Engineering Next Generation Science Leaders in Omaha, Nebraska

“Here we go” was a tweet from a delegate attending the 2015 National Congress on Science Education (NCSE), held last week in Omaha, Nebraska, by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA); excitement was evident from start to finish! Congress was the venue for delegates to tweet “NCSE gave me tools to conquer challenges facing science education in my state.” If you haven’t already figured it out, NCSE became the highlight of social media.

Congress started with a special celebration of the 2015 Robert Yager Excellence in Science Education Award recipients. Several tweets appeared while the six recipients made their presentations…“Inspiring to hear examples of truly engaging students as best practice from the Yager Award Winners!” and “Joe Ruhl (Yager Award recipient) sharing with #NSTAcongress about teaching techniques.” His strategies focused on the five “Cs” – Choice, Collaboration, Communication, Critical Thinking, and Creativity. Beverly Kutsunaj, the Robert Yager scholar, shared her success in her first grade class. She “stops talking and brings out a camera.” Creativity was apparent not just in teaching styles but also in how students were encouraged to be “creative in their thinking” as they learn science as a process.

Day two of Congress began with two energizing speakers yielding tweets such as:

  • “NSTA membership voice heard – organized advocacy gets STEM into ESEA bill”
  • “It’s time to get our teeth”
  • “Your teacher voice matters here!”
  • “Teacher advocacy is so vital for us to be heard.”

Jodi Peterson from NSTA and Stephen Pruitt from Achieve provided excitement as Jodi shared the work on the ESEA bill and Stephen inspired Congress attendees to be “leaders.” His talk had people saying: “Teachers have been saying for too long I am just a teacher – play an active role.” And he defined a LEADER with works: learn, endurance, aspiration, determination, excellence, and respect. The morning session carried over into the issue forums: Leadership and Advocacy, Elementary Education, and Professional Learning. The issue forums yielded six resolutions. Two resolutions focusing on the NSTA Elementary School position paper and collaboration with CAGs were presented to the NSTA leadership and were passed. Three other resolutions were directed to the NCSE focusing on collaboration and pre-service teacher programs.

The NCSE planning committee introduced two new events: a share-a-thon event with “deeper dives” and the “unconference.” These events produced tweets “Where networking really WORKS” and “Professional Learning happens here!” The share-a-thon included fourteen opportunities for NCSE participants to learn about topics such as “Google Tech Tips for CAGs,” “Ideas for Joint Conferences,” and “Teaching Advocacy & Communication Strategies.” Because of the excitement found in the workshops and share-a-thon additional sessions were added for deeper dives. These tweets reflect the energy of these sessions:

  • “Share-a-thon sessions at NCSE. Great collaboration happening!”
  • “Meeting of great minds”
  • “When you get this many science teachers in one place, something fun always happens!”

 “Unconference” sessions yielded a surprise that no one expected. These sessions were not only facilitated by the participants of NCSE as planned but from a group who was also holding a meeting at the hotel.  The Society of Women Engineers introduced themselves to the planning committee and learned of the “unconference.” This resulted with NCSE participants being introduced to the initiatives the society supports to get more girls into engineering. A great example of “Where networking really WORKS.”

With next year’s Congress planned for Denver, NCSE participants want to continue the conversation because “Teaching is the one profession that creates all other professions. Stand proud: I am a Teacher.” “Leadership means finding solutions, together.” The 2015 Congress has left its mark on promoting leadership at the state level. “We as teachers, as leaders, will make the world a better place. I am a teacher.” was a message tweeted to all.

We encourage all NSTA members to share your thoughts about what you have learned from Congress using #NSTAcongress. NSTA will work with our chapters and affiliated groups to continue to “Engineer Next Generation Science Leaders.”

Closing Tweet: “NCSE – great minds are offering ideas to improve & support quality science education acro
ss the nation.”

Carolyn HayesCarolyn Hayes is the NSTA President, 2015-2016; follow her on Twitter at caahayes.

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

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