or full-day content-focused sessions are held in addition to all the regularly scheduled presentations on all aspects of science education. These require tickets and are worth the extra planning if you want to take a deep dive into areas like three-dimensional teaching and STEM, citizen science, increasing student engagement through “aha” moments, and more. (See pages 9, 17, and 25 of the program preview for more information.)
      Graduate-Level Credit Opportunities are available at each conference from local universities.
      (See pages 10, 18, and 24 of the program preview for more information.)

      The Exhibit Hall—Daily
      Check out the VIRTUAL EXHIBIT HALL
      Preview and create your own list of exhibitors before the conferences using these links: www.nsta.org/saltlakecityexhibits
      www.nsta.org/cincinnatiexhibits
      www.nsta.org/seattleexhibits

      The NSTA Exhibit Hall, with more than 125 of the leading science education companies and organizations in the world, has the newest products to show and share with educators. Don’t forget to leave room in your suitcase for all the swag.
      (See p. 30 of the program preview for more information.)

      Meet your fellow middle school teachers at the First-Timers Session
      Look for tables marked “Middle School” (among other topics you may choose from like STEM and NGSS), where you can meet other attendees with similar interests, get to know the NSTA leadership, win prizes, and have a lot of fun. It’s the best way to kick off your conference experience. (See p. 3 of the program preview for more information.)
    • Salt Lake City
      Thursday, October 24, 8:00–9:00 AM  | 155F, Salt Palace Convention Center
    • Cincinnati
      Thursday, November 14, 8:00–9:00 | Junior Ballroom D, Duke Energy Convention Center
    • Seattle
      Thursday, December 12, 8:00–9:00 AM | Ballroom 6B, Washington State Convention Center

Can’t Attend But Want the Experience?

Follow along on Twitter and Instagram using #NSTA19, like NSTA on Facebook, and check out our area conference albums. And don’t forget, NSTA members save up to $90 off the price of registration. Not a member? Join here.

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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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Partnering with Community Organizations to Support Science Learning: Research-based Tips for Forming Partnerships

Guest posters Claire Christensen, Corinne Singleton, Kea Anderson, and Danae Kamdar share their work investigating approaches to school-community organization partnering, perceived benefits to participating organizations and local children and families, and challenges they encountered along the way. Claire Christensen is an Education Researcher at SRI International who researches how young children learn from educational media. Corinne Singleton is a Senior Education Researcher at SRI International whose research focuses on education for underserved populations, innovative teaching and learning, education technology, and math education. Kea Anderson is a Senior Education Researcher at SRI International who specializes in informal STEM learning and supporting equity in STEM. Danae Kamdar is an Early STEM Education Researcher at Digital Promise, and her work aims to better understand how to promote STEM teaching and learning in public early childhood settings. 

In Lafourche Parish, Louisiana, a veteran educator and coach added new hands-on ocean-science learning activities from PBS into a longstanding teacher professional development workshop. In Columbus, Ohio, elementary students learn about habitats and ocean species using materials from curriculum kits developed by staff at the local PBS station WOSU.

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Preschool Science at Home: The PEEP Family Science Apps

Guest blog post authors, Michelle Cerrone, Gay Mohrbacher, and Megan Silander write about using digital media to support children’s interest in science topics, and discuss tips educators can use to support families using media to explore science with their preschool-age children, based on their research and development of the PEEP Family Science series of apps.

Michelle Cerrone, is a Research Associate at the Education Development Center’s (EDC) Center for Children and Technology. Michelle’s work focuses on the role of media and ed tech in supporting STEM learning and teacher professional development. Gay Mohrbacher is a Senior Project Manager for WGBH Education. Gay coordinates educational outreach to early childhood audiences for PBS station, WGBH. WGBH is a national leader in producing media-based resources to support learning and teaching.  Megan Silander is a Research Scientist at EDC’s Center for Children and Technology. Megan conducts research on the use of digital tools and media to increase capacity to support children’s learning, both in and out of school. Welcome Michelle, Gay, and Megan!

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In the beginning…

I start my first teaching position this fall sharing a fourth grade class with a veteran teacher. I will be teaching science, math, and art. Do you have any suggestions for a new teacher?
—V., Manitoba

Congratulations!

This looks like a great way to begin your career. With a shared class you will have someone to share ideas and insights into the students you both teach. I would ask your partner for advice about school policies, the general practices employed in the school, and if she has any pearls of wisdom to start the year. She may have taught science, math, or art before; ask if she has any lessons, activities; and resources she might share. However, try not to mimic your partner or go to her for everything. You have to develop as the teacher you want to be and she has her work to do. While your partner has experience, you may bring new ideas in teaching.

Classroom management will likely be where your inexperience will be most evident. It is different stepping in to a classroom for a few weeks compared to being there for the whole year. Your partner will be of great help here, but if you go into your classroom well-prepared, plan your transitions well, and have a clear vision of the environment you want to create, you will have a good foundation upon which to manage your classroom.

Don’t expect your lessons to go perfectly. Just remember to reflect on everything you do and address anything you feel you need to improve upon. You also have a great opportunity to integrate your subjects – so look for projects that incorporate science, math, and art! Don’t shy away from trying something new.

Keep your eye on professional development opportunities and don’t be afraid to ask for support to continue your professional education.

Good luck in your career!

Image by Steve Buissine via Pixabay

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Supporting Family Engagement

Guest blog post by Anne Lowry


As teachers, we know how important family engagement is for student success. How can we improve upon last year’s family engagement and how do we do so while maintaining respect for each family’s unique culture, configuration, workload, finances, and other out of school factors?

One part of the answer is offering multiple ways for families to be involved and being flexible within those ways, remembering that we don’t always see the engagement, but we do hear about it!

Starting with welcoming each family is a given, either in person or remotely, especially with materials in the home language if possible. Taking that extra time early in the year for those phone calls and emails often builds a strong relationship that grows through the year, leading to more family engagement. Creating a family board for your school and/or classroom, with information about local events or other useful information for your families.  If you have a linguistically diverse school, this is a great place to post which staff and/or families speak which language and are willing to help with translation if needed.

Documentation is another tool. While we often use it in the classroom for one purpose, the pictures and text give the parents a window into the school day. Daily notes, weekly reflections, and pictures and stories of classroom explorations can be posted in the hallway where families will see them, or you can send them electronically to your students’ families. This can be a particularly powerful tool if your students have family members working or deployed out of the area.

Asking family members to be in class or virtual “experts” with either their work or leisure activities or cultural practices is a powerful way to make families welcome. Posting information about one family usually gets the other families interested as well. A family member reading a story as “librarian for the day” in the classroom sends a powerful message to the student that his/her school is a valued place.

Homework can be a contentious element in family engagement, so change it up. Create interview questions for family members, send “thinking questions” home, and have the students discuss it with family members.  We did that last week in my class as we were creating a class definition of a beach. Have them gather data at home, such as measuring snow depth in several spots, to create class graphs.  A class favorite is taking a familiar story and coming up with a new version, from a different character’s perspective.  Activity packs, with a book and a do at home activity, are always a hit also

Don’t overlook help as part of family engagement. These behind the scenes activities can be a wonderful way for families to become involved.  I’ve had families translate materials and documentation into other languages, and create word lists for us to use in the classroom. One year, a parent who worked a tricky schedule became our procurement specialist. One example out of many:  We needed newspaper for paper mache; she found it for us. She took pictures of the projects and shared them with those who had helped her collect the materials.

Out of school activities are fun as well. Though these can be tricky to arrange, they create such a positive atmosphere. My class holds a reunion twice a year at a local park, with all previous classes invited. My school hosts several playdates a year at local parks as well.  Family Science Nights are extremely popular. NSTA Press released an excellent book on the subject earlier this year:  Staging Family Science Nights by Donna Governor and Denise Webb.

Other alternatives include partnering with local non-profit organizations, or the local PBS station. Changing the location can make an event more accessible: libraries, museums, hardware stores, or local restaurants would be good places to start, depending upon your specific demographic.

And don’t forget about using Citizen Science Projects! Many can be done both at home and at school, which provides built-in engagement opportunities. SciStarter.org is a great place to look for such projects No matter what you are doing in your class to improve family engagement, just beginning with the attitude that families want to be engaged and you want to have them engaged will have your school year off to a great start!

Anne Lowry
Committee on Preschool-Elementary Science Teaching
PreK Teacher
Aleph Academy
Reno, NV

Additional resources

NSTA Learning Center: 
Family Engagement Family Engagement Collection Created By: Anne Lowry

Family Science Night Collection Created By: Sandy Grady

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Sand explorations

Sand play engages children in many of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) disciplinary core ideas, practices, and crosscutting concepts. Explorations with sand also involve natural phenomena of flow and adhesion, and math concepts of scale and volume, as children scoop, pour, and build. Children observe how sand grains flow when dry and stick together when wet. The small grains combine to create a large body of matter (2-PS1-1, 2-PS1-3, and  Scale, Proportion, and Quantity). Children feel the small individual grains and root down into large amounts of sand in sensory experiences.

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