How Can Science Teachers Use Examples of Dishonest Science?

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NSTA members ask and answer one anothers’ questions about science teaching every day via the listserv, and the topics are fascinating. The latest question, trending on our NGSS list, focuses on dishonest science. The answers and comments are eye-opening!


“We’re exploring what it means to be principled and show integrity in science and I’m wondering if you know of any famous (or not so famous) NON-examples of integrity in science?  When did dishonesty in reporting data lead to some devastating consequences?  Any insights are appreciated!”

—Sara Severance, 8th Grade Physical Science Teacher, McAuliffe International School, Denver, CO
(question shared here with her permission)
Continue reading …

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Solar Panels Enhance STEM Learning

Columbia Water and Light presented a solar energy demonstration to students at Benton STEM Elementary School in Columbia, Missouri. Photo Courtesy of Heather McCullar

Columbia Water and Light presented a solar energy demonstration to students at Benton STEM Elementary School in Columbia, Missouri. Photo Courtesy of Heather McCullar

Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) teachers and students are acquiring solar panels for their schools to save on energy bills and to educate students about solar power. “The price of solar has plummeted, so it’s more affordable,” says Margo Murphy, science instructor at Camden Hills Regional High School in Rockport, Maine. Murphy serves as advisor for Windplanners, a student club that has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for a campus wind turbine; “we’re now focused on paying off rooftop solar panels,” she reports. “We have been very active and focused on moving our campus toward becoming…carbon neutral.”

The school acquired its 160-kilowatt system of panels through a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with local company ReVision Energy. Under the PPA, for the first six years, “Camden Hills will continue to pay a contracted price to ReVision Energy that is based on the current price paid, but won’t change. [It] will allow ReVision to take depreciation over six years; [it’s a] way for them to maximize their return while also bringing our cost down…We buy their energy for six years, then buy out the whole system in year seven,” Murphy explains. “We [also] determined that if we take out a…loan in year seven from a bank and [repay] it over seven years, we will pay less on the loan than we would on the amount we would have paid ReVision for the power. Continue reading …

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NSTA’s K-College Summer 2016 Science Education Journals Online

Summer 2016 Journals

Want to engage your students in learning about structure and processes from molecules to organisms? What about learning more about Juno’s mission to Jupiter? Are your high school students confused on what the word model means in relation to science? Are your college students interested in interdisciplinary problem based learning? The Summer K–College journals from the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) have the answers you need. Written by science teachers for science teachers, these peer-reviewed journals are targeted to your teaching level and are packed with lesson plans, expert advice, and ideas for using whatever time/space you have available. Browse the Summer issues; they are online (see below), in members’ mailboxes, and ready to inspire teachers! Continue reading …

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What goes into a small science starter kit?

A colleague asked me, “If you were going to provide a small starter set of science materials for family child care providers, what would you buy?” This group will be participating in some science education professional development. Most of these early childhood educators speak English as a second language but they might not read it very well. The children in their care vary in age from infants to school age children.

Cover of book, What is a Scientist?I suggested 5 plastic hand held magnifiers, 5 pipettes or droppers, a water color paint set with just 3-4 colors, a few extra brushes, and a book to look at, read and discuss with children of different ages—What Is A Scientist? By Barbara Lehn with photos by Carol Krauss (1998 Lerner Group).

Magnifier and twigI chose the magnifiers because they are durable and help us see details of structures such as flowers and rocks. The droppers are also a tool, good for making drops of water to play with, and help children practice their pincer grip. Children can use the paint set to make pictures of what they observe, and to explore color mixing. The book What Is A Scientist? has photos of a variety of children engaged in the practices of science. They are doing interesting work in activities that children can do in their home or at their child care provider’s home. There is text—one page with a small amount and one page with more explanation—and it ends with “Scientists have fun.”

What materials would you recommend be part of a starter kit for engaging young children in science learning?

(May I suggest a set of blocks too?)

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Teaching more than one subject

I’m a recent graduate. A school district where I would really like to teach has an opening for a secondary science teacher. But when I read the job description, the position requires teaching five classes of two different subjects (general biology and an environmental science elective). During student teaching, I just taught biology. Is it common for teachers to have more than one subject? How can I do this? I felt overwhelmed with just one! –L., California

I’ve worked with many schools where teaching more than one subject is the rule rather than the exception. In smaller 7-12 buildings, there may be only one or two science teachers for all of the classes! Even in larger schools, it’s very common for teachers to have multiple preparations, based on student enrollment in required courses, the scope of electives offered, the teacher’s area(s) of certification, and sometimes his or her seniority. Continue reading …

Posted in Ms. Mentor | Tagged | 15 Responses

Bringing STEM to the Elementary Classroom

National initiatives, such as A Framework for K-12 Science Education and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), call for an increase in both the quality and quantity of engineering content. With the addition of engineering to science classrooms, where math and technology have traditionally been included, we now have STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).

Evidence shows that 21st-century workers require skills that many graduates do not acquire through formal education. Students needs more experiences that provide in-depth knowledge of the STEM disciplines and apply to problem solving.

Bringing STEM to the Elementary ClassroomIn Bringing STEM to the Elementary Classroom, edited by Linda Froschauer, the authors of each chapter are initiating STEM strategies as they work toward also meeting the requirements of the NGSS. The book’s 36 lessons, organized by grade-level bands, provide the important elements needed for an effective STEM experience.

Linda Froschauer explains that “STEM should involve problem-solving skills, serve all students equally well, encourage learning across disciplines, promote student inquiry, engage students in real-world problem solving, and expose students to STEM careers. Meeting these needs requires a continuum of learning with a focus on elements that will develop the skills and content over time and through many experiences. Whether you are just beginning to delve into STEM experiences or you have been building STEM lessons and are now seeking new ideas, this book will provide you with new, interesting, and productive strategies.”

The variety of strategies and topics used throughout the book include:

  • Lessons using the BSCS 5Es
  • Tested, reliable, and even some original design processes
  • Pre-assessment strategies and evaluation rubrics
  • Data sheets and learning tools that are readily available for immediate printing and use
  • Use of technologies—from digital notebooks to three-dimensional printing
  • Challenges that relate to real-world problems, such as filtering water, recycling waste, and collecting water
  • Design constructions that solve problems, such as a soundproof wall, wind turbines, moving objects, solar ovens, structures to withstand harsh weather, and protections for living things
  • Experiences to develop an understanding of technology

The first two chapters provide strategies that you can use at many grade levels. Chapter 1 introduces you to the process of designing STEM lessons, and Chapter 2 will assist you in identifying the misconceptions of students who are new to STEM.

Check out the sample chapter: “A House for Chase the Dog.” This book is also available as an e-book.

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Get Involved in Your State’s ESSA Planning

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Many states are moving ahead rapidly in planning for implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ESSA requires that state and district stakeholders—including teachers—be given opportunities to shape how the new law will be implemented. This law will significantly affect science and STEM education for years. Do you know what your state is doing? If not you should.

State leaders want to hear from teachers, and this is a perfect chance for your voice to be heard.

To find out what your state is doing to get ready for ESSA (and how teachers can get involved) begin by searching your state’s department of education website for its ESSA resources and activities. Many states are now holding listening meetings, convening task forces, and reaching out to stakeholders for input. If you can’t find the information online then talk to district or state leaders to find out what opportunities are available and how you can get involved.

Here’s a list of what some states are doing. If you don’t see your state listed here please take a minute and visit your state’s department of education. Questions? Shoot me an email at  Good luck—let’s make sure that the unique voices of science and STEM teachers are heard loud and clear as this law becomes reality.

State Implementation, ESSA (June 23, 2016)

  • North Carolina has an ESSA timeline implementation guide and resources.
  • Wisconsin is hosting a series of listening tours this summer.
  • Florida is soliciting feedback on its state plan for ESSA through July 22.
  • Washington State and Nevada have formed ESSA teams and work groups that will be meeting with stakeholders throughout the state.
  • California is hosting a series of regional stakeholder meetings to provide an overview of the new law, provide an update on the development of the ESSA State Plan and to consult with stakeholders on what should be included in the State Plan.
  • Iowa has created ESSA webinars and FAQs.
  • Michigan is issuing ESSA e-mail updates.
  • Montana created an ESSA Workplan Group to guide the state’s ESSA implementation.
  • New Jersey is seeking input from state groups and teachers to develop their state plan.
  • Illinois held an listening tour during the spring of 2016 to give stakeholders from across the state an opportunity to provide feedback on ESSA implementation.
  • Pennsylvania has convened working groups and has a strategic plan to move forward in implementing ESSA.
  • Colorado’s  ESSA listening tour is over, but state officials are still accepting feedback.
  • Wisconsin has plans for five listening tours (two virtual) this summer.

Also, here are the links to what these states are doing with ESSA:

Finally, a new video interview series from the Education Commission of the States and the Building State Capacity and Productivity Center (BSCP) features interviews with the Chief State School Officer from Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Iowa about the opportunities and challenges that exist for states regarding the implementation of ESSA and about the potential for collaboration as states develop their individual plans.

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 Peterson at; follow her on Twitter at @stemedadvocate.

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Science Scope: Don’t Teach Tweens Science Without It!

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NSTA recognizes the key role that middle school science educators play through Science Scope, a peer-reviewed journal published nine times during the year. If you are like me, you eagerly anticipate the arrival of the latest Science Scope issue. Its presence in your mailbox is like a breath of fresh air, harkening you to try new activities and teaching strategies in your classroom. My personal relationship with Science Scope has changed over the years; I am a long-time reader and have also written several features. Today, I am embarking on a new journey with Science Scope—that of its field editor. Science Scope is OUR personal journal—a journal dedicated to those of us who understand the challenges of teaching the tweens. The strength of Science Scope lies in the quality and diversity of articles submitted by teachers like you—teachers who know how to employ thoughtful and purposeful methods for directing the effervescent energy of a middle school child into meaningful learning about the world around them.

Middle school educators are compassionate and caring people who never fail to volunteer their time or energy. As such, I encourage you to consider sharing a teaching or classroom management idea with other middle school science educators by writing an article for Science Scope. I know many of you are thinking “I could never write an article,” but I’m here to tell you that “Yes, you CAN!” It truly takes a team to produce the articles that you see in Science Scope; reviewers, editors, and NSTA’s amazing art department will help to take your raw idea and turn it into the polished product you see when you open the pages of Science Scope. You do not have to a gifted writer to be published in Science Scope, but you do have to be passionate about your craft and have a desire to share your ideas with others—characteristics that all middle school science teachers possess. If you are truly fearful of your ability to convey your ideas, try connecting with a language arts teacher in your building; a glance through Science Scope will reveal frequent co-authored articles.

If you are still unsure about writing a full-fledged article, I encourage you to volunteer to review for Science Scope. In doing so, you will see a variety of submitted manuscripts and will quickly comprehend how the germ of a great idea can be fleshed out into a magnificent piece. This metamorphosis is impossible without the contributions of reviewers; people such as yourself who understand how classroom management, safety, instruction, and assessment interplay to optimize leaning for our students. The time commitment for reviewing is minimal; you can expect to review six or eight manuscripts over the course of the year. In doing so, you will be playing an instrumental role in shaping future issues of Science Scope as you assist writers by providing recommendations for improvement. The process itself is known as a double-blind peer review in which the reviewer does not know the name of the author and the author does not know the name of the reviewer. This allows you to provide open and honest feedback via a forum that ultimately increases the quality of the articles you read. In addition, I promise that reviewing for Science Scope will result in professional growth and that you will enjoy the heightened involvement with NSTA (if you are interested in perusing the Manuscript Review Form).

As the school year ends and you relax by the pool, do some gardening, or go camping, I encourage you to consider how you can increase your personal relationship with Science Scope. Jot down some ideas you have for sharing with others and check the Call for Papers to see if any of your ideas match one of the upcoming themes. Do not feel that you have to write for a theme, however. ALL articles related to the teaching of middle school science—no matter what the content—are welcome! Consider, too, the possibility of writing for an established column. The Tried and True column is a perfect fit if you have a unique or updated twist on an established idea, the Toolkit column addresses teaching, classroom management, and assessment strategies, and Science on a Shoestring allows you to provide tips on how to create equipment or models that all budgets can afford.

Patty McGinnisHopefully, I have piqued your interest about becoming a member of the Science Scope community. Please contact me if you would like to review for OUR journal or if you have questions about the manuscript submission process. I look forward to hearing from you soon!

Patty McGinnis teaches at Arcola Intermediate School in Eagleville, PA. She is the field editor for Science Scope. She can be reached at

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

Join NSTA 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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DIY Your Science PD

ISTAs a K-12 science department chair, I’m looking for professional development (PD) opportunities for our teachers. It’s hard to find speakers and programs for a small group. We have a very small budget, so traveling for conferences is not an option, either. Are you familiar with other options? —K., Minnesota

Continuing education is an important part of any job or profession. It is impossible as undergraduates to learn everything we need to know as teachers, especially about content or strategies that didn’t exist at that time or technology that was yet to be invented.

All teachers, including science teachers, have two fields that require continuing education—teaching practices and subject-area content. In my school district, it was easy for us to plan PD in teaching practices. Topics such as cooperative learning, assessment, classroom management, technology applications, curriculum design, questioning strategies, and reading/writing applied to virtually all of the subject areas. Teachers from different subjects could be part of the same workshops. We often used our own staff as facilitators for these sessions to capitalize on their experience and expertise.

But content was another issue, especially for science teachers.

Continue reading …

Posted in Ms. Mentor | Tagged | 6 Responses

Attend a conference, virtually

I remember the first time I attended a professional association conference when I was a child care provider beginning my career and was thrilled to be among so many educators who were passionate about improving themselves professionally. If you can’t attend a conference in person, a virtual conference may meet some of your needs for professional development.

Logo for NSTA virtual conferenceJoin me next week on Wednesday, June 29, 2016 in my happy space–talking with other early childhood educators about science education at the virtual conference, “Engaging Students in Science: PreK-6.” I will be presenting one of two sessions, along with Christine Royce, Professor in and Department Chairperson for the Teacher Education Department and co-director for the MAT in STEM education program at Shippensburg University. She is the co-author of the NSTA Press Book, Teaching Science Through Trade Books, which is related to one of her more familiar roles as the co-author for the ”Teaching Through Trade Books Column” in Science and Children. This National Science Teachers Association virtual conference will be archived for registrants.

Box of uncrushed milk cartons.Tally chart of how many crushed vs uncrushed cartons will fit in the box.I have seen how engaging in science investigations motivates students to develop and use their early literacy and math skills as they learn about the nature of science and specific science content. In the first part of my session, we will take a quick look at the research that calls for teaching our youngest learners to explore scientific ideas and then examine how young children use science and engineering practices in common activities in early Children using droppers to put water drops on cloth and plastic.childhood PreK-2 programs. In the second part, we will use photos (and materials if we have them at hand) to engage in one activity that can be part of an on-going inquiry into properties of water. Discussion will support how to extend children’s thinking from a simple “sink or float” activity to an on-going investigation.


Hope to see you on Wednesday, June 29, 2016 at 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. ET
9 a.m. – 12 p.m. CT
8 a.m. – 11 a.m. MT
7 a.m. – 10 a.m. PT
Member price: (Includes 1 e-book) $63
Nonmember price: (Includes 1 e-book) $79
Attendance/Participation Certificate: $9.95

(NSTA Press e-books: Science Learning in the Early Years or Teaching Science Through Trade Books

Page view of the NSTA Learning Center Early Childhood ForumThe free and open to all NSTA Learning Center early childhood and elementary science forums are other virtual communities for finding resources and discussion to support your science teaching. Search for resources and discussions and voice your experience.

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