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Week of June 27, 2011

Table of Contents

Sally Ride Science

NRC Issues Report on Successful K–12 STEM Education

A report issued last week by the National Research Council recommends ways to improve K–12 STEM education and calls on policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels to raise science education to the same level of importance as math and reading.

Successful K–12 STEM Education: Identifying Effective Approaches in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics provides detailed examples of and key guidelines for three types of specialty schools currently in practice to improve student outcomes: selective STEM schools, which are organized around these fields and have selective admissions criteria; inclusive STEM schools, which have the same focus but without selective admissions; and STEM-focused career and technical education programs, which allow students to explore practical applications of science and related career options.

The report offers five proposals for schools and districts to improve K–12 education:

  • Consider all three models of STEM-focused schools described in the report to meet the various goals for STEM education.
  • Devote adequate instructional time and resources to science in grades K–5.
  • Ensure that STEM curricula are focused on the most important topics in each discipline, are rigorous, and are articulated as a sequence of topics and performances.
  • Enhance the capacity of K–12 teachers.
  • Provide instructional leaders with professional development that helps them to create the school conditions that appear to support student achievement.

The report notes that national and state policymakers also should invest in helping educators in STEM fields teach more effectively. “Teachers should be able to pursue professional development through peer collaboration and professional learning communities, among other approaches. Schools and school districts should devote adequate instructional time and resources to science in grades K–5 to lay a foundation for further study, as research suggests that interest in science careers may develop in the elementary school years.” 

The report was developed in response to a request from Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) to the National Science Foundation to identify highly successful K–12 schools and programs in STEM fields. NSF funded the NRC report.

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NSTA and Applied Materials Unveil the Clean Tech Competition for Students

Clean Tech Competition logoNSTA, in partnership with Applied Materials and the Chinese Association of Children’s Science Instructors, recently unveiled a new design contest—The Clean Tech Competition—aimed at engaging students ages 13–18 in real-world challenges that illustrate the powerful potential of clean technology to address critical global issues.

The inaugural year of the competition is open to students living in the San Francisco/Bay Area and in Xi'an, China. Although youth of all skill, ability, and interest levels in each region will only compete against other student teams in their own region, the competition will engage students in both countries in a common challenge to highlight the roles that science and technology and the strategy of design play in solving problems that transcend national boundaries and to help prepare students for success in life.

The 2011 challenge posed to students is “Solar Solutions to the Rescue.” Teams of students will design a solar-powered solution to a basic human need identified in the aftermath of a natural disaster. Participants will identify a situation, explore the issue, and then present their unique clean tech solution to a panel of industry and education experts for judging. Teams in each region will compete for $17,000 in cash prizes.

The formal launch of the program will occur in August; however teachers are encouraged to register themselves as a team leader now to begin receiving program updates in preparation for this fall’s challenge. For more information about The Clean Tech Competition or to learn how to register, click here.

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Summer Content Study via NSTA’s Short Courses

Teachers interested in learning new science content or refreshing their knowledge might consider two summer short courses.

Energy, 8:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Eastern time, beginning on July 12, 2011, and including the following dates: 7/12, 7/19, 7/26, 8/2, and 8/9.
Earth, Sun and Moon, 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time, beginning on July 11, 2011, and including the following dates: 7/18, 7/25, 8/1, and 8/8/.

Participants engage in five live sessions and asynchronous discussions in which an expert course instructor and participating colleagues share ideas on how to present the topic in the classroom. The participants will use a variety of supplemental resources that will assist in self-paced work offline to boost content knowledge and understanding of the topic. Finally, participants have exclusive access to the presenters' PowerPoint presentations and list of web links and can watch the archived web sessions as needed.

For each of the above courses, two hours of graded, graduate credit are available through Oklahoma State University. The price is $150 per hour with a $40 registration fee for a total of $340 for the two credits.

To receive notification of dates for scheduled short courses or more information, send an e-mail to shortcourses@nsta.org with your request.

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U.S. Navy Plans to Double Its Investment in STEM Education

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced plans to double the Navy’s investment in STEM education to more than $100 million by 2015, up from $54 million in 2010, during a June 15 conference sponsored by the Office of Naval Research. He introduced a roadmap for renewing the Navy’s focus on providing educational opportunities for future naval scientists and engineers with new programs that will help increase participation by students and teachers in underrepresented communities and address gaps in the current naval STEM portfolio.

Mabus said the Navy’s STEM priority areas will: inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers; engage students in STEM-related hands-on learning using Navy-centric content; educate students in the STEM disciplines, so they are prepared for the Navy and Marine Corps’ high-tech careers; employ, retain, and develop naval STEM professionals; and collaborate across the naval STEM enterprise with organizations around the country to maximize the benefit to the Navy and Marine Corps.

According to the Navy press release, “The Department of the Navy’s emphasis on STEM initiatives is due in part to an aging science and technology (S&T) workforce. More than 50 percent of the Navy’s scientists, engineers and related disciplines will be retirement eligible by 2020.”

Learn more at the Office of Naval Research website.

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Comprehensive and Cost-free PD for New Middle and High School Science Teachers

Administrators who make decisions about professional development should take a long look at NSTA’s New Science Teachers Academy, a year-long program that offers top-notch resources and mentoring to second- and third-year science teachers. “Fellows” who apply and are chosen for the Academy enjoy a range of benefits intended to boost teacher confidence and classroom excellence and improve teacher content knowledge. Among many other benefits, fellows will enjoy:

  • Membership in NSTA and all its advantages;
  • Use of web-based PD learning activities for content knowledge including web seminars led by science experts;
  • Complimentary registration to NSTA’s annual national conference with lodging, meals, and air travel;
  • Participation in a PD institute or research conference and more.

Sharing these experiences with others across the nation who come together to meet and bond at the National Conference has served to strengthen the personal benefits and create lasting friendships for the Fellows.

Keith Patz, a 2010 Fellow said, “This has been a fantastic experience-from the webinars to the mentors and this great week away at the conference with other science teachers. It’s awesome and I’ve gained so much knowledge. Seriously.”

Visit www.nsta.org/academy to get the details and complete an application. The deadline for receipt is July 1.

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NSTA Welcomes California University of Pennsylvania as Our Newest Professional Development Provider in the NSTA Learning Center

Designed for elementary and middle level teachers, Cal U’s online masters degree focuses on teaching inquiry across the STEM disciplines. Each course in the 30-credit program also develops your teacher leadership skills so you can take your career to the next level. Join other talented teachers and experienced instructors for exhilarating conversations about teaching excellence. For more information visit California University of Pennsylvania’s website.

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Schoolyard Science-NSTA Press

Predict Observe Explain-NSTA Press

Uncovering Student Ideas in Physical Science-NSTA Press

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Professional development courses in your future?
Online options give you a world of choice.
Take a look at these groups offering courses for science educators!

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