No Money in the School Budget to Attend the NSTA National Conference? Learn What You Can Do

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Middle school science teacher and NSTA member Christine Marsh is a self-described “huge fan” of the NSTA Conferences on Science Education. When she found out that no money was available in her school’s budget to send her to the NSTA National Conference in Boston, she started researching ways to fund her trip. “Obviously, being a teacher, it’s not always easy to scrounge up that kind of money,” she says. “When my administration said that the budget wouldn’t allow me to attend, I started looking at how else I could possibly pay for it.” That’s when Marsh applied for, and received, the Maitland P. Simmons Memorial Award for New Teachers. The award consists of up to $1,000 to be used to attend the annual NSTA National Conference. “It alleviated my concerns about how I was going to pay for the conference,” says Marsh.

Marsh: One reason I really wanted to attend the conference this year is because while I was comfortable with content, classroom management, and knowing what I was going to teach and how I was going to teach it, I struggled with student intrinsic motivation. I wanted my students to not just sit there and learn the content, but instead be interested in coming to class and be excited about the next thing we were going to learn. I found a lot of helpful information on student motivation at the Boston conference.

For instance, Bio-Rad Laboratories and Texas Instruments held a workshop about zombies, understanding the latest trends in Hollywood, and how to bring that into the classroom. The workshop served as a springboard for me. My students always talk about the show “Walking Dead.” In fact, I started watching the show so I could understand what my students talk about. I was sitting in that workshop and thought about Walking Dead. After attending the conference, I decided to create a whole unit based around zombies. My students loved the zombie unit. They came to class every day wondering what more we were going to learn and what was going to happen next with the zombies. We were covering pH, so I developed a backstory on why pH is important because zombie blood is acidic.

In addition to the helpful tips on student motivation, I found the conference provided a lot of good ideas for incorporating Common Core standards in the classroom. Common Core was included in most of the conference sessions. I don’t teach English or Math, but I also need to take responsibility for incorporating those standards in my science classroom.

How else does your NSTA membership help you?

Marsh: I read NSTA Reports regularly, and especially read the Summer Programs section. As a teacher, I always want to learn new things and the summer is a great time to go off and explore. It was actually through the NSTA Career Center that I found out about a Research Experience for Teachers fellowship offered by Filament Games, which makes learning video games. I applied for the fellowship and got it last year. It was a terrific experience.

In addition, as an NSTA member, I definitely want to apply for other NSTA awards. I would like to apply for the Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy, which sounds like a great program.

(Note from NSTA: Learn more about NSTA awards, and see the “Making the Most of Your Membership” blog post: 20 Essential NSTA Awards You Can Learn About in 15 Minutes. 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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