Do you want to know how other educators are engaging students, honing skills, and incorporating science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) into their curricula? NSTA area conferences offer all this, as well as opportunities to expand professional networks and learn about each area’s cultural resources while in Louisville, Kentucky; Atlanta, Georgia; and Phoenix, Arizona.
The first area conference, “Science—Everyone, Everyday!,” will be held October 18–20 in Louisville. Conference attendees can choose to focus their professional development by following the strands—Everyday Connections: Science Across the Curriculum; Everyday Applications: Putting STEM to Work; and Everyday Innovations: Creativity and Problem Solving With Science. Sessions are identified for each strand to help educators explore the specific areas in greater depth.
Among the highlights in Louisville will be the keynote address, Updating the Development of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), by Stephen Pruitt, vice president for content, research, and development for Achieve, Inc. The second draft of the NGSS is expected to be released later this fall, and educators are anxious to learn more. Pruitt will provide an update on the development of the standards, including a timeline for release of drafts and final documents, the ways science educators can be involved, and implications for science teaching. (Pruitt will also address the standards at the Atlanta and Phoenix area conferences.)
The second area conference, “Science: Passport for Success,” will take place November 1–3 in Atlanta. Keynote speaker David Mizejewski, a naturalist with the National Wildlife Federation, will discuss the role of educators in Reconnecting Youth to the Outdoors, a topic especially relevant during a period when students’ time outside—whether for unstructured play or formal learning experiences—continues to decline. Animal ambassadors will assist Mizejewski in sharing his message.
Targeting professional development, the Atlanta conference includes three strands—Providing Access for All Students to the Science in STEM; Effective and Engaging K–8 Science; and No Student or Teacher Left Inside. “I love it that we’re focusing on an elementary strand.…In the state of Georgia, science counts equal to math, social studies, and English language arts,” says Kelly Price, program coordinator for the Atlanta conference and curriculum coordinator at Forsyth County Schools in Cumming, Georgia. “I feel like we’re pretty ahead of the game” when it comes to the NGSS, she says, adding that she is excited to hear educators’ feedback on Georgia’s plan to implement the NGSS in 2015 and 2016. “The field-trip selection is pretty incredible,” she adds, noting two in particular are sure to be popular: Foodie Science, featuring dinner and conversation with local chef Scott Serpas, and Behind the Scenes at Georgia Aquarium, a resource she calls “a huge plus” for educators.
In Phoenix, area conference attendees will “Honor the Past; Prepare the Future,” December 6–8. Keynote speaker astronaut Eileen Collins will reflect on her experience as the first woman to command a shuttle mission while discussing Leadership Lessons from Apollo to Discovery . “We are celebrating our 100th year of statehood in Arizona in 2012, so that is one reason for ‘honor the past,’” explains Janey Kaufmann, conference chairperson and preK–12 science academic coach for the Scottsdale Unified School District in Scottsdale, Arizona. “It was also the end of the era of the space shuttle this year.…Our strands (The STEM Puzzle—Putting It Together; Literacy: Communicating and Understanding Science; and Sustainability: Growing, Nurturing, and Ensuring Our Future) reflect the [theme] ‘prepare the future’ since STEM, literacy in science, and sustainability are essential to our future successes.”
In addition to the keynote speakers, three featured speakers at each area conference will focus on a particular strand. In Louisville, the featured speakers are Christine M. Cunningham, founder and director of Engineering Is Elementary and a vice president at the Museum of Science (Everyday Applications: Putting STEM to Work); Steven W. Gilbert, author of Models-Based Science Teaching (Everyday Connections: Science Across the Curriculum); and Michelle J. Johnson, associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation, Medical College of Wisconsin, and research assistant professor, biomedical engineering, Marquette University (Everyday Innovations: Creativity and Problem Solving with Science). Atlanta’s featured speakers are Cary Woodruff, paleontology graduate student, Montana State University (No Student or Teacher Left Inside); Brad Cohen, educator, author, and president of the Brad Cohen Tourette Foundation (Providing Access for All Students to the Science in STEM); and NSTA President Karen L. Ostlund (Effective and Engaging K–8 Science). Featured speakers in Phoenix are Jo Anne Vasquez, vice president and program director, Arizona Transition Years, Teacher and Curriculum STEM Initiatives, Helios Education Foundation (The STEM Puzzle—Putting It Together); James J. Elser, a Fulbright senior lecturer and distinguished sustainability scientist, Arizona State University (Sustainability: Growing, Nurturing, and Ensuring Our Future); and Diandra L. Leslie-Pelecky, physics professor, West Virginia University (Literacy: Communicating and Understanding Science).