Chicago. I have arrived. One of us will not be the same after this. #NSTA15
— @, March 11, 2015
NSTA conferences are where science teachers transform into learners for a week. This year the theme of transformation was ubiquitous–even the river turned green for a day! Keynote Neil Shubin walked us through the evolution of humans and brought out the Inner Fish in all of us. And an entire day was devoted to the Next Generation Science Standards, giving attendees a firm grasp on the amazing new ways science is learned and taught.
Who was there? Everyone from Bill Nye to the Geico Gecko. And they came from as far away as China and New Zealand. In fact, the day before the conference started, a team of international educators met for the 10th Annual NSTA Global Conversations in Science Education Conference.
If they couldn’t be there in person, teachers used their true super power (ingenuity) to find ways to join us virtually. They embodied one of my favorite quotes from the conference. Neil Shubin said “Science is Teamwork; Science is Collaboration.” And collaborate they did! A live #NGSSchat via Twitter brought together a strong professional learning network that included dozens of people, both in person and online.
One NSTA member was so dismayed to miss the conference that he defied all known laws of science and morphed into a 2D version of himself and allowed complete strangers to tote him from session to session. Flat Fred was popular, but who was attendees’ favorite celebrity of the conference? According to our survey results, it was Bill Nye, with the Penguin coming in a close second.
To read more about the social media sharing and virtual learning that happened at the conference, read what Adam Taylor (@2footgiraffe) has to say in his new blog post: It’s All About the Hashtag for @2footgiraffe.
Sticking with the theme of collaboration, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan came to meet with a panel of teachers. He said he was happy to be home in Chicago and told attendees: “You’re not just teaching, you’re transforming students’ lives.” And he turned into a learner for the day–attentively taking notes and listening as the teachers expressed their hopes for the future and shared the very difficult challenges they face daily in their professional lives.
Fascinating stories were everywhere last week. The New York Times declared Saturday, March 14, to be the Pi day of the century. NSTA TV captured the personal messages of many of our speakers, leadership, and sponsors. Watch here to see interviews with Bill Nye; Chandra James, Director of Science for Chicago Public Schools; the “100% of our kids are going to college” team at Seton Hall University; and other inspiring thought leaders in STEM education. Education Week reporter wrote a great article about the NGSS representing “a shift from learning about something to figuring out something” (Teaching the Next Generation Science Standards With ‘Mysteries’). Not all the stories were told by humans last week, though. Not to be missed was an intrepid little dog named Schmitty the Weather Dog who braved the elements daily to report on the weather.
Not everything new had to be experienced in Chicago. Four NSTA Press books were unveiled at the conference–The Power of Questioning: Guiding Student Investigations (by Julie V. McGough and Lisa M. Nyberg); The BSCS 5E Instructional Model: Creating Teachable Moments (by Rodger W. Bybee); Reimagining the Science Department (by Wayne Melville, Doug Jones, and Todd Campbell); and Earth Science Success, 2nd Edition: 55 Tablet-Ready, Notebook-Based Lessons (by Catherine Oates-Bockenstedt and Michael Oates). Those onsite got to meet the authors and be the first to page through these gems; but they’re available to all and have free chapters you can review.
Extending the Experience
The exhibit hall, a perennial favorite, turned ordinary educators into STEM stars. They came, they played, they tested new products, and they walked away enthused, their minds bursting with smart ideas and their arms loaded with goodies. In her advice for first-time attendees, NSTA’s Miss Mentor recommends bringing an empty suitcase to take home exhibit hall swag–and she was right; giveaways ranged from bird feeders to t-shirts.
Some of these changes happen on the scene, when people see themselves in a new light. But some of the long-term projects that attendees connect with at our conferences (such as ExploraVision, eCYBERMISSION, and the Chevron-supported NSTA Administrators Initiative) are the result of strong, forward-thinking partnerships forged by strong ties with the community, government, and corporations.
Who is responsible for this mind-blowing extravaganza? A hard-working conference staff at NSTA to be sure. But the secret sauce comes from the local committee, sponsors, organizers, conference planners, and the many other people who work for more than a year in advance to bring together sessions and speakers that will meet the needs of science teachers.
Want to help us improve the process? Growth and transformation are something we want to foster continually, so we invite attendees to take a moment to fill out an evaluation of their session(s). Follow these instructions, and once you’ve evaluated your session(s), you’ll be entered into a drawing to win a Kindle!
What was your favorite part of #NSTA15 Chicago? Please leave us a comment and let us know!
The mission of NSTA is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all.
Future NSTA Conferences
2015 STEM Forum & Expo
2015 Area Conferences