What Are the National Academies and How Can You Use Them to Transform Your Teaching?

During Recognition Week for the 2006 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, awardees gathered in a Washington, DC, hotel for a federal agencies breakfast.  While all 10 agencies present that morning provided awardees with an overview of their educational programs and outreach opportunities, it was The National Academies’ information that especially appealed to my desire to translate educational research into practice.  I learned how The National Academies advances and fosters an awareness of the best cutting-edge science and its use in programs and reports. Unlike other Academies in many other countries, the U.S. Academies are not an arm of the federal government. The National Academies are a private, non-profit organization that depends on grants and contracts to support their work.   

Later during Recognition Week, I received a copy of Taking Science to School, a consensus report from The National Academies during one of the professional development sessions. Besides the National Science Education Standards, this book was my first in depth exposure to a National Academies evidence-based consensus report. Upon receiving the report, a summary of major findings and conclusions was provided by one of the reports committee members.  It was during this professional development session that I became aware of the four strands of science learning. (See October 2016 Science Scope for related article). Continue reading …

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Here’s Why Space Nerds Need to Be at #NSTA17 LA

We didn’t invent the term space nerds; we just invited the two most interesting people on the planet who are proud to own it to speak at NSTA’s 2017 National Conference in Los Angeles: March 30–April 2.

Weir gets up close and personal with Robonaut2. Image Credit NASA James Blair and Lauren Harnett

15 Early Birds Get to Dine With Andy Weir

Our keynote speaker is Andy Weir, author of the New York Times best seller The Martian, and a lifelong space nerd and devoted hobbyist of subjects like relativistic physics, orbital mechanics, and the history of manned spaceflight. Join us in LA to hear Weir speak on Thursday, March 30, from 9:15–10:30 AM.

Register by the earlybird deadline, February 3, and you’ll be automatically entered for a chance to win a special VIP experience. Fifteen lucky winners will receive: Continue reading …

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Science classroom libraries

I am a new elementary librarian, and I want to prioritize science nonfiction. I’m looking for suggestions to help teachers who often do not have time to collect books from the library. I also need ideas for books to purchase.  — J., New York

I spoke with a librarian colleague, who did what you are considering. She suggested asking teachers for a schedule of topics they work on throughout the year. She had a large plastic tub for each classroom where she put corresponding books covering a range of reading levels. For each unit, the classroom received a new set of supplementary books. She often had older students or parent volunteers prepare the boxes.

To find appropriate titles for all grade levels, I have used the NSTA website. Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K–12 and the Best STEM Books K-12 contain lists compiled by NSTA in association with the Children’s Book Council. The titles are listed by year and include an annotated description of each book. NSTA Recommends also has monthly updates in the NSTA journals.

All of these titles are also in the second source, NSTA Recommends. This is a broader, searchable list that includes reviews of books and other media. The reviews are written by science educators and can be searched by format (e.g., print, kits, DVDs), keywords (e.g., weather, machines, insects), and grade level (K through college). The lists can be exported as Excel spreadsheets.

The School Library Journal also has a list of recommended Science and Nature Books for Kids.

Some teachers might be willing to help you select the books or suggest topics—perhaps during a faculty meeting or workshop on science and reading.


Photo:  https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1033/1333506858_2f1392116d_m_d.jpg

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Health Wise: Why Teens Need the HPV Vaccine

About 79 million Americans have human papillomavirus (HPV), the nation’s top sexually transmitted disease. “Nearly all sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives,” according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC 2016a).

HPV usually goes away on its own. But sometimes, HPV can cause genital warts or cancer, even decades after an individual has sex with an infected person. HPV can cause cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, or anus, as well as oral cancers.

High school students are especially at risk for contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) (Bratsis 2014). Each year, about 14 million people, including teens, become infected with HPV, and more than 11,000 women get cervical cancer due to HPV, the CDC says (2016a).

The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP 2015) recommend that all boys and girls ages 11–12 get HPV vaccinations, which are given in a series of two or three shots. According to the CDC (2015), the vaccine targets the most common of the more than 150 types of HPV.

“Teen boys and girls who did not start or finish the HPV vaccine series when they were younger should get it now,” the CDC recommends (CDC 2016b). “Young women can get the HPV vaccine through age 26, and young men can get vaccinated through age 21. The vaccine is also recommended for any man who has sex with men through age 26.” Continue reading …

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Legislative Update: Unions and Civil Rights Groups Strongly Oppose DeVos Nomination

In what will likely be the first of many battles to come, teacher unions and civil rights groups have come out swinging against the nomination of Betsy DeVos to become U.S. Secretary of Education while Republican governors are applauding President-elect Trump for his “inspired choice” to reform federal education policy.

The Senate confirmation hearing for DeVos, originally scheduled for January 11, was postponed one week and is now scheduled for January 17 at 5 p.m. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chair of the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), HELP’s ranking Democrat, said in a statement the hearing change was made to accommodate the Senate schedule.  Later media reports indicated the hearing date was pushed back because the ethics check on DeVos was not completed.

After meeting with DeVos last week, Sen. Murray said in a statement, “I continue to have serious concerns about her long record of working to privatize and defund public education, expand taxpayer-funded private school vouchers, and block accountability for charter schools.”

Sen. Alexander told The Chattanoogan, “Betsy DeVos and I had a great meeting today, and she is going to make an excellent Secretary of Education. I’m looking forward to her hearing because I know she will impress the Senate with her passionate support for improving education for all children.”

In a letter to Sen. Alexander, 18 Republican governors said that DeVos was an “inspired” choice. “Betsy DeVos will fight to streamline the federal education bureaucracy, return authority back to states and local school boards, and ensure that more dollars are reaching the classroom…Betsy DeVos also is a passionate supporter of increasing parental engagement in their children’s education and of harnessing the power of competition to drive improvement in all K-12 schools, whether they be public, private or virtual.”

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights—a coalition of more than 200 national organizations—said in a letter, “We reject the notion that children are well served by the dismantling of a public school system that serves 90 percent of all American students or by the elimination of civil rights protections that require the federal government to intervene when students are discriminated against.” Continue reading …

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P-47 and the Double Wasp Engine

P-47 Double Wasp engineIn “P-47 and the Double Wasp Engine,” fighter pilot Benjamin Cassiday emphatically states, “It was an aircraft that could get you home.” While adrenaline filled the veins of these courageous WWII pilots, likely there was no greater rush than when they touched down on their home runway.

Driven by the Pratt and Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp air-cooled radial engine, the huge P-47 was able to successfully compete against much smaller adversaries. Find out how in P-47 and the Double Wasp Engine—one of 10 posted videos in the Chronicles of Courage series. The 20-video series from the partnership of NBC Learn and Flying Heritage Collection uses the collection’s WWII airplanes and aviation technology as their focal point.

Like several of the NSTA-developed lesson plans in this series, this plan gives you ideas for prompting students to use paper airplanes as their experimental tool. You’ll see an example of a possible design that could explore the relationship between power and weight whereby students add weight to the wings or fuselage, change the power generated by the rubber-band propeller, or use different sized propellers. Internet references are included to support students as well.

With such an investigation, are you concerned you won’t have the right answer for students? That’s one of the beauties of engineering design investigations—you don’t have to because there is no “right answer.” The best design is the one that performs optimally given the criteria and constraints. Chances are more than one group will end up with optimal design solutions. If so, give students a chance to critique all of the solutions and make claims based on evidence about which one they think is “best.” Witness the effects of your students’ adrenaline as they enthusiastically design and fly their paper airplane solutions.

Chronicles of Courage: Stories of Wartime and Innovation “P-47 and the Double Wasp Engine” explores how the much larger and heavier P-47 Thunderbolt and its extremely powerful engine allows the hulking fighter to be competitive at all altitudes.

STEM Lesson Plan—Adaptable for Grades 7–12
Chronicles of Courage: Stories of Wartime and Innovation “P-47 and the Double Wasp Engine” provides strategies for extracting information from video content and challenging students to explore further plus support for building science literacy through reading and writing.

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Flying Tigers

Curtiss P-40 WarhawkOne of the most familiar WWII airplanes carries the trademark of the Flying Tigers—a long nose painted with a menacing shark mouth. While the Flying Tigers were a hotshot fighter group, the pilots had to develop new tactics to outfly their Japanese adversary—the Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa, or what the Americans call the “Oscar.”

Why? Find out in Flying Tigers—one of 10 posted videos in the Chronicles of Courage series. The 20-video series from the partnership of NBC Learn and Flying Heritage Collection uses the collection’s WWII airplanes and aviation technology as their focal point.

Listen to experts describe the innovations of these aircraft and the pilots themselves talk how the plane performs in the air. Then turn students loose to “mess around” with materials as they generate questions to answer through investigation. The NSTA-developed lesson plan will give you a leg up on that, with suggested materials and a few directions investigations might take.

Consider developing a guide to support students as they document what happens when they manipulate materials. Include a place where students write down their questions specifically. Then encourage students to take some chances and try different things with the materials as a way to generate more questions.

Take a moment to look at this video and the array of suggestions for using it in your classes. Can’t make an immediate connection with this one? No worries. Take a look at one of the others. We’re sure you’ll find a fit that excites your students and brings those textbook concepts to life.

Chronicles of Courage: Stories of Wartime and Innovation “Flying Tigers” presents two very different aircraft. The Oscar is light and nimble with especially designed butterfly flaps to give it a turning advantage over it adversaries. The Tomahawk was rugged and strong, which allowed it to dive quickly.

STEM Lesson Plan—Adaptable for Grades 7–12
Chronicles of Courage: Stories of Wartime and Innovation “Flying Tigers” provides strategies for extracting information from video content and challenging students to explore further plus support for building science literacy through reading and writing.

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Children use technology to send messages

Child's drawing on a magnetized board Children like to share their work and tell their families what they do at school or at other times when they are not together. While babysitting for a friend, I appreciated her 2-year-old child’s excitement when she discovered that a toy firetruck had a button to push to turn on (and off) a siren. “Tell Mommy, fire engine has a siren!” she exclaimed several times. I asked her if she would like to write a message to her mother telling her about this and she immediately went to her art shelf and came back with an erasable magnetic drawing board. First she drew the firetruck, then “Me” and then “Mommy,” naming each illustration as she drew it. I took a photo, before the message was erased, to share the moment with my friend when she returned (see it labeled it here). These two technologies, the magnetic drawing board and camera, allowed a child to communicate with her parent, and her parent to be part of her child’s developing understanding of symbols.

Photographs helped me share another child’s work with his parents. As a child care provider in my home I often had water color paint sets available for the four-year-olds. One child was very interested in layering paint colors to mix and blend. Beginning with one color he would add more and more colors to the page until it was a solid page of rich black with no shapes or lines to show how the work progressed. After several days of sending home all black paintings I took a series of photos as the child worked to show his parents what he was working on so they could also enjoy the process.

Cover of January 2017 issue of Science and Children.In the January 2017 issue of Science and Children, I wrote about using technologies available in your program for children to create a message about their interests and work to send, or carry, home. In the Editor’s Note, Linda Froschauer talks about the “selection dilemma” as educators  look for “technology that provides the best opportunities for students to access knowledge, build science and engineering skills, and function within a framework of scientific investigation.”  

It will be some time before the 2-year-old becomes the “Empowered Learner,” “Digital Citizen,” or “Global Collaborator” envisioned in the International Society for Technology Education’s (ISTE) National Educational Technology Standards for Students but she is already a “Knowledge Constructor,” “Innovative Designer,” and “Creative Communicator” using tools that preceded digital tools. There is still much to learn about young children’s use of technology and the impact it can have on their education.  Continue reading …

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Lab debriefing options

My ninth grade students enjoy doing labs. But afterward, most do not participate in the debriefing. How can I improve this? —A., Washington

You could try an alternative to teacher-led discussions. Here’s one that worked with my students.

Instead of you asking questions, assign one team of students to present their results to the class in a panel format. Before the activity, choose one team to present. You could assign members’ roles ensuring participation: Person 1 – Introduce the team and present the question, problem, or hypothesis. Person 2 – Summarize the procedure. Person 3 – Provide a display and description of the data, observations, or results, incorporating classroom technology. Person 1 (again) – Relate the results back to the question or hypothesis. Person 4 – Note any questions the team had, how the investigation could or should be done differently, and take questions from the audience.

Give the team time at the end of the activity or at the beginning of the next class to prepare. Rotate roles so the students are doing different components of the report the next time they present.

At first, you may have to model how to summarize and how to make an effective presentation (my students enjoyed it when I modeled an ineffective one, too). You may have to model how to contribute as a respectful audience member and suggest types of questions and discussion prompts: Compare their results to yours. How are they similar? Different? And as a member of the audience, you get to ask questions, too.

This may take more time, but students also get the opportunity to be presenters.

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NSTA’s K-College January 2017 Science Education Journals Online

Want to use technology to enhance your elementary classroom? Looking to get your middle level students to understand how different parts in a system interact? Want ways to help your high school students to think critically? Or do you just need want resources to create case studies for your college students? The January K-College journals from the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) have the answers you need. Written by science teachers for science teachers, these peer-reviewed journals are targeted to your teaching level and are packed with lesson plans, expert advice, and ideas for using whatever time/space you have available. Browse the January issues; they are online (see below), in members’ mailboxes, and ready to inspire teachers.

Science and Children 

Students are more than digital natives; they are embedded in technology. Thus, teachers must frequently use technologically advanced tools in the classroom. This requires a change in approach and assessment. In this issue, students learn science with technology, which enhances both subjects.

Featured articles (please note, only those marked “free” are available to nonmembers without a fee):

Continue reading …

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