Welcome to the conference pages of the National Science Teachers Association website. This page is for those of you who have never attended an NSTA conference and would like to know more about them.
NSTA conferences are open to all science educators, as presenters or attendees. NSTA membership, however, provides substantial savings to registrants, as well as ensuring automatic mailing of advance information. Learn more about the benefits of NSTA membership.
Special Events for First-Timers
Although NSTA conferences can be hugely rewarding, they can also be a little overwhelming to the first-timer. NSTA holds a special session at conferences—Is This Your First NSTA Conference?—to share tips and tricks with first-timers. Check your program for details, or search the sessions online. An additional session—Conference Tips for First Timers—is scheduled at national conferences.
If you are new to the teaching field, you may want to attend the New/Preservice Teachers Breakfast, which is featured at all NSTA conferences. This popular breakfast is sponsored by Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company and is offered at a substantially reduced cost. Experienced discussion leaders will not only advise you how to get the most out of the conference but also share the latest ideas and techniques for the typical science classroom.
Area and National Conferences: Which Conference to Attend
NSTA generally holds four conferences a year, a national conference in the spring and three area conferences in the fall, the locations varying from year to year. In accordance with NSTA's mission to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning, all conferences are carefully planned to respond to the changing professional development needs of science educators, especially in this standards-driven era. The host community plays a vital part in NSTA conferences, and local planning committees have a significant role in planning the program.
National conferences draw 9,000–12,000 attendees and may feature as many as 1,500 sessions and 400 exhibits. Most often, national conferences begin on a Thursday morning and conclude Sunday at 12:00 noon.
Area conferences draw 2,000–4,000 attendees and may have 300 sessions and 200 exhibits. Most often, area conferences begin on a Thursday and end on Saturday at 12:00 noon.
A Conference Preview is produced for each NSTA area and national conference. Containing conference details and highlights, the Conference Previews for the fall area conferences are mailed to NSTA members in August, and the Conference Preview for the spring national conference is mailed to NSTA members in December. If you are not a member and wish to receive a Conference Preview, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tips for First-Timers: Making Plans Early
No two districts or schools, even in the same state, have the same attitude about professional development opportunities for staff and attendance at conferences as a professional development activity. While it may not appear easy to work through attitudes and policies concerning professional development, it may be as easy as a phone call or e-mail to the right person. That person may be your department chair, principal, district science supervisor, assistant superintendent, superintendent, or all of the above.
Start the process early, at least two months before a conference. Do not wait until the day before registration is due to start your request. There are a couple of concerns that may be factors affecting your request to attend a conference.
First, most districts have concerns about the availability of qualified substitutes. This concern may determine how many teachers can be out of your school or district at the same time or the number of days you may be gone. Since your attendance at a conference may hinge on this factor alone, it is best to request substitutes early.
Another concern is the cost associated with registration, travel, and lodging that may be your responsibility, the district's, or shared. Some districts have professional development or other funds that can be accessed for this purpose. Most educators are able to reduce their out-of-pocket expenses with funding from grants or their school districts. Find out who is in charge of the funds and how you go about accessing them. Principals, district science supervisors, curriculum supervisors, staff development directors, and superintendents over science are good people to check with. Be sure to investigate your district restrictions on the dollar amount and frequency of travel and the paperwork required of you.
Remember, early registration saves money! Special earlybird and advance registration rates are offered for each conference. Also, hotel rates may vary considerably. Make your housing reservations early to ensure the housing of your choice.
NSTA reserves blocks of rooms at selected hotels and makes them available to conference attendees at a discount through the city's housing bureau. Attendees can receive these discounted rates by using the NSTA Housing Form provided online. These hotels are generally close to the city's convention center, where most NSTA activities are held. Shuttle buses are generally provided at no additional cost between outlying hotels and conference facilities and for special functions off site.
Substantial discounts are available to conference attendees by using NSTA-designated airlines. You must use the NSTA codes provided in the online conference pages. Each conference has its own set of codes; see the travel pages of the conference you are planning to attend.
What Do You Do First?
- Register for the conference. The earlier the better! The easiest way is to register online. NSTA's main conference menu will guide you to the registration form. You can also register using the registration form available by download from our forms page.
- Purchase the tickets you want on the registration form (professional development institutes, short courses, field trips, etc.).
- Make your hotel reservations through the housing bureau.
- Make your travel arrangements.
- Pack your bags!
The main conferences page will lead you to the information you need on a particular conference. If you need more help, e-mail email@example.com or call Beverly Shaw at 703-312-9232.
Components of an NSTA Conference
Once you have registered for a conference, your badge serves as your ticket of admission to all regularly scheduled sessions, including presentations, workshops, and exhibitor workshops, as well as invited presentations and the NSTA Exhibits.
Seating space is limited at popular presentations, especially at national conferences, and you are advised to arrive early at the sessions of your choice. In addition, workshops fill fast, and hands-on participation may be limited to those seated at tables. To get the most out of your attendance, prepare ahead of time using the online session browser. Information online is continually updated and will be of great help to you.
Certain events require tickets, which can be purchased in advance or on-site. Purchase tickets early and take advantage of special advance registration rates.
One of the biggest attractions at NSTA conferences is the NSTA Exhibits. These exhibits give you the opportunity to examine a wide variety of teaching materials, from textbooks to laboratory equipment. Some exhibitors sell products on site.
Thirty- or sixty-minute sessions during which the presenters share an innovative teaching idea or the results of research, or discuss a topic of general or specific interest. Presentations are set theater style, with chairs only.
Sixty-minute presentations that actively engage a limited number of participants in a hands-on activity. Workshops are set classroom style, with a limited number of tables for active participants and chairs for other attendees.
Professional Development Institutes
These are ticketed daylong learning opportunities provided by prominent experts. Professional Development Institutes at national conferences are followed by a pathway of selected sessions throughout the conference.
Research Dissemination Conferences
These ticketed one-day, single-topic conferences are designed to disseminate findings from current research-based projects.
Sponsored by exhibitors, these workshops give teachers an opportunity to use a variety of instructional materials in a laboratory-like setting.
The General Session and featured presentations are a highlight of NSTA conferences. Get the latest on a variety of science and science education issues and research.
Short courses are longer than regular sessions (three–six hours) and explore topics in greater depth. Short courses require a ticket to participate and generally a fee at the time of registration.
Educational field trips are a popular feature of NSTA conferences. Trips range from exploring natural attractions of the area to visiting local research facilities. Field trips are ticketed events.
Meetings and Networking Opportunities
Many business and committee meetings and social functions are scheduled for NSTA and its affiliate and associated groups at our conferences, particularly the national conference. Such meetings may be open or closed to the public; some are by invitation only. Networking opportunities are a great way to meet your peers and share your experiences. Some events require tickets and some do not. Events range from large, corporate-sponsored functions to affiliate luncheons, and may be held on or off site.