NSTA Legislative Update: Update on ESSA; Good News for STEM and FY2017 Appropriations


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July 14, 2016: Congress is set to adjourn for the summer and will return after Labor Day. Before leaving town though there was a flurry of activity around appropriations for FY2017 programs and career and technical education. And the political drama continues as Education Secretary King answers questions from key Congressional Republicans over implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act.

The good news for STEM: The House of Representatives Appropriations Committee has approved a FY2017 Labor HHS and Education spending bill that includes $1 billion for the new Every Student Succeeds Act Title IV block grants.  This amount is $500 million above the President’s budget request and $700 million above the Senate funding ($300m).  The program is authorized at $1.65 billion in ESSA.

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3D Brings Science to Life

Middle school children are inquisitive and enjoy classroom opportunities to learn visually. Subsequently, an option worth consideration is an application of technology known as 3D. It’s similar to the 3D technology that is used in movie theaters and is designed to enhance visualization of pairs of images and gives users a greater sense of depth perception.

For nearly 150 years, stereoscopes have been used for looking at images that depict left-eye and right-eye views of the same object; culminating into a single three-dimensional image.  Subsequently, when viewing the image with special projection hardware and eyewear, a typical stereoscope provides each eye with a lens that makes the image seen through it appear larger and more distant, resulting in the illusion of depth.


Recent Advances in technology have led to much more sophisticated ways of projecting the third dimension.  For example, Data Light Processing (DLP) technology creates a stunning picture and is used in contemporary projectors. DLP technology is extremely fast, and projects two images on the screen at the same time, i.e., one for each eye. As a tool for conceiving the image, 3D glasses are used to combine the two images into 3D and can be purchased from a variety of projector manufacturers, e.g., InFocus, Texas Instruments, etc. Continue reading …

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Write Grant Proposals That Win

A successful grant application can provide you with the funding you need to do exciting new activities with your students. The only problem is that grant writing is an art form of its own. There’s a new NSTA Press book that can help.

Write Grant Proposals That WinBe a Winner! A Science Teacher’s Guide to Writing Successful Grant Proposals by Patty McGinnis and Kitchka Petrova offers practical tips and strategies to help you write winning proposals.

 “As a science educator, you are concerned with the state of science education in your K-12 schools, and you understand the importance of facilitating your students’ science learning through the science and engineering practices identified in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Unfortunately, funds for purchasing materials are not always available in schools, thus requiring you to seek outside funding opportunities. Given the economic situation of many school districts, it is more imperative than ever to master the art of grant proposal writing to secure funds for innovative classroom projects,” write McGinnis and Petrova.

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Water play…exploration…science inquiry

Children at a water table outsideWater explorations are a popular in early childhood programs during the summer. Exuberant water explorations can happen outdoors. The experience of wetness is enjoyable and clothes that get wet accidentally can dry on the child rather than having to be changed. Natural materials such as leaves and twigs can be incorporated into the exploration.

To keep the water experiences enjoyable, meaningful and a powerful learning opportunity, take a look at these resources.

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Managing Communication Channels

3172841858_4f317b12f7_mLast year, I tried improving my communications with students and parents via electronic media. I had lots of responses, but I was being texted, tweeted, emailed, and called on the phone at all times of the day and night. While I want to encourage these communications, I’m looking for ideas to manage them and keep my sanity! —G., Colorado

It sounds like you have a case of “be careful what you wish for….” Many teachers would love to have parents and students contacting them, but I can understand how this can become overwhelming.

In a recent article in Educational Leadership (May 2016)*, Catlin Tucker, an English teacher from California, shared her ideas on “avoiding technology overload.” You may find them helpful as you try to manage communications with the many other responsibilities of a science teacher:

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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)
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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 …

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