Recently, we asked Jean Tushie for a little insight into how her committee settled on the theme and strands for the Minneapolis conference:
It’s absolutely amazing how early the planning for a NSTA Area Conference begins. We started our process in the summer of 2008. After the conference chairs were named, we met to determine our theme and strands. It can be really hard to focus with so many topics to choose from. But at the same time, it’s amazing how the process came together and the team came up with a theme and strands for our conference.Minnesota has always been environmental focused. As citizens we have been long time recyclers, and in our schools students learn at an early age the importance of respecting the environment. Coupling this with the current climate and concern for science education in our country, we came up with the theme “Changing the Climate of Science Education,” allowing the conference to be focused on two important topics in science.
Next we had to develop the strands to guide the conference. The “Green” strand came easily. This strand will give teachers ideas to incorporate environmental activities in their classroom while enhancing their own understanding of current environmental concerns. It was a natural fit to have Richard Louv as the general session speaker: he presents a talk entitled “Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder.”
We are fortunate to have Winona LaDuke, a native Minnesotan who lives and works on the White Earth Reservation. Winona’s work is to advocate, raise public support, and create funding for native environmental groups. She has an important message discussing the Native American viewpoint about the environment.
The other two strands are more focused on the “Climate of Science Education.” The “Instruction & Assessment” strand looks at how we know what kids are thinking. Page Keeley, author of Uncovering Student Ideas in Science, will focus on formative assessment. There are times when I have used some of Pages’ probes to reveal my students’ preconceptions that I have been amazed.
The other speaker for this strand is Bill Sommers. Bill is my former principal who retired and went south to Texas and is now an educational consultant. His discussion will focus on how to process the data and information we collect on what our students are thinking. He is an expert on effective Professional Learning Communities. He is not only a former principal but also a former physics teacher, so he truly understands the importance of science education.
Finally, but certainly not least, is Michael Klentschy. Michael is an expert on science notebooks. He has authored several books. Elementary teachers will find his information useful in using notebooks to connect science and other subjects. Making connections is one of the best ways we are going to “Improve the Climate of Science Education.” As a high school teacher, I use several ideas from his books. So he has good ideas we can all use.
As I write this, I get excited about all of these experts and what they have to say on each of the topics. I have several colleagues going to the conference. The best part of attending a NSTA conference is going back to school and discussing the exciting things we learned. So don’t miss out on this “golden” opportunity to help “Improve the Climate of Science Education.
By the way, I have focused on the featured speakers for our strands, but there are LOTS of sessions that will support each topic. So be sure to look at the program on line to see all of the available sessions.
What strands and which speakers are important to you?