Legislative Update: Administration Budget Request Would (Again) Cut Funding for Key Ed Programs

President Trump submitted his budget request for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 programs last week and, as expected, discretionary funding for the U.S. Department of Education would be cut significantly for FY20 programs that would begin this October. 

The President is requesting $62 billion for the Education Department for FY2020 fiscal year — a 12 percent reduction when compared with current funding.  He proposes to eliminate funding for 29 education programs, including funding for ESSA Title IVA Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants ($1.17 billion); Title II-Supporting Effective Instruction state grants ($2.1 billion); 21st Century Community Learning Centers ($1.2 billion). Title I funding and funding for IDEA (special education grants) would be level-funded.

This is the third year that the Administration has sought to cut ED’s budget. Fortunately, thanks to continued advocacy and voices from education community, Congress has repeatedly denied the Administration these cuts in funding.  As you will recall, Congress raised Title IV spending from $400 million to $1.1 billion in FY2018.

The FY20 budget request also includes a 10-year school choice program (Education Freedom Scholarships) that would create up to $5 billion a year in new tax credits for individuals and businesses that donate to scholarships that help students pay private school tuition or other education expenses

According to the Department of Education, the budget request also contains $300 million for Education Innovation and Research (EIR) grants, a $170 million increase from fiscal 2019. Of this amount, $200 million would be used for demonstration projects to “improve the quality and effectiveness of classroom instruction by empowering teachers to select their own professional development activities” and $100 million would be used for field-initiated projects that would promote innovation and reform in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, including computer science.

The Administration is also requesting $200 million for Teacher and School Leader Incentive Grants that would “help develop, implement, improve, or expand human capital management systems or performance-based compensation systems. New awards would support mentoring or residencies for novice teachers or increased compensation for effective teachers, particularly in high-need fields and subjects, such as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

In a statement Education Secretary DeVos said “this budget at its core is about education freedom — freedom for America’s students to pursue their life-long learning journeys in the ways and places that work best for them, freedom for teachers to develop their talents and pursue their passions and freedom from the top-down ‘Washington knows best’ approach that has proven ineffective and even harmful to students.”

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the top Democrat on the Senate education committee, responded by saying “Secretary DeVos is proposing gutting investments in students, teachers, public schools, and even school safety—all to make room for her extreme privatization proposal that no one asked for. This is not a serious budget proposal, and I am going to once again work with Republicans in Congress to ensure every student has access to a quality public education in their neighborhood.”

In a statement the Title IVA Coalition (NSTA is on the board of this Coalition) said,

 “For the third year in a row, we are deeply disappointed by the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget proposal to eliminate funding for the (ESSA Title IVA)  SSAE grant program despite districts finally being able to make use of these funds in a flexible and meaningful way to support students. The SSAE grant program under Title IV-A of ESSA is a flexible block grant that is designed to provide support for much needed student health and safety programs, well-rounded education programs, and the effective use of education technology.

“The Administration’s decision to zero out funding for this program—just as districts are utilizing the $1.1 billion Congress provided in FY18 and before the Department of Education has done any data collection on how states and districts are using these funds to support critical school and student needs—shows a complete lack of commitment to the success of the program.

“We find it contradictory of the Administration and the Secretary to routinely highlight the value of SSAE block grant by pointing to the value of the program in its reports (most recently, the Federal Commission on School Safety highlighted this program as a way of improving social emotional learning, school climate, and student safety) and speaking publicly about the flexibility and local control this program offers to districts to use funds based on their unique needs—but continuously call for the complete elimination of funding. Proposing no funding for the SSAE program for FY2020 reiterates the message this Administration continues sending to public schools: that it does not value investments in programs that make students safer at school, improve school climate, provide access to courses like AP, computer science, STEM, CTE, music and the arts, PE, or ensuring educators are prepared to use technology for blended and digital learning.

“Defunding the SSAE program stands in stark contrast with the will of Congress, which recognizes the value of this investment, and we are thankful for the $1.1 billion in FY18 and $1.17 billion in FY19 appropriated over the last two years. In order to give districts the opportunity to continue making effective use of these funds to improve the lives of students, we sincerely urge Congress to fund the SSAE grant program at its authorized level of $1.6 billion.”

Read more here and here.

Dems File Resolution that No Federal Funds Be Used to Train or Arm Teachers

Last week  Democratic lawmakers in both the Senate and House, including teacher U.S. Representative Jahana Hayes (CT-5),  introduced a resolution, S. Res. 110 (116), to “clarify” that the Department of Education cannot allow school districts to use federal funds to train or arm teachers with firearms.  Specifically, the resolution says that the funding under Title IV of the Every Student Succeeds Act can only be used for policies that will lead to weapons-free schools.

Watch the press conference here.

STEM for Girls

And finally, a bipartisan group of lawmakers has introduced legislation that would create and expand upon STEM education initiatives at the National Science Foundation for young children, including new research grants to increase the participation of girls in computer science.  Read more about the Building Blocks of STEM Act.

Stay tuned, and watch for more updates in future issues of NSTA Express.

Jodi Peterson is the Assistant Executive Director of Communication, Legislative & Public Affairs for the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and Chair of the STEM Education Coalition. Reach her via e-mail at jpeterson@nsta.org or via Twitter at @stemedadvocate.

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

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Ed News: A Wave of State Bills Could Threaten Science and Climate Education

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This week in education news, On International Women’s Day, a student reflects on a class that inspired her creativity; new research suggests that there are no real differences in student achievement gains across different textbooks; President Trump seeks 10 percent cut to Education Department aid; Julie Neidhardt wins the Shell Science Lab Regional Challenge grand prize; a wave of state bills could threaten science education; U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens introduces the Building Blocks of STEM Act; a series of recent studies have revealed weaknesses in past evidence supporting grit in education; and climate researchers estimate the average temperature across the United States will warm by 5 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050.

What High School Engineering Taught Me, and How It Can Empower Other Girls

International Women’s Day 2019 is all about #BalanceforBetter—gender balance, that is. Women make up only 30 percent of the science and engineering workforce today—yet this male-dominated group are the people who are designing our gadgets, building machines and tools that are used in health and environmental care, coming up with algorithms that determine a lot of what happens on social media and more … which does not seem balanced. Read the article featured in Scientific American.

The Gates Foundation is Hoping Better Curriculum Will Boost Student Learning. A New Study Says, Not So Fast.

Better curriculum was supposed to be one of the next big things in education. But new research, amounting to one of the largest-scale examinations of curriculum materials to date, suggests that the choice might not matter much — at least when it comes to elementary math test scores. Read the article featured in Chalkbeat.

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Who’s Who?

What are some interesting ways to introduce some of the major players in scientific discoveries so that my students can have a better grasp at who these people were and that they can aspire to be just as innovative and crucial to the world of science?
—T., Ohio

I would often hold a series of student presentations called Who’s Who in [insert subject here]. These consisted of one, 10-minute presentation per week typically on “Wacky Wednesday.” Students were encouraged to be as creative as possible and use all their varied talents. These presentations were often the highlight of the week. I graded their one-page, written biographies which they also shared with the class.

There were many impersonations. Other students ran game shows, created music videos, performed raps, demonstrated experiments, conducted mock interviews, and more. One student set up a dinner table and gave a monologue on “My Dinner with Tesla.”

You can join in the theatrics. I would act out scenes such as: “Gregor Mendel—Party Animal” where I demonstrated the dedication needed to control the pollination of thousands of pea plants; introduced Newton’s laws of motion in an English accent and curly wig; re-enacted the apocryphal cannonball experiments of Galileo. Some were cautionary tales like “Watson and Crick—Brilliant Jerks” which alluded to their treatment of Rosalind Franklin and “Don’t Jump the Gun! The Fleischmann and Pons Cold Fusion Experiment.”

You can have a lot of fun with this. The out-of-the-ordinary things you do in class are much more memorable than the mundane.

Hope this helps!


Image by mohamed_hassan on Pixabay

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Ideas and inspiration from NSTA’s March 2019 K-12 journals

Regardless of what grade level or subject you teach, check out all three K-12 journals. As you skim through titles and descriptions of the articles, you may find ideas for lessons that would be interesting for your students, the inspiration to adapt a lesson to your grade level or subject, or the challenge to create/share your own lessons and ideas. Click on the links to read or add to your library.

The lessons described in the articles include a chart showing connections with the NGSS. The graphics are especially helpful in understanding the activities and in providing ideas for your own investigations.

NSTA members have access to the articles in all journals, including the Journal of College Science Teaching.

Science & Children – Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions

There may be teachers who are comfortable with life science investigations but apprehensive about physical science ones. This issue has ideas and lessons to explore concepts related to forces and motion – topics students (and teachers) will enjoy!

Editor’s Note: Teaching Forces and Motion “Allowing time for children to explore helps them build early understandings of force and motion. Students can take ownership of planning and carrying out their own investigations about motion, and through careful observation of outcomes, students can recognize patterns, evaluate cause-and-effect relationships, and begin to explore stability and change within a system…So, let’s get the marbles rolling and bring on the pushing and pulling in the classroom as we learn about forces and interactions.”

Many authors share resources related to the lessons and strategies in their articles. These resources include rubrics, graphic organizers, handouts, diagrams, lists of resources, and complete lessons. You can access these through the Connections link for Science & Children.

  • “Because magnetism seems unexplainable and magical, exploring magnetism helps children understand the nature of science.” The Early Years: Exploring Magnetism includes a discussion of how to introduce the concept in an age-appropriate way, along with a lesson which students design and build a structure that uses magnetic forces.
  • Teaching Through Trade Books: Interacting With Forces focuses on “different types of interactions between objects and ask students to consider what happens when a force is applied to an object. Does it stop? Does it change direction? Which force is stronger? How does gravity affect the object?” The article has suggested books and lessons How Does It Move (K-2) and Identifying Gravity (3-5).
  • The author of Tech Talk: Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions states that “Pairing technology-rich experiences that simulate natural phenomena with actual hands-on learning in the real world is an effective way to use technology for science learning… Well-crafted simulation apps give students the opportunity to work in simulated real-world conditions. They also enable students to manipulate interactions with natural phenomena while getting feedback on their decisions.” There are descriptions of two such apps.
  • Ramp It Up! reinforces the Tech Talk article. “Digital tools, such as the digital journal described in this article, can allow children to closely observe, document, review, and make sense of phenomena that occur slowly (e.g., plant growth) or, in the case of ramp investigations, phenomena that occur quickly.” The article has numerous photos of students engaged in their study of ramps and balls.
  • Just Roll With It focuses on how changing the surface and the height of the ramp affects the motion of a marble. Students learn the concepts of independent and dependent variables, prediction, and data collecting. Formative Assessment Probes: Describing the Motion of a Marble could help teachers ascertain what students know (or think they know) about the concept.
  • Fraught With Friction poses a question about how far a toy vehicle would travel on different surfaces. Students addressed the question using the PEOE strategy (predict, explain, observe, explain). The authors note that “Because we asked students for their predictions before conducting the investigation, they thought more about the activity and were more actively engaged during it to find out whether their predictions matched their observations.” Perhaps this lesson could be supplemented with The Poetry of Science: Poetry in Motion.
  • Play takes on a new meaning as students combine play and learning. With traditional tops (which students may not be familiar with) and fidget spinners, students can investigate forces and motion. Engineering Spinners includes a lesson in which students designed their own versions of these toys. Pushes, Pulls, and Playgrounds demonstrates how playgrounds can do double duty as recreation and as a place to investigate forces and motion. Nonfiction texts add to the information and students’ vocabulary.
  • See how students go beyond “activitymania.” In Engineering Encounters: Balancing Engineering and Science Instruction, students solve an engineering challenge to move an object from the floor to the table, as they learn about balanced and unbalanced forces.

These monthly columns continue to provide background knowledge and classroom ideas:

For more on the content that provides a context for projects and strategies described in this issue, see the SciLinks topics Electric Current, Engineering Structures, Forces, Forces and Motion, Friction, Gravity, Inertia, Magnets, Newton’s Laws of Motion, Simple Machines

Continue for this month’s Science Scope and The Science Teacher.

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Using Art as an Introduction to Science

“Ms. Anne!  Did you know kelp is a plant like the sunflowers?”

That was just one of many questions I heard last week as my class turned the classroom into a kelp forest.  It all began with the otters.  No, it really all began with the students…

I teach in the high desert, but many of my students have extended family connections to coastal California.  With the holiday season in full swing, many of my students had visited their relatives and explored nearby beaches, tidal pools, sloughs full of otters and sea lions, visited aquariums and gone whale watching.  The discovery that sea otter awareness week started September 23. 2018 was the final sand grain, so to speak.  They wanted to become sea otters.  As a self-contained teacher I have more flexibility than others in integrating subject matter.   But what I did can easily transfer over to non-self-contained classrooms as collaborations between teachers.

We started with a photo of sea otters, and making sea otter finger masks and puppets.  This required close attention to the photos.  Through such close observation with a purpose, the students compare sea otters to humans and discovered many unique characteristics to sea otters, such as the fur.  We had many “side trip” investigations requiring complex thinking, such as “how do you show fluffy sea otter fur on a flat piece of paper?”

Continue reading …

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The Role of Instructional Resources in Supporting Investigation and Design

We are at an exciting time in science education. The Framework for K-12 Science Education (NRC, 2012) presents a vision for how we should teach science that is grounded in empirical evidence and what we know about how students learn. The Framework focuses on learners building useable knowledge of the world by making sense of phenomena using the three dimension of scientific knowledge – disciplinary core ideas (DCIs), scientific and engineering practices (SEPs) and crosscutting concepts (CCCs). Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2018) revisits the ideas in the Framework and presents greater clarity on the vision for science teaching and learning and what we need to do in the classroom to achieve this vision. The goal of instruction is not for learners to develop understanding of science concepts through a laboratory activity. The goal is for all learners to use the three-dimensions to make sense of phenomena, solve problems, think creatively, and learn more when needed.

But this is a complex change and it will not happen overnight. Since becoming  teachers, many of us have focused on using inquiry activities to help students learn content. In K – 12 schools and in college, it was drilled into us to memorize in order to succeed. But the new vision pushes us to realize that building on prior knowledge of disciplinary core ideas, applying crosscutting concepts and scientific and engineering practices helps develop  deeper knowledge of how the world works. Teachers and school districts need excellent instructional resources – curriculum materials and assessments as well as long-term professional learning to enact this new vision (Krajcik, 2015). Professional learning will allow us to form communities to learn and grow together to realize this new vision. Instructional resources and professional learning need to work together to support growth so that all of our students can make sense of the world, problem solve, design solutions to problems and think creatively.  Chapter 6, Instructional Resources for Supporting Investigation and Design, in Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center (NASEM, 2018) presents critical ideas on how teachers can make use of and what to look for in instructional resources to promote three-dimensional teaching and learning. In this blog, I highlight some of the key features of instructional resources discussed in Chapter 6.

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Ed News: School Lessons Targeted by Climate Change Doubters

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This week in education news, West Virginia governor signs legislation requiring high school computer science; Hispanics make up 16 percent of the American workforce, but only 6 percent of scientists and engineers; bug-in-ear coaching has been around for decades but in recent years, more and more educators are starting to try it out; America Achieves Educator Networks argues that traditional K-12 curriculums aren’t sufficient for a world in which machines are expected to do 42 percent of labor by 2022; 2018 teacher strikes had minimal impact on state education funding; in statehouses around the country, lawmakers this year have introduced bills seen as threatening instruction on science, including on climate change; new research finds that integrating the arts into science classes can help students learn better; and new “baby PISA” study will measure children’s skills in literacy, numeracy and self-regulation.

W.Va. Gov Signs Bill Mandating High School Computer Science

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has signed legislation requiring students to take computer science classes before graduating high school. Read the article by the Associated Press.

Latino Engineers Want to Encourage More to Pursue STEM Careers

STEM jobs, a crucial part of the global economy, are growing faster than other industries and tend to pay better than the national average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Hispanics make up 16 percent of the American workforce, but only 6 percent of scientists and engineers, according to the National Science Foundation. There is ample opportunity in STEM, according to Latino engineers in several fields. Read the article by NBC News Learn.

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Tired of Cooking

I am sick of using cookbook labs in my chemistry class and want my students to conduct more inquiry labs. However, my principal thinks that this might be a recipe for disaster. What do other chemistry teachers do to incorporate more inquiry into their chemistry labs?
—R., Kansas

I spent several years using cookbook labs and being frustrated that students had no clue what they were supposed to be learning, did not understand their data and were constantly worried if they got the ‘right’ answers!

One of the simplest ways to convert a cookbook lab into an introduction to inquiry is to cut off your pre-lab handout after the materials section! So, the students have an introduction, a purpose, and a list of materials they can use but they have to figure out the rest. How they will perform the experiment, what they will measure, what variables to control and manipulate, how they will record and present the data is all up to them (with your approval)! With the scaffold at the beginning and a list of materials there is less ‘mayhem’ but the students are thinking, analyzing, predicting, and doing all that neat nature of science stuff. They will need to make sense of their data and determine the best way to communicate their results.

Later on you can have the students investigate questions they, themselves, have about a phenomenon or topic you’re teaching by creating their own labs from scratch. Now you’re at a full-blown inquiry.

Hope this helps!

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Missouri Science Teachers: NSTA Is Coming to You This April

If you’re a Missouri science teacher, you’ve probably been to the Missouri Botanical Garden, most likely as a chaperone. But when you join NSTA for our 2019 National Conference in St. Louis this April, you’ll get a completely different experience—right in your own backyard. You get to be the student for a couple of days and experience the joys of science with your friends. And the Botanical Garden? Yep. It’s on the list—all attendees get complimentary admission to the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Butterfly House (just show your badge at the gate).

Ready for the New MO Standards?

Our conference planning committee knows that Missouri has adopted new science learning standards and a new science assessment; so this conference will be especially useful to Missouri teachers needing to get up to speed. The new Missouri standards and assessments are directly aligned to the learning, practices, and content that will be addressed at this conference. Areas of particular focus for this conference include the following strands (all targeted by level— novice, intermediate, or advanced attendees):

  • Three-Dimensional Grand Slam: This strand will focus on implementing three-dimensional learning to increase student understanding. Read more.
  • Phenomena: Gateway to Learning: This strand will show how teachers can use structures such as the 5E instructional model, Claims-Evidence-Reasoning (CER), Problem-Based Learning, Place-Based Learning, or Project-Based Learning as viable approaches to facilitate student understanding. Read more.
  • Jazzing Up Science with Cross-Curricular Connections: This strand will focus on ways that science and other subject areas can be integrated, including the best way to bundle disciplinary core ideas. Read more.
  • Confluence of Equity and Education: The imperative of the planners of this strand is to maintain high expectations and broaden access and opportunities in STEM education to increase the likelihood of student success and to prepare them to compete globally. Read more.

Will You Know Anyone?

If this is your first NSTA conference (or even if it isn’t but you want to meet new people to share the experience with), be sure to put the First Timers Session (Thursday, April 11, 8:00–9:00 AM) on your schedule. And stop by the Science Teachers of Missouri (STOM) booth. At both places you’ll find STOM members, leadership, and teachers from the surrounding area who are facing the same challenges and sharing new opportunities particularly applicable to you. One particular opportunity you’ll want to watch for is STOM’s announcement of the winners of the 2018 STOM Excellence in Science Teaching Awards. Learn more about the award here, and consider nominating yourself or a deserving peer for the 2019 award.

If you’re planning to come with a group, use code 5FOR4 to get a complimentary 5th registration when you sign up 4 people to attend.

Lots of sessions and workshops will be led by Missouri educators. Here is just a small sampling of them; search the session browser to find more.

  • A Generation of Citizen Stewards
    Betsy Crites, Missouri Botanical Garden
    Thursday, April 11, 8:30–9:00 AM 
    Room 151, America’s Center

Activate your high school students to engage in their community by taking action for the environment, while they put 21st-century skills into action.

  • Assessing and Exploring the Phenomena of Earthquakes: Including the New Madrid Seismic Zone
    Lloyd Barrow, Professor Emeritus, University of Missouri
    Dannah Schaffer, Assistant Professor of Science, Minot State University
    Thursday, April 11, 2:00–3:00 PM 
    Room 228, America’s Center

Using the 5Es (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate), participants will gain an insight into how to implement classroom activities concerning plate tectonics, as well as how to assess students’ understanding.

  • Integrating the Missouri River into Your Classroom
    Kristen Schulte, Missouri River Relief
    Thursday, April 11, 3:30–4:30 PM 
    Room 228, America’s Center

Build your understanding of how human choices have affected the Missouri River’s rhythm while discovering new instructional strategies for investigating the mysteries behind the river.

  • The Flight of the Bumblebee: A New Multimodal STEM Text Set and Related Activities for Diverse Middle School Learners
    Zack Miller, University of Missouri
    William Folk, Professor, University of Missouri
    Amy Lannin, Director, University of Missouri
    Delinda Van Garderen, Professor, University of Missouri
    Friday, April 12, 8:00–9:00 AM 
    Room 221, America’s Center

We will review a new multimodal STEM text set addressing engineering design (MS-ETS1); waves and applications (MS-PS4); ecosystems (MS-LS2); and CCSS ELA (RST:1–9) for diverse learners.

  • NARST-Sponsored Session: Science and Literacy—How Is Preservice Teacher Learning Impacted by a Mobile Device Curriculum?
    Deepika Menon, Assistant Professor of Science Education, Towson University
    Meera Chandrasekhar, Professor, University of Missouri
    Dorina Kosztin, Teaching Professor, University of Missouri
    Doug Steinhoff, Physics Teacher, University of Missouri
    Friday, April 12, 11:00 AM–12 Noon 
    Mills Studio 1, Hyatt Regency St. Louis at the Arch

Hear how switching to an iPad-based hands-on curriculum made a major positive impact on both physical science learning and technology self-efficacy for preservice teachers. Handouts!

  • Sustainable in St. Louis: Connecting Students and Concepts Through Real-World Waste Reduction Projects
    Katherine Golden, Missouri Botanical Garden
    Maggie McCoy, Education Coordinator, EarthWays Center of Missouri Botanical Garden
    Friday, April 12, 11:30 AM–12 Noon 
    Room 241, America’s Center

We will share case studies from the EarthWays Sustainability Network, a data-based teacher mentorship program that helps schools find ways to reduce landfill waste through student-led projects.

  • Engaging St. Louis Area Students in Equity Through Design Thinking
    Leslie Cook, Teton Science Schools Teacher Learning Center
    Paulo Ribeiro, Health and PE Teacher, Parkway Southwest Middle School
    Joe Rhodes, Classroom Teacher-Social Studies, Parkway Southwest Middle School
    Joseph Petrick, Vice President of Field Education, Teton Science Schools
    Friday, April 12, 12:30–1:30 PM 
    Landmark 7, Marriott St. Louis Grand

Hear how teachers in the Parkway School District, Missouri, guided student learning and exploration of equity through meaningful and relevant real-life topics in the community.

  • Engaging Outdoor Learning Techniques for Student Success
    Steven Juhlin, Education Program State Coordinator, Missouri Dept. of Conservation
    Bridget Jackson, Conservation Education Consultant, Missouri Dept. of Conservation
    Saturday, April 13, 12:30–1:30 PM 
    Gateway A, Marriott St. Louis Grand

Discuss underlying issues, needs, and questions that stifle outdoor learning, and identify practical and academic methods to be successful. Inquiry-based resources provided.

  • Cross-Curricular Connections for a Sustainable Planet
    Mary Ellen Lohr, Assistant Professor of Biology, Southeast Missouri State University
    Cindi Smith-Walters, Biology Professor, Middle Tennessee State University
    Sunday, April 14, 9:30–10:30 AM 
    Room 240, America’s Center

Engage in hands-on activities that apply math, science, and social studies skills and content standards to address major global, environmental challenges. Lesson plans provided.

  • Get Them THINKING! Critical Thinking, the Nature of Science, and Logic in Engineering and Crosscutting Concepts
    Alice (Jill) Black, Associate Professor, Missouri State University
    Sunday, April 14, 11:00 AM–12 Noon 
    Room 261, America’s Center

Do your students think through ideas or give answers indicating “surface thinking”? Come participate in K–8 critical thinking, nature of science, and engineering/crosscutting concepts–related logic activities.

This Year Is Special

“Typically, very few Missouri teachers are able to attend due to the funding and policies of out-of-state travel.  We have a very unique situation this year where our state is hosting the conference, making it possible to send many teachers at an affordable rate.”— NSTA’s St. Louis Conference Chair, Mike Szydlowski (Science Coordinator for Columbia Public Schools and STOM Past President) has this message for Missouri teachers. He’s set up the “Send a Teacher” initiative to help Missouri educators get funding from local businesses and other organizations to attend.

Worried about Missouri Spring Assessments conflicting with the NSTA conference? Don’t be! Mike also tells us: “We have confirmed that the testing window in Missouri will be greatly expanded to include the dates April 1 through the end of the school year. This will allow schools to work around this incredible national-level conference opportunity without impacting their state testing.”

NSTA and STOM work together to make this conference great, and it takes years of planning. The people who have made the educational programming so relevant for both local teachers and those nationwide deserve special recognition. They are:

  • Mike Szydlowski
    Conference Chairperson
    K–12 Science Coordinator
    Columbia Public Schools
  • Eric Hadley
    Program Coordinator
    K–12 Science Curriculum Coordinator
    Ferguson-Florissant School District
  • Christina Hughes
    Local Arrangements Coordinator
    K–12 Science Curriculum Coordinator
    Hazelwood School District

NSTA’s 2019 National Conference on Science Education addresses real challenges teachers face in their schools and classrooms. In just four days, the programming and events associated with this conference will better prepare you to support your students’ science learning. You would have to attend several events to obtain the level of education offered at NSTA’s National Conference.

Pro Tips

Find out about scholarship opportunities to attend the conference and attend a Professional Learning Institute. Learn more.

Check out more sessions and other events with the St. Louis Session Browser. Follow all our conference tweets using #NSTA19, and if you tweet, please feel free to tag us @NSTA so we see it and share.

Need help requesting funding or time off from your principal or supervisor? Download a letter of support and bring it with you.

And don’t forget, NSTA and/or STOM members save up to $90 off the price of registration. Not a member? Join here. Missouri science teachers, you are also eligible for joint membership in both STOM and NSTA, for only $79. To take advantage of this special offer, fill out the registration packet, and see page 4 for the joint membership option.

Future NSTA Conferences

2019 National Conference
St. Louis, April 11–14

2019 STEM Forum & Expo
San Francisco, July 24–26

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

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Dreaming of spring and preparing to garden with young children

Maple tree flowers.Daffodil bud opening in the snow. Before the weather really warms up in your area, take children for a nature walk and together document through drawing or photography the plants that are beginning to bud out with leaves or flowers. Spring doesn’t begin at the moment the first daffodil blooms—the flowers of a maple tree may be budding months before. The creeping change of season is made visible by observation and documentation done in a systematic way, or at least weekly over a few months. Change continues as spring weather gives way to summer heat—keep observing and noting the new changes by making a brief stop at particular plants as you go out to the playground or to the carpool line. These brief observations may lead to investigations into the relationship between plant growth and the amount of sun it receives or what insects are doing when they visit or live on a plant.   

You may be planning a garden with your class, or already be planting one, depending on your local weather. I have praised the sugar snap pea many times for its ease of planting and for being of interest to children. The seeds are familiar to most children who may be surprised to find out that the peas on their plates are seeds, seeds that could grow into a plant if they had not been cooked for eating. After planting pea seeds children may wonder, what other food items are seeds? And how do seeds sprout and grow? Indoor and outdoor plantings make the growing process visible. Indoors a discussion about the growth of the classic “seed in a bag” can reveal children’s understanding of the needs of plants. Outdoors, even a large pot can sustain a small crop of edible plants if you want to start small. The KidsGardening website has information on gardening with children and the US Department of Agriculture’s zone map of plant hardiness can help you decide when to plant. 

Poster of children's comments about sprouting success (or not) of seeds.When children are given the responsibility of planning a system for plant care, the plants become more important to them. “Plant waterer” or “Garden care” can be added to a job chart. Children might suggest that each child get a turn to carry the heavy water jug out to the garden pot, or that every child can use a spray bottle indoors.

Many programs have children plant in pots to give to parents as a Mothers’ Day gift. How about starting some herb seeds, such as spring onion or cilantro, now so the growth is lush by May 12, 2019? If you leave children’s names off the pots, and be sure to plant a few extra pots, there will be enough for every family even if some don’t thrive because they are over or under watered.

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