Becoming familiar with leaves

Leaves tied to a stick to make a paint brush.

Gill Robertson shared her idea for using leaves as paint brushes.

A photo shared with a social media group—leaves bound to a stick to create a paintbrush—raised memories of children engaging with leaves in many ways. Thank you to Gill Robertson of Teddy Bear Day Care in Manitoba for sharing this interesting way to explore leaves. Using leaves in art activities is a way to draw children’s attention to the parts of plants, how they are used by the plant and how we can use them.

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Teaching Climate Change With Stories of Success

Science teachers often find teaching about climate change challenging; when they discuss the dire consequences of rising CO2, students have a propensity to shut down. The common belief has been that if people understood climate change science, they would want to do something about it. But years of speaking to students about environmental issues made it clear to me that messages of gloom and doom elicit reactions of fear, demoralization, and hopelessness. However, when I shared inspiring stories about youth actions to, for example, preserve land or clean up rivers, it allowed young people to hear the bad news because they understood they had the power to change things. Positive, solutions-oriented stories motivated students to try to make a difference. And social science research confirms the importance of a positive approach.

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The STEM in Volcanoes

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My parents are currently in Hawaii, visiting Maui, Oahu, and the big island, Hawaii itself. They’ve wanted to go for many years, and on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary they decided to do it. I had been to Oahu and the big island about 25 years ago to see my college roommate, who did her masters degree in planetary geology at the University of Hawaii Manoa. My parents trip got me thinking about volcanoes again, and I thought they’d make a good STEM topic.

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Revolutionizing Engineering for the Future: Featured Strand at NSTA’s 2015 Area Conference on Science Education in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, November 12–14

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This November, the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) will feature a special strand “Revolutionizing Engineering for the Future” at our 2015 Area Conference on Science Education, in Philadelphia, November 12-14. Engineers recognize and define problems posed around human needs and wants. They design solutions that apply disciplinary core ideas (physical, life, Earth/environmental, space, engineering, and technology). Teachers who focus on engineering can help students develop skills in critical thinking, creativity, and science and engineering practices. Developing engineering practices builds on student learning through actual experience and incorporates Problem-Based Learning and/or Project Based Learning activities and connects students to the world around them. This strand give science teachers deep knowledge of the teaching and learning practices for the application of engineering (reflected in both the NGSS and/or state standards), as well as techniques and strategies to better infuse engineering concepts into the classroom.

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Support STEM Education in Final No Child Left Behind Legislation

text-based image saying "Ask your representative to sign on to the House 'Dear Colleague' letter in support of the STEM language in the proposed No Child Left Behind legislation."In light of the changing political players (and dynamics) on Capitol Hill, last week 10 education groups—including the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, American Association of School Administrators, National Association of Secondary School Principals, Council of Chief State School Officers, Association of School Business Officials International, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National School Boards Association, National PTA, and the National Association of State Boards of Education—sent a letter to key lawmakers, asking them to get the ESEA bill over the finish line. “Now is the time to finish the job and produce a final product that takes the best of both bills and reauthorizes the outdated NCLB. Students cannot wait any longer for a revised law.”

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3 Key Ingredients for Successful STEM Implementation: Trust, Collaboration, and Innovative Thinking

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A recent Education Week blog post entitled “STEM Reforms in Needy Schools Eroded Quickly” painted a disappointing picture of STEM education reform. In this post, part 2 of a 2-part series* from the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), Adaliz Gonzalez (the Citywide Instructional Lead for Middle School Science in the Department of STEM at the New York City Department of Education) responds.

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#NSTA Social Scene: October 3, 2015


What are science teachers doing in social media this week? Here’s our top 10 favorites!


#2 Science Teachers Rock!

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Meeting the Demand for Future STEM Teachers

Third graders in Hofstra University’s STEM Studio ponder how to display the data generated from their pre-exercise/post-exercise pulse rate experiment. PHOTO CREDIT: COURTESY OF HOFSTRA UNIVERSITY

Third graders in Hofstra University’s STEM Studio ponder how to display the data generated from their pre-exercise/post-exercise pulse rate experiment. Photo courtesy of HOFSTRA UNIVERSITY

The University of Virginia (U.Va.) made headlines in August when it announced its new five-year, undergraduate dual-degree program that will allow students to earn a bachelor’s degree in engineering and a master’s degree in teaching, along with a license and endorsement in chemistry, physics, or math. U.Va. joins other universities around the country in offering these programs to meet the demand for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) teachers.

“The impetus [for U.Va’s new program] is the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS),” says Jennifer Chiu, assistant professor in the university’s Curry School of Education. The new standards “place a lot of emphasis on engineering, but most science teachers have a background in science, not engineering. [The dual degree provides] an opportunity to encourage those with an engineering background to become science teachers and to incorporate engineering into science classrooms,” she explains.

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Do You Know What You Do Not Know?

The recent report by the Pew Research Center was titled “A Look at What the Public Knows and Does Not Know About Science” and according to their website found “….. that most Americans can answer basic questions about several scientific terms and concepts, such as the layers of the Earth and the elements needed to make nuclear energy. But other science-related terms and applications, such as what property of a sound wave determines loudness and the effect of higher altitudes on cooking time, are not as well understood.

There is no doubt that American’s or at least American students have been compared to international counterparts on a variety of different assessments throughout the ages. However, this particular study is a bit different in that it takes twelve questions – one per science topic and utilizes it to measure the public’s knowledge about science in general.

As noted in this month’s edition of the Leaders Letter, popular news media outlets picked up this story as well and Live Science summarized the findings in a short and to the point story. A counter point to this study appeared in Science News where it states that the study was “heavy on trivia and light on concepts” and is worth reading for a balanced view on this now trending on social media report on American’s understanding of science.

So, a better question is, do you know what you do not know? Or better yet…. do you know what your students do not know or have misconceptions about?

There are a variety of resources that help teachers tackle common (or not so common) misconceptions in science and some of these include:

Some groups even help you develop your own assessment to test student’s misconceptions:

As an educator or those who work with professional development opportunities, it may be worthwhile to actually test your own conceptual knowledge or build that into an actual PD event utilizing the professional development indexer which is part of the NSTA Learning Center. The Professional Development Indexer helps you diagnose your needs in specific science content areas and provide suggestions of NSTA e-PD resources and opportunities you may want to consider as you plan your professional development (PD). The Indexer does not assign a grade or present a score to the questions you answer, but saves a list of recommended resources for later review.

So how do you address what you don’t know or work to address what student misconceptions are?




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Documenting weather changes

Children's feet with sneakers and rain bootsAs the wind stirs up and we get a full day of long-awaited rain, children arrive at school in rain boots and coats, and a few in soaking wet sandals. Hurricane Joaquin will bring more rain and wind this weekend as it moves north in the Atlantic, hopefully off the coast not inland.

Taking young children outside to observe the short-term conditions of the atmosphere—weather—is a foundation for later learning about the average daily weather for an extended period of time at that location—climate—as defined by the National Ocean Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Visit the National Weather Service’s JetStream: Online School for Weather page and scroll down to see the Köppen climates map. The continental USA has ranges in normal temperatures and amounts of precipitation, so no single lesson plan on weather observations Cover of the October 2015 Science and Childrenwill be a good fit for all. Teaching about your local weather will provide the most opportunities for direct observation that can deepen children’s understanding about weather.

In the October 2015 issue of Science and Children I wrote about children counting and graphing the number of short sleeve shirts, sweaters and jackets that classmates wore to school each day. The clothing is a symbol for the weather, and observing changing trends in outerwear is a focused way to track changes in the immense phenomena that is weather.


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