NSTA Membership: It Opens the Door to Opportunity

NSTA Membership- It Opens the Door to Opportunity

Membership in NSTA comes with a wealth of benefits. Although the most obvious benefit may be the regular appearance of Science Scope and NSTA Reports in your mailbox, membership encompasses far more. The ability to connect through list serves, interact with other middle school science teachers via the Learning Center forums, serve on a variety of NSTA committees and advisory boards, and apply for prestigious awards are some examples of additional NSTA member benefits. There is, however, one hidden member benefit that we consider to be priceless; it is the ability to carve deep and lasting friendships through the personal connections afforded by involvement with NSTA.

As veteran middle school science teachers, we began our individual professional relationships with NSTA many years ago while serving on the Toyota Tapestry Grant Judging Panel. Although the panel no longer exists, the friendship that evolved through our common experience has stood the test of time and serves as an example of NSTA’s unique ability to connect science educators with each other. We have overcome the physical distance that separates us and have strengthened our friendship through presentations made at NSTA conferences, by teaching short courses together, and by recently authoring a book for NSTA Press.

NSTA offers numerous venues for personal and professional growth that will afford you the ability to connect with like-minded peers. We know from experience that attending a NSTA conference will leave you recharged as a result of your contact with other science educators. You can maintain that conference energy through activity in one or more of NSTA’s social media platforms, which include Twitter, Facebook, and the middle school list serve (middleschool@list.nsta.org). If you have taught for less than five years, we recommend that you to apply for the Maitland P. Simmons Memorial Award (https://www.nsta.org/docs/awards/NewTeacher.pdf). This outstanding program provides a year of professional development that includes attendance at the NSTA national conference.

Get Involved and Grow as a Leader

Involvement in NSTA will also allow you to grow as a leader in your educational community. We encourage you to expand your relationship with NSTA by volunteering to serve on a NSTA committee or advisory board. Consider lending your expertise to the Committee on Middle Level Science Teaching or to the Science Scope Advisory Board. This is a great way to meet colleagues from across the nation while helping to drive decisions that will impact the organization. 

If you are planning on attending an upcoming NSTA national or regional conference, submit a proposal for a session. Keep in mind, however, that proposals need to be submitted nearly a year in advance (http://www.nsta.org/conferences/sessions.aspx). Presenting in front of your peers will help you grow both professionally and personally. If your strengths lie in written communication, you may want to consider authoring an article for Science Scope. A great way to build your confidence and knowledge prior to submitting a manuscript is to offer to review for Science Scope. In the process, you will be providing a valuable service to NSTA while gaining an insider’s viewpoint regarding the publication process.

The path to greater involvement in NSTA is as varied as the numerous member opportunities available to you. Whether you choose to become more active at the conference level, develop your reviewing or writing skills, or to serve in a leadership capacity, your growth as a science educator will be profound and may lead to the greatest benefit of all: friendship.

Patty McGinnis teaches at Arcola Intermediate School in Eagleville, PA and is editor of Science Scope. Kitchka Petrova is currently a doctoral student at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida. Their book Be a Winner: A Science Teacher’s Guide to Writing Successful Grant Proposals allows readers to learn from veteran science teachers about the secrets to successful grant writing. Formatted as a handy workbook, this practical book takes you step by step through the writing process.

Cover of the April/May 2016 issue of Science ScopeGet more involved with NSTA!

Join today and receive Science Scope, the peer-reviewed journal just for middle school teachers; connect on the middle level science teaching list (members can sign up on the list server); or consider joining your peers for Meet Me in the Middle Day (MMITM) at the National Conference on Science Education in Los Angeles in the spring of 2017.

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

Future NSTA Conferences

NGSS Workshops

2016 STEM Forum & Expo, hosted by NSTA

2016 Area Conferences

2017 National Conference


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Minneapolis, the Place to Be for Science Education This Fall

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Join NSTA in Minneapolis this October 27–29, 2016, for our first area conference on science education. Our outstanding program will have something for science teachers of all subject areas and experiences. With featured speakers who will leave you inspired, to sessions that will give you more resources than you can possibly use, the upcoming NSTA Area Conference in Minneapolis is the place you need to be.

To help you make the most of the professional development opportunities available at the Minneapolis conference, the Conference Committee has planned the conference around three strands that explore topics of current significance, enabling you to focus on a specific area of interest or need.

Teaching Science in a Connected World

Students and teachers have access to many forms of technology. These technologies can be effective tools to access information, deliver instruction, communicate ideas, connect with people from around the world, and build professional learning networks. Educators attending these sessions will explore instructional materials, technologies and strategies for effective learning for students and adults, and responsible use of digital resources and processes.

STEMify Instruction Through Collaboration Across the Curriculum

STEM can be a powerful unifying theme across the curriculum and in many settings. STEM provides an opportunity for collaboration among teachers, disciplines, and schools, as well as postsecondary, informal education, and community partners. Educators attending sessions in this strand will explore models of integrated STEM education programs, learn strategies to productively STEMify lessons, and investigate how to effectively engage students.

Celebrating Elementary Science and Literacy Connections

Children are born investigators. Science is an engaging way to develop students’ skills in thinking creatively, expressing themselves, and investigating their world. Reading, writing, and speaking are inspired through science experiences. Educators attending these sessions will gain confidence in teaching science, learn strategies for literacy and science integration, and celebrate elementary science. 

We hope to see you in Minneapolis in October! Save the date, line up your subs, and please check back here in early June for registration information.

jeanAuthor Jean Tushie is a High School Biology Teacher and the MnSTA conference coordinator. As a former NSTA council and board member, Tushie is NSTA’s biggest cheerleader!

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

Future NSTA Conferences

5th Annual STEM Forum & Expo, hosted by NSTA

  • Denver, Colorado: July 27–29

2016 Area Conferences

  • Minneapolis, Minnesota: October 27–29
  • Portland, Oregon: November 10–12
  • Columbus, Ohio: December 1–3

National Conferences

  • Los Angeles, California: March 30–April 2, 2017
  • Atlanta, Georgia: March 15–18, 2018
  • St. Louis, Missouri: April 11–14, 2019
  • Boston, Massachusetts: March 26–29, 2020
  • Chicago, Illinois: April 8–11, 2021

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The last days of the school year

I’m looking for suggestions for what to do during the last week of school, after final exams are over. I teach high school chemistry.  —T., Maryland

It’s hard to justify students (and parents) why students should come to school on the last days of the year, if all they do is watch videos, do busywork, talk to or text each other, have one study hall after another, or roam the halls. The last few days of the school year can be a gift of time for explorations and enrichment activities.

But the end of the year is a busy time for you, too. Your after-school time is probably spent on grading exams, evaluating projects, finalizing inventories, or preparing final grades. So the last thing you need is planning additional activities to keep students busy.

Here are some learning-related alternatives that won’t require a lot of preparation:

  • My students enjoyed vocabulary games, such as variations on Jeopardy or A card sort or word splash is easy to put together. In science charades, each team creates a pantomime of a vocabulary term or science process for other students to figure out (it’s amazing what they can do with mitosis or Newton’s laws).
  • Dig out those lab activities or online simulations you wanted to do during the year but didn’t have time.
  • You could ask them to work in groups to come up with a “guide” for next year’s class –something like The Top 10 Things You Need to Know About Chemistry Class or Chemistry Class FAQs (and Answers). You could make this open-ended or you could give different topics to the groups (e.g., lab safety, study skills, lab procedures, difficult topics, or how to use a science notebook. You may need to model a few appropriate ideas before they start. The groups could share and debrief with each other, perhaps as a gallery walk. This could also be an informal evaluation survey, since you’ll get to see what they thought was essential or important enough to share. And be sure to share a composite list with your students at the beginning of next year.
  • Have students try out a new technology tool or app. Assign an app to each group and ask them to demonstrate it and describe how it would (or would not) be useful for students in your class next year. You can be part of the audience.

I would be cautious about having students assist with lab cleanup or inventories. You would need to supervise both those who are helping you and those who are not. The liability may not be worth the extra help.

If grades are turned in, it may be hard to get students to participate in any activities, especially if students expected points that “counted” for every activity and they know that grades are calculated. You might also hear “But Mr. B gave us a study hall.” Be persistent. I suspect that most students would rather have a planned enjoyable activity to do (even though they might grumble about it).

A wise teacher once advised me to start planning for the last week during the first week of school. Take photos or videos of activities and equipment during each unit, and have students write captions for them at the end of the year. Prepare vocabulary lists ahead of time, or (better yet) have students make the lists in their notebooks.

Time is a precious commodity. We never have enough, so let’s not waste any of it.

Posted in Ms. Mentor | Tagged | 4 Responses

Using museums, the community and playfulness to bring STEM concepts to life

Please welcome guest blogger, Brooke Shoemaker, who brings her museum education expertise to The Early Years blog. Brooke was a pre-k classroom educator at the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center (SEEC) in Washington, D.C. for four years, before joining SEEC’s outreach arm, the Center for Innovation in Early Learning as the Pre-K Museum Education Specialist. You can read SEEC teachers’ reflections on their practice on the SEEC blog

SEEC invites you to join them for a two-day seminar, “Play: Engaging Learners in Object Rich Environments,” on June 28th and 29th, to explore how to use play as a vehicle for engaging young children in the classroom, museum, and community. 

As early childhood educators, we know play is important, but how can we utilize play to engage students in the classroom, museums, and the community? At the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center, we playfully approach object-based learning to engage our young learners and help them make connections between concepts being taught and the world around them. Object-based learning represents a framework for teaching and learning that engages students in a process of understanding the world and its complexity through the study of objects.

Webpage of the Sant Ocean Hall.This past fall, my co-teacher Tina Brimo and I decided to explore the topic of oceans with our class of three-year-olds because every time we walked through The Sant Ocean Hall at The National Museum of Natural History the children were full of questions about the animals and objects they saw.  Tina and I wanted to present the science, technology, engineering and math concepts in the lessons playfully through hands-on, teacher-guided play, as well as unstructured, child-directed play opportunities, such as dramatic, and symbolic play.   

A web of children's questions about ocean life.To begin our exploration of oceans, we went to The Sant Ocean Hall where children’s curiosity was sparked, and created an ocean web graphic organizer to record questions that the students had, and wanted to learn about over the course of the unit.  One of the questions that day was, “Why do seashells open up?”, so I knew we would have to learn about bivalves at some point during the unit!  But how do you make a lesson about bivalves for preschoolers playful and engaging?

The objectives for the bivalve lesson were to understand that bivalves are animals that have two shells that enclose them, which serve as protection, and that those two shells are symmetrical.  To help make these concepts more concreate, I used a collection of seashells and two sculptures in the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Children inside a sculpture, by Dan Graham Matching ShellsDan Graham’s sculpture, For Gordon Bunshaft, was a perfect object to introduce the idea that bivalves are enclosed in two shells.  We were able to sit inside the piece and pretend to be bivalves ourselves.  We talked about how the walls of the sculpture made us feel safe and protected from the outside elements, just like the shells of a bivalve do. 

While sitting inside the sculpture I passed around the collection of bivalve shells, and the students made observations about the size, shape, and texture.  We noticed that the shells’ hardness made them ideal for protection.  Noticing and describing size, shape, and symmetry demonstrates a beginning understanding of geometry.

Child looking at sculpture by Ellsworth Kelly.Then we turned our attention to Ellsworth Kelly’s sculpture, Untitled, to introduce the idea of symmetry.  As the children observed the sculpture, they noticed that it looked like a circle folded in half, and that each half was exactly the same or symmetrical.  The children explored the collection of shells again, this time putting two shells together.  Children noticed that if two shells were mismatched, or asymmetrical, the shells left openings on the sides, however, symmetrical shells closed snugly, and therefore protected the bivalve.  The class practiced their careful looking skills by playing a game to match shells to their symmetrical counterpart.  To end the lesson the children used their fine motor skills to cut a shape out of a folded piece of paper, yielding a shape that was the symmetrical on both sides.  They called these their bivalves, and had a blast making them open and close.  The children gained early engineering understanding through examining how the symmetrical shells fit together, as well as learning about the mechanics of bivalves.

Children moving as bivalves do.That afternoon in our classroom, we used technology to watch several videos to see how bivalves move. The children were curious to see how bivalves move around since they do not have legs like humans do. The videos helped the children visualize bivalve movement, which they were having a hard time imagining.  After watching the videos we jumped like a cockle to get away from a sea star, we swam like a scallop by opening and closing our shell, and wiggled back and forth like a clam to bury ourselves in the sand.  Reflecting on the lesson I realize the videos could have been used to begin the lesson so that the children had a better idea of how they move, before delving into the mechanics of bivalves.

The students were exposed to concepts in multiple ways through art, hands-on objects, and kinesthetic learning, which made the concepts more concrete. They were playfully engaged with bivalves in different ways including exploring shells through touch, practicing fine motor skills, and using their bodies and imaginations.  Through these playful techniques, bivalves came alive for the children.

We designed other playful experiences to teach the children about the biology of ocean animals. We explored how coral reefs are made by observing the physical attributes of live and preserved coral in the Sant Ocean Hall and a photograph of a coral reef in the museum’s Nature’s Best Photography Exhibit, by using our fine motor skills to build coral out of pipe cleaners, and by reading about how reefs are formed through the lifecycle of coral polyps.  To end the lesson, the children used their bodies to create a coral reef. By engaging their bodies, the kids were up and moving (always a plus for young children), mimicking the various shapes of coral, and coming together to create a coral reef.   

Child feeling inside a box with hands, not looking.Child wearing traffic cones on head, hands and feet.We also explored the physical characteristics of stingrays, specifically their flat bodies which mean that they cannot see what they eat.  We pretended to eat like stingrays by feeling inside a mystery box and trying to detect what plastic food was inside.  Through imagining what it might be like to be a stingray, the children continued to learn about the variety of body structures found in the oceans’ living organisms, and what these structures mean for the animals’ lives. After feeling a real sea star, and counting its legs, the children put cones on their feet, hands, and head to illustrate the five points. 

Child-constructed "octopus." Child-constructed "jellyfish."While the above examples were teacher-guided playful lessons, Tina and I also observed the children spontaneously exploring and communicating about the ocean life content through their child-directed play.  For example, one child ran up to me on the playground and said, “Look, I made a whale, it has eyes and a tail!”  I followed him to a spot on the playground where he had cleared fallen leaves to make a whale shape. After learning about octopus, one child grabbed a handful of stilts, and said, “Hey Tina, these suction cups are coming for you!”  Another child found a torn ball on the playground, opened it up said, “Look, it’s a bulbous octopus head.” Even when playing with pretend food, the children found a way to use it for ocean play.  The children attached pieces of yarn to the Velcro strip on plastic pears, and made them move like jellyfish. Playful lessons were essential in creating engaging experiences for the students to learn content about life in the ocean, but the children’s play also helped us to know what content they understood, and what they wanted to learn more about.   

Through the playful and hands-on experiences in the museums and community, our class was able to learn about diverse animal life in the ocean.  Handling objects helps make concepts more concrete and real, and playful approaches make content more engaging for children. 

Posted in Early Years | Tagged , , , , | 2 Responses

Right to the Source: When Schools Fed the War Effort

text-based header reading: School gardens were also important during World War II and have recently made a comeback as students learn more about the environment, where their food comes from, and the importance of wholesome food to good health.

Exploring Science and History With the Library of Congress

garden-blogAfter the United States entered World War I in April 1917, citizens could support the war effort by buying war bonds, conserving food on “Meatless Mondays” and “Wheatless Wednesdays,” and consuming less fuel at home and in their cars. Schools helped, too, as students planted vegetable gardens to increase the food supply.

School gardens, dating to the late 1800s, helped students get fresh air and exercise and learn about nature, which was especially important to city kids. Student gardeners learned about plants, soil, fertilizers, watering, and keeping records to help improve crop yield. They received valuable lessons in botany and entomology by learning the names, anatomy, and life cycles of garden plants and insects; detecting the role of earthworms in soil aeration; watching seed germination; observing pollination by bees and other insects; determining which insects ate which plants; and learning to recognize garden weeds.

During World War I, school gardens let students show their patriotism and support for troops fighting overseas. President Woodrow Wilson approved funding for the United States School Gardens program noting that school gardens were vital to the war effort. This 1919 poster (above) shows Uncle Sam leading an “army” of student gardeners.

School gardens were also important during World War II and have recently made a comeback as students learn more about the environment, where their food comes from, and the importance of wholesome food to good health.

About the Source

During World War I, posters encouraged citizens to modify their eating habits, plant victory gardens, and can fruits and vegetables so that more food could be sent for the war effort. The poster shown here is just one of many from World War I available online from the Library of Congress. To learn more about the school gardens movement, see these Library of Congress resource guides: School Gardens and School Gardening Activities, as well as a guide to related webcasts.

Related Student Explorations

  • Botany
  • Soil properties
  • Gardening
  • Nutrition

Danna C. Bell is an education resource specialist at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Editor’s Note

This article was originally published in the April/May 2016 issue of The Science Teacher journal from the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA).

Get Involved With NSTA!

Cover of the April/May 2016 issue of The Science TeacherJoin NSTA today and receive The Science Teacher, the peer-reviewed journal just for high school teachers; to write for the journal, see our Author Guidelines and Call for Papers; connect on the high school level science teaching list (members can sign up on the list server); or consider joining your peers at future NSTA conferences.

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

Future NSTA Conferences

5th Annual STEM Forum & Expo, hosted by NSTA

  • Denver, Colorado: July 27–29

2017 Area Conferences

  • Baltimore, Maryland: October 5–7
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin: November 9–11
  • New Orleans, Louisiana: November 30–December 2

National Conferences

  • Los Angeles, California: March 30–April 2, 2017
  • Atlanta, Georgia: March 15–18, 2018
  • St. Louis, Missouri: April 11–14, 2019
  • Boston, Massachusetts: March 26–29, 2020
  • Chicago, Illinois: April 8–11, 2021

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The Power of Questioning: Guiding Student Investigations


As authors of the popular NSTA Press book The Power of Questioning: Guiding Student Investigations, we get a lot of questions from readers.  One of the top questions we get is, “How do we hold the learners accountable with questions?” Here is what we tell readers:  The questions we choose chart the course of the discussion. Questions serve many purposes.  Questions help students connect concepts, think critically, and explore logic and understanding at a deeper level.  Questions can help teachers check for understanding. Questions can extend students’ thinking by requiring the students to justify their answers. 

Continue reading …

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#OrganelleWars: A Model for Using Social Media in the Science Classroom

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Given the current political fervor over the candidacies of the people attempting to become our next president, now seemed like a good time to revisit one of the most successful projects I have had the good fortune of incorporating into my freshman biology classroom.

Launching a Model Organelle Campaign

In the fall of 2011, I had reached the point of the school year when it was time to start teaching my freshman biology students about the cell and its organelles. In my 14 years of teaching to that point, I had tried all types of different approaches to try and bring the cell alive for my students. I had tried direct instruction, having students build models of the cell, asking them to make analogies comparing the cell to a city, having them give presentations on individual organelles, even putting on a pretend radio show in class, and finally making fake Facebook pages on paper for each organelle. So as I prepared to begin the cell unit for the fourteenth time, I went to the Internet looking for inspiration (teachers are nothing if not good thieves, after all). One project I discovered came from Marna Chamberlain at Piedmont High School in California. The idea was to have students run an election campaign to get an organelle elected the most important organelle in the cell.  The project involved promoting an organelle in class through the use of posters, brochures, and a speech. In addition to promoting their own organelle, students also had to smear at least five other organelles. This last requirement was designed, of course, to ensure that students researched the functions of other organelles in the cell as they worked on promoting their own. After a correspondence with Ms. Chamberlain, I decided to give the project a try.

Before getting started, I made one tweak to the project from its original incarnation, and that was to add a social media component to it. I had noticed, as most educators I work with had at that point, that students were often more preoccupied with their social media accounts than they were with their school work. My thought was that if I could bring school to where students were already spending a lot of their time, I might be able to capture their interest better than I had been able to in the past. The requirement for the social media component, which was optional for students to create, was that any account had to be a fake account in the name of the organelle. This was important in keeping the identities of my students anonymous and in keeping in line with the social media policy of my school district. Continue reading …

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Learning Early About STEM Careers Through CTE

Students at Camp Ernst Middle School in Burlington, Kentucky, participate in technology leadership camps. Next year, they can take a CTE course in Digital Literacy for high school credit. Photo credit: Kristen Franks

Students at Camp Ernst Middle School in Burlington, Kentucky, participate in technology leadership camps. Next year, they can take a CTE course in Digital Literacy for high school credit. Photo credit: Kristen Franks

Career and Technical Education (CTE), long the bastion of U.S. high schools, is becoming more common in middle schools and linked with science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) courses. Virginia’s Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) is one supporter, offering middle level CTE courses in Technology and Engineering Education, Business and Information Technology, and Family and Consumer Sciences. “We’re getting [students] engaged at an early age,” says Scott Settar, program manager for Technology and Engineering Education and STEAM Integration. “We’re rewriting the middle school Business and Information Technology courses with more coding, programming, and networking opportunities,” he reports. The CTE courses “focus on the technical application of many career pathways, the design process, and 21st-century skills.

“National research has shown that by grades 5–7, students lose interest in individual [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] STEM content areas,” so students at all grade levels “need to understand why these disciplines are important and relevant” because “upcoming STEM jobs will be in this area,” he contends. “The general consensus across the nation is that Technology and Engineering Education and Business and Information Technology are moving toward a STEAM focus, STEAM integration.”

In FCPS, “Technology and Engineering Education– and Business and Information Technology–related areas—coding, technology, engineering—[ have] almost a K–12 implementation,” observes Rachael Domer, FCPS STEAM Resource Teacher and a former CTE middle school Technology and Engineering teacher. “There’s a new focus on STEAM at the elementary level, exposing students to coding, engineering, and general problem solving.”

She notes that in FCPS, the seventh- grade technology and engineering education course is now called Engineering, Design, and Modeling, and the eighth-grade course has become Engineering Stimulation and Fabrication. “The idea behind the name change is to have the courses speak for themselves. The previous names were too broad,” she observes, adding that these semester- long courses allow students to take two CTE courses each year.

Domer says she talks to teachers of grades 4–6 about CTE course offerings at the high school level so “teachers understand what the end product is” and how familiarity with the engineering design process “will help students in middle school and high school.”

“We talk about CTE in general and connected to STEM education and providing relevant experiences for students, engaging them and inspiring them in learning. With [standardized] testing, we’ve kind of lost this. CTE is moving [back] in that direction,” concludes Settar. Continue reading …

Posted in NSTA Reports | 2 Responses

Looking for free resources and finding many worthy webinars and articles

Joseph Robinson talking with conference attendees.It is always a thrill to meet the authors who have written the articles in Science and Children that I’ve found so helpful, and useful enough to share. At the Elementary Extravaganza event at the 2016 NSTA national conference in Nashville Cars and rampsI met Joseph Robinson, author of “How We Know What We Know: Cultivating scientific reasoning among preschool students with cars and ramps” (January 2016). Judith Lederman, author and co-author of several articles about the Nature of Science, was also in the house! They were just two of the many science educators who contribute to Science and Children and the other NSTA journals.

I share my copy of the journal with colleagues at the program where I teach and recommend specific articles to others. You can do the same! Have you been introduced to the NSTA Learning Center? It is an online center for finding all kinds of resources:

  • The Learning CenterAudio & Video
  • Books & Chapters
  • Events (In-Person)
  • Forums
  • Do-It-Yourself Learning
  • Journal Articles & Lesson Plans
  • Online Course Providers
  • Online Events & Courses
  • Web Seminars by Sponsor
  • Browse Articles by Journal

And you can search by keyword and author! Professors at over 90 colleges and universities across the United States and Canada are using NSTA resources and the NSTA Learning Center as their online textbook when teaching science pre-service teachers. You can learn how through the archived webinar, “The NSTA Learning Center: A Tool to Develop Science Pre-Service Teachers.”

Webinars are a good way to get an introduction to the more than 12,000 resources of the Learning Center. Webinars are archived after they happen live so you can access them at a later time or again. Here are two—one that is coming up and one that you can find in the archives. 

Web Seminar: The NSTA Learning Center: Personalized Professional Learning in Collaboration with Other Colleagues, May 12, 2016: Join us for this interactive web seminar to get a detailed look at the Learning Center and discover its resources and professional learning tools that you can begin using immediately. 
This program is designed for educators of grades K–12, especially those who are new to the Learning Center. All participants will receive a certificate of participation and 100 Learning Center activity points for attending and completing the end-of-program evaluation. An archive and related PowerPoint presentation will be available at the end of the program. 

Web Seminar: The NSTA Learning Center: A Tool to Develop Science Pre-Service Teachers, April 28, 2016: Professors at over 90 colleges and universities across the United States and Canada are using NSTA resources and the NSTA Learning Center as their online textbook when teaching science pre-service teachers. Join us on Thursday, April 28, to learn how you can create a blended learning experience for the teacher candidates you teach by leveraging NSTA resources with the Learning Center’s online community. This web seminar is designed for professors who teach science pre-service teachers at universities and colleges. All participants will receive a certificate of participation and 100 Learning Center activity points for attending and completing the post-seminar evaluation. An archive and presentation slides will be available at the end of the program.

When you search for resources, you can filter your search with choices in Grade Level, Price, Subject, Type or Format, and Collections and Conference Materials. You can save your finds in your “My Library” and make collections to share with others. Let us know when you have a collection to share!

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Meaningful class discussions

I’m looking for suggestions on how to have class discussions that are meaningful and help students with our learning goals, especially discussing current events or the results of our investigations. Sometimes it goes off-topic or students don’t listen to one another. —C., Virginia

Being able to discuss issues and ideas in a productive manner is important to the future endeavors of your students. Discussions, whether in small or large groups, can be used to focus and share student thinking in terms of summarizing, questioning, comparing/contrasting, making claims and arguments, brainstorming, decision making, and problem solving.

We may think students should know how to do this. But students may come with misconceptions about discussions. They may be used to the idea that a “discussion” means that the teacher asks questions and they respond. This teacher-led interrogation does not include student-to-student questions or in-depth conversations. Or consider what passes for “discussions” on television, where people shout, interrupt, ridicule, and engage in name-calling and other disrespectful and unproductive behaviors (not behaviors we want to encourage or reinforce in our classrooms!).

You may have realized you have to teach students to work cooperatively, take notes in a style related to the task, write informatively, and read science text. So it follows that students may need to learn how to discuss issues and ideas among themselves. As students mature, their interactions should change and the teacher’s input or level of control should decrease.

Some students may be reluctant to participate because of language issues. Some may feel insecure around their louder or more knowledgeable peers. Some students may have ideas to contribute but need support, encouragement, and feedback to participate.

Does your classroom physically support large-group discussions?

Continue reading …

Posted in Ms. Mentor | Tagged | 1 Response