By Debra Shapiro
Department of Defense STEM Resources
Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education experts from the Department of Defense (DoD) and other federal agencies have developed many virtual education resources for STEM projects for K–college audiences. At the DoD STEM website, you can browse lesson guides, videos, activities, publications, and other tools designed to support teachers, students, and families in various STEM pursuits. For example, I Am the Future of STEM (grades K–5) is a printable activity book created by the Defense STEM Education Consortium and featuring games, puzzles, coloring sheets, and tips to engage elementary learners and their parents in STEM. How to Make a Six-Layer Density Column Experiment is a video lesson for middle level through college developed at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and challenging students to build a colorful column of liquids of different densities and to suspend objects in the different layers. ScienceNewsExplores, an online publication from the Society for Science and the Public, helps learners of all ages and levels—including adults—stay up to date on science research and new developments throughout STEM.
Considerations for STEM Education from PreK Through Grade 3
Quality early STEM experiences provide a critical foundation for learning about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). These early STEM experiences help students build key skills and understandings that can be used as they progress through school and life. Considerations for STEM Education from PreK Through Grade 3, a brief published from the Community for Advancing Discovery Research in Education (CADRE) network, presents key findings on this topic based on research and development supported by the National Science Foundation. The four-page report defines STEM, discusses research-based benefits of early STEM learning for students, and suggests ways to support early childhood educators in providing high-quality STEM learning for students.
You’re the Scientist! Citizen Science, Frogs, and Cicadas
This virtual field trip from The Nature Conservancy shows students in grades 3–8 how citizen science projects work. During the trip, students learn the history of citizen science—it started with cicadas!—then follow along as the host participates in a citizen scientist event with volunteers calling frogs and toads at wetlands in the Washington, D.C., area. The trip also discusses other citizen science opportunities and their benefits. An accompanying Teacher’s Guide contains discussion questions (and answers), which can be used during and after the virtual field trip. The guide also includes information on learning standards, vocabulary words, suggested action steps for getting started with citizen science opportunities, and links for additional resources.
Earth@Home Regional Textbooks
Explore Earth’s rich geological history through a series of regionally focused interactive digital textbooks developed by the Paleontological Research Institution’s Earth@Home project. Designed for high school and undergraduate college levels, the textbooks examine the Earth science of every region of the United States and provide necessary background information. For each region, the textbook presents a generalized overview of the geologic history of the area and its climate and Earth hazards. In addition, the textbook includes detailed information about the rocks, fossils, topography, energy resources, and mineral resources of each subregion.
Knowing a region’s specific geologic history helps students understand why the Earth looks like it does today and helps explain things like the distributions of natural resources, from minerals to soil. Studying Earth's ancient climate also helps students understand how the climate is changing today and how these changes affect the locations where we live.
Air and Space Forces Association (AFA) Educator Grants
AFA awards $20,000 in grants to 40 educators poised to make a lasting difference. The grant amount is $599. The Educator Grant program promotes aerospace education activities in K–12 classrooms. The program encourages development of innovative aerospace activities within the prescribed curriculum. AFA selects projects that best serve our nation’s students and support their mission. (Deadline December 15)
STEM Wonderland Activity Plan Competition
The Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) wants to see your student-led STEM activity plans that can be completed at home during the holiday breaks. Teachers of any grade level or subject are invited to submit a student-led activity plan that incorporates a hands-on STEM activity! (Deadline December 15) Three teachers will be awarded the following:
NASA’s Power to Explore Student Challenge
This writing challenge invites K–12 students in the United States to learn about radioisotope power systems, a type of nuclear battery integral to many of NASA’s far-reaching space missions, then write an essay about a new powered mission for the agency. For more than 60 years, radioisotope power systems have helped NASA explore the harshest, darkest, and dustiest parts of our solar system and has enabled many spacecraft to conduct otherwise impossible missions in total darkness. Entries should detail where students would go, what they would explore, and how they would use radioisotope power systems to achieve mission success in a dusty, dark, or far away space destination with limited or obstructed access to light. (Deadline January 26, 2024)
Judges will review entries in three grade-level categories: K–4, 5–8, and 9–12. Student entries are limited to 250 words and should address the mission destination and mission goals and describe one of the student’s unique powers that will help the mission. One grand-prize winner from each grade category (three total) will receive a trip for two to NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, to learn about the people and technologies that enable NASA missions. Every student who submits an entry will receive a digital certificate and an invitation to a virtual event with NASA experts, when they’ll learn about what powers the NASA workforce to dream big and explore.
2024 LiftOff Summer Institute: Growing on Earth and Beyond
The 2024 LiftOff Summer Institute is a week-long (June 24–28) training event at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, sponsored by the agency’s Texas Space Grant Consortium. This year’s theme is "Growing on Earth and Beyond." Attendees will explore the vital role plants will play in survival during long-duration missions and ways NASA is innovating plant growth and adaptation. Participants will attend presentations by NASA scientists and engineers, tour NASA facilities, and receive hands-on, inquiry-based classroom activities aligned to education standards.
Applicants must be U.S. citizens currently employed as classroom teachers of grades 5–12, or currently enrolled in a preservice teacher program. (Deadline December 23)
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