Unparalleled Student Experiences through NASA NEW

During July 2001, I along with 24 science educators from 15 states attended the NASA Educator Workshop (NEW) at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The two-week program was a NASA Headquarters initiative managed by NSTA, and coordinated by Marshall’s Education Programs Department. The NEW program has been a catalyst in my career as a teacher of science. As a result of my participation, thousands of students have enjoyed unparalleled NASA experiences.    

Throughout the NEW workshop, I interacted with NASA scientists, engineers, technicians, and educational specialists learning about state of the art research and development occurring at the Center. The educational materials and activities presented during the workshop were related to aerospace technology, biological science and physical research, earth science, human exploration and development of space, space science, and rocket propulsion.  These opportunities gave me a broader perspective on how NASA could support my work in the classroom. Below are three programs I learned about during NEW and was able to bring to my students and community.

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Federal Agencies Fulfilling their Mission to Support Science Education

Science has been a central component of American democracy from the very beginning. Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.”

What do we need to be informed about in today’s modern times? Consider this daunting short list of topics—climate change, GMO food, vaccination, energy, artificial intelligence, ‘designer babies,’ and pharmaceuticals—and you can see how important science is in keeping us well informed.  All of these topics require a basic level of knowledge about what science is and about the role of scientific evidence so we can understand phenomena and make verifiable predictions.

Jefferson also understood the intersection between government and science and acted to assert the government’s role in science by establishing the first U.S. science agency, The Survey of the Coast. This predecessor of NOAA (National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration) measured and published water depth data to inform mariners’ safe passage. Jefferson also launched the Lewis and Clark expedition that excited and educated the public and led to dramatic economic expansion. Realizing that education was essential for national security, he connected the education and science endeavors by establishing a “Corps of Engineers” to be “stationed at West Point in the state of New York,” the U.S. Military Academy.

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Ed News: Peer Interest In Science Leads Students To STEM Jobs

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This week in education news, a majority of Americans are familiar with the opt-out movement according to a new survey; the country’s teaching force is still predominantly white and female; only 39 percent of high school students in Illinois passed the new state science exam in 2016; former Michigan Congressman Vern Ehlers died; fears that students might damage their eyes viewing the solar eclipse have prompted schools to cancel classes; how science standards avoided the backlash of common core; and collaboration among teachers encourages creativity, professionalism, and student achievement.

Fewer Than 1 In 3 Americans Support Kids Opting Out Of Tests; About Half Confused On What ‘Opt Out’ Means

A majority of Americans are familiar with the opt-out movement — parents withdrawing their children from standardized tests — and nearly half of them oppose the practice, according to a new survey from Columbia University’s Teachers College. But even among the one-third who support opting out, many have misconceptions about the true goals behind it. Click here to read the article featured on The 74.

Peer Interest In Science Leads Students To STEM Jobs

A new report published in the journal Science Advances says more Mississippi students may want jobs in science, technology, engineering or math if they learn their friends are also interested in those subjects. Click here to listen to the segment featured on MPBonline.org.

The Nation’s Teaching Force Is Still Mostly White And Female

Teachers tend to be white, female, and have nearly a decade and a half of experience in the classroom, according to new data released Monday by the federal government. But there are signs that the nation’s teaching force is gradually growing more diverse. It is also more heterogeneous: The nation’s charter school teachers look significantly different from teachers in traditional public schools. Click here to read the article featured in Education Week.

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Help Your Students Rediscover the Magic of Science and Story

Last month, the Royal Society decided to celebrate 30 years of its Science Books Prize by, in part, polling its readership on this question: What is the most inspiring science book of all time? The 1,309 responders didn’t overwhelmingly converge on any one book, but the winner, capturing 18 percent of the vote, was The Selfish Gene, the 1976 book by Richard Dawkins that, with its gene-centered view of evolution, startled and awed not just a lay audience, but scientists, too.

Dawkins invited readers to see evolution through, as it were, the eyes of genes, which produce beings like us as their vehicles, or “survival machines,” to reshuffle and ferry themselves into the next generation. The genes don’t create us for our sake but, in a sense, for their own. We are here, reproducing and struggling to survive, so that they might live on—potentially forever (Dawkins also entertained The Immortal Gene as a title). When I finished it nearly a decade ago—the book was required reading in my intro to human evolution course—I acquired a new perspective: I don’t have genes; genes have me. The book was, in other words, an exemplar of the “very best science writing,” according to the Royal Society: It inspires, moves, and compels readers as much as the writing in any other genre and, what’s more, it promotes the public’s science literacy—an understanding of how important science is to our everyday lives.

In a nutshell that is our aim at Nautilus—to showcase the very best science writing. Nautilus has built an audience numbering in the millions by re-connecting science to our lives, and telling its stories with style, substance, and imagination. Our society needs them. The value of science literacy in the modern world will only increase. That’s because new technologies, birthed by scientific progress, are changing our world—and our view of ourselves—faster than almost any other force. The best time to learn about science is at a young age, when the mind is labile, open to new ideas and ways of thinking.

But science classrooms, especially in the United States, are undergoing change. The Next Generation Science Standards that have been already adopted by 19 states, are being used as a model for science standards in many more. Their goals and methods mirror Nautilus’: science literacy and an increased interest in the science and technology that are so important to our lives. This means replacing the stand-alone silos of biology, chemistry, and physics with what the new standards call “crosscutting concepts” that link disciplines.  Just as Nautilus uses its multidisciplinary exploration across the sciences, math, culture, art, and society. 

Rather than just have students memorize, the new standards seek to teach them how to observe and ask questions. By having students understand scientific inquiry, the standards can instill ways of thinking that, as Nautilus would say, connects science to people’s everyday lives and the world of ideas. The standards’ focus on disciplinary core ideas, like natural selection in biology and plate tectonics in geology, and reinforces the rigors of science without compromising accessibility, one of the key ingredients to Nautilus’ success with its audience.

But perhaps the most important connection between Nautilus and the Next Gen Standards is the importance placed on narrative. Nothing communicates like stories. The demonstrated ability to narrate observation, experimentation, and discovery—the stories of science—is why so many teachers want to use Nautilus in the classroom. 

A new Nautilus Education Program will answer that desire, providing a year-long print subscription to a school library or science classroom. We’ll also give access to Nautilus Prime, our digital subscription service, to every student and teacher in the school. Nautilus is partnering with Rune to install their content annotation and sharing software within Nautilus; it’ll be adapted for teachers and students to share notes, comments, and highlighted content on Nautilus within a monitored, closed social network that can contain regional, state, and even district nodes. This will create a multifaceted, closed educational social network around Nautilus content that will be instrumental in integrating Nautilus into school curriculum. We plan to have the network(s) live by the start of the fall school year.

Nautilus Education will help students rediscover the magic of science and story. At a time when our scientific and educational institutions are being tested, it’s more important than ever to get today’s best science writing directly into the hands of our students.

Thomas Lin is the founding editor of Quanta Magazine. He joined the Simons Foundation in 2012 after more than seven years at The New York Times, where he managed the online science and national news sections, won a White House News Photographers Association’s “Eyes of History” award, edited the Scientist at Work blog, created the Profiles in Science video series, produced the Science Times podcast, and wrote about science, tennis and technology. He has taught at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and has been a home page editor for The Indianapolis Star, a reporter and photographer covering Queens, New York, a teacher and a mechanical engineer. For more information on Nautilus, contact him at tlin@quantamagazine.org


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Q&A on Unpacking Three-Dimensional Standards

We’ve recently heard discussions from colleagues about the need to “unpack” the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and how to do it. The term unpacking means a lot of things to lots of people so we thought we’d share our ideas about what it means and, specifically, what it means for science standards.

Q.1 What is meant by the term unpacking?

When standards are developed, there is an effort to carefully describe what students are expected to learn. But describing these outcomes is easier said than done. A great deal of care is taken to choose just the right words, but if educators aren’t careful, they can miss some subtleties in what the authors meant when they read the standards. Since so much of what happens in education is influenced by standards, it is very important to make sure that educators really understand the intent of the authors. Unpacking is the process of interpreting or clarifying what the standards really mean. Ideally, engaging in a well-designed process of unpacking should lead educators to a consensus on what the standards mean that is consistent with the intent of the authors.

Q.2 Why do I need to unpack the standards?

The standards, written as performance expectations, are statements of what students should be able to do at the end of instruction to demonstrate what they have learned.  It is guidance for assessment developers in designing an end-of-year assessment task and is not intended to drive instruction.

More importantly, the information in the foundation boxes is really the description of what is to be learned and is much more informative and useful for planning instruction.  However, there is a lot of meaning packed into the foundation boxes. The bullets, which we call elements, can be better interpreted by carefully thinking about them, examining support documents such as the Framework, and discussing them with colleagues. In my experience, two educators will initially have different interpretations of what a given element means but through careful study and discussion, they will both gain insights into the goals and reach a consensus.

Q.3 Instead of unpacking, why don’t I just teach students to do what the performance expectation says?

While the way the performance expectations are phrased sounds like they describe what students should do in class to learn the standard, but that is not the intent. To prepare students to successfully achieve what is described in the performance expectation requires thoughtful learning of everything described in the foundation boxes. Mastery of the practice described in the foundation box requires that it be used to learn many different core ideas, not just the one that appears in the performance expectation.  And, mastery of the core idea and crosscutting concepts requires engaging in multiple practices. So, rather than being limited to teaching just what is in one performance expectation, teachers need to mix and match the three dimensions in a coherent effort to explain phenomena or to solve problems.

Furthermore, if teachers limit instruction only to those ideas described in a performance expectation, it is unlikely that students will be successful in an assessment task that targets the performance expectation. This may seem counterintuitive at first, but keep in mind that there are many different contexts in which a given performance expectation can be assessed. Rehearsing a performance expectation can lead to rote performance in a particular context rather than true achievement of the performance expectation. 

Q4. If I know students will be doing a specific practice, why is it important to look at the elements of the practice in the matrix?

The title of the individual practices give a general sense of what students do when they engage in the practice, but there is a lot that can be open to interpretation. Just as a disciplinary core idea, such as matter and its interactions or energy, is made clearer by many more specific elements (the bulleted statements in the foundation box) a practice is made clearer by providing more specific descriptions of what we want students to be able to do in a given grade range.

Q5. Is it best to use only the single practice that is listed in the performance expectation?

No. It’s better to use multiple practices. 

The research described in the Framework indicates that the most effective way for students to develop understanding of science ideas is to study phenomena by engaging in multiple practices. While it is not necessary to engage in every practice in every learning sequence, the majority should be used within a unit. Engaging in just one practice would not give students the experience of constructing knowledge the way that scientists do it.

Furthermore, practices are not designed to be used in isolation, but tend to flow together. For example, asking questions can lead to planning and carrying out investigations, which can lead to analyzing data, developing models, and/or constructing explanations. Throughout the process, opportunities pop up to use mathematics; engage in argument from evidence, and obtain, evaluate, and communicate information. And, the results of any investigation can also be a place for asking new questions and planning new investigations. The process is far from linear and in some cases students can engage in two or more practices nearly simultaneously.

Q6. What if I think another crosscutting concept is a better fit for my lesson?

Just as there is no mandate to use a single practice (as noted above), there is no mandate to use a particular crosscutting concept. Instead, teachers are encouraged to target whatever crosscutting concept seems most relevant to the phenomena being investigated. Applying all of the crosscutting concepts multiple times as students study different disciplines is the best way to help them appreciate the universality of the crosscutting concepts and the special role they have in science.

Q7. I didn’t see ____ in the standard.  I don’t think you can teach ____ without an understanding of that concept. How do we account for this?

This is a very tricky question to answer because it is often very context dependent. It emphasizes why it is so important to carefully unpack the standards and understand what is truly expected. The unpacking process is a great opportunity to reevaluate what is important about a given concept. At the same time, the standards aren’t so explicit that they detail each concept that students need to understand. If your unpacking leads you to conclude that students do in fact need a particular concept, it is perfectly reasonable and appropriate to include it in the progression of understanding. My caution is to make sure that you are adding it because you need to, not because you want to.  All teachers have their favorite topics, so we need to be aware of our personal biases. Time is a tremendously valuable instructional resource, and we have very little to waste.

Q8. How will I have enough time to teach all of this?

It’s important that we not let the ambitiousness of NGSS overwhelm us. I think teachers should keep several things in mind as they begin implementing the standards.

  1. NGSS is new. Anytime teachers try a new curriculum, each topic takes longer to teach the first time it is taught than it does once the teacher is experienced with the curriculum.
  2. The students in our classrooms today haven’t had NGSS instruction throughout their K-12 career. They, most likely, do not have the prerequisite knowledge of the core ideas that students should now have at a given grade. Additional instructional time will be needed to address this missing knowledge.
  3. An even greater challenge that students (and teachers) face is the lack of experience students have in engaging in the science and engineering practices. Not only are elementary students unfamiliar with practices, but middle and high school students are too. Their lack of proficiency will require more time and support. On a positive note, imagine what a 9th– or 10th-grade student will be capable of once he or she has engaged in science and engineering practices from the first day of kindergarten!

Everyone in the education system needs to acknowledge these three factors and accept that when NGSS is first implemented, teachers will not be able to “cover” the entire curriculum they are expected to address. But, what everyone also needs to keep in mind is that if educators commit fully to the vision of three-dimensional instruction, students will be capable of much more in the years to come. The shift to three-dimensional standards is a process that will take a number of years. We therefore need to give teachers the freedom to struggle as they begin to implement the standards and encourage them to take risks and improve each year.

Q9. Okay, I’m ready to start unpacking, what resources should I look at?

NSTA has developed a set of worksheets that can help with unpacking each of the three dimensions. You can find these tools (and many others) on the NGSS@NSTA Hub. Each worksheet features a set of questions to consider as you unpack the core ideas, crosscutting concepts, and science and engineering practices.

An essential resource is the Framework for K-12 Science Education. The Framework is available in print, as a downloadable pdf and online document. It includes sections on each practice and crosscutting concept and offers descriptions of each of the 12 core ideas (such as PS1: Matter and Its Interactions) as well as the component ideas (such as PS1.A: Structure and Properties of Matter). In addition, there is a list of the grade-band endpoints for each component idea that was used to make the disciplinary core idea elements in NGSS and other three-dimensional standards. I’ve developed a web page that gives you one-click access to the descriptions of each of the sections in the online document.

Another great resource for unpacking the standards are the K-12 Progressions.  Appendix F of the NGSS contains progressions for Practices and Appendix G contains progressions for Crosscutting Concepts. The best resource for progressions for DCIs can be found on the NGSS@NSTA Hub online and as a PDF.  All of the progressions, as well as the descriptions of Practices and Crosscutting Concepts are contained in The NSTA Quick-Reference Guide to the NGSS, which is a very useful tool.

Other useful resources include the following book chapters and journal articles:



Finally, particularly when considering students’ current level of proficiency, I encourage teachers to make use of their own experience and expertise. Teachers can use that information to help them in their plans for ways to help students become more proficient. The trick is to really focus on what students have said and done, rather than what the curriculum has called for.

Q10. I’m the only _____ teacher in my building.  How can I collaborate with colleagues to unpack standards?

Even if you are the only teacher in your building teaching a given subject, you are not alone! Teachers across the country—in fact, about two-thirds of them—are wrestling with new, three-dimensional standards. If you live in a state that has adopted the NGSS, more than a third of teachers in this country are using the exact same standards.  And for those not in a state that has not formally adopted, there are still lots of other teachers in your state with the exact same standards.

NSTA has listservs for members and discussion forums in the Learning Center devoted specifically to NGSS. There is a Twitter group called #NGSSchat that “meets” on two Thursdays every month and many science teacher associations have Facebook groups. Unpacking standards is similar to swimming; it should always be done with a buddy. Just as we want our students to engage in meaningful discourse during lessons, educators should engage in meaningful discourse when planning them.

Q11. Is there a place for performance expectations in the Unit Storyline? We’ve started unit development by bundling PEs, unpacking DCIs, SEPs, and CCCs, identifying an anchor phenomenon, and developing a storyline with lesson level phenomena.

Use of the performance expectation is tricky because it is a combination of the three dimensions. Teachers need flexibility in planning what students do in class. As I have noted above, focusing too much on the performance expectation can lead to rote learning where students are trained to do a specific task rather than being able to engage in three-dimensional learning. It’s good to keep the performance expectation in mind during instruction, but it’s important to remember that it describes what students should be able to do at the end of the unit. It’s not what they need to be doing during the unit.

The process that I find works best is to focus on the core ideas, and as part of the process of unpacking them, I consider what phenomena are there that require that core idea to understand. Once I have phenomena selected, I think about how students are going to interact with that phenomenon. The nature of that interaction leads me to a practice. With the core idea and practice selected, I look carefully at the list of elements for the crosscutting concepts and select the one that most naturally fits. I also try to articulate what students will figure out during each lesson and what new questions they may ask.

With a great deal of thought, discussion, and reflection, I sequence encounters with phenomena in a way that transforms a group of lessons into a coherent unit. The key is trying to make sure that students’ questions at the end of one lesson provide reasons for students to engage in the next lesson. I also try to identify a phenomenon that can act as the overall anchor for the unit, which is given the clever name of the anchor phenomenon.

Of course, this process assumes that I have a strong understanding of all of the practices and crosscutting concepts in addition to the core ideas I am addressing. I continually work to deepen that understanding by multiple rounds of unpacking and discussing these dimensions with other educators. One thing I love about the teaching profession is that there are always new things to learn.

Final Thought

I have yet to hear anyone describe three-dimensional teaching and learning as easy to do, but I have heard many educators describe it as worth doing. We know that the way we have been teaching for the last century has not led to the successes that we want for all students. NGSS is not a smooth and easy road to travel, but it is heading in the direction that we want to go.


Editor Note: A similar version of this Q&A also appeared in eObservations, a newsletter published by the Georgia Science Teachers Association. 



Jeremy Peacock

Jeremy Peacock, Ed.D., is Director of 6-12 Science at Northeast Georgia Regional Education Service Agency in Winterville, Georgia, and an NGSS@NSTA Curator.  He is also a past President of the Georgia Science Teachers Association and a former environmental scientist and high school biology teacher. He is currently focused on supporting Georgia teachers in implementing their new state-developed three-dimensional science standards.




Ted Willard

Ted Willard is Director of NGSS@NSTA for the National Science Teachers Association. In this role, he supports implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and three-dimensional learning more broadly by creating resources such as web seminars, conference sessions, workshops, books, and journal articles. In addition, he edited NSTA’s Quick-Reference Guide to the NGSS and oversees the content of the NGSS@NSTA Hub, a website that offers dynamic browsing and searching of the NGSS, tools to support curriculum planning and professional learning, and classroom resources focused on the standards.

The mission of NSTA is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all.

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Selecting the Right Lab Coat

There are plenty of reasons to wear a lab coat. For instance, lab coats are fire resistant, and they protect your skin from splashes and spills in the laboratory. The following are some helpful hints for selecting the right lab coat for your needs.

Hazard assessment

To identify the type of hazard, conduct a hazard assessment created by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which includes the following questions:

Does your lab work primarily with chemicals, biological agents, radioisotopes, or a mix of things?

Does your lab work involve animal handling?

Are there large quantities of flammable materials (>4 liters) used in a process or experiment?

Are there water reactive or pyrophoric materials used in the open air (e.g., in a fume hood instead of a glove box)?

Are there open flames or hot processes along with a significant amount of flammables?

How are hazardous chemicals used and what engineering controls are available (e.g. a fume hood or glove box)?

Is there a significant risk of spill, splash, or splatter for the tasks being done?

What is the toxicity of chemicals used and is there concern about inadvertent spread of contamination?

The right barrier

The next step is to make sure the lab coat has the best protection possible. You must understand the hazards and safety standards that apply to your science laboratory. In K–12 classrooms, it’s best to purchase a flame-resistant, chemical-resistant lab coat. Additionally, all fire-retardant clothing must meet the National Fire Protection Association’s NFPA 2112 standard. Fire-retardant lab coats should also be worn where pyrophoric reagents are used, NFPA 45 notes.

Appropriate fit and design

In addition, there needs to be the right combination of fit and comfort. Length of sleeves and coat length are critical in providing the correct barrier. Lab coats that are too long in length can cause trip hazards. Tight coats can restrict movement. Also remember to purchase a coat that has openings on the side that will allow you to access your pants pockets without having to remove the coat, which is a potential safety hazard. Select lab coats with snap-on metal buttons instead of buttons threaded into the coat because they can be taken off quickly in case of an emergency. If the coat caught fire, for example, it can be quickly ripped off without the timely unbuttoning process.

Life span

Always select lab coats made of high-quality fabrics with double-stitched seams that will hold up to multiple washing. Also, unlike nylon and polyester, cotton-based fabrics will not melt.

Submit questions regarding safety in K–12 to Ken Roy at safesci@sbcglobal.net, or leave him a comment below. Follow Ken Roy on Twitter: @drroysafersci.

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Planning for a substitute

I’m preparing for my first year as a science teacher. I’ve heard I should have a folder for a substitute teacher, but I’m not sure what should be in it besides a lesson plan. —H., Georgia

Good substitutes deserve respect as professional colleagues and can ease your mind when you’re away. Ask your mentor or administrator about what, if anything, is expected to be in this folder. Think about what you would want to know if you’re stepping into someone else’s classroom.

Include a time schedule, class lists and seating charts, a brief description of your expectations and routines, emergency procedures, directions for electronic devices you want him/her to use, the name of a nearby colleague who can answer questions, and a map of the school highlighting the teacher’s room and the office. Supply a form for the sub to leave a status report.

Include several days’ worth of activities or lessons. Be sure that any necessary materials are labeled and available. For unscheduled absences, include some generic lessons that review or extend concepts and could be used any time.

When developing your sub folder, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Assigned videos should relate to your course goals. Provide suggestions for what students should do or discuss before, during, and after watching it.
  • Don’t ask a sub to do an activity with a potential for student injury or that requires chemicals, live specimens, flames, projectiles, or heat sources.
  • Word games for vocabulary review are popular with students.
  • Catch up on current events with printouts, magazine articles, or websites for students to summarize and share.
  • Avoid suggesting students “read silently” or “work on other homework” for the entire period. (This is difficult for them, even when you’re in the classroom!)

If the substitute doesn’t follow your plans or allows students to behave in unacceptable or unsafe ways, share this information with your principal. But if he/she did a good job, a note of thanks would be appropriate.

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Ed News Roundup: Two NSTA Press Books to be Read from Space

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This week in education news, two Ohio-based NSTA Press authors will have children’s books read from space station; getting students excited about STEM; interest in STEM may be ‘contagious’ in high school; number of minorities, women taking CS is skyrocketing thanks to STEM collaborations; how the Girl Scouts’ new CEO is using her time at NASA and Apple to promote STEM education; a 9-year-old applies to be NASA’s planetary protection officer; STEM Seals for high school diplomas aren’t enough; everybody loves the Nation’s report card, but how should it evolve?; how teachers are using the solar eclipse to shed light on science; NM needs to enact changes to take advantage of STEM opportunities, interest; Minnesota groups focus on STEM for the next generation; why some schools are closing for the solar eclipse — but others are staying open; new Florida law allows anyone to challenge teaching materials, and new science education program brings National parks to classrooms.

Two NSTA Press authors to have children’s books read from space station

Two NSTA Press authors from Ohio have children’s books bound for the International Space Station as part of an educational reading program. The works by Jessica Fries-Gaither and Emily Morgan, will be aboard SpaceX Falcon 9, a rocket that is scheduled to launch Sunday from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Space station astronauts will record themselves reading the works aloud as part of the Story Time From Space program, which is designed to excite children about science. “Notable Notebooks: Scientists and their Writings” by Fries-Gaither and “Next Time You See a Sunset” by Morgan are both published by NSTA. Click here to read the article featured in The Columbus Dispatch.

Getting students excited about STEM

Larry Plank, director for K-12 STEM education for Hillsborough County Public Schools in Florida explains how many school districts struggle with how to expand students’ interest, excitement, and achievement in STEM. Without the right approach, the result is often random acts of STEM that do little to show students how fascinating or relevant these subjects really are. He offers a few of the strategies that his district implemented to give students hands-on, inquiry-based STEM learning experiences that are preparing them for college and careers. Click here to read the article featured on Smart Brief.

Call the CDC! Interest in STEM May Be ‘Contagious’ in High School

You don’t have to be inherently interested in epidemiology to catch the science bug—just sit next to a bunch of other high school students fascinated by the topic, says a new analysis. The study finds that new college students are more likely to say they plan to pursue STEM careers when they were surrounded by other enthusiastic scientists-to-be in high school;—even controlling for factors like interest in science, previous achievement in the field, or parental support for studying science, says the study, which appears in the open-access journal Science Advances, a publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The study is based on a survey of a nationally representative population of students in 50 college and universities in the United States. Click here to read the article featured on Education Week Curriculum Matters blog.

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NSTA Press Summer Sale: Take 20% Off Top 20 Titles

Find a new teaching technique that revitalizes your classroom, learn to ask the questions that unlocks students’ love of science, or give yourself the gift of more time in the classroom when you combine science and literacy. And from August 10–30, 2017, NSTA Press’ back-to-school gift to you is 20% off our top 20 titles when you use promo code 202020 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.

The 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.

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Helping Students Make Sense of the World Using Next Generation Science and Engineering Practices

Helping Students Make Sense of the World Using Next Generation Science and Engineering Practices provides a play-by-play understanding of the practices strand of A Framework for K–12 Science Education (Framework) and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Helping Students Make Sense of the World book cover

Uncovering 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.

Uncovering Student Ideas book cover

Bringing STEM to the Elementary Classroom

Many resources help you encourage young children to learn about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). But only this book of quality STEM experiences was curated by the veteran educator who edits Science and Children, NSTA’s award-winning journal for elementary teachers. Sensitive to the needs of both preK–5 students and busy teachers, editor Linda Froschauer developed Bringing STEM to the Elementary Classroom as a comprehensive source of classroom-tested STEM investigations.

Bringing STEM to the Elementary Classroom book cover

Use promo code 202020 to save 20% on these books online in the NSTA science store.
Good through August 30, 2017.

Argument-Driven Inquiry in Biology: Lab Investigations for Grades 9–12

Are you interested in using argument-driven inquiry for high school lab instruction but just aren’t sure how to do it? You aren’t alone. This book will provide you with both the information and instructional materials you need to start using this method right away. Argument-Driven Inquiry in Biology is a one-stop source of expertise, advice, and investigations.

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The Power of Questioning: Guiding Student Investigations

The authors of this book invite you to nurture the potential for learning that grows out of children’s irrepressible urges to ask questions. The book’s foundation is a three-part instructional model, Powerful Practices, grounded in questioning, investigation, and assessment. To bring the model to life, the authors provide vivid pictures as well as links to special videos and audio recordings. You can actually hear teachers and students engage in questioning and watch two easy-to-adapt examples (involving plants and life cycles) of the model in action. Then, you can implement new strategies right away in your own classroom, regardless of grade or topic.

Power of Questioning book cover

Notable Notebooks: Scientists and Their Writings

Take a trip through time to discover the value of a special place to jot your thoughts, whether you’re a famous scientist or a student. Notable Notebooks: Scientists and Their Writings brings to life the many ways in which everyone from Galileo to Jane Goodall has used a science notebook, including to sketch their observations, imagine experiments, record data, or just write down their thoughts. You also get four steps to starting your own notebook, plus mini-bios of the diverse featured scientists.

Notable Notebooks book cover

Inquiring Scientists, Inquiring Readers: Using Nonfiction to Promote Science Literacy, Grades 3–5

Inquiring Scientists, Inquiring Readers will change the way you think about engaging your students. The authors show that it’s possible to integrate literacy into elementary-level science instruction without sacrificing quality in either area. This unique book will show teachers how to teach science using a variety of nonfiction text sets (such as field guides, reference books, and narrative expository texts) and replace individual lessons with a learning-cycle format (including hands-on investigations, readings, directed discussion, and problem solving).

Inquiring Scientists, Inquiring Readers: Using Nonfiction to Promote Science Literacy, Grades 3–5 book cover

Use promo code 202020 to save 20% on these books online in the NSTA science store.
Good through August 30, 2017.

Problem-Based Learning in the Life Science Classroom, K–12

This book doesn’t just explain why, how, and when to implement problem-based learning (PBL). It also provides you with what many think is the trickiest part of the approach: rich, authentic problems. The authors facilitated the National Science Foundation–funded PBL Project for Teachers and used the problems in their own science teaching, so you can be confident that the problems and the approach are teacher tested and approved.

PBL life science book cover

Argument-Driven Inquiry in Physical Science: Lab Investigations for Grades 6–8

Are you interested in using argument-driven inquiry for middle school lab instruction but just aren’t sure how to do it? Argument-Driven Inquiry in Physical Science will provide you with both the information and instructional materials you need to start using this method right away. The book is a one-stop source of expertise, advice, and investigations to help physical science students work the way scientists do.

Argument-Driven Inquiry book cover

Picture-Perfect STEM Lessons, K–2: Using Children’s Books to Inspire STEM Learning

This book’s 15 kid-friendly lessons convey how science, technology, engineering, and mathematics intersect in the real world. They embed reading-comprehension strategies that integrate the STEM subjects and English language arts through high-quality picture books.

When the Sun Goes Dark

This illustrated book is a fun way to get young astronomers ready for August 21, 2017, when millions of North Americans will have the rare chance to witness a total solar eclipse.

Use promo code 202020 to save 20% on these books online in the NSTA science store.
Good through August 30, 2017.

Disciplinary Core Ideas: Reshaping Teaching and Learning

Disciplinary Core Ideas can make your science lessons more coherent and memorable, regardless of what subject matter you cover and what grade you teach. Think of it as a conceptual tool kit you can use to help your students learn important and useful science now—and continue learning throughout their lives.

Big Data, Small Devices: Investigating the Natural World Using Real-Time Data

Now your students can transform their mobile phones and tablets into tools for learning about everything from weather to water quality. Big Data, Small Devices shows you how. This book is designed for Earth and environmental science teachers who want to help students tap into, organize, and deploy large data sets via their devices to investigate the world around them.

Solar Science: Exploring Sunspots, Seasons, Eclipses, and More

Solar Science offers more than three dozen hands-on, inquiry-based activities on many fascinating aspects of solar astronomy. The activities cover the Sun’s motions, space weather caused by the Sun, the measurement of time and seasons in our daily lives, and much more. This is just the resource you need to get middle schoolers ready for August 21, 2017—the day when millions of North Americans will have the rare chance to witness a solar eclipse.

Next Time You See a Sunset

“Next time you see a sunset, stop and sit down for a while.” This book’s tempting opening line invites children and adults to take in a daily phenomenon with fresh eyes. By reading Next Time You See a Sunset together, you can learn to appreciate the spinning of the Earth, the progress of day into night, and the reasons for the spectacular colors and shadows that accompany sunrise and sunset.

 Next Time You See a Sunset book cover

Use promo code 202020 to save 20% on these books online in the NSTA science store.
Good through August 30, 2017.

Uncovering Student Ideas in Primary Science, Volume 1: 25 New Formative Assessment Probes for Grades K–2

What ideas do young children bring to their science learning, and how does their thinking change as they engage in “science talk”? Find out using the 25 field-tested probes in the newest volume of Page Keeley’s bestselling Uncovering Student Ideas in Science series, the first targeted to grades K–2.

 Uncovering Student Ideas in Primary Science book cover

Next Time You See the Moon

This fascinating book will stay with children every time they gaze up at the night sky. Next Time You See the Moon is an ideal way to explain the science behind the shape of the Moon and bring about an evening outing no child—or grown-up—will soon forget.

 Next Time You See the Moon book cover

From Flower to Fruit

From Flower to Fruit will transform curious readers—children and adults—into budding botanists. The book draws you in with the twin charms of rich illustrations and an engaging narrative. But this is more than just a pretty storybook. It sparks curiosity about the parts of a flower and the vital roles of bees and seeds in plant reproduction.

From Flower to Fruit book cover 

Problem-Based Learning in the Earth and Space Science Classroom, K–12

If you’ve ever asked yourself whether problem-based learning (PBL) can bring new life to both your teaching and your students’ learning, here’s your answer: Yes. This all-in-one guide will help you engage your students in scenarios that represent real-world science in all its messy, thought-provoking glory.
This book is both informative and practical.

Problem-Based Learning book cover 


Use promo code 202020 to save 20% on these books online in the NSTA science store.
Good through August 30, 2017.

NSTA Press® is where you’ll find the best classroom-ready activities, hands-on approaches to inquiry, relevant professional development, the latest scientific education news and research, assessment, standards-based instruction—NSTA Press® develops and produces the high-quality resources that science educators need, in all disciplines. Check out sample NSTA Press chapters at the Science Store.
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Art and motion: moving toward STEM

Camp is not school. Like school, camp is play and camp is a learning environment, but the time together may not be long enough to build a community that effectively investigates together. In a half-day, five-day camp program with 15 minutes for snack and 30 minutes for recess, my class of eight children (grades K-2) had about 2 hours to work together each day and we made the most of it. Our theme was “Art in Motion” and my goal was to enjoyably expose the children to the work of a few artists and have them experience several kinds of motion, some while making art. I did not expect to spend much time in group discussion and reflection. Instead we had many individual conversations as children were working during activities and centers. If this was school we would have had many more hours to consider how to make, affect, and represent, the motion of objects. We could have scientifically inquired into the specifics of balls on ramps or balance of hanging objects but our time was limited so we had just a prelude to science inquiry involving aesthetics and objects in motion. 

Each day I read a book or two aloud to focus on a topic. Our Child drawing picture of two red peppers on a yellow plate.Children drawing a still life using crayonsbeginning topic was Cezanne’s still life paintings, the opposite of art in motion although still full of life.  Drawing the simple arrangement of two vegetables was a challenging task for some children but they persisted. They had an easier time making a drawing of an imagined object in motion. Working with paper, crayons, and liquid watercolors, children noticed the way the wax crayons repelled the paint and how the paint was absorbed by the paper.

Drawing of a dinosaur with footprints, to show it is in motion.

Dinosaur with footprints to show it is in motion.

With centers of marble painting and “spin art” (painting on small paper plates using a salad spinner to exert force), children manipulated the materials and the Child pulling on the string to spin the salad spinnerforce to affect the motion of objects, and create art. Exploring Using shadow puppetry to explore light and shadow, and negotiate social relationships.light and shadow through shadow puppetry involved scientific discoveries and social negotiations as children learned which materials can block light and how to work with another person to tell a story. 

An individual's painting using a technique of Jackson PollockA group introduction to Jackson Pollock's technique of paintingThe week would not be complete if we didn’t paint in the style of Jackson Pollock, putting the paper base on the floor and dripping and pouring paint to express our feelings. A group experience introduced the process and individual works followed. With a longer time frame the children could have tried more kinds of paint and implements to move it, exploring how the density of a liquid effects how it moves and what kind of tool we need to control it.

Child manipulating wire to create a sculptureThe work of Alexander Calder, another art innovator, inspired us to try creating some figures using wire, and think about using balance and air movement as elements in our art. Watching the video of his presentation of his “Le Grande Cirque Calder” circus showed that adults like to play too. We saw how Calder combined materials and made characters that moved. I hope that this taste of making art that has motion will motivate the children to deepen their understanding of the properties of materials and the laws of physics that brought Calder’s circus to life. 

Exploring the motion of spinning topsGames with an aspect of motion were part of the centers in between art making. It surprised me that none of the children had heard of Pick Up Sticks! It was a popular game. Children enjoyed the challenge of removing a stick without jostling the others.  Ramps and pathways materials—tracks, blocks, and objects—introduced motion on inclined tracks and structure design. Spinning tops allowed children to vary the force they applied to an object to vary the motion and they considered what variables make a top spin longest. Sharing materials encouraged negotiation and supported developing social skills. It is satisfying to see children exploring motion and trying to work out how to make the materials do what they want them to. This engagement is the beginning of a science inquiry.

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