Opportunities for learning and networking at NSTA conferences

I just returned from the NSTA area conference in Denver. As always and whenever they are, these conferences are wonderful learning opportunities for science teachers. Now that I’ve filled out the session evaluations and updated my transcript on the NSTA Learning Center, I have time to reflect on the opportunities I had to attend session on science concepts and teaching strategies, meet new people, and enjoy the sights and hospitality of Denver. (I could see the Rockies from my hotel window!)
From a project I was working on, I developed an interest in ideas for enhancing learning with technology. There were sessions on time-lapse photography and digital storytelling, iPad apps that help students visualize science concepts, probes for lab investigations, and suggestions for using Google apps for creating and organizing student work digitally.

Assembling mineral kits

Assembling mineral kits

Several agencies (such as NOAA, NASA, LearnGenetics from the University of Utah) are familiar faces and presented their newest resources for the classroom. And most sessions showed a connection between the content and strategies with the NGSS.
The exhibit hall is a wonderland for science teachers—a chance to catch up on new technologies, resources, and programs. One of the most popular (at least in terms of teachers gathering there) was SME’s Minerals Education Coalition (Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration). Visitors to this booth were invited to assemble a collection of mineral samples related to minerals important to human health. As we moved from station to station, we were given a small sample to add to a box and a description of its importance. The finale was some tools for analyzing rock samples (streak plates, etc) and a jump drive with all of the information we heard and lesson plans. Every teacher I talked with was impressed: “If they just gave away the collections, I would have stashed it in my bag and looked at it later. But since we had to collect the samples, add them to the box, and talk with the associates, it became a real learning experience for me.”

Presenter Anicia Alvarez drew a Saturday AM slot.

I’m sure presenters are concerned when they get an early morning or late afternoon time slot. But science teachers aren’t deterred by time—we want all the information and ideas we can get! Even the Saturday morning sessions had dozens of engaged and interested participants. For example, in the last time slot, Anicia Alvarez from Adams State University showed how elementary students used a “Question-Claim-Evidence-Reason” framework to explain visual representations and make sense of their data during the stages of the 5e learning cycle.
The national conference (e.g., Boston Apr. 3–6, 2014) is larger with an extensive list of sessions and vendors, but these area conferences are very user-friendly and occur in the fall. The venues for 2014 are

  • Richmond, Virginia: October 16–18
  • Orlando, Florida: November 6–8
  • Long Beach, California: December 4–6

The deadline for presentation proposals is January 15, 2014 .
Devner photo:  http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2757/4242084758_230be5bb28_m.jpg

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