The Best Way to Answer Kids’ Questions, and Other Things I Learned at #NSTA14 Richmond

collage of images from Richmond keynoteWhen you bring a bunch of science teachers together, the most amazing, surprising connections are made. Last week in Richmond, Virginia, thousands of science educators gathered to talk about informal science, reach for the stars, and make connections that solidly ground them in professional learning communities that will keep them as energized throughout the year as they were while gathered at that conference.

National Geographic Explorer Brendan Mullan kicked off the conference with a keynote address  that delivered one of the most important messages of the week. He said his parents were inspiring because they were real people. And it was that inspiration that led him to become an explorer, a FameLab winner, and an astrophysicist who sees no limits in our abilities to teach kids to learn, explore, and expand their knowledge.

Richmond telescope winnerAs teachers who are nurturing the next generation of scientists, NSTA members are the real people who are inspiring explorers and astrophysicists who are searching for intelligent life beyond our planet. One simple act can truly take us to the outer reaches… both of our imaginations and the solar system. And NSTA conferences are the perfect place to be inspired. As part of the conference, we harnessed some star power ourselves and gave away telescopes to three lucky winners at our book store. Congrats to the winners: Megan Ennes, Ann Davis, and David Pagel! Join us at our next Conference on Science Education in Orlando from November 6 to 8 and become an NSTA member/winner too.

Since October is Connected Educator Month (CEM), we were especially pleased to see connected educators everywhere in Richmond. One especially powerful connection was among Twitter users who have formed a professional learning community around the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). On Thursday, October 16, they held a Twitter chat from Richmond, and the ideas and solutions that bubbled up were incredible. Read more about the chat: #NGSSchat PD for the NGSS. And NSTA is not leaving CEM at the conference. On Thursday, October 23, from 1:00pm – 2:00pm ET, Dr. Al Byers, NSTA Associate Executive Director, Services will be participating in a panel discussion on Designing and Evaluating Effective Online Communities of Practices.

Preeti Gupta from AMNHTwitter brought us a quote that resonated throughout the conference: “My mission is to maintain the curiosity kids have about sci into adulthood. If you’re in science now, don’t ever forget where you came from.” (@realscientists) Partnerships among museums and schools are great proponents of helping kids nurture their innate curiosity and develop it as they become citizens of our society. On Friday, October 17, Preeti Gupta talked with teachers about the kinds of activities that support children and youth in developing an interest in science, and potentially pursue careers in STEM. Her videos of the Science Club she worked with were particularly motivating! Read more about the work Gupta does at the American Museum of Natural History.

starbucks sign from NSTA in RichmondWhat fuels all these amazing connections? We can’t say for sure, but we are pretty sure that caffeine is involved. One of the winners of our #NSTAGroupie contest won a caffeine beaker mug, and whether she chooses to fill it with a caffeinated beverage or not, she’ll have an instant chemistry lesson in her hands to share with her friends and family when she gets home. Because sharing is what teachers do best, it’s the reason we ran a “groupie” contest rather ask for “selfies.” If you’re at our Orlando or Long Beach conferences, think about participating. We’ll be doing it at both!

trade book authors gather at NSTA conference in RichmondThe conference culminated with one of the greatest connections of all: A celebration of Science and Literacy in which NSTA partnered with the International Reading Association. Authors whose books are featured on the annual list of Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12 gathered to read, share, and enjoy the magic that happens when science and literacy come together. At that gathering, author Vicky Cobb encouraged teachers and parents alike to answer kids’ questions with “Great question. How can we find out?” This real answer for a real question brought the week full circle for me. I’m guessing that’s exactly the type of answer Brendan Mullan’s parents would have given him, as they empowered him to become the amazing scientist he is today.

Many many more great connections were made last week, and we’d love to hear about yours. Please tweet using #NSTA14, or share on our Facebook page. If you did attend, please be sure to complete session evaluations for a chance to win a Kindle Fire. Evaluations can be completed online. Read more about the conference from early education expert Peggy Ashbrook: Richmond, Virginia and science in early childhood 2014 NSTA area conference.

The mission of NSTA is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all.

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Using Your NSTA Social Media Dashboard for Connected Educator Month

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MMYM_60minOctober is Connected Educator Month (CEM), and NSTA supports the goals of not only getting more educators connected through social media, but also elevating those connections to develop personal learning networks. Originally developed by the U.S. Department of Education, CEM offers highly distributed, diverse, and engaging activities to educators at all levels. CEM programs include webinars, video conferences, and tutorials.

Dr. Al Byers, NSTA Associate Executive Director, Services will be participating in a panel discussion on Designing and Evaluating Effective Online Communities of Practices. Thursday, October 23, from 1:00pm – 2:00pm ET

NSTA members have a head start establishing and sustaining personal learning networks: NSTA’s Social Media Dashboard. Use NSTA’s social media channels to reach other members, download resources, and explore fresh ideas for creative professional learning. In just 15 minutes, you can pick a platform to connect—or master all of them!

  • LinkedIn
    NSTA’s LinkedIn group allows for open discussions and dialogue among members, experts, and other science education professionals.
  • Twitter
    Faster than email and quick to learn, Twitter has a robust grassroots segment for teachers, administrators, and educators. Great platform for following and contributing to discussions using hashtags like #cem14!
  • Facebook
    Never miss NSTA news, publications, or special events by being a fan of the NSTA Facebook page. Share your ideas, comments, and classroom stories on Facebook with the larger community.
  • Pinterest
    Everything from an inspirational quote to an instructional model is available from NSTA’s Pinterest page. Find out what science teachers are reading, learn more about Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and share the next science toy or tool to make a difference in the classroom.
  • YouTube
    Videos from experts, NSTA staff and authors, and members like you. Subscribe to this channel to get the latest science education videos from NSTA.
  • Google+
    A growing platform for sharing videos, images, and resources for science educators. It’s easy to add other science educators to your circles and start a conversation immediately.

More Time?

If you have more time, consider investigating the NSTA Blog, the platform where social media began. The blog is written by experts, NSTA staff, and by members like you. In addition to learning more about science lessons, the NGSS, and upcoming science-related events, blog posts offer the opportunity to not only comment on each post, but also share NSTA blog posts with your networks.

Not a member of NSTA? Learn more about how to join.

Laura Berry of Cogberry Creative is our guest blogger for this series. Laura is a communications professional for the education community.

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Richmond, Virginia and science in early childhood 2014 NSTA area conference

Train station on Main StreetHere are some glimpses from the NSTA 2014 Richmond, Virginia area conference where teachers shared their work and learned from others. The location is excellent—beautiful train station, hotels just across the street from the convention center, easy access to restaurants and helpful staff people abound! This morning I had the other half of my chicken dinner from Pasture and it was still delicious.

Teachers working together to consider solving an engineering problem.In one session I was delighted (but not surprised) to see teachers collaborating on designing and building their solutions to engineering problems presented to us. We were given the familiar problems of building a chair for Baby Bear (Goldilocks and the Three Bears) and a house for a pig (Three Little Pigs) that would meet certain requirements. Teachers give thumbs up to show they are satisfied with their design.This is how it felt to be problem-solving with a group…excited to be challenged, and impressed with my colleagues design ideas, their ability to communicate, their small motor skills and their willingness to take chances and try again. We didn’t have time to discuss how to implement engineering challenges in our classrooms but later a colleague suggested that we don’t have to present children with problems because every day young children encounter problems to solve in their play. Some that come to mind include, keeping their block structure from falling over, choosing the best blanket to drape over chairs for a tent, digging holes that won’t collapse, and carrying armloads of balls. These are problems that they need to solve for their own purposes. They are also opportunities for teachers to support the Practices of science and engineering while working alongside or observing children. 

IMG_3514 Discussion during a session.The session, Defining Science Learning and Teaching for Early Childhood, was an in-depth look at the recently released NSTA position statement on Early Childhood Science Education. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has endorsed the position statement. Members of the NAEYC Early Childhood Science Interest Forum will be presenting an expanded version of this session in Dallas at the conference next month, November 5-8.

Early childhood educators create community wherever we are!Some of the best discussions took place just after or between sessions. Chat up the person next to you, you might just discover that she is an early childhood teacher from the same small community where your cousins live! 

There are two more days of the conference to enjoy! On Saturday, children and their families are invited to a free event, Celebration of Literacy and Science, in the Grand Ballroom, Greater Richmond Convention Center where they will join other conference goers to a panel discussion of authors of outstanding science trade books who will share what inspires them, how they do their work, and how their books can be used in teaching (10:00 AM – 11:30 AM). Children and their parents are invited to visit with authors to explore their mutual curiosity and wonder about the natural world (11:45 AM – 1:15 PM). Families and homeschoolers will also be able to tour the NSTA exhibit hall and the NSTA Science Store (9am-12pm).

I always get recharged and expand my network at conferences!

 

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Crosscutting Concepts in NSTA Journals

The more I learn about NGSS, the more I’m intrigued by the crosscutting concepts. These concepts are the big ideas that transcend and connect the core ideas and processes within and in between traditional subject areas. This month’s Science & Children has a guest editorial on the topic that is a must-read for teachers of all levels: Implementing NGSS Crosscutting Concepts

One of the perks of being an NSTA member is having access to all of the journals online. Regardless of the grade level you teach, the journals have ideas for authentic activities and investigations that can be used, adapted, or extended for different levels of student interest and experience. Many are written using the 5E model and most describe their connections to the NGSS. The articles in NSTA’s October K-12 journals focus on three of the NGSS crosscutting concepts: Patterns, Cause and Effect, and Systems and System Models.

Science & Children: Patterns

This issue is the beginning of a series that will address each of the crosscutting concepts with “snapshots” of activities that include the concepts, starting with patterns. Here are some SciLinks that provide additional content information and suggestions for additional activities and investigations:

Continue reading …

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Observe. Everything. Young children, Science Friday and walks in nature

A spider on a daisy flower.

Why is a spider hanging out on a flower? Two-year-old children observed this spider but haven’t yet asked a question about it. Give them time. #ObserveEverything

“Observation is that first step to discovery,” noted Ariel Zych, Science Friday Education Manager, in a audio segment about Science Friday’s Science Club citizen science challenge, #ObserveEverything.

Science Club notes that scientists such as Galileo, Darwin and Curie made careful observations which led to their discoveries. As individuals or as groups or a class, we are invited to do just that: observe everything and anything, and communicate our observation in one of many formats including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, Pinterest, YouTube, Email, and Tumblr! And, of course, we’ll communicate our observation to other students and parents.

All we have to do is:

  1. Observe everything until we notice something that interests you.
  2. Observe it methodically, in the same way, at regular intervals, keeping a record of our observations.
  3. Share our observations with the hashtag #ObserveEverything (see details at https://www.rebelmouse.com/scifri/Science-Club/ )

As I walked with a small class of two year olds (25-30 months old) for the first time through a tended garden near the school, I pointed out features of plants that I thought would interest them. We looked at a tree “thiiiisssss” tall with small leaves (willow oak) and a smaller tree (but still big to them) with big leaves (paw-paw). We used one gentle finger to touch the leaves and whole hands and bodies to hold the trunk. They spotted ants on tree bark, crows in tree tops, squirrels dashing to climb trees and bees going from flower to flower. A few children confidently said, “They’re getting pollen.” Most exciting was the observation of a small spider on a daisy flower. None of the children yet wondered why the spider was on the flower. With time and discussion, they will see a pattern of animals using plants to survive (NGSS K-LS1-1).

As we walked and observed, the adults often reminded the group about ways we can be good stewards of this garden tended by others:

  • Walk on the grass or the mulch paths.
  • Use our eyes to see, our nose to smell, and a gentle finger to touch (most things).
  • Pick up leaves from the ground, not off a plant because it is still using them.
  • Stop and “freeze” if you see an animal so you can watch it for a while without scaring it away.

See articles such as “A Day at the Beach, Anyone?” by Anthony Fredericks and Julie Childers (Science and Children July 2004) and other NSTA posts (here and here) for suggestions on preparing for field trips.

We observed everything! I wonder what observation, and maybe questions, we’ll post next time?

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How Can Science Teachers Use the NGSS to Support English Language Learners’ Construction of Knowledge?

word cloud for Miller blogThis era of AYP (annual yearly progress) and the pressure to meet AMAOs for English Language Learners (ELLs) has fueled our current focus on academic language goals, often framed as vocabulary or discrete elements of grammar. But this narrow focus can result in missed opportunities to seek out and build on student-centered cultural and linguistic resources. Teachers need to focus on developing and honing their pedagogical skills to solicit student ideas and link students’ cultural experiences to the classroom. When we’re able to do that, science class becomes the optimal place to build on the prior understandings and language skills and language-rich practices that all of our students have developed at home and in their communities.

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The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) offer a way to start the journey of reflective teaching and raise the bar of science learning for all students. Appendix D—All Standards, All Students is accompanied by seven case studies of diverse student groups and addresses what classroom teachers can do to ensure that the NGSS are accessible to all students. The introduction states: “The chapter highlights practicality and utility of implementation strategies that are grounded in theoretical or conceptual frameworks. It consists of three parts. First, it discusses both learning opportunities and challenges that the NGSS present to student groups that have traditionally been underserved in science classrooms. Second, it describes effective strategies for implementation of the NGSS in the classroom, school, home, and community. Finally, it provides the context of student diversity by addressing changing demographics, persistent science achievement gaps, and educational policies affecting non-dominant student groups.”

I was honored to have taken the lead for Case Study 4: English Language Learners and the Next Generation Science Standards and provide the classroom vignette. In this unit, I engage ELLs with three-dimensional learning, in part, by bridging home and community with school. I use a homework assignment to validate the science knowledge in the home and develop comprehensive understanding of the science ideas, which compels a new driving question.

I have students take the Driving Question, “Is all soil the same?” to their families as an “interview.” The students solicit their families’ experiences with soil and write down the interview responses to share with the class. As a result of the homework, many students, especially those whose families have expertise in gardening, have deep, thoughtful conversations with their family. All of the ELL students strengthen their content-specific vocabulary in their home language, and they have an opportunity to bridge the content and vocabulary learned in school with their experiences at home. For example, newcomers from Gambia and Senegal are able to make sense of the science discussions in English after the translated homework is sent home and discussed in the home language.

The extra effort to connect home and school sends a message about the high value placed on home and cultural knowledge and experiences. The students feel validated and so do their family members. One Hmong parent, Mrs. Xiong, a vegetable vendor at a farmers’ market, offers to come into the classroom and share her expertise. She speaks through the school interpreter: “It’s raining in Laos pretty much all the time so the soil is pretty much rich. It rains so much the forest holds everything together and holds the nutrients. It doesn’t wash out. Over there we don’t have sandy soil. In this area, I was so surprised to see corn growing in rows in the sandy soil.” The class is fascinated by Mrs. Xiong’s description of fertilization techniques in her home country. After presenting families’ interviews about soil to their classmates, the students frequently bring up specific comments made by members of their family. It seems that the homework assignment is a small but powerful catalyst for inclusion.

The students write the evidence from their interviews onto sentence strips and include the evidence on the class’ Evidence Wall. This is powerful for some students, who see their parents’ words elevated to the same height as the evidence from shared readings! The students then analyze the data. The class discusses the similarities among the data and look for patterns, getting out a large world map. Everyone is unanimous that soil is different around the world. This discussion leads to the next Driving Question: “Is the soil the same in different places in our neighborhood?” The students spend the next three weeks engaged with the new driving question, collecting soil and analyzing it in three different locations around the school.

The ELL case study, soon to be published in the NSTA book, All Standards, All Students: Next Generation Science Standards in the Classroom, inspires teachers to attempt some new approaches for teaching science that will lead to success for their underserved students. As ELLs engage in sense-making with others around them, they draw from the experiences and conversations they have in their home, in their home language. When teachers tap into these experiences and discussions, they open the door to amazingly rich conversations and collaborative sense-making. Through the changes brought on by the NGSS, combined with creative teaching, we will see more of our students viewing STEM as a viable option for careers and grasping the value of science for understanding the world around them. By making purposeful connections to home and community resources, teachers of ELLs can take advantage of opportunities that engage students–transferring knowledge, practices, and crosscutting concepts across languages and home and community experiences.

Today’s Guest Blogger

Emily MillerEmily Miller is a practicing teacher and a lead writer for the NGSS Diversity and Equity Writing Team. She has taught science as an ESL/ Bilingual Resource science specialist at a Title 1 urban school for 16 years. Emily has used the NGSS in her own diverse classroom and improved and refined teaching to the standards with her students. She is consulting with the Wisconsin Center for Educational Research to develop teacher tools to promote sense making and language learning for ELLs in science. Email her at emilycatherine329@gmail.com.

Editor’s Note

Coming soon from the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA): Look for the NSTA press publication, NGSS for All: Reaching Every Student, expected out in 2015. The book will include the seven case studies from NGSS Appendix D as well as additional chapters on interpretations and applications of the case studies for K-12 classrooms and in professional development.  To view the case studies, visit the NGSS@NSTA Hub. You can also view them on the official NGSS website. Also read a related journal article authored by Emily and her colleagues, Hedi Baxter Laufer and Paula Messina. The article, NGSS for English Language Learners: From theory to planning to practice appeared in the January 2014 issue of Science and Children.

 

The mission of NSTA is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all.

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Highlights from the Hall: #NSTA14 Richmond October 16–18

Richmond conference logoWe’re just days away from the first NSTA area conference of the year. We’ll be making ourselves at home at the Greater Richmond Convention Center in Richmond, Virginia, from October 16-18, and we invite you to join us as we Celebrate Science Inside and Out!

Brendan MullanWe kick things off on Thursday morning (October 16) with keynote speaker Brendan Mullan at 9:15am. Mullan, 2013 National Geographic Emerging Explorer, national champion of the 2012 U.S. FameLab science communication competition, and director of the Buhl Planetarium and Observatory at the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, PA, will talk about Selling the Science Story. Attendees will learn about new avenues in SETI (the search for extraterrestrial intelligence) and the types of 21st-century skills that he thinks students will need to become “interstellar archaeologists.” After the keynote, conference attendees will have an exclusive opportunity to meet Mullan in the Exhibit Hall at the National Geographic booth # 223. Our staff can’t wait to meet him personally and to thank National Geographic for sponsoring his appearance.

program preview coverProgramming-wise, we’ve hand-selected and vetted more than 200 unique sessions, workshops, and presentations resulting in a diverse range of professional learning opportunities with something for everyone—from classroom teachers to administrators and informal educators at all age levels and interests. You can check out all the sessions online via the Session Browser, or view the program preview (pdf).

We would like to recognize and thank our outstanding Exhibitors who have lots of exciting hands-on activities in store for you. We have more than 80 unique exhibits to visit and have put together a list highlighting the must-see activities that will take place in the Exhibit Hall over the course of the conference. But the list just shows a few, so to better plan your visit and see which goodies you’ll want to take home to your school, review all of the Richmond Exhibitors by taking a spin around the online floorplan, which includes a roster of exhibitors, a description of what they’ll be featuring, and where they’re located in the Exhibit Hall.

literacy celebration flyer (pdf)As part of this special conference, NSTA is hosting a Celebration of Literacy and Science, which will be on Saturday. Eight nationally renowned authors will discuss their books, meet and greet attendees, and host book signings and readings throughout the event. The event is FREE to all attendees and families who would like to join us on Saturday morning. More details are available online.

We know you’ll enjoy the conference, and we hope you’ll share your experience with us. NSTA will be holding a “groupie” photo contest via Twitter (because science teachers share so much—even their “selfies” tend to be shared with their colleagues). If you’re onsite, please use hashtag #NSTAGroupie to tweet us pictures of the conference. Participants will be entered to win drawings taking place onsite on Friday and Saturday, and prizes include airline vouchers, NSTA gear, and gift certificates to the onsite Science Store.

image of a phone with the conference appFor the latest conference information, download the Richmond Conference App. If you’re not already registered, there is still time to join us and you can register online 24/7.  We’re excited to see you next week!

Today’s guest blogger is Jason Sheldrake, Assistant Executive Director, National Science Teachers Association. For question about the Richmond exhibits, please contact Jason at jsheldrake@nsta.org; or contact Jeffrey LeGrand, NSTA Exhibits and Advertising Associate, at jlegrand@nsta.org.

2014 Area Conferences on Science Education

Richmond, VA – October 16-18

Orlando, FL – November 6-8

Long Beach, CA (in collaboration with CSTA) – December 4-6

2015 National Conference on Science Education

Chicago, IL – March 12-15

The mission of NSTA is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all.

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How Can NSTA Help Me Teach Science to Students With Special Needs?

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This past summer, NSTA member Naomi Beverly participated in the Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy. Since then, Beverly says that she has gone to the NSTA website and the NSTA Learning Center almost every day to participate in discussions with other science teachers, research lesson plan ideas, and increase her science content knowledge. Beverly, who teaches science to third-grade special education students, calls her NSTA membership and access to the NSTA Learning Center a “blessing.” “I get high-quality professional development at my own pace,” she says.

Beverly: I access the Learning Center so much. I enjoy using the SciPacks, SciGuides, and the Science Objects. Those are really helpful to me, because my undergraduate degree was not in education. So, I’m missing a lot of science content. I received a master’s degree in special education and the science content support I receive from NSTA allows me to properly teach science to my students. Otherwise, how could I help out some of the lowest-performing kids with the greatest needs when I don’t have a solid content base?? Through my NSTA membership, I can study the science content and fill in any gaps in my understanding.

I find quality lesson plans with tons of activities in the Learning Center. So, I don’t have to rattle my brain and try to recreate the wheel. A lot of the activities are hands-on, as well, which is so important when teaching students with special needs. Some of them fall below grade-level in reading, so they really benefit from participating in interactive activities and visual simulations that engage them. NSTA provides those activities.

For instance, I have used content from the Science Object, “Science of Food Safety: Understanding the Cell’s Importance” in my classroom. The module includes a really cool simulation that I show my students on how quickly bacteria can replicate. Just seeing that simulation and having that interactive experience is valuable to them. Now, if I ask those students “How long does it take a bacterium to replicate?” they know the answer and remember that simulation.

We’re focusing on habitats right now. Ocean habitats, for example, include plankton and other organisms that can be too abstract for my third-grade students with special needs to understand at first. They don’t have the vocabulary and the real-world experience. Showing them something interactive on the computer, though, helps. I’m going to incorporate what I’ve learned in the Coral Reef Ecosystems SciPack in my class. My students will be able to see what happens to the health of a reef when conditions change (for example, if the reef isn’t getting enough sunlight). Those sort of simulations that expose students to science and vocabulary are really valuable.

(Note from NSTA: “Science for All” is a key goal of science education. NSTA provides strategies and resources for making science accessible for all students. Not a member of NSTA? Learn more about how to join.)

Jennifer Henderson is our guest blogger for this series. Before launching her freelance career as a writer/editor, Jennifer was Managing Editor of The Science Teacher, NSTA’s peer-reviewed journal for high school science teachers.

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Any questions? Good.

I need suggestions on encouraging students to tell me when they don’t understand something. I ask my classes if they need any help, but no one seems to have any questions. The next day, it’s as if they never heard of the topic before! —A. from Nevada

Questions are good, but sometimes people don’t have questions or concerns until later, after they’ve “digested” the material and try to recall, use, or apply it. I did a workshop with another instructor on a technology tool for teachers and administrators. The workshop was hands-on and based on the needs of the participants. The workshop seemed to go well, and the participants gave it high ratings. But there were very few questions.

My co-instructor called me a few days later. The help desk was now getting questions from the participants. She was very upset because she thought she had done an ineffective job. I reassured her that we had done a good job during the workshop, but once the participants were on their own, they realized their knowledge was a little shaky. Or their confidence disappeared without support standing right next to them. Or they ran into unforeseen glitches. My colleague had been very supportive and so the participants felt comfortable contacting the helpdesk. I suggested that if the participants did not see the value of the tool, they would have given up.

Continue reading …

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My Name Is Teshia and I’m an NSTA Groupie

images on a clothesline showing NSTA staffYes, my name is Teshia Birts, and I’m an #NSTAGroupie—I have been for four years now.

I became an #NSTAGroupie when I joined the NSTA staff as Senior Manager of Chapter and Associated Group Relations back in October, 2010. I was immediately hooked because that was just in time to go to my first NSTA conference, where I met some of the most creative and interesting people I know.  The network I began to build at my first conference was strengthened and enhanced as I worked with NSTA’s nearly 300 component organizations (state/province chapters, associated groups, and student chapters).  And now my role has evolved, as I recently accepted the role of Senior Director of Membership Development and Chapter Relations where I will continue to work with chapters and associated groups, and will add member development and engagement to my list of responsibilities.

This is an awesome opportunity for me—I have loved science since I was a child and studied mechanical engineering during my undergraduate studies.  This was in large part due to the outstanding science teachers who fed my curiosity.  I am now honored to count many NSTA members among my friends, and I am eager to continue to support this important profession.

NSTA’s role has always been to provide that support, and that won’t change. But we do have exciting new plans in store to connect with our members, so we can learn how best to serve YOU!  We also want to facilitate members engaging and connecting with one another.  We know our members (and science teachers in general) love to share – they write articles in our four peer-reviewed journals; they share ideas, challenges and solutions on our 17 topic-driven listservs; they network during our five conferences; and those are just some of the ways they network and learn from one another.

Networking and learning bring me back to the experiences that made me an NSTA groupie in the first place—and much of that began at our conferences.  And  at those conferences, I haven’t seen many ‘selfies’;  science teachers want to share and NSTA wants to as well, by getting to know you up close and personally.

So, in that spirit I am announcing a ‘groupie’ contest for our fall conference season!  Starting with our Richmond Area Conference on Science Education (taking place October 16-18), and continuing at our Orlando (November 6-8) and Long Beach (December 4-6) conferences, we will hold a Twitter contest using the hash tag #NSTAGroupie. Conference attendees who tweet a photo of themselves (preferably as part of a group) with the hash tag will be entered into a contest to win great prizes, including airline vouchers, NSTA gear, and gift certificates. For more information about the contest visit the NSTA Twitter Contest page. 

This will be the first of many ways I’ll be trying to connect you with the faces at NSTA, and we hope to see lots of your faces, too! I am so excited about my new role with NSTA and will be communicating with our members more over the coming months (and years).  I also look forward to hearing from you; please do not hesitate to reach out to me.  My contact information is listed below.

Teshia Birts, CAE
Senior Director, Membership  Development and Chapter Relations
e-mail: tbirts72@gmail.com
Twitter: @teshiabirts

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