Where Can I Find Free or Low-Cost Resources and Opportunities for Science Teachers?


Free or low-cost programs and materials can help teachers stretch their tight budgets. NSTA member Sharon Cumiskey has turned to NSTA’s member newspaper, NSTA Reports, for over 20 years to find quality teacher resources. Throughout her career, Cumiskey has benefited from opportunities she’s found in NSTA Reports. “Some of my fellow teachers ask me how I hear about the opportunities,” Cumiskey says. “I tell them that they just need to read NSTA Reports.

Cumiskey: When NSTA sends out NSTA Reports, I like to check out the different sections such as “In Your Pocket,” “Grab Bag,” and “Summer Programs” for free resources and opportunities for teachers. (Note from NSTA: Our popular Freebies column is available online).

I look at programs for the summer months, in particular. At one point during my career I was a single parent, so I was happy if I could find a program that paid me over the summer. I sometimes would apply for three or four of the summer programs I read about in NSTA Reports. I took advantage of anything I could apply for. Fortunately, most of the time, I only got accepted to one program. Only once did I get accepted to two programs and I had to choose (one of the programs let me postpone my participation for a year).

One summer, I spent six weeks in Arizona studying astronomy with the American Astronomical Society Teacher Resource Agent (AASTRA) Program, which I read about in NSTA Reports. During AASTRA, we attended classes taught by astronomers, such as Dr. Mary Kay Hemenway from the University of Texas. We worked our way through a huge notebook of astronomy activities for middle school and high school and would practice teaching the activities to one another. After AASTRA ended, we got paid through a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to make presentations about what we learned during the program. I gave presentations about AASTRA at NSTA conferences.

In 2010, I took part in MIT’s Science and Engineering Program for Teachers (SEPT), which I also learned about from NSTA Reports. SEPT is like an honor class for teachers. To be accepted into the program, you have to already have proven that you can network and that you give back to the science education community. You spend a week at MIT attending specific classes, networking with professors, and learning about MIT’s cutting-edge scientific research.

Thanks to NSTA Reports, I also found out about two programs—one on nanotechnology and the other on digital imaging—at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Both of those programs were very informative. In fact, I’m presenting about digital imaging at the NSTA Conference in Richmond, VA, this coming October. The summer program gave us access to free digital imaging software, so I devised a genetics lesson for my students in which we analyze eye color. I recently wrote up the lesson, and it was published in Science Scope.

NSTA provided me with the opportunity to find out about and participate in these programs. So, I feel like I owe something back to NSTA. That’s why I like to present at NSTA conferences.

What other opportunities have you learned about in NSTA Reports?

Cumiskey: A while ago, I read in NSTA Reports that Massachusetts (my state) was offering to pay the fee for a certain number of teachers to pursue National Board Certification. I didn’t have $2,500 to spend on the fee, especially for a certification that I might not get. But, since Massachusetts was paying the bill, I was willing to try. I received my National Board Certification, and it was worth doing. The certification has helped me get into some of the programs I’ve attended.

(Note from NSTA: For more information on NSTA Reports, see “Get Your Hands on NSTA Report” and “Use the NSTA Calendar.” 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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Help Young Learners Discover Answers to Their “Why” Questions

New I Wonder Why books from NSTA Kids

Why can’t I see my shadow when it’s dark?” “Why are some sounds loud and some sounds soft?” “Why do we need machines?” “Why can’t I see colors when there is no light?

Teachers and parents know how inquisitive young learners are. Now you can guide K–6 graders to discover answers for themselves as they explore the latest NSTA Kids books in the I Wonder Why series by Lawrence F. Lowery.

Light and ColorLight and Color is a child’s introduction to light and its relationship to the color of objects. This book for young children lays a foundation for science concepts students will learn in middle school that are only possible with early learning experiences.



Michael's Racing MachineIn Michael’s Racing Machine, Michael and his friend Luci build a racing car, and the story serves as a framework for explanations about machines. Simple machines, such as the lever, the wheel and axle, the inclined plane, and the pulley, are applications of science principles, so they can be used as an opportunity to investigate science principles.

Rubber vs. GlassRubber vs. Glass focuses on the idea of properties—the characteristics of objects or substances—by following a brother, Bill, and sister, Mary, through the exploration of two seemingly divergent substances: rubber and glass. Each of these substances, like all substances of the world, has its own set of properties.


Sounds Are High, Sounds Are LowSounds Are High, Sounds Are Low was written for children who are just beginning to learn how to read. It presents some fundamental concepts related to sounds—pitch and volume. Because this is a book on sounds, the sounds of words when they are spoken is part of the content. The semi-poetic structure, the repetitive rhythm of the words, and the reuse of consonant sounds in single-syllable words make the content easy to follow and remember.

Dark as a ShadowAll things—people, animals, plants, and objects—cast shadows of their own particular shape. Through Dark as a Shadow, the reader learns that it is possible to identify most objects by their shadow shapes and that a shadow can be obtained at any time of day or night if there is a light, and object, and something for the shadow to fall on.

International Reading Day is September 8, and these NSTA Kids titles have a universal appeal. NSTA is offering a 10 percent discount on the NSTA Kids books until August 22. When ordering any of the NSTA Kids books, enter the promotion code NEWKID.

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SciLinks Resources

For many of us, the school year is starting soon (if it hasn’t already). If you are looking for new materials to add to your collectioSciLinksn or to supplement a textbook or other resource, check out SciLinks, NSTA’s online database of vetted websites.

The websites in SciLinks have been submitted by a corps of “webwatchers“—teachers who search for and review websites related to topics in science. The websites are organized by content and can be searched by topic and grade level (K–4, 5–8, and 9–12). Teachers can access SciLinks either by using the codes in a SciLinked textbook or NSTA publication (identified by this graphic) or by searching for a keyword or standard on the site itself.

As a teacher-user, you can provide logins for students to search for sites, or you could give them a list of suggestions. For interested or advanced students, you might go to the next grade level or you could go down a level for students who may struggle with the text.

In a large group setting, why just talk about science topics when there are many sites that lend themselves to illustrating the concepts? Observing how volcanoes erupt, watching events in real time, using animations or simulations of complex processes, or accessing photographs and video of various topics bring these topics to life. The resources are free and ready when you are.

One thing I’ve enjoyed over the years is using the SciLinks websites as learning resources for myself. If you’re unfamiliar with a topic, searching for sites geared to middle or high school students would be a quick and painless way to learn more about it. My former district’s teacher evaluation plan had an option for self-study, so I would have taken advantage of the SciLinks list.

A colleague shares his experiences: “I’m starting a unit on biochemistry in a few weeks, so I used the search term Carbohydrate. Within a few minutes, I had compiled a list of sites that would be appropriate for the content and for my students. For example, one on the list, Biomolecules: The Carbohydrates was just what I was looking for. I also found a biochemistry discussion on the Chem4Kids site that would be very appropriate for students who need a basic introduction to the topic. I added links to the sites on my list to my course webpage so that students could access them easily in school or even at home. I also found some simulations that I can display on the interactive white board in my room.”

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Building Partnerships and Collaborations at the #NSTA14 Area Conference on Science Education in Richmond

Richmond conference infoA recent Education Week blog post touts the importance of cultivating curiosity in children. Science teachers do that every day, and one of the things NSTA members frequently do is share their ideas about how to nurture curiosity—not just in their students, but in themselves. This year, attendees of NSTA’s 2014 Richmond Area Conference on Science Education (October 16-18) will have a chance to do exactly that because one of the strands focuses on Partnerships and Collaborations.

Here are just a few of the presentations that will be offered, and the session browser is online, so attendees can put their experience together now!

  • Childlike Wonder: Using Science Hobbies and Hobbyists to Facilitate a Lifetime Engagement with Science
    Saturday, October 18 2:00 PM – 2:30 PM
    Greater Richmond Convention Center, E21A
    Science hobbyists are an untapped resource in many communities. Learn how to create partnerships with hobbyist groups to advance STEM education inside and outside your classroom.
    Presenter(s): Elysa Corin (North Carolina State University: Raleigh, NC), M. Gail Jones (North Carolina State University: Raleigh, NC), Gina Childers (North Carolina State University: Raleigh, NC), Rebecca Hite (North Carolina State University: Raleigh, NC)
    GRADE LEVEL: General
  • Using Citizen Science to Build Community Partnerships
    Thursday, October 16 8:00 AM – 9:00 AM
    Greater Richmond Convention Center, E21A
    Citizen Science engages learners in authentic science that can change the community and beyond. Join us for a look at opportunities, resources, and how to get started.
    Presenter(s): Robert Dillon (MRH Middle School: Maplewood, MO)
    GRADE LEVEL: 5 – 12
  • The Engaged Scientist Project: Lessons from a Decade of Engaging Scientists in Informal Education
    Thursday, October 16 12:30 PM – 1:30 PM
    Greater Richmond Convention Center, E21A
    Explore lessons learned from informal education partnership programs designed and run by junior scientists and learn about connecting with scientists via the Engaged Scientist Network.
    Presenter(s): Catherine Vrentas (Outreach Specialist: Ankeny, IA)
    GRADE LEVEL: General
  • Make Broader Impacts: A Network for Connecting Students to Real Science
    Thursday, October 16 3:30 PM – 4:30 PM
    Greater Richmond Convention Center, E21A
    Join a collaborative network of teachers and scientists through an easy-to-use, one-stop resource for citizen science, research opportunities, synthetic data, and student-to-scientist connections.
    Presenter(s): Nick LaFave (Clover High School: Clover, SC)
    GRADE LEVEL: General
  • Texas-STEM Coalition—Partnerships for Success
    Thursday, October 16 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM
    Greater Richmond Convention Center, E21A
    Learn successful partnering strategies used by the Texas-STEM Coalition—seven partnering STEM centers working together to improve STEM education by building and using an extensive network of partnerships to ultimately prepare students to thrive in a 21st-century global economy.
    Presenter(s): Marguerite Sognier (The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston: Galveston, TX), Clifford Houston (The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston: Galveston, TX)
    GRADE LEVEL: General
  • Family STEM Explorations Created by Community Partnerships
    Friday, October 17 8:00 AM – 9:00 AM
    Greater Richmond Convention Center, E21A
    Team up with business and higher education organizations in your community to host family STEM events using fun, hands-on activities that engage the entire family.
    Presenter(s): Mia Jackson (David Heil & Associates, Inc.: Portland, OR), David Heil (David Heil & Associates, Inc.: Portland, OR), Joan Chadde (Michigan Technological University: Houghton, MI), Wendy Goldfein (Newington Forest Elementary School: Springfield, VA), Cheryl Nelson (Naval Air Station North Island: San Diego, CA)
    GRADE LEVEL: 1 – 6, College
  • Inquiring about STEM? Learn to Kick-start High School Connections with Our Institute
    Friday, October 17 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM
    Greater Richmond Convention Center, E21A
    “It has given a kick-start to the rest of my teaching career.” Hear how 150 STEM teachers developed inquiry-based lessons to link school to work.
    Presenter(s): Charles Setterfield (Sinclair Community College: Dayton, OH), Tom Singer (Sinclair Community College: Dayton, OH)
    GRADE LEVEL: 9 – 12, College
  • Spark Students’ Interest in Chemistry with Resources from the American Chemical Society (ACS)
    Friday, October 17 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM
    Greater Richmond Convention Center, E21A
    This presentation is an overview of free resources from the ACS, including the Chemical Education Digital Library (ChemEd DL), ChemMatters video podcasts, developed lesson plans, high school energy website, and a collection of ChemClub activities.
    Presenter(s): Marta Gmurczyk (American Chemical Society: Washington, DC), Karen Kaleuati (American Chemical Society: Washington, DC), Patrice Pages (American Chemical Society: Washington, DC)
    GRADE LEVEL: 9 – 12
  • NSTA Press® Session: Showcasing How Elementary Preservice Interns Teach Inside–Out.
    Friday, October 17 3:30 PM – 4:30 PM
    Greater Richmond Convention Center, Governors Room (B20)
    Join us as we showcase how the materials from Inside–Out: Environmental Science in the Classroom and the Field, Grades 3–8 are used in the classroom by preservice elementary education students.
    Presenter(s): Robert Blake, Jr. (Towson University: Towson, MD), Sarah Haines (Towson University: Towson, MD), Lisa Trattner (Towson University: Towson, MD)
    GRADE LEVEL: 3 – 5
  • NARST Session: Research Apprenticeships for Diverse High School Students
    Friday, October 17 3:30 PM – 4:30 PM
    Greater Richmond Convention Center, B14
    Discussion centers on the impact of a research apprenticeship program developed for diverse students and possible implications for both in and out-of-school science education. Emphasis will be placed on issues of authenticity and science and engineering practices as presented in the NGSS.
    Presenter(s): Stephen Burgin (Old Dominion University: Norfolk, VA), William McConnell (Old Dominion University: Norfolk, VA)
    FORMAT: Presentation
    GRADE LEVEL: 9 – 12
  • Macroinvertebrates to 3-D Imaging: Collaborations for Environmental STEAM Education In and Out of the Classroom
    Friday, October 17 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM
    Greater Richmond Convention Center, E21A
    Engage grades 6–8 students in imaginative inquiry-based lessons that involve macroinvertebrate and habitat evaluation field studies, aquatic husbandry, freshwater pond development, 3-D design and imaging, interactive computer animation, and outdoor recreation all while supporting state standards.
    Presenter(s): Jessica Kester (The Outdoor Classroom: Pittsburgh, PA)
    GRADE LEVEL: 6 – 8
  • From the Bus to the Boardroom: Fostering Informal Science Education Opportunites with Partners from Your Own Community
    Saturday, October 18 8:00 AM – 9:00 AM
    Greater Richmond Convention Center, E21A
    Ever scratched your head over how to get your students to grasp a science concept? The answer may be a phone call away. Join Kay Stone, outreach administrator at Auburn University, to learn some ways to tap into the rich resources in your own backyard.
    Presenter(s): Kay Stone (Auburn University Environmental Institute: Auburn, AL)
    GRADE LEVEL: 5 – 8
  • Arizona STEM Club Guide and Network
    Saturday, October 18 9:30 AM – 10:30 AM
    Greater Richmond Convention Center, E21A
    Receive an overview of the Arizona STEM Club Guide & Online Network and the benefits of STEM clubs. Find out how to replicate the process to create your own STEM club and statewide STEM club network.
    Presenter(s): John Kriekard (Science Foundation Arizona: Phoenix, AZ)
    GRADE LEVEL: General
  • Our Common Planet: A Collaborative Venture
    Saturday, October 18 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM
    Greater Richmond Convention Center, E21A
    Join a discussion on how non-formal environmental educators and the Agency of Education collaborated to develop an NGSS program for all Vermont teachers of science.
    Presenter(s): Gail Hall (Vermont Agency of Education: Barre, VT)
    GRADE LEVEL: K, 1 – 12
  • How Delaware Left No Child Inside
    Saturday, October 18 12:30 PM – 1:30 PM
    Greater Richmond Convention Center, E21A
    Hear how two agencies, the Department of Education and Department of Natural Resources, worked together to develop an action plan to address the interrelated challenges of providing all children with outdoor experiences, improving children’s health, promoting environmental literacy, and increasing student achievement.
    Presenter(s): Tonyea Mead (Delaware Dept. of Education: Dover, DE)
    GRADE LEVEL: K, 1 – 12

Join us for this special experience. Register now!

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How Can I Turn NSTA Resources into an E-Textbook for my College Classroom?


Before becoming an adjunct professor at Florida International University (FIU), NSTA member Kathleen Sparrow was the science supervisor for Akron Public Schools in Ohio. As a science supervisor, she used NSTA journal articles to provide professional development support to her teachers. A few years ago, Sparrow became an NSTA online adviser and loved how the NSTA Learning Center provided members access to journal articles, books, and more. “I got to know the NSTA Learning Center really well. If the Learning Center had been around when I was a science supervisor, I would have used it in a heartbeat,” she says.

Sparrow likes the Learning Center so much, in fact, that she now uses it as an e-textbook for her preservice elementary science methods course at FIU. “When NSTA announced that they were going to start offering the Learning Center as an e-textbook, I jumped at the chance,” Sparrow says. Now, all three of the professors who teach the preservice science methods class at FIU use the Learning Center as an e-text. And, students are thrilled. Each semester, Sparrow surveys the students and asks them if they liked using the Learning Center e-textbook better than having a traditional paper textbook. Each semester, around 90% say they prefer the e-textbook.

Sparrow: I use the Learning Center like I would a traditional textbook. It’s so nice because all of the journal articles and book chapters are available in one place online. I assign various articles for the students to read like I would if I was using a print textbook. My class focuses on a certain topic each week, and I assign various articles, book chapters, and other types of resources to supplement that topic. For instance, during the first couple of weeks of the semester we explore the issue, “What does a good science class look like?” I have students read chapters in the Learning Center from the NSTA book, Doing Good Science in Middle School.

Other than the articles to read, I give students specific assignments in the Learning Center. I make these assignments because I want these future teachers to know that the Learning Center is available to them, it will always be available to them, and it’s so rich in different resources.

This past semester, I included a focus on sustainability. I selected four NSTA SciPacks in the Learning Center to go along with the ecology and sustainability theme. I had students select one of those four SciPacks to work through as a content piece and to extend their content knowledge. Students met throughout the semester to discuss what they learned in the SciPacks, which reinforced their learning.

How else do you use the Learning Center as an e-textbook in your classroom?

Sparrow: Students in my class have to complete 15 field hours in an elementary classroom and teach an inquiry lesson. Before their inquiry lesson, I have them create a collection of articles in the Learning Center on their topic so that they have additional content information. I have them review one other person’s collection of articles.

Students are also required to make two posts in the Learning Center’s Community Forums. Students love it when NSTA members provide feedback to their questions. It builds a familiarity for them.

I also use the Professional Development Portfolio component with my students in lieu of a final exam. I provide six categories of goals for my students and they are required to select one goal from each category. One category, for instance, is knowledge of science content. For the portfolio assignment, students are asked to identify the steps they’ve taken to contribute to the learning of that goal. They are required to write their action item (for instance, “completed the SciPack on Coral Reef Ecosystems”), write a justification of how that contributed to their learning, and then upload a piece of evidence (for instance, the NSTA certificate they received for completing the SciPack).

The Professional Development Portfolio provides an excellent review of what they’ve done and how much they’ve done in the class. It causes them to review everything we’ve done throughout the semester and how it contributes to their learning. In addition, students can use the portfolio tool when they go for a job interview. Anything students put in their Learning Center library during the semester or throughout the year is theirs forever. They’ll always have access to that information.

(Note from NSTA Are you a college or university professor of preservice science teachers? Join NSTA for a web seminar on August 26 and learn how you can create a truly integrated and blended learning experience for your students with a customized interactive e-textbook leveraging the NSTA Learning Center. 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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Learning from the online Early Childhood community

Child rolls a ball along a ramp she built.Do you have colleagues with whom you can share ideas for teaching science and engineering concepts? Do you have resources to develop science lessons? Does your program or district support the science and engineering curriculum that you know is best practice for your students? Sometimes the best support is available online from researchers who investigate how children learn, curriculum designers who use research to carefully plan developmentally appropriate learning experiences, educators who discuss the research and other classroom teachers who use and revise these learning experiences.

This is where blogs, journals, and resource websites can be helpful in becoming knowledgeable about recent research and others’ experiences. Here are two blog posts I found helpful in reflecting on my practice:

Cindy Hoisington, Senior Curriculum/Instructional Design Associate at Education Development Center, Inc, shares her experiences and thoughts on the recent National Science Teachers Association’s (NSTA) position statement on Early Childhood Science Education in a July post on a National Association for the Education of Young Children’s (NAEYC) blog, “Putting the Position Statement on Early Childhood Science to Work in Preschool Classrooms and Programs.” I share her excitement for NAEYC’s endorsement of the NSTA position statement! This document will help guide my teaching.

Read Cindy’s post, read the NSTA position statement on Early Childhood Science Education, and then respond to Cindy’s question:

How will you put the position statement to work in your classroom or program in the coming school year?

Jeff Winokur, science educator and Instructor of Elementary Education at Wheelock College, and colleague of Cindy’s at EDC, reflected on appropriate early childhood science lessons in a blog post at The Wheelock Blog. Continue reading …

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Use the NSTA Calendar: The Easiest Way to Get More Out of Your Membership


MMYM_15minEver wondered if there was a fellowship or grant to help you complete a research project? Have you ever wanted to submit an amazing classroom investigation you authored to an awards competition? What about an international workshop for teachers or a seminar for your students from an offshore drilling rig? If you only have 15 minutes each month to spend on NSTA membership benefits, the easiest way to access multiple opportunities is through your NSTA Calendar.

The NSTA Calendar organizes events and programs for science educators’ professional learning opportunities and their classrooms. Like the NSTA Reports Grab Bag, the calendar is packed with free resources, upcoming contests, and enrichment programs.

A sampling of current calendar events include the following:

  • Ambrose Monell grants for up to $100,000 for secondary educators who are seeking ways to improve the physical, mental, and moral condition of humanity;
  • A call for elementary, middle school, and high school educators to participate in a survey on garden ecology; and
  • NAIS Challenge 20/20 is an Internet-based program that pairs classes at any grade level (K-12) from schools in the U.S. with their counterpart classes in schools in other countries.

Explore and sort your calendar search by region and grade level. Take it one step further by breaking the search down by specific category:

  • Awards/Competitions
  • Grants/Fellowships
  • Summer Programs
  • Seminars/Workshops/Courses
  • Science/Education Events
  • Student Programs

NSTA Calendar will give you links to upcoming deadlines as well as revolving deadlines for longer-term awards and grant competitions. If you have a workshop, seminar, or fellowship for science educators consider submitting an event through the NSTA Calendar site or contact the Calendar Editor at calendar@nsta.org.

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The Joys of Gardening with Young Children

Guest blogger Gail LaubenthalI welcome guest blogger, Gail Laubenthal, who shares her experiences and tips for helping young children nurture a garden and being nurtured by it. Gail is a retired teacher (43 years), currently serving as an Educational Consultant, mentoring Early Childhood teachers in Austin ISD and Grand Prairie ISD. She is also a frequent workshop presenter at NSTA, NAEYC, TAEYC, and other state and local conferences and district events.Contact her at glaubent@yahoo.com

Give children the opportunity to nurture a small piece of earth, and in return, the earth will nurture them with a harvest. Hands-on gardening creates hope and renewal in the hearts of all who participate. As Maria Montessori advised us, “The best means of invigorating the child is to immerse him in nature.” (Montessori, 1964). When children plant, care for, and harvest vegetables, like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, turnips, beets, and lettuce, they are more likely to eat them…much to their parents’ surprise! They also begin to understand where their food comes from.

As you begin this school year, ask yourself if this might be the year to create or enhance a garden space for your children. If the answer is, “Yes!” then you can use these tips to help build a successful garden experience. The learning opportunities are endless!

So what should you be doing now?

  • Find a garden space that has a minimum of 6 hours of sun each day.
  • A nearby water source is important, but not essential. Use a long hose to fill a 5 gallon bucket with water and the children can use small cups and cans to dip their water and pour it on their seeds, sprouts, and plants.
  • If you already have a classroom garden, begin planning a cleanup day and invite your children and their families to help. If your school has business/organization volunteers, find out if they would be interested in helping with your gardening program. Plan a weekend garden cleanup event. One teacher “planted” a dead tree in a bucket and hung colorful paper pictures of fruits and vegetables on it. On each she put a request for garden tools, seeds, and plants. In no time, all of her garden needs had been fulfilled.
  • Children working in a raised bed "Square Foot" school garden.By using the Square Foot gardening method, you can build a 4-foot by 4-foot square garden and 16 children can have their own 1-foot by 1-foot space. Other methods, like container gardening, might also work, if space and sunlight is a factor. Many ideas on gardening with children can be found on Pinterest, including on my garden board at http://www.pinterest.com/flaubent/gardening-with-children/
  • Begin to think about what types of vegetables, fruits, flowers and/or herbs you would like to plant. It is best to include your children when making these decisions. Your local county extension office often has a yearly calendar listing seeds and plants that can be planted in your area based on a seasonal timeline.
  • August and September are often too hot if you live in the South, so most teachers use those months to prepare the garden site, with the goal of planting in late September or early October. Other areas will have different challenges and schedules. Be mindful of your local weather to determine when you should begin to plant. In some areas of the country, the fall/winter gardens reap the most bountiful harvest. In other areas, the spring/summer garden is the best. See planting guides from your cooperative extension service (see an example here) and the USDA Plant Hardiness map to determine which plants are most likely to survive over winter.

Continue reading …

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Career Education, NGSS, Teacher Tenure, Creationism, and Dissections: The STEM Landscape Across the United States

As schools get back into session and teachers prepare to go back, many stories are popping up in the news about science and STEM education across the United States. The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) follows these stories and gets involved through our journals, conferences, and professional development programs. This week the stories I found to be the most interesting to science teachers are:\

Jodi Peterson is the Assistant Executive Director, Communication, Legislative & Public Affairs for the National Science Teachers Association and the Chair of the STEM Education Coalition. Reach her at jpeterson@nsta.org or follow her on Twitter @STEMedadvocate.

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Where Can I Find Professional Development Opportunities and Resources for Science Teachers?


NSTA member Becky Litherland, a middle level STEM coordinator, loves taking the teachers in her district to the NSTA Conferences on Science Education. “One of my favorite things is to take a teacher to their first NSTA conference,” she says. “It’s so much fun. They come back to the classroom super charged and ready to do all kinds of things.” Litherland’s teachers aren’t the only ones who have benefited from those trips, however. Litherland, who served as a district science coordinator for 26 years before becoming a STEM coordinator, has found a number of professional learning resources at the conferences. She has turned to NSTA many times for guidance on how to provide quality learning opportunities for teachers.

Litherland: Over many years, I have encouraged teachers to become presenters at NSTA conferences. Usually, I have them present with me the first time. Then, the second time, they present on their own. The process of preparing for and presenting at a conference is an educational experience. There is so much learning that takes place at an NSTA conference.

I have a long list of professional development resources I’ve found at NSTA conferences. For instance, I already knew about Science Notebooks when I attended an NSTA conference in New Orleans. I came out of a session and said to a colleague, ‘This is what our district needs. This is the next piece to the Science Notebooks.’ When I came home I ordered the book Writing in Science and I realized the presenter was the author!

At the NSTA Conference in Seattle I happened upon a session by Julia Cothron, author of Science Experiments by the Hundreds. Her work also has had a major impact on my teachers and students. She has conducted professional development for our teachers many times. When Missouri wrote their grade-level expectations, their inquiry strand was basically the experimental design that Cothron outlined in her book. It wasn’t the intent of her book, but it became a great match. Part of our state test involves experimental design or inquiry. Our district does a pre- and post-test for sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade science that is similar to the state piece, but it all aligns with the ideas we got from Julia Cothron. My teachers are taking their labs and modifying them to be more open and more student-centered all thanks to Cothron’s work. It is fun to think this all got started from an NSTA session years ago.

How else has your NSTA membership helped you with professional development?

Litherland: I’ve served on the NSTA Board of Directors and Council. That’s been a great learning experience and I have met fantastic people. You always pick up ideas whenever you get science people together. You also get a good sense that science education is bigger than you and it’s bigger than just your school district. NSTA sets you up for professional networking, which increases your professionalism.

And, you make connections that you wouldn’t have made if you weren’t an NSTA member. For example, our district applied for a Mathematics and Science Partnership (MSP) grant through our state department of education called the Scientist in Residence Program. The RFP for the three-year project made it very clear that they wanted us to provide content training for third- through sixth-grade teachers. As we worked on the RFP, we were trying to figure out how to provide that content. Another colleague (who is also active in NSTA) and I we were at one of our writing meetings and we both thought of Bill Robertson. I had seen his Stop Faking It series, which is published by NSTA. So, we called NSTA and they gave us Bill’s contact information. We got in touch with him and he ended up working with us for three years. It was fantastic. We purchased many of his books.

NSTA also connected me with Page Keeley. I can’t tell you how many of her Uncovering Student Ideas in Science books I’ve bought. For five years, I was in charge of inquiry training in our district. Everyone who attended the training got copies of Page’s books. Her work has really made an impact on my teachers who use her formative assessment approach quite frequently.

(Note from NSTA: How has NSTA helped you with professional development? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below. 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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