For more than 53 years, NSTA conventions have been a hallmark of the association. Our first convention was held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1952 and consisted of 617 teacher participants and a handful of presentations. We’ve visited scores of cities since then and our average yearly convention attendance is now 20,000! I attribute this success to NSTA’s ability to continually change in order to deliver what’s needed most by science teachers across the country. Today we are again experiencing great change.
NSTA has unveiled a new name—and an enriched format—for its time-honored conventions. The NSTA national and area conventions will now be called NSTA Conferences on Science Education. The change reflects the growth and evolution of conventions into deeper, more meaningful professional development experiences for teachers. We will debut the new name at our 54th National Conference on Science Education, which takes place April 6–9, 2006, in Anaheim, California, and is expected to draw more than 13,000 attendees.
Why did we make this change? Over the years we have been working to enhance our conventions to provide educators with professional development opportunities that are more expertly sequenced, focused, and extended over a longer period of time. This new approach is what research tells us is effective and can translate into meaningful learning experiences for teachers. As a result, we felt we needed a new name to convey how conventions provide this rich experience for teachers and address more of today’s important topics. There is a culture of professionalism reflected in conferences where attendees are, among other things, earning course credit or continuing educational units.
Let me highlight a few of the exciting new changes that have helped transform NSTA conventions into rich, professional development conferences.
Professional Development Institutes
In recent years, NSTA has infused its conventions with state-of-the-art professional development practices and methods to give science educators extended opportunities to grow professionally. National conferences now feature Professional Development Institutes (PDIs), which are focused, content-based learning events that explore topics in greater depth. First presented in 2004, they begin with a full-day session prior to an NSTA national conference, then continue with a focused four-day itinerary of related conference sessions. The PDIs have addressed important topics, including inquiry, the role of literacy in developing student understanding of science, assessment, and the analysis of instructional materials aligned to standards and state frameworks. Well-known professional development providers that have presented sessions include BSCS Center for Professional Development; Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC); First Hand Learning, Inc.; Lawrence Hall of Science, University of California, Berkeley; Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL); and WestEd.
Topical Research Dissemination Conferences
Recent NSTA conventions have introduced day-long topical research dissemination conferences. In 2004, NSTA presented Linking Science and Literacy in the Classroom for preK–8 teachers and administrators. In plenary sessions and multiple small-group workshops, speakers presented findings from their NSF-funded research that described hands-on roles of literacy in science instruction. Science Assessment: Research and Practice Approaches will be the focus of the next NSF-funded conference, which will take place in conjunction with the 54th NSTA National Conference on Science Education in Anaheim.
Symposia and Focused Strands
In addition to PDIs and research dissemination conferences, NSTA has introduced NSTA Symposia, half- or full-day learning events for conference participants, with “after conference” follow-up such as threaded discussion boards, and interactive web seminars. Each symposium introduces participants to world-renowned experts presenting science topics—from Mars habitat to force and motion—that is aligned to the National Science Education Standards. Symposia content is tightly coupled with hands-on activities that assist educators in translating symposia content into classroom practice.
NSTA has also designed its Conferences on Science Education around key strands that allow teachers to focus on specific areas of interest or need.
The perennially popular Exhibition of Science Teaching Materials has been enhanced with new features and schedule changes that will give teachers more opportunities to see and learn about the latest products, materials, and state-of-the-art resources for the science classroom.
In addition to these exciting new features, NSTA Conferences on Science Education will continue to offer the traditional events and opportunities from past conventions that teachers have come to expect, including notable speakers; hundreds of workshops, sessions and short courses; educational field trips; networking opportunities; and exciting social events.
We hope you are as excited as we are about this new change. We look forward to seeing you at the 2006 NSTA National Conference on Science Education in Anaheim. For more information and to register, visit us online at www.nsta.org/anaheimconference.
National Science Teachers Association