Bringing NGSS Topics to Life with a 2-Minute Science Podcast

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A few years ago, I had the pleasure of giving a presentation at the NSTA STEM Forum in St. Louis. I got lots of questions, but I also got something unexpected—homework. One science teacher challenged me to make understandable science stories that she could use in her classroom. To answer this, I’ve created a weekly 2-minute science podcast called Science Underground to do just that.

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Why attend a conference? What about workshops, PLCs, webinars, and conversations with colleagues as professional development?

To be a teacher means being a life-long learner, by disposition and by program and licensing requirement. Every day I learn a something new in my conversations with children (“My mommy has a baby in her tummy”), colleagues and online. Attending workshops, webinars, and conferences are other ways I keep learning and developing professionally. Professional learning communities and my individual reading contribute a lot to my understanding of how children learn and how to teach them. I appreciate all these learning settings and relationships for different reasons, in addition to the new understandings I gain from them. Scroll down to the kind of PD you’d like to hear about and help me learn more by adding your perspective in a comment at the bottom.

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Tapping into student interests

It seems like it’s getting harder to get my middle school students interested in a topic. I’ve strained my brain trying to come up with new ideas. Am I the only one in this situation?  —B., Arizona

You are not alone! Students have many distractions (e.g., electronics, social media), extracurricular activities, and other responsibilities competing for their time and energy. I’m sure you’ve used activities and investigations, multimedia, and a variety of instructional strategies, but it’s still a challenge.

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NSTA’s K-College November 2015 Science Education Journals Online

NSTA’s K-College November 2015 Science Education Journals Online

Looking for ways to incorporate science and writing? Want a good look at Earth systems that are normally non-accessible? Curious about how crowd-sourcing and science go together? Do you know how middle and high school level science courses affect college students’ choice of major? The November 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 November issues; they are online (see below), in members’ mailboxes, and ready to inspire teachers!

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Ideas and info from NSTA’s November K-12 journals

Each of the K-12 journals this month includes Three-Dimensional Instruction: Using a New Type of Teaching in the Science Classroom with suggestions on how to integrate Disciplinary Core Ideas, Science and Engineering Practices, and CroEarath ss-Cutting Concepts into our teaching. “None of the dimensions can be used in isolation; they work together so that students can build a deeper understanding as they grapple with making sense of a phenomenon or finding solutions to problems.” A must read!

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Let Your Voice Be Heard–Support STEM Education in Final No Child Left Behind Bill

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Hopes mount that Congress will complete reauthorization of No Child Left Behind this fall, establishing the federal funding and programs that will help to define K-12 education for the next several years.

House and Senate education leaders and their staff are continuing their work to reconcile the differences in their respective bills (H.R. 5 and S. 1177). Lend your voice to the discussion now by signing on to a new letter addressed to conference leaders asking them to include the targeted funding for STEM funding in the final federal education bill.

We are seeking organizational (not individual) sign-on for the letter, which is below or read it here. If your organization or school/district/business can sign on to this letter, or if you have questions, please e-mail me at The letter will close on Friday, November 13. Please feel free to share this information with your networks in the state and district. Thank you.

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; follow her on Twitter at @stemedadvocate.


Dear Chairman Alexander, Ranking Member Murray, Chairman Kline, and Ranking Member Scott:

As you and your staff work to reach agreement on the legislation to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA),we urge you to include a provision of the Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177, Title II.E) that would provide targeted funding to each state for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) related activities.

In recent weeks, more than 50 members of the House and Senate from both parties have also written to you in united support of making STEM education a priority within the final legislation agreement and have similarly urged the inclusion of Title II.E in the conference agreement.

This key STEM education provision would provide formula grants to the states, which then administer grants to partnerships between schools, businesses, non-profits and institutions of higher education. These state-based partners would have broad discretion under the language of the provision to decide how to best use resources to improve teaching and learning in STEM subjects. Funding would support a wide range of STEM-focused objectives including recruitment, retention, and professional development of educators.   Additionally, the provision would expand learning both in and outside the classroom, support STEM-related competitions and other forms of hands-on-learning, and improve student academic achievement in the STEM areas for underserved groups.

Title II.E is not a new program. Instead, it improves upon the existing Math and Science Partnership program at the Department of Education, which has a demonstrably positive impact on nearly 2.4 million students and thousands of educators every year.   The STEM funding provision is also not duplicative of STEM programs at other federal agencies. The Title II.E provision would be the only education program—at the Department of Education or any other federal agency—providing direct formula-based funding to every state for the exclusive purpose of supporting STEM-related learning.

Federal investments in STEM education are critical in helping states to prepare our students for the challenges of today’s increasingly competitive world.   If we are going to empower our students to compete in the global economy we must maintain a strong federal commitment to improve teaching and learning in the critical STEM fields. It is both appropriate and essential for the nation’s most prominent education law to establish STEM education as a critical priority.  


National Science Teachers Association

STEM Education Coalition

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The STEM in Kitchen Appliances

header showing kitchen appliances and saying "Science and The STEM Classroom looks at the STEM Lessons to be found in Kitchen appliances"

We just returned from a visit to Le Cordon Bleu School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where our older son is considering getting a culinary arts certificate after his high school graduation in (gasp!) June. We took a tour of their many kitchens, and I was impressed by the size of the mixers in the baking kitchen. Upon return, our microwave mysteriously quit working and my husband and I had a conversation about how appliances just aren’t built like they used to be. Happily, I discovered after some investigating that the unit had become unplugged from the socket in the back of the cabinet under which it is mounted. One problem solved!

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Schools Offer Specialized Science

Students at BioTECH @ Richmond Heights High School, a conservation biology magnet school in Miami, Florida, conduct botanical research in this state-of-the-art lab. Photo: FAIRCHILD TROPICAL BOTANIC GARDEN

Students at BioTECH @ Richmond Heights High School, a conservation biology magnet school in Miami, Florida, conduct botanical research in this state-of-the-art lab. Photo: FAIRCHILD TROPICAL BOTANIC GARDEN

To motivate students to learn science, some schools are expanding the range of their courses. While at Mission Heights Preparatory High School in Casa Grande, Arizona, biology teacher Robert Gay created a paleontology program after he told his students about his training and work in paleontology, and they “felt my passion for it and were really intrigued by it,” he relates. The program, which began with one course in 2014, grew to four courses, including a two-week summer field course.

“Paleontology is a good way to engage kids in science. Kids like fossils and dinosaurs, and they want to know what is true and what isn’t: [They ask,] ‘Is Jurassic Park real?’,” he maintains, adding, “you can talk about physics, biology, and chemistry through a lens they’re already interested in.”

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WiFi Microscope











The WiFi Microscope facilitates STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) by enabling small or large groups of students to participate microscope investigations by sharing images and videos on their connected smartphones and tablets. The WiFi Microscope can be used with both iOS and Android operating systems. The WiFi Microscope features adjustable LED lights, a camera for capturing still images and videos, and a 80X magnification zoom option. The device requires three AA batteries, which are included. Each WiFi microscope can connect with three users that are within ten meters of the device, which should provide coverage to all students in a typical classroom.

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Will STEM Education Be the Child Left Behind? NSTA Legislative Update

Text based image "Senators Franken and Kirk have a Dear Colleague letter to ESEA conference leaders that asks them to include the targeted funding for STEM education in the final bill."

Last week in the Senate, Senators Franken and Kirk circulated a Dear Colleague letter addressed to the ESEA conference leaders, asking them to include the Senate language they introduced (and was passed) in the Senate bill that includes targeted funding for STEM education. As of Friday, October 30, 2015, the letter was signed by 16 Senators, (Kirk, Ayotte, Gillibrand, Cantwell, Coons, Mikulski, Stabenow, Heinrich, Murphy, Wyden, Hirono, Baldwin, Merkley, Capito, Blumenthal, and Udall). NSTA and the STEM Education Coalition were very active in garnering support for this Dear Colleague. As you will recall from previous legislative updates, a similar House Dear Colleague letter supporting the Senate language with dedicated STEM funding in the final ESEA conference bill sponsored by Representatives Hanna and Courtney garnered 34 signatures from both sides of the aisle.

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