We Are Not Forgotten: How One Teacher’s Dedication Brought Rewards for Many

Alicia Conerly blog header

“Mrs. Conerly, you really do care about us!” “Mrs. Conerly why do you do this for us?” “ Mrs. Conerly no one has ever helped us like this before!” In my time at South Pike Senior High School, these were continuous comments from my scholars for five years. I soon began to know why. I was teaching in a low-income, Title I, critical needs school—and it showed. Many of my students were from single parent, female homes, operating solely on the income provided by their mothers. Many of my students were parents to siblings, to their own children, or about to become parents. Some were retainers or could not read past elementary grade level. I realized it was up to me to empower and encourage them. And I wondered how exactly I was supposed to do that with the resources that I had (or lack thereof)? And I answered the challenge, with a big “YES!” It took a little bit of faith and a whole lot of dedication.

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Pearl Harbor

Stuart HedleyThe morning of December 7, 1941, Stuart Hedley wakes early to meet his girlfriend for a picnic near Pearl Harbor. As we all know, the picnic never took place. But Stuart Hedley lived to tell us about the events of that day. And you can hear about them at Chronicles of Courage: Stories of Wartime and Innovation—the latest classroom video series from NBC Learn.

For this series, NBC Learn partnered with Flying Heritage Collection—a collection of finely crafted WWII combat aircraft and other aviation technologies. NSTA developed the supporting STEM lesson plans to bring innovation behind these technologies into your classroom.

The first 10 videos in the Chronicles of Courage series are live today. Perhaps tomorrow, show your students Pearl Harbor for a glimpse what what happened on this “day that will live in infamy.”

The series is available cost-free at NBC Learn. Or jump to the video and lesson plans at the links below. From these blog entries you can download the lesson plans in an editable format to add your personal touch. (You know you’ll want to!)

Chronicles of Courage: Stories of Wartime and Innovation “Pearl Harbor” focuses on the Mitsubishi A6M Zero and the mission for which it had been specifically designed—long distance attacks.

STEM Lesson Plan—Adaptable for Grades 7–12

Chronicles of Courage: Stories of Wartime and Innovation “Pearl Harbor” provides strategies for developing Science and Engineering Practices and support for building science literacy through reading and writing.

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Inquiring Scientists, Inquiring Readers in Middle School

Reading can be fun. For science-loving kids, using science-based texts can be an exciting way to increase understanding of concepts. A new NSTA Press book provides a plethora of ways to use nonfiction texts for inquiry-based science instruction.

Inquiring Scientists, Inquiring Readers in Middle SchoolInquiring Scientists, Inquiring Readers in Middle School: Using Nonfiction to Promote Science Literacy, Grades 6-8 by Terry Shiverdecker and Jessica Fries-Gaither offers strategies for integrating science and literacy instruction alongside ten in-depth units that are aligned with both the Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core State Standards, English Language Arts

Middle school is a critical time in a child’s educational career. “We know that today’s students often arrive in middle school with specific needs in terms of reading and writing, which can frustrate teachers who have not received subject-specific guidance in meeting those needs,” the authors state in the book’s introduction.

The book is meant to integrate literacy lessons in a meaningful way without losing the focus on science. “We strongly believe that any effort to integrate literacy into science instruction must do so while still preserving the quality of the science instruction itself. In our approach, literacy activities support the acquisition of science content through inquiry-based instruction. They do not replace active engagement with data with reading about science concepts,” write Shiverdecker and Fries-Gaither.

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REcharge Labs: Solar Cork Boat Kit

REcharge Labs: Solar Cork Boat Kit


Teaching about solar energy in a present-day science classroom is an interesting way to have students adhere to the NGSS Standards, i.e., 4-PS3-4. Undoubtedly, new concerns on how we power our homes and businesses have bolstered research for alternatives to replace declining fossil fuels. Moreover, engaging students in activities that explore solar energy and studying ways to exploit the Sun’s energy is a creative and fun way to motivate students.

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The Texas Instruments TI-Innovator Hub: A Magic Box to Code

The TI-Innovator Hub is essentially a micro controller system offering plug-and-play interaction with some TI graphing calculators. Using a coding language entered on the keypad of Ti-84 Plus CE and better calculators, the TI-Innovator Hub will respond accordingly. While maybe not the most exciting description in a world of Lego Robotics and iPad Apps, the TI-Innovator Hub offers a practical coding interface that does not hide behind a layer of graphics or charming drag-and-drop commands. Instead the TI-Innovator Hub is a realistic introduction to coding because it is command line coding at its best.

While there are some shortcuts and menus with the TI-Innovator Hub, the experience is much closer to numerical value coding rather than sliding switches and Likert-selections. Using the TI-Innovator Hub gives students a soft landing (but not too soft) into the programing experience by using the Ti calculator to command the TI-Innovator™ Hub’s actions. The commands in the code can make the TI-Innovator™ Hub react in a hopefully predictable manner. And it is within that predictability that students learn to write and read computer code.


10 Minutes of Code All Week Long

This very week marks Computer Science Education Week, and Texas Instruments is kicking off the week with a excellent 16 minute video about their 10 Minutes of Code. Here is a link to Ti’s Facebook page for their calculators including the Code Promotions. Continue reading …

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#NSTA16 Columbus: Prizes for Everyone

Science teachers from all over the world came to #NSTA16 Columbus to become a champion of science! They heard from amazing speakers like science evangelist Ainissa Ramirez and gained knowledge that they will share with their colleagues and use in the classroom back at home. They also left the exhibit hall with a wealth of great things ranging from SouthWest Airline tickets to our National Conference in LA to sheep brains. Here’s our favorite tweets from the week—thank you all for sharing!

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Help Us Name NSTA’s New NGSS Newsletter

Science teachers, you’ve spoken up about your Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) implementation needs, and NSTA has listened. Thanks to the input of many of you, NSTA is moving forward on a new resource to help you get your arms around the expanding amount of information, tools, and perspectives on implementing the new standards. In early 2017, NSTA is launching an e-newsletter focused solely on the NGSS. I’m thrilled to be serving as the field editor and can’t wait to get started… but first we need a name. Please click here to give us your suggestions. In addition to bragging rights, if your name is picked we’ll also send you an $80 gift certificate to the NSTA Science Store.

Every month we will work to give you what you told us you needed the most…

  • You said you wanted to read about NGSS news, you got it!
  • You said you wanted quality resources for NGSS implementation, we will find them and share them with you.
  • You told us professional learning opportunities are important for you, we will get those out to you in a timely manner.
  • You told us you to want see how your colleagues are implementing NGSS, we plan to find those teachers and bring them to you monthly.

Above all, this newsletter is for you, illuminating the good work that is happening in schools around the country. It will also carry the voice of teachers as we work to share perspectives, ideas, and insights from the field.

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Trump’s Pick for Education Secretary and Changes on Capitol Hill

As widely reported, President-elect Trump has nominated Betsy DeVos to be the next U.S. Secretary of Education.

DeVos, 58, chaired the American Federation for Children, an advocacy group that has aggressively pushed to expand charter schools and school voucher programs. She stepped down from that position after the nomination. 

The selection of DeVos as Education Secretary indicates that the Administration is planning to go forward on the campaign pledge to use $20 billion to expand charter schools and provide private school options for low income students. After the selection DeVos tweeted, “I am honored to work with the President-elect on his vision to make American education great again. The status quo in ed is not acceptable.”

DeVos had signaled prior support for the Common Core State Standards, but in recent days has said they were a “federal boondoggle” and tweeted, “I am not a supporter — period.”

The Senate HELP Panel will hold a hearing and will vote on the DeVos nomination before it goes before the Senate for full confirmation.  

HELP Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) called her nomination an “excellent choice.” According to a statement from Alexander, “Betsy has worked for years to improve educational opportunities for all children. As secretary, she will be able to implement the new law fixing No Child Left Behind just as Congress wrote it, reversing the trend to a national school board and restoring to states, governors, school boards, teachers and parents greater responsibility for improving education in their local communities.”

Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Ranking Democrat on the HELP Panel, said she will closely examine DeVos’s record. Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow (DeVos is based in Michigan) told reporters she is concerned about the DeVos pick, saying “she and her husband have been very involved in advocating for policies that have seriously undermined public education in Michigan.” Continue reading …

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Take 20 Percent Off the Top 20 NSTA Press Titles for 20 Days

text based header saying "20 books, 20% off, 20 days"

Give yourself the gift of more time in the classroom when you combine science and literacy! Find a new teaching technique that revitalizes your classroom, or learn to ask the questions that unlocks students’ love of science. And from December 1 to 20, 2016, take 20% off our top 20 titles when you use promo code DEC20 to purchase them online in the NSTA science store.* Browse the selections below to find your favorites, including the book, ebook, and mixed media sets.

Even More Picture-Perfect Science Lessons, K-5 book coverEven More Picture-Perfect Science Lessons: Using Children’s Books to Guide Inquiry, K–5

Even More Picture-Perfect Science Lessons delivers the whole package: teacher-friendly lessons, strong standards-based science content, and a kid-magnet formula that will get your students engrossed in science while they improve their reading skills.


quick reference guide coverThe NSTA Quick-Reference Guide to the NGSS, K-12

Indispensable to science teachers at all levels, as well as to administrators, curriculum developers, and teacher educators, the book’s emphasis is on easy. Find the parts of the Next Generation Science Standards that are most relevant to you, acquaint yourself with the format, and find out what each of the different parts means.


Uncovering Student Ideas book coverUncovering Student Ideas in Earth and Environmental Science: 32 New Formative Assessment Probes

If you’re new to formative assessment probes, you’ll love the latest book in the bestselling Uncovering Student Ideas in Science series. Authors Page Keeley and Laura Tucker give you 32 engaging questions, or probes, that can reveal what your students already know—or think they know—about core Earth and environmental science concepts.


Teaching for Conceptual Understanding in ScienceTeaching for Conceptual Understanding book cover

What do you get when you bring together two of NSTA’s bestselling authors to ponder ways to deepen students’ conceptual understanding of science? A fascinating combination of deep thinking about science teaching, field-tested strategies you can use in your classroom immediately, and personal vignettes all educators can relate to and apply themselves.

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Preparing to plant in Spring

Child in a leaf pileThe seasonal decline in the amount of direct sunlight in North America is bringing an end to my garden growing season. The leaves of deciduous trees in my region are mostly off the trees now. Children have been helping rake them into big piles to jump into. We sort out the sticks so no one gets poked when they jump. A few children with allergies to mold choose other tasks to tend the play area: reseeding the grassy places and washing the fence with water. As we pile up the leaves I’m thinking of how we will use them for mulch in the garden bed to prevent weed growth over the winter. What looks like a large amount now will be much reduced by weathering and the work of detritivores such as isopods, just one of those small animals that eat decaying plant matter.

Close up of an isopod, also known as a Roly-poly or pillbugIsopods (aka roly-polies, pillbugs, slaters, wood lice, potato bugs and other names) are my favorite animal to keep in containers for children to observe and handle. They are easy to find, require just a little attention, and are safe and durable for handling. Children learn about diversity in living organisms, how to best use magnifiers while counting the number of legs on these small crustaceans, and how to provide the needs of an animal that is so different from themselves. Learn more at:

Animal Diversity Web from the University of Michigan

YouTube videos

Rusty & Ollie’s Fun, Facts, and Follies. Episode 13: Isopods! Nature’s Janitors. This conversation between the chill Mr. Max and the excitable puppet Rusty is informative and fun.

Rebecca Hulit’s informative Isopods – Backyard Critters shows close ups of the isopods so we can see the leg segments and more.

Cover of the journal December 2016 Science and ChildrenI am planning to plant potatoes in the spring and wrote about this gardening activity in the December 2016 Early Years column in Science and Children. Using the area extension service and other websites I learned that the temperature of the soil is important in determining best potato planting time. 

Extension services provide valuable advice and research for home gardeners and commercial agriculture. Extension Horticulturist Ron Smith of the North Dakota State University answers questions in the Hortiscope. The University of Maryland Extension provides Vegetable Profiles online, and the Iowa State Extension and Outreach has articles on Yard and Garden planting.

Although we eat the tubers of the potato plant, their leaves, stems, flowers and fruits contain poisonous compounds and can cause stomach pain, diarrhea and additional serious symptoms, so they should not be eaten. While we can use children’s ages as a rough guide to when they will have good judgment about what is safe to put in their mouths, there are always children who explore unsafely. There is no substitute for knowing our students and supervising appropriately. Planting edible leaved plants such as herbs in a different area than potato plants is one way to help children learn which plant leaves are safe to eat.

Webpage of the NSTA Learning CenterThe topic of beginning a small school garden is on-going on the Early Childhood forum in the NSTA Learning Center. Will you make a quick comment to share your experience to help other teachers begin or improve their gardening? What tips do you use in your gardening that could help others be successful? Registration to join this community is free for all.

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