Comments by the Maitland P. Simmons Scholarship winners
Attending the NSTA National Convention through the Maitland P. Simmons Memorial Award proved to be a very beneficial experience. My original goals were to attend sessions related to scientific inquiry, outdoor classrooms, and student development of learning strategies for teaching content area literacy. Sessions I attended included the following: an inquiry-based frog dissection, inquiry-based model-making, using discrepant events for student engagement, teaching methods of science journaling, biotechnology in the classroom, tips for creating a Family Science Night, and grant writing tips. All of these sessions provided me with ways of improving instruction in the classroom. I only wish there was more time to attend more sessions!
An unexpected surprise, that proved to be the biggest benefit of all, was the many contacts I made while attending the conference. I would highly recommend continuance of requiring award recipients to work at the NSTA booth to promote the many awards NSTA provides. Not only did that give me the chance to talk with others about my own experience through the award’s process, but it allowed me the opportunity to meet with other award recipients and judges who had a broad level of experience in the field of science education. As a new teacher, it inspired me to continue striving for ways to provide new learning experiences for my students. I learned a valuable motto, "If you don’t ask, it won’t happen." In the future, I will ask so that it does happen for my students.
Other contacts made included a vendor in the exhibit hall who has asked me to give feedback on one of their company’s new inquiry products (at no cost to me). In addition, I met teachers who have volunteered to help me introduce biotechnology in the middle school classroom to enhance the teaching of our life science curriculum. Also, I enjoyed talking with author Page Keeley about using formative assessment probes in my life science classroom. Finally, I had the opportunity to speak with corporate sponsors of the NSTA awards, allowing me the chance to thank them personally for all they do for science education.
My goal in attending the National Conference was to stay on top of the field of science education, so I could bring the latest pedagogy to my low socioeconomic students in the heart of Appalachia in southwest Virginia. As a result, I had a full schedule planned for myself even before I left for the conference by taking advantage of the NSTA online Personal Scheduler.
I attended seven workshops, experienced two half day field trips, and visited the exhibit hall multiple times. I also made several new science contacts in the teaching profession and enjoyed sharing a meal with them. My workshops involved topics in earth science and biology. I was enlightened on how many different ways I could present topics in a fun and hands on manner! I will definitely use the refreshing ideas I saw in my own classroom.
Friday turned out to be a wonderful day full of field trips, which I am so glad I went on! I went on the "Wetland Watchers" and saw first hand what impact service learning can be for students in science. I also went on the " Martello Castle and MRGO with WETMAAP" field trip where I got to see a glimpse of the Ninth Ward and the surrounding devastation and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It was very sobering and worthwhile!
I am very grateful for the award and want to express my gratitude to those who made this NSTA National Conference a reality for me! I am a better educator because of it! You truly helped make a difference in my teaching at this rural, Appalachia school!
My experience at the NSTA conference was fantastic! There were so many different opportunities for me to learn new techniques and to improve my current lessons. My initial plans for this conference was to attend mostly chemistry and physics based sessions as this is the first year that I am teaching these two subject areas. In the end, I ended up attending mostly chemistry session as I felt that I needed more support in this area.
One of the things I knew going in, but didn’t fully understand until I was at the conference, was just how many different sessions there was. There were so many more sessions that I wanted to go to than I could possibly attend. I enjoyed having access to the new NSTA Communities website as I was able to contact some of the presenters who I wasn’t able to see obtain their materials. I also had not fully planned for the amount of materials that I was going to receive. Luckily, I had room in my suitcase to bring it all home in. I did like that many of the presenters went digital and posted their materials on the NSTA Communities page. Not only did this save paper, but also lightened my load as I traveled around the exhibit hall and to different sessions. One suggestion I would have is to give people the option of having digital copies of the program as a way to save paper. Those of who are already carrying around a PDA, smart phone or laptop could use this method and it would save a lot of paper as I always notice there are many extra lying around the conference.
It is always nice to hear about other new teachers and what things are like in other school districts and in other states. Something like a dinner with other scholarship winners would be nice because then we wouldn’t need to decide whether to choose between going to a presentation or a session as dinners ouldn’t interfere with any sessions.
Overall I had a very rewarding experience at the conference and I can’t thank you enough for the opportunity to attend this conference. I truly feel that it has not only benefited me, but my students and school as well. I will be looking for a way to be able to attend next year’s conference.