#14Books: NSTA Press Honored to Be on Science Books & Films Best Books List

graphic showing 14 books on the AAAS books of the yearField-tested science fair ideas that make students responsible for their own learning… middle school experiments using Rocket Launchers, Sound Pipes, Drinking Birds, and Dropper Poppers… a kid-magnet formula that will get your students engrossed in science while they improve their reading skills… 12 steps that help new teachers hone their classroom skills… expert guidance on using the NGSS to plan instructional units… these are just a few of the winning ideas that earned 14 NSTA Press titles a place on AAAS’s Science Books & Films Best Books of 2014 list.

Read more about these teaching resources, written by educators for educators; each selection links to more info and a free sample chapter of each. See something you really like? Use promo code 14Books at the NSTA Science Store to purchase these selections now and we’ll take 14% off through February 2, 2015. When NSTA Press wins, you win!

Elementary-level books included on the list are:

Middle and high school books honored include:

K–12 titles on the Best of 2014 list are:

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Science lessons for the new year from NSTA Press

Elementary NSTA Press Book Sampler120

NSTA Press sampler of science lessons for elementary grades

The start of the new year is a great time for science teachers to explore fresh lesson ideas for the classroom. NSTA Press’s top-selling books and new publications offer numerous lessons and activities, from learning about amazing caterpillars to exploring air pressure, and from understanding solutions to investigating energy. We’ve collected chapters from popular NSTA Press books tailored to elementary, middle, and high school into convenient NSTA Press Book Samplers. Each sampler includes lessons and activities from four books designed to engage students and nurture their curiosity about science and the world around them.

Click to download our NSTA Press Elementary School Sampler, which includes lessons and chapters from Even More Picture-Perfect Science Lessons: Using Children’s Books to Guide Inquiry, K–5; Using Physical Science Gadgets and Gizmos, Grades 3–5: Phenomenon-Based Learning; Uncovering Student Ideas in Primary Science, Volume 1: 25 New Formative Assessment Probes for Grades K–2; and Next Time You See a Maple Seed. Click to download our NSTA Press Middle School Sampler, which includes

NSTA Press sampler of science lessons for middle school

NSTA Press sampler of science lessons for middle school

lessons and chapters from Doing Good Science in Middle School, Expanded 2nd Edition: A Practical STEM Guide; Predict, Observe, Explain: Activities Enhancing Scientific Understanding; Everyday Earth and Space Science Mysteries: Stories for Inquiry-Based Science Teaching; and Using Physical Science Gadgets and Gizmos, Grades 6–8: Phenomenon-Based Learning.

NSTA Press sampler of science lessons for high school

NSTA Press sampler of science lessons for high school

Or click to download our NSTA Press High School Sampler, which includes lessons and chapters from Hard-to-Teach Biology Concepts, Revised 2nd Edition: Designing Instruction Aligned to the NGSS; Argument-Driven Inquiry in Biology: Lab Investigations for Grades 9–12; It’s Debatable! Using Socioscientific Issues to Develop Scientific Literacy, K–12; and Using Physics Gadgets and Gizmos, Grades 9–12: Phenomenon-Based Learning. All the best for the new year from NSTA Press!

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NSTA Press author Victor Sampson presents a webinar on scientific argumentation

Join NSTA Press author Victor Sampson for his webinar “Scientific Argumentation: Helping Students Identify, Evaluate, and Support Claims” (a 2-part course).

Use Smithsonian and other published resources to help students judge the quality or reliability of evidence, evaluate scientific claims, and construct scientific arguments. In a live, interactive format, try out an instructional strategy and an online annotation tool. This webinar will address inquiry skills and CCSS ELA standards for informational texts in scientific and technical subject areas. Provided materials focus on real-world, curriculum-relevant topics such as fracking and the Asian carp invasion.

Free registration required: http://SmithsonianScientificArgumentation.eventbrite.com

Target Audience: 9th and 10th grade science teachers
When: Part 1: Tuesday, February 17, 2015; Part 2: Monday, February 23, 2015

(Note: The course takes place over two sessions and attendance at both, along with completion of the evaluation, is required to receive a certificate)
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET/6:00 p.m. CT/5:00 p.m. MT/4:00 p.m. PT
Duration: 60 minutes each session
Where: The event will take place online via the Google+ platform. Registrants will receive links to the two sessions prior to the event.
The webinar is archived and available for viewing after the live event has occurred.

Michelle K. Smith is Associate Director for Digital Media in the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access. She oversees content development for instructional materials and web-based programs based on the Smithsonian’s collections and expertise.

Dr. Victor Sampson is an Associate Professor of STEM Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at The University of Texas at Austin. He is the author of a growing series of books about engaging students in scientific argumentation, a key practice of science that helps students master content while they write about and discuss claims and evidence.

Certificate of Participation: Webinar participants earn a certificate of participation for attending both sessions and completing the evaluation form at the end of the program.
For more information: Contact learning@si.edu.

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New year, new format for The STEM Classroom

graphic with the words "The STEM Classroom"Welcome to my new blog! The old STEM Classroom e-newsletter has gotten a makeover and become part of the new monthly Science and the STEM Classroom. As part of the redesign, I’m getting a chance to hone my skill at blogging in WordPress. A blog offers some different functionality and increased opportunities for sharing and connecting. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to learn more about formatting and how to embed images in WordPress.

I am, of course, a bit late to the party. Blogging as an educational tool has been a thing for a good 10 years now. Many of today’s classroom courses have a blog component, thanks to the ubiquity of Blackboard in higher education and other learning management systems like the open-source option, Moodle, and Edmodo, which is aimed at primary and secondary school audiences. The best part about this blogging opportunity, though, is that I’ll learn to do more advanced coding in HTML. This month, I’ll give you some ideas for incorporating coding or its fruits in your classroom.

Science Connection: Effective Science Communication

I’ve written before about the importance of communicating science for lay audiences. One of the challenges in attracting new students to scientific fields is that so much of what is written about new and exciting science is obscured by jargon. This is beginning to change, and a number of science communicators have dedicated themselves to ensuring that news about good science gets the wider attention it deserves. Some of those communicators, like Joe Hanson, are using the Internet to host several different channels of communication. Hanson has a Facebook page, Twitter feed, YouTube channel, and a blog. If you don’t already keep a list of science communication resources in your classroom, you can start with these.


Any of the blogs from Discover magazine or the blogs at SciLogs (and there are lots of them). Continue reading …

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Senate releases draft of No Child Left Behind legislation

graphic saying "work between the Republican and Democratic education leaders in the Senate has led many in Washington, DC to believe this is a strong and viable attempt to come to consensus and rewrite the federal education law."Last week Sen. Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate Health Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee released a 400-page discussion draft proposal which would rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or No Child Left Behind.

The draft language would provide states with flexibility to decide accountability (testing) issues, and it consolidates most of the Department of Education’s K–12 programs for Teacher Quality, including the Math and Science Partnership, into a single formula grant program.

Earlier this month Senator Alexander said he wanted to get a bill to mark up by the end of February. The ensuring work between the Republican and Democratic education leaders in the Senate has led many in Washington, DC to believe this is a strong and viable attempt to come to consensus and rewrite the federal education law.

But many differences still remain. Senator Patti Murray, ranking Democrat on the HELP Committee, has signaled her priorities for the bill are to reduce testing and expand preschool. In a speech last week on ESEA education, Secretary Arne Duncan said he also wants increased funding for preschool, continued teacher evaluations, and targeted resources to the lowest-performing schools.

The STEM Education Coalition (which NSTA chairs) is calling on Congress to include a requirement that states continue to assess student performance in mathematics and science and that STEM education–related activities be given high priority in major education programs at the U.S. Department of Education (DoEd), especially those focused on teacher quality and professional development.

Stay tuned, much more ahead in coming weeks.

Jodi Peterson is Assistant Executive Director of Legislative Affairs for the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and Chair of the STEM Education Coalition. e-mail Jodi at jpeterson@nsta.org; follower her on Twitter at @stemedadvocate.

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

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NSTA and ASE: creating pathways to better international cooperation in science education

Chris Harrison, Sir David Bell, Shaun Reason, Juliana TexleyThey say the world is flat … and so it often seems. Cross the ocean by plane, or travel far from home by train or car…sit down for coffee with other teachers…and the issues are almost always the same. We find much in common wherever we go. And I found this to be true recently when I attended the annual meeting of the Association for Science Education (ASE) at the University of Reading, in England (NSTA’s counterpart in the UK).

NSTA’s collaboration with the Association for Science Education has a long history. The Patron of the Association is HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and it traces its origins back to 1900. The first Annual Meeting was held in January 1901, which then led to the formation of the Association of Public School Science Masters. Incorporated by Royal Charter in October 2004, the ASE operates as a Registered Charity. (By comparison, NSTA dates back to 1944.) ASE’s governance structure is a bit different. Each year a high-profile scientist or educator is appointed President and serves as spokesman for the organization. This year it’s Professor Sir David Bell, chancellor of University of Reading in the UK. On his first day “on the job” he made a major address to the ASE conference and did a radio interview about the importance of science education. The operational governance of ASE is managed by Chair Chris Harrison and Executive Director Shaun Reason. (Chris is a science education researcher and professor.)

NSTA President Juliana Texley presenting at the ASE meetingSo much for the differences; the rest is much the same. On the first day of my visit, I sat with a teacher from Finland who was looking for ways to help his bilingual immigrant students (mostly Somalian) integrate quickly. Next morning I did a workshop on “square pegs,” diverse learners who don’t seem to fit into regular classroom routines and how to structure lessons to make them successful. The attendees each had their own “square pegs” and shared many innovative solutions. NSTA’s retiring president Bill Badders was there, too, and did a workshop on how to integrate literacy seamlessly into an inquiry lesson on earthworms. Again, everyone found it relevant and the discussions were very energetic. I attended sessions on integrating science and social studies (geography) and assessment, ideas that would translate to any country’s teachers in any language. Even the exhibit hall had lots of material that merited importing, like science in Europe in the Middle Ages (much from the Islamic areas of Spain), and the greatest 3D exploration of cell biology yet.

There were some differences in emphasis, of course. Assessment is a high-priority issue there as here, and there were many sessions on the topic. But because of the smaller scale (and perhaps less litigious environment), there were more initiatives in performance and multi-factorial assessment programs discussed. And because the current assessments are very familiar to educators, it was common to learn about how a certain experience could increase success on a certain component of a test.

The growing emphasis on early childhood education here has already been embedded into science education in the UK, with many creative ideas. And of course, our national goals are changing at a much more rapid pace with the inspiration of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)—a topic that almost every participant wanted to learn more about. Change is occurring in England, Scotland,and Wales as well, but perhaps at a slightly slower pace that might seem more manageable to the average attendee.

The meeting also provided opportunities for me to talk to the ASE staff about organizational issues. They share the challenge of getting pre-service teachers to stay involved once they are hit with the heavy load of their first few years of teaching. The meeting featured a great forum where beginning teachers could make 10-minute presentations of their favorite lessons rather than commit to a full=hour session; this was one of the most popular areas of the exhibit hall and it seemed “a good time was had by all.”

In the past many NSTA members have associated international efforts with tours. Visiting schools and teachers is always informative and enriches our perspective on what we do at home. But we can go much further. Our International Committee does far more than that, beginning with a full day of discussions at each national conference. At ASE we discussed possible projects through which we might combine web resources in a convenient and easy-to-access portal, create international discussion forums on very specific topics like climate change education, and perhaps exchange publications. Citizen Science initiatives might also enable us to facilitate for young investigators the comparison of methods and ways of thinking, and these insights could help us adapt our own classroom curricula to an increasingly diverse student body. (Do you have ideas? Send them to Juliana_texley@nsta.org and they will be included in a Board discussion in the near future.)

In common conversation, the term “flat” is often equated with something that is boring or lacks effervescence. But not in this case! A “flat” world is one with endless opportunities. To create valuable pathways to better international cooperation in science education, we don’t have to cross high hurdles. Our common teaching instincts provide the sign posts to guide us toward productive collaborations.

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

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January journals and SciLinks

One of the perks of being an NSTA member is having access to all of the journals online. Regardless of the grade level you teach, the journals have ideas for authentic activities and investigations that can be used, adapted, or extended for different levels of student interest and experience. Most are aligned with the NGSS.

This month, the article EQuIP-ped for Success appears in all three journals, describing a rubric with criteria on which to evaluate lessons and units and their alignment with the NGSS.

Science & Children: Systems and System Models

Most of our students are familiar with the solar and metric “systems,” but any interaction of two or more things can be considered a system, and the resulting system can help us understand phenomena. This issue explores systems and the models used to understand them. Bill Robertson’s Science 101 column–How Should We Use the Concept of Systems?—is a good summary of the topic. And here are some SciLinks that provide content information and suggestions for additional activities and investigations related to this month’s featured articles:

Science Scope: Human Impacts on Earth Systems

The featured articles explore the ever-threatening human impact on Earth systems. Get some ideas for student projects and investigations on the topic. Here are some SciLinks that provide content information and suggestions for additional activities and investigations related to this month’s featured articles:

The Science Teacher: Project-Based Science

Projects have come a long way from the days of gumdrop replicas of the atom! Working on projects provides students with ways of connecting and applying the content, practices, and concepts they are learning. The article Project-Based Science leads off this discussion. Here are some SciLinks that provide content information and suggestions for additional activities and investigations related to this month’s featured articles:


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The Next Generation Science Standards: a transformational opportunity

NGSS coverThe Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and A Framework for K–12 Science Education articulate a beautiful vision for students. The overarching goal of the standards is a coherent and rigorous science education for all students, enabling them to be critical consumers of science and attain the scientific literacy necessary to be informed citizens able to engage in public discourse and decision making on issues of science, engineering, and technology. For those who are so inspired, attaining proficiency in the standards provides students with the foundation needed to pursue STEM careers (a much-needed cohort in our society). Whereas the vision is clear, there is no single path teachers can follow to implement the Next Generation Science Standards. K–12 teachers who want to play a central role in transforming science teaching and learning need guidance in creating paths along which they can translate the NGSS into strong curricula and inspired instruction.

So, how can teachers build aligned NGSS curricula and instruction? Through individual reflection and productive struggle; conversation and collaboration with science educators nationwide; and partnerships with national, state, and local supporters, teachers can develop and implement a shared vision for classroom teaching and learning in science.


Introducing Teachers and Administrators to the NGSS book coverGroups of teachers all over the United States are finding the path to NGSS less daunting when they actively engage in adult learning through reflection on how their new approaches to science teaching are working and are mindful when reviewing resources for implementation. There is always that temptation to look for the easy answers about “How to do the NGSS.” But following someone else’s plans without thoughtful reflection, analysis, and debate will not enable us to reach our own understanding. Without our own deep understanding, we cannot truly shift our classrooms in a sustained way to the deep thinking and critical perspectives required in NGSS. As authors Eric Brunsell, Deb M. Kneser, and Kevin J. Niemi so effectively state in one of my favorite new resources, Introducing Teachers and Administrators to the NGSS, “the NGSS represents an evolution of our understanding of the standards, not a complete break with the past.”

If we develop a deep understanding of the NGSS and build our capacity as teachers to coach students toward independent thinking and lifelong learning, we will be able to use many of our own resources by making revisions and shifts in design, and we will be able to develop our own skills as critical consumers of new resources. The productive struggle of “figuring it out” for ourselves with support from others is what leads to deep understanding. We already know this to be true for our students, so shouldn’t we apply the same principles to our own learning? What could we build together if we applied this thinking to ourselves when it comes to NGSS? Continue reading …

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Supplementing a budget decrease

6355318323_4c41d3ef76_mOur principal just informed us that the science department budget will be decreased for next year. It’s already bare bones, so my colleagues and I are interested in finding other funding sources such as grants. What do we need to know to get started?   – G., Oregon

In a perfect world, schools and teachers would all be funded adequately to provide the highest quality education for our students. As we wait for this to happen, you won’t be the only one looking for external funds to supplement a shrinking budget, and many agencies and organizations are themselves facing reduced resources.

You and your colleagues should discuss your needs and make some decisions as you begin the process. Your needs may include “everything,” so you should prioritize them into categories such as equipment, safety, instructional materials, professional development (including conferences), field trips, technology, and more. Discuss your needs assessment and how meeting those needs will improve student learning. Very few organizations or agencies will write blank checks, so this will help you match your needs with the missions of potential funders.

Differentiate between donations and grants. Donations are straightforward gifts, often very modest, with few strings attached, and often from more local organizations. Grants from large foundations or government agencies usually focus on projects for a particular purpose or audience and have requirements spelled out in a formal contract that must be signed by a school official. These requirements may include periodic progress reports, a formal evaluation component, student learning data, and an itemized budget. They are usually competitive. As a grantwriter, I found that the larger the grant, the more strings are attached.

Finding potential sources is another challenge.

Continue reading …

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System exploration in early childhood

Children's coats hanging on hooks.When winter sets in, teachers set aside time in the schedule for children to remove and store their winter outwear. Such a variety of clothing systems appear! Coats and jackets with zippers, hoods, snaps and Velcro, mittens and gloves, hats that pull on or strap on, snow pants and overalls, scarves and boots! These items are the parts of the system that keeps children warm outside. 

Children master the skill of putting on and fastening these items over time as their fine motor skills develop and they have repeated opportunities to practice. Some children get undressed or dressed faster than their classmates. Instead of waiting, they can collect data. On a tally chart with pictures of each kind of clothing, they can make a tally mark for each item they observe. Some questions to investigate include, “Does the number of _____ change with changing weather?” “What kind of hat do children find easiest to put on? What kind of jacket do children find easiest to fasten? Which kinds of fastening do children prefer? 

Cover of January 2015 Science and ChildrenIn the January 2015 issue of Science and Children, I wrote about children investigating coats as systems, examining the parts of various coats and measuring and recording data. What systems are the children in your program investigating?

Although children experience a world where complex systems, such as atomic structure, operate, they may have not reached a developmental age where they understand these systems, forces and particles. We know this because researchers who investigate how children learn have discovered the age ranges when children can use their information to demonstrate or model these concepts (Michaels and others). Ready Set SCIENCE! (Michaels), particularly Chapter 3, discusses conceptual change in children’s thinking “as a result of instruction, experience, and maturation.” The authors state, “A key challenge for teachers is to build on students’ embodied knowledge and understanding of the world and to help them confront their misconceptions productively in order to develop new understanding” (pg 38).

 Beginning with systems common in the lives of young children, early childhood educators can lay the foundation for later learning.


Michaels Sarah, and Andrew W. Shouse, Heidi A. Schweingruber. 2007. Ready, Set, Science!: Putting Research to Work in K-8 Science Classrooms. National Research Council

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