Girls in STEM

Walk into the average STEM workspace and you may find random scribbled notes, models and figures, the occasional pen missing a cap, and a variety of tools specific to STEM work. Beyond the desks, the hum of electronics, and an exorbitant amount of plaid button-downs, you’ll sense an air of excitement and passion. Looking amongst the sea of faces during light lunchroom banter and serious conference meetings, you’ll find the occasional female. In fact, if you were looking for equal representation of both sexes in STEM careers, you’d think not much has changed since the days of Susan B. Anthony and the Women’s Rights Movement. According to the US Department of Commerce, engineers are the second largest STEM occupational group, but only about one out of every five engineers is female.  In our own adolescent-filled classrooms across the country, you will find that many of our students, male and female alike hold the notion that STEM jobs are meant for men. How do we effectively introduce the amazing world of science, technology, engineering, and math to our girls? How can we make them realize they have what it takes to carve a niche, break the glass ceiling, and get involved in these pioneering professions? With these, and many other questions in mind, we eagerly delved into the Northrop Grumman Foundation Teacher’s Academy as Teacher Fellows in its second cohort.

Prior to beginning the externship portion of the year-long Academy we already had somewhat of an understanding regarding the lack of female representation in STEM. According to the 2013-14 Computing Research Association Taulbee report, almost 86% of recipients of bachelor’s degrees in Computer Engineering (CE) in the USA in 2014 were male. Although the total number of reported CE bachelor degrees earned increased by 14% from 2013 to 2014, the proportion of females receiving CE degrees during that time decreased (Zweben & Bizrot, 2015). With seven out of ten STEM jobs sitting in the computer sciences, females will be shut out. So while more people are earning STEM degrees, less of them are women. While there are many socio economic factors to consider in the cause of this occurrence, the common trend remains that women are not as exposed to these careers and they often believe (or are taught) that they do not have the innate toolset to thrive in STEM. Some studies claim a biological basis for differences in achievement and preference between males and females (Baron-Cohen 2003; Geary 1998; Kimura 1999). However, there is growing empirical evidence to support the hypothesis that observed gender differences are largely socially and culturally constructed and that few innate psychological differences in cognitive ability and preference exist between genders (Bussey & Bandura 1999; Hyde 2005; Hyde & Linn 2006; Spelke, 2005). In simpler terms, men are not biologically predisposed to achieve more and/or do better in STEM than their female counterparts.

 As youth, girls were traditionally associated with playing dress up with their dolls, while boys were thought of as interested in designing, constructing, and “getting their hands dirty.” This old paradigm often still persists. Research suggests that women’s interest in continuing to pursue careers in predominantly male fields like computer science and engineering is related to the level of self-confidence in their ability in those fields, and early opportunities to engage in computing and engineering design challenges can play a significant role in the development of this confidence (Gürer & Camp, 2002; Zeldin & Pajares, 2000). Therefore, the solution lies in us, as a society, shifting the paradigm and creating even more opportunities of equity for females in STEM. 

In conjunction with the global security company, Northrop Grumman, as a key component of the Northrop Grumman Foundation Teachers Academy, we completed a two week externship where we were given the opportunity to work alongside some of the industry’s best engineers and technologists. In these experiences, we gained first-hand insight into the critical workforce skills our students need to be competitive in STEM careers as well as how we could create enticing STEM environments in our classrooms.

In California, Rossy Guzman found that many of the junior engineers that were in their mid-twenties were inspired by early exposure to STEM. When asked what ignited their interest in engineering, they often answered, “When I was in high school I joined a STEM club” or “My teacher would give us problems where we had to find creative solutions.” This attests to the fact that we must hit the ground running, so to speak, when it comes to early childhood exposure to STEM, as early exposure can have a lasting effect. In terms of female representation, Rossy found that during her externship at the Palmdale Northrop Grumman facility, she only spoke with one female mechanical engineer. She was one of four female mechanical engineers in her graduating class. When discussing this lack of representation with her engineer mentor, he mentioned the need for more job applications from females, and he has worked in the Palmdale facility close to 25 years. However, he mentioned something important, specifically saying that when he has worked with female engineers, they do a great job. When asked to elaborate, he said he holds this belief because, “women pay close attention to details. In our field, a small detail can be the difference between a successful or failed project.” After her time in the externship, Rossy found that the greatest strengths in the STEM workplace include “collaboration, communication, and adaptability.”

When Erika Myers was an extern she asked her engineer mentor(s) what skills they found in the most successful engineers, collaboration and communication topped the list. Engineering managers reported that they were looking for engineers who could clearly express their ideas and work with other engineers. Further, every engineer she encountered agreed that being able to “think like an engineer” made for good engineers. Many reported being “okay” in math and science, but liked solving problems that helped people which is what made them pursue engineering as a career. With this information in mind, Erika translated insightful conversations into direct classroom application. To begin, she provided more opportunities for students to share their learning with others. She wanted to give students a chance to explain their process, as well as ask questions of others about their processes. She aimed to make this sharing occur in many different formats— sometimes peer-to-peer, while other times sharing was done with her school community and parents. This encouraged students to be thoughtful in the way they presented their learning process.

In addition, Erika, a STEM teacher in Downers Grove, Illinois, also wanted to frame her units with problem-based learning. After talking with engineers during her Northrop Grumman experience, many reported that female students often wanted to see the purpose behind their creation, and it was even more favorable if the solution helped people. For example, rather than presenting a project as “We are going to learn about circuits,” instead she learned to present the project as “We are going to create a guitar that can be played out of cardboard using Micro:bit.” An even better solution would be to say “We are going to make instructional videos for creating musical instruments with Micro:bit for students who have limited supplies.” Since females students tend to be interested in engineering fields where they see the direct impact their solutions can have, Ms. Myers has had positive results with her female students when she approaches them with a challenge based in the needs of others. This lends itself to introducing real world problems and having students come up with solutions that can have real impacts.

In New York City (NYC), STEM educator Candace Miller found that her students shared the same passion for real world applications in engineering. Collaborating with Radio Frequency and Systems Engineers in a New York City program opened her eyes to the feats of engineering all around the city. At every street intersection in NYC, you’ll find green boxes that contain technology that literally connects the city and keeps everything running smoothly. Unbeknownst to the average New Yorker, some of these engineers work 12-hour shifts to monitor, troubleshoot, and ensure that the city’s major services (think NYPD and NYFD) run efficiently. Candace and the team planned and held the annual Smart Cities Communication session at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering summer program for middle school students. During this event, the students were tasked with thinking of innovative ways to make the city run smoother.

Candace noted that some of the most creative ideas came from the female students who appreciated the direct impact their ideas could have on the daily lives of New Yorkers. While the male students had a tendency to come up with practical ideas that involved construction and pulverizing waste in the city, the female students distinctly thought how their ideas could improve the lives of the public. Adapting this real world application to the classroom facilitated a new sense of ownership and interest in STEM. Instead of viewing engineering as something that people do with machines, Candace found that her students, especially her girls, realized that engineering is what people do with machines, for others. Looking through the lens of how STEM and engineering has had an ever-changing effect on humanity in terms of medicine and other such practical applications has her female students more interested than ever! In fact, the US Dept. of Commerce found that women with STEM degrees are less likely than their male counterparts to work in a STEM occupation; they are more likely to work in education or healthcare. Exposing our students to how STEM lends itself to these commonly attractive fields for girls lets them realize their skills can go further than they imagine, and can help people in ways outside of what they currently know.

To echo this sentiment, Brooke Reynolds, a teacher in St. Johns, Florida found that the more we expose our students to engineering, the more they come to love it! Reflecting her classroom culture, her students don’t look at gender when they work in a group on a project, they consider the ideas each student comes up with. This helps her girls stand out because they are usually organized, detail-oriented, creative, and are oftentimes the vocal leaders of the group. In fact, the general consensus throughout each of our Northrop Grumman externships is the fact that collaboration and communicating ideas are essential aspects of the engineering process. Simply addressing the basic who, what, and how of STEM careers provides a basis of understanding the applied skills. She finds that “5th grade and middle school aged children are still filled with wonder and get excited about trying new things out. The more we expose them to what engineering is all about the more they come to love it and are not scared of it.”

Through the fellowship and externship Brooke has learned a lot about women in engineering and why they chose this path. One of the Liaison Engineers at Northrop Grumman located in St. Augustine, FL, oversees 5 male engineers ranging in age from 40-60 years old. She has been with Northrop Grumman for 14 years and moved up from working on the E-2D and F-5 plane engineering department to the liaison engineering department which oversees the other departments and fixes problems they can’t solve. She said “She feels that she chose this path because she “likes math and science and loved that engineering can help [her] apply the math and science into real life.”

While we were located in various cities across the country, working with different branches of the Northrop Grumman family, during our summer externships, we all shared in the same motivating learning experience with these passionate engineers. We gained knowledge regarding why they chose a STEM path and how their student experiences encouraged them to do so. To contradict the nerdy paradigm of geniuses working purely for the love of science, we’ve learned that many of these amazing people are engineers simply because they love seeing things that they imagined or drew on paper come to life in ways that improves lives. In addition, the general consensus is that Northrop Grumman is a company that focuses on making sure their employees of all sexes feels welcome and supported on their journeys to become better engineers, collaborators, innovators, and people. We took these experiences and applied them to our classrooms to have all of our students realize that they are and can be meaningful contributors to the amazing world of STEM and help form a STEM literate society. 

Special thanks to NSTA, Northrop Grumman and the Northrop Grumman Foundation, Stephanie Fitzsimmons, K-12 STEM Education Programs Manager at Northrop Grumman, the countless engineers that shared their space and time with us, and the incredible, affable NSTA Program Director of the Northrop Grumman Foundation Teachers Academy, Wendy Binder.

Applications are now being accepted for the fourth annual Northrop Grumman Foundation Teachers Academy. The program—designed specifically for middle school teachers (grades 5-8)—was established to help enhance teacher confidence and classroom excellence in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), while increasing teacher understanding about the skills needed for a scientifically literate workforce. This year the Academy, which is administered by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), will support 29 teachers located in school districts in select Northrop Grumman communities in the United States and Australia.

Rossy Guzman

About The Authors 

Rossy Guzman is a science teacher at The Palmdale Aerospace Academy in Palmdale, CA where she teaches 7th grade and 9th grade integrated science. Rossy has worked as a science teacher for nine years inspiring students to pursue careers in the STEM field. Rossy strives for ways to empower students of all backgrounds to succeed in her classes. The Northrop Grumman Foundation Teachers Academy has been a pivotal part in her quest to insure her students engage in workforce skills grounded in real-world applications. . In her spare time, she loves to read, drink green tea, and explore quaint towns. 

Candice Miller

Candace Miller is a middle school STEM and science teacher in Brooklyn, New York. Her favorite subjects to teach at Seth Low Intermediate School 96 are biology and engineering, and she hopes to inspire at least one kid to become an astronaut, as she’d love to travel in outer space herself! Until then, she plans on continuing to spread the importance of STEM in education. 

Erika Myers

Erika Myers is a lifelong learner who loves to share her passion for teaching students. She teaches middle school STEM in Downers Grove, Illinois. Among her favorite topics to teach are robotics, electronics and coding. She loves to watch her student come alive when engaged in projects in her class. She hopes to spark an interest in engineering in her students!

Brooke Reynolds

Brooke Reynolds is a 5th grade Math and Science teacher in Saint Johns, Florida. Her favorite subject is science and she loves to spark students’ interest with inquiry-based labs and STEM activities. She loves watching students learn something new, truly understand their discovery, and how it is related to STEM and Engineering.


Beede, D., Julian, T., Khan, B., Langdon, D., McKittrick, G., & Doms, M. 2011. Women in STEM: A Gender Gap to Innovation. U.S. Department of Commerce Economics and Statistics Administration. Retrieved from (PDF file)

Bussey, K., & Bandura, A. (1999). Social cognitive theory of gender development and differentiation. Psychological Review, 106(4), 676-713.

Census Bureau’s 2009 American Community Survey (ACS). Retrieved from

Geary, D. 1998. Male, female: The evolution of sex differences. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Gürer, D. & Camp, T. (2002). An ACM-W Literature Review on Women in Computing. ACM SIGSE Bulletin Inroads, Special Issue: Women and Computing, 34(2), 121-127

Hyde, J. S. (2005). The gender similarities hypothesis. American Psychologist, 60(6), 581-592.

Hyde, J. S., & Linn, M. C. (2006). Gender similarities in mathematics and science. Science,

314, 599−600.

Kimura, D. (1999). Sex and cognition. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Spelke, E. 2005. Sex differences in intrinsic aptitude for mathematics and science?: a critical review. The American Psychologists, 60(9):950-8.

Zeldin, A., & Pajares, F. (2000). Against the odds: self-efficacy beliefs of women in mathematical, scientific, and technological careers. American Educational Research Journal, 37(1), 215–246. doi:10.3102/00028312037001215

Zweben, S., & Bizrot, B.2015. 2014 Taulbee survey . Retrieved from the Computing Research Association website 2014-Taulbee-Survey.pdf


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folder icon  Safety

Reducing the Risk of Liability in the Lab

If a student gets injured while taking part in a laboratory activity, the science teacher and school district have potential liability for their failure to prevent the harm to the student. This blog post describes the duty of care of science teachers and specific safety actions teachers can take to reduce the risk of liability in their classroom and lab.

Duty of care

One outstanding resource for reducing liability of science teachers is the National Science Teachers Association’s position paper titled “Liability of Science Educators for Laboratory Safety.” The introduction of the paper explains the duty of care of teachers in the science classroom:

As professionals, teachers of science have a duty or standard of care to ensure the safety of students, teachers, and staff. Duty of care is defined as an obligation, recognized by law, requiring conformance to a certain standard of conduct to protect others against unreasonable risk (Prosser et al. 1984, NSTA 2014a). “The breach of a particular duty owed to a student or others may lead to liability for both the teacher and the school district that employs that teacher.”

How can this duty of care be met? Science teachers, supervisors, and administrators should follow the “Declarations” section of the NSTA position paper to help keep students, the teacher, and school from becoming liable when engaging in hands-on science activities. NSTA recommends that science educators:

• exercise reasonable judgment when conducting laboratory investigations;
• accept the duty of care to provide all students and staff with the safest environment possible when performing hands-on science investigations or demonstrations in the laboratory, classroom, or field setting; using, storing, disposing/recycling, or transporting biological, chemical, or physical materials; or engaging in related activities;
• share the responsibility with school district officials in establishing and implementing written safety standards, policies, and procedures, and ensure their compliance is based on legal safety standards and better professional practices;
• be proactive in seeking professional learning opportunities to implement practices and procedures necessary to conduct laboratory science investigations that are as safe as possible, including specific training on storage, use, and disposal of biological, chemical, and physical materials; use of personal protective equipment; engineering controls; and proper administrative procedures (Roy 2006);
• conduct regular preventative maintenance on engineering controls (e.g., eyewash, shower, ventilation) in science classrooms and laboratories and ensure controls are accessible and appropriate for the specific class subject, type of investigation, and student development level;
• modify or select alternative activities to perform when the proposed activities cannot be performed safely or a safer environment cannot be maintained, based on hazards analysis, risks assessment, and available safety actions;
• identify, document, and notify school and district officials about existing or potential safety issues that impact the learning environment, including hazards such as class-size overcrowding in violation of occupancy load codes (ICC 2015, NFPA 2015) or contrary to safety research (West and Kennedy 2014), inadequate or defective equipment, inadequate number or size of labs, or improper facility design (Motz, Biehle, and West 2007), and give necessary recommendations to correct the issue or rectify a particular situation (see NSTA safety statement for specific recommendations); and
• understand the scope of the duty of care in acting as a reasonably prudent person in providing science instruction, and acknowledge the limitations of insurance in denying coverage for reckless and intentional acts, as well as the potential for individual liability for acts outside the course and scope of employment. [See generally, Restatement (Second) of Torts §202. 1965; Anderson, Stanzler, and Masters 1999, p. 398.]

Specific safety actions
Liability has evolved over time to require teachers to act as a reasonable person in carrying out the duty of care. A teacher must comply with established and required safety standards and better professional practices. According to the NSTA Safety Advisory Board and Roy and Love (2017, p. 16), science teachers and their supervisors and administrators need to address the following standards and practices by taking specific actions while working in the laboratory.

Duty to notify students of safety practices and procedures. Review and have students sign and return a safety acknowledgement form at the beginning of the school year prior to laboratory work that outlines the safety practices that your class will follow. See NSTA’s “Safety in the Science Classroom” sample safety acknowledgment forms: Elementary Science Safety Acknowledgment Form, Middle School Safety Acknowledgment Form, and High School Safety Acknowledgment Form. In addition, require students to receive a score of at least 90% on a safety assessment addressing material in the acknowledgment form and initial safety instruction before they can begin any lab work.
Duty to model safety. Always model appropriate safety techniques with students prior to having them work with equipment or carry out procedures (e.g., how to light a Bunsen burner, how to wear safety goggles).
Duty to warn. Always advise students of dangers relative to safety prior to and during use of potentially hazardous equipment and materials. For example, before dissecting specimens, remind students that scalpels are sharp and can puncture skin.
Duty to inspect for safety. Monitor student behavior for safety and inspect equipment before, during, and after activities to help foster a safer working and learning environment.
Duty to enforce safety practices and procedures. Always enforce appropriate safety behavior and have a well-defined progressive disciplinary policy in place for all students.
Duty to maintain a safe learning environment. Make sure engineering controls such as ventilation, fume hoods, and master gas shut-offs and personal protective equipment such as safety goggles, gloves, and aprons are operational and meet the manufacturers’ standards. For example, if the ventilation cap on a chemical splash goggle was removed, discard the goggles.

Submit questions regarding safety to Ken Roy at or leave him a comment below. Follow Ken Roy on Twitter: @drroysafersci.

Roy, K., and T. Love. 2017. Safer makerspaces, fab labs, and STEM Labs: A collaborative guide! (1st ed.). Vernon, CT: National Safety Consultants.

Thanks to Kelly Ryan of The Ryan Law Firm in Monrovia, California, for his review of this safety blog post.

NSTA resources and safety issue papers
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Ideas and inspiration from NSTA’s October 2018 K-12 journals

Many NSTA 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 in each journal: Science & Children, Science Scope, The Science Teacher.

Regardless of what grade level or subject you teach, check out all three journals. As you skim through the article titles and descriptions, you may find ideas for lessons that would be interesting your students or the inspiration to adapt a lesson to your heeds or create/share your own.

NSTA members, as always, have access to the articles in all journals! Click on the links to read or add to your library.

Science & Children – The Reggio Emilia Approach

Editor’s Note: Promoting Lifelong Learning “This month our feature articles highlight Reggio Emilio as an approach to empower both the educator and students with a mindset that reminds us, teachers of any grade level, that learning starts with engaged students, and engaged students are active in the process and direction of the learning…What do we know about them [students], their thinking, their likes, and dislikes? How can we involve the students in the process of learning? How can we be sure to help promote lifelong learners? These questions are at the heart of the Reggio Emilio approach.”

The lessons described in the articles have a chart showing connections with the NGSS as well as classroom materials, illustrations of student work, and photographs of students engaged in the activities.

  • The author of Using Magnetism to Move a Toy Vehicle used a “Kids Inquiry Conference” to encourage students to explore magnetism. The article is a good overview of what the Reggio Emilia approach looks like in a classroom—and includes photos of the young scientists at work. (Note: Your classroom may be quite similar!)
  • Baking Cookies goes beyond a traditional cookbook class on following a recipe to a lesson on creating and testing a recipe. The article includes a diagram of a Cycle of Inquiry process and an overview of the Reggio Emilio approach (and a connection with NGSS–the two are compatible!).
  • Following the Current illustrates how in PreK, explorations never really end. They become part of a larger experience. The author shares her thoughts on evaluating learning in this open-ended environment, as well as photos of the students at work.
  • Questions for the Sunflowers describes a project that incorporates the Reggio Emilio approach with 5E lesson on plant growth
  • Children can have authentic learning experiences as they collaborate, create, and communicate on making robots out of Legos. Early Childhood Robotics describes the role of the teacher in facilitating these experiences.
  • The Early Years: Creating a Possibility-Rich Classroom Environment has suggestions for providing first-had experiences with natural phenomena and design challenges.
  • In addition to recommending trade books, Teaching Through Trade Books: Plants, Animals, and Earth Processes, Oh My! Changes to the Environment has two lessons, Plants and Animals Can Change the World (K-2) and Exploring Erosion (3-5) that help students explore various agents that change the Earth’s habitats.
  • Methods and Strategies: A Noteworthy Connection has ideas for science notebooks, including ideas for ELL students.

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 Adaptations of Animals, Electricity, Erosion, How Can Matter Be Measured?, Interactions in Matter, Magnets, Parts of a Plant, Physical Properties of Matter, Plant Growth, Soil Layers, States of Matter, Static Electricity, Water Cycle, Water Quality

Continue for The Science Teacher and Science Scope.

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Reading Nature: Evidence-Based Texts Inspire and Bring Context Into the Biology Classroom

Dedicated to “all those who wonder about the world around them,” Matthew Kloser and Sophia Grathwol’s new book Reading Nature: Engaging Biology Students With Evidence From the Living World uses quality research (from sources like the Journal of Animal Ecology and Nature) to give teachers a way to focus on core science ideas and get students to ask “why?” and “how do we know?”

This book comes at a good time for science teachers looking for source material they can trust. Even more helpful is the book’s beginning, which gives a thorough explanation of how to use the book, information on the impact the work will have on student outcomes, connections to standards, strategies, references, and more—everything an educator needs to successfully use this book with confidence.

Readers will find some familiar subjects in the book (Darwin’s finches show up in Text 10). But it’s not more of the same. The authors guide readers through the selection and give great discussion questions and supplementary materials; show how the selection can be used at different grade levels; point out which disciplinary core ideas, practices, and crosscutting concepts are addressed; suggest group tasks; and offer investigation design tasks.

This adaptable new book truly addresses the fact that we know more than ever about how students best learn and teachers best teach science. Memorizing facts is not enough; students need to be engaged and to understand how we know things just as well as they understand what they know.

Questions presented are just as easily applicable to students’ real life as they are to the evidence-based texts. For example, “What advantages do social groups provide to animals? Do red fire ants form cliques?” No doubt students will be engaged—as will teachers who pick up this smart new resource. What really sets this book apart is that people are central to all the texts (they highlight teams of people investigating the world) and that the investigations are placed in context.

Ready to explore and wonder? Let us show you the “evidence”! A free chapter is available: “Reading Nature: Engaging Biology Students With Evidence From the Living World.”

This book is also available as an ebook.

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The Vernier Go Direct Sound Sensor: See Sounds in a New Light (Bluetooth)

As much as I loved field trips with my students, I found the bus rides to be excessively stressful. It wasn’t because of the teacher responsibilities or the student behavior, but because of the noise. The volume and diversity of machine noises and the voices and laughter bouncing around the inside of the school bus echo chamber made me tense and over stimulated. Then on one trip, I wore earplugs and it was if a calm settled over me. My movements were slower and measured, my patience with students was infinite, and I could finally relax and enjoy watching the students’ social behaviors outside the classroom through the lens of evolutionary biology and anthropology.
The academic study of sound is common across the grades in science class. And today with the ever-present earbuds, sound safety has taken on an importance shared by those who teach about life choices, nutrition, and physical activity. Unfortunately, even with attempts to educate the young mind to the dangers of loud music, and the need to practice safe hearing, the numbers used to define a hearing-safe environment may be wildly outdated.

Three generations of Vernier sound sensors.

So unless kids today are born with different auditory hardware, you might be wondering what could make a physical number outdated. After all, heavy metal music is not like a heavy metal concentration in blood, and a rock star is not an impending impact from a rogue asteroid. (I like stretching comparisons. In fact, I’ve got a publication on a NASA/JPL website comparing Comets to Cows. They are surprisingly similar in my opinion.) So let’s start at the beginning.

Continue reading …

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My NSTA Journey

Dear NSTA Colleagues,

I hope you have had a chance to read NSTA’s newest position statement: The Teaching of Climate Science. I draw your attention to it now, because it has been my great pleasure to be involved with the creation of it. And I’d like to encourage you to not only read this but also to explore the many ways NSTA works with and for science teachers. In case you missed the #NSTAchat on Sept. 13th that focused on the new position statement you can go back to #NSTAchat and review the discussion that occurred. 

NSTA membership provides many avenues for science educators to be involved whether through journals, Twitter, Facebook, conferences, The NSTA Learning Center, or writing position statements. Teaching experience is not a pre-requisite for involvement.

So, you may ask, how did I come to be involved with this important project? As is the case with so many of us, my NSTA story started with a very mild-mannered yet incredibly persuasive individual! I was a science teacher in Monroe, North Carolina, still trying to decide if I was going to stay in the classroom or seek work as a geologist, for which I had completed a BS and an MS.  Through the summer professional development classes that I had provided, I came to the attention of Gerry Madrazo, who was the science supervisor for Guilford County Schools in North Carolina. Gerry asked me to be part of the local arrangements committee for the first NSTA regional meeting in Charlotte, in 1992. Upon discovering that I was not yet a member, he shook my hand, put his other hand on my shoulder, and then whispered to me that it was time to make my contributions “legitimate” by actually joining NSTA.  At that point, I became dedicated to science education, with NSTA as a primary guide and resource.

Upon completing my PhD in Science Education in 1995, I was able to share through teaching methods courses not just the resources that NSTA had to offer, but also the sheer joy of excitement of participation in a group of like-minded educators.  Taking a group of these students to a regional meeting in Pittsburgh, I was pleased to learn of their experiences, marveling at two young preservice teachers, each carrying 4 shopping bags full of resources back to the bus!  Wow, that was something.

As my relationship with NSTA continued to grow, I was drawn to participate at a higher level.  I served on the Special Education Advisory Board, and eventually became the chairperson, making connections with educators whose drive and mission overlapped with NSTA’s. Working with Greg Stefanich and Mike Padilla, I experienced the intoxicating effects of presenting at NSTA meetings, seeking as many opportunities to present as I could. I encourage everyone to try presenting—it is an incredible adventure. If you’re not ready to take it on alone, remember that you can always present as a team with other teachers.  It is an experience not to be missed!

My path continued after becoming a presenter, when an experience as a member of the NSTA Preservice Teacher Preparation committee led me to seek election to the NSTA Board as chair of the committee.  Having served previously as a Regional Director, I was well aware of the demands of national service.  Upon serving on the Board, my commitment to science education in general and to NSTA in particular was strengthened. 

And in support of that commitment, my engagement with NSTA and its affiliates continues.  I was pleased to work with ASTE to revise the Science Teacher Program Recognition Standards around contemporary research and the Framework for K-12 Science Education, which were recently approved the NSTA Board of Directors.  And most recently, I worked with a stellar group of scientists and science educators to produce the NSTA Position Statement on the Teaching of Climate Science.  I consider this to be one of the most challenging and rewarding tasks that I was asked to participate in and lead, and this statement will continue to support NSTA’s leadership role in science education.

But is engagement with NSTA ever truly complete?  If there is an end-point, I surely don’t know how to find it!  With that in mind, I look forward to seeing old colleagues and making new professional friends at the upcoming regional meeting in Charlotte in December 2018 for which I have served on the Program Committee.  If you plan to be at this meeting, I would welcome the chance to chat and learn your story.  In fact, I might be able to point you in the right way on your own engagement with NSTA.  I’ll be presenting Saturday Morning, and will be introducing the featured session speaker on Friday, at 12:30 PM.  I also hope to have a special session on the new position statement on Teaching Climate Science. You can also find me on LinkedIn. Twitter, and on Facebook.   I truly believe that this will not be the last opportunity that I will have to support science education through NSTA, either as a servant-leader or in direct support of science teachers in other ways. And I’d love to help you find your own path with NSTA. Let me know how I can help.


Eric J. Pyle, PhD FGS

Professor, Department of Geology & Environmental Science

Coordinator, Science Teacher Preparation, College of Science & Mathematics

James Madison University

Harrisonburg, Virginia



Twitter:  @EricMgb

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Ed News: Betsy DeVos Steers Federal Grant For Innovation To STEM Programs

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This week in education news, 11 of the 18 Education Innovation and Research grant recipients have programs focused on helping schools improve STEM instruction; there are 389,000 fewer teachers in the K-12 workforce new report finds; the job of a teacher is to help students apply content in meaningful ways to their lives; teacher evaluations improve quality according to a new NCTQ report; according to UNESCO, girls are still more likely than boys to never enter into a school system, yet countries are committed to closing the gender gap by 2030 and also achieve universal completion of secondary education; and high school career and technical education programs now focus heavily on robotics.

Betsy DeVos Steers Federal Grant For ‘Innovation’ To STEM Programs

Programs focused on helping schools to improve instruction in STEM were big winners in the latest round of the Education Innovation and Research grants. In fact, of the 18 winners, at least 11 appear to have some sort of STEM twist. Read the article featured in Education Week.

Jobs Report Shows Shortfall Of Almost 390,000 Teachers

There are 389,000 fewer teachers in the K-12 workforce than are needed to keep up with a growing student population, according to a jobs report issued by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). Read the brief featured in Education DIVE.

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School Stay-trips

If I work in a district where I am unable to take my kids on plenty of field trips, what are some alternatives or activities that could be done on school grounds, but that are still fun and eye-opening for students?
– B., Arkansas

Budgets, locations, and policies can all curtail your ability to take students out of school. Here are a few things that you could try:

On school grounds

  • Gardening: Apply for grants or contact local nurseries to help build raised beds or a greenhouse.
  • Video: Write, direct, and record urban wildlife short films.
  • Ecological studies: Conduct transects and make quadrats out of bendy straws. Drop them around the grounds and do species counts, biomass estimates, distribution maps.
  • Species counts: Have students research what they find and their ecological roles.
  • Soil analysis: Look for soil invertebrates. Do a chemical analysis and create a recommendation report for the principal.
  •  “Campfire science:” Teach stoichiometry by making s’mores in a self-contained fire pit or on a grill. (Be sure to follow proper safety protocols and check with the principal, first!)

Bring it inside

  • Visiting scientists: Many organizations have travelling shows and presenters.
  • Terrariums: Start up colonies of harmless invertebrates like crickets, sowbugs, and earthworms.
  • Bottle ecosystems: Search the NSTA Learning Center ( and check out my collection:
  • Pond water aquarium: Collect water, invertebrates, and plants from a local pond.
  • Plants: Grow plants from seed and monitor over the term.


  • Webcams: Many websites have nature cams.
  • Videoconferencing: Several organizations will connect your class with scientists.
  • Sister schools: Run concurrent experiments and exchange data via video, wikis, or shared drives.

Hope this helps!

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Three Ways to Be an NSTA Volunteer

Volunteering is often considered a valuable asset on a resume or CV for almost any profession, including educators. Professionals of any age can develop new skills, expand professional networks, and open doors to opportunities for career growth through volunteering.

Get involved in shaping the future of NSTA by participating in one of the following three options: standing committees, advisory boards, or panels. With more than 30 different topics, you are sure to find an opportunity to spark your interest.

Each volunteer opportunity involves a different time commitment. You might want to consider starting with a committee and then working your way up to an advisory board. But choose a topic that interests you and consider getting involved.

Standing Committees

Standing Committee volunteers review NSTA policies, programs, and activities on an annual basis. Although there are 14 different committee topics, these committees are further broken into three subsets:

  • Level: Volunteers review and report on whether the organization serves the interests of educators at four levels of science teaching: preschool/elementary; middle level; high school; and college.
  • Function: Volunteers review the impact of NSTA’s work on roles outside the classroom, such as coordination and supervision; informal science; multicultural and equity issues; preservice teacher preparation; and professional development.
  • Task: Volunteers review internal and external NSTA tasks and processes behind activities such as awards and recognition; budget and finance; nominations; and organizational auditing.

Committee members work directly with members of the Board of Directors and can have a positive impact on science education at the national level.

Advisory Boards

Have you ever wanted to submit an idea for improvement to an NSTA journal, conference, or program? Do you have a great inkling for innovation in urban science or special education? Advisory Board members have the opportunity to give direct input, guidance, and advice to members of the NSTA staff and the Board of Directors.

More than 15 different Advisory Boards cover the breadth of the organization:

  • Publication Advisory Boards
    • Science and Children Advisory Board
    • Science Scope Advisory Board
    • The Science Teacher Advisory Board
    • Journal of College Science Teaching Advisory Board
    • NSTA Reports Advisory Board
  • Aerospace Programs Advisory Board
  • Conference Advisory Board
  • Development Advisory Board
  • International Advisory Board
  • Investment Advisory Board
  • John Glenn Center for Science Education Advisory Board
  • NGSS@NSTA Advisory Board
  • Retired Members Advisory Board
  • Rural Science Education Advisory Board
  • Science Matters Advisory Board
  • Science Safety Advisory Board
  • Special Needs Advisory Board
  • Technology Advisory Board
  • Urban Science Education Advisory Board


Members who volunteer on Panels are charged with joint selection for specific NSTA programs, including the following:

  • Outstanding Science Trade Books Panel
  • Best STEM Books Panel
  • Award Panel
    • Shell Science Teaching Award

Volunteers bring outside perspectives and professional experience to NSTA programs, products, and activities, so consider taking your membership beyond reading your journal or attending a conference. Volunteers are essential to the success of NSTA. Join our team of volunteers by completing the online application by December 3, 2018. NSTA President-elect Dennis Schatz will make appointments through the end of the year, and notification will begin at the end of February 2019. These appointees’ term of office begins on June 1, 2019.

Not an NSTA member? Learn more about what our membership has to offer. We would love to have you join us!

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Vernier: Go Direct Force and Acceleration Sensor


The Go Direct™ Force and Acceleration Sensor couples a 3-axis accelerometer with a stable and accurate force sensor that measures forces as small as ±0.1 N and up to ±50 N and can be used in the classroom or outdoors.

The Go Direct™ Force and Acceleration Sensor connects wirelessly via Bluetooth® or wired via USB to your platform. Subsequently, there is no longer the need for an intermediate interface to link directly to a PC, Mac, Chromebook, or mobile device. Adding to its portability, it hold a charge for two hours, providing a myriad of opportunities for authentic data collection in the classroom, laboratory, and out in the field. Moreover, the Graphical Analysis 4 App allows for battery life monitoring and seamless interfacing.

The Go Direct™ Force and Acceleration Sensor includes a force sensor, 3-axis accelerometer, and 3-axis gyroscope.

What’s Included
• Go Direct™ Force and Acceleration
• Hook attachment
• Bumper attachment
• Nylon screw
• Accessory Rod
• Micro USB Cable

Classroom Applications:

Go Direct™ Force and Acceleration can be used in a variety of experiments:

• Unpack Newton’s Third Law by linking the hooks of two force sensors with a rubber band.
• Utilize the force sensor to pull an object across a surface profile to measure frictional forces (refer to the media link at the end of the review).
• Attach the force sensor to the Vernier Centripetal Force Apparatus to measure centripetal force and acceleration simultaneously.
• Position sensors on Dynamics Carts to investigate forces and accelerations in collisions.

Examples of Data Collection

Image 1. Time and Force

Image 2. Time and Force

Image 3. Newton’s Third Law


• Force: ±50 N
• Acceleration: 3 axis, ±16 g
• Gyroscope: 3 axis, 2000°/s
• Connections: Wireless: Bluetooth, Wired: USB

For more information and a demo experiment click here:

Cost- $99

Example of Impulse and Momentum Activity (option 1) –


The goal of this activity is to relate impulse and momentum, and to determine that the impulse is equal to the change in momentum. The investigation is set up in two parts. First, students will evaluate how to quantify the event that causes a change in motion (i.e., impulse). The second is to develop a model for how impulse changes the velocity or momentum of an object.

In the Preliminary Observations, students observe a cart experiencing an impulse, using a hoop spring on a force sensor to change the momentum of a cart. Students address impulse in Part I of the investigation.

In Part II, students address the question of quantifying the change in the motion state of the cart. Students who investigate the relationship between impulse and change in velocity should find that the constant of proportionality is about equal to the mass of the cart. Students who investigate the relationship between impulse and change in momentum should find that the two values are nearly numerically equal.

Learning Outcomes
•Identify variables, design and perform investigations, collect and analyze data, and draw a conclusion.
•Determine impulse and change in momentum based on measurements of force and velocity.
•Create a mathematical model of the relationship between impulse and the change in momentum.

Sensors and Equipment

Next Generation Science Standards

Disciplinary Core Ideas
•PS2.A Forces and Motion

Crosscutting Concepts
•Cause and Effect
•Systems and System Models

Science and Engineering Practices
•Planning and carrying out investigations
•Analyzing and interpreting data
•Using mathematics and computational thinking
•Constructing explanations and designing solutions
•Science models, laws, mechanisms, and theories explain natural phenomena


Edwin P. Christmann is a professor and chairman of the secondary education department and graduate coordinator of the mathematics and science teaching program at Slippery Rock University in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania. Mark Hogue is an assistant professor of the secondary education department and teaches mathematics and science methods at Slippery Rock University in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania. Caitlin Baxter is a graduate student in the mathematics and science teaching program at Slippery Rock University in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania.

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