Good Times!

How can I teach science when my school only allots 15-20 minutes per day to teach it? This usually comes at the end of the day when students are worn out.
—N., Louisiana

It can be very frustrating to have only tiny chunks of time to teach. One thing you can try is to block science every 2-3 days. This also gives you extra time for math and English Language Arts (ELA) on most days!

If blocking time won’t work then you have to be very organized to minimize setup time and use demonstrations and lessons that are either quick or lend themselves to being broken into small, separate segments. For instance, you could divide up a hands-on activity involving plants into: filling pots with soil; planting seeds; recording daily observations; collating data; representing data; and creating reports or presenting.

The best solution, in my opinion, is to embed science into math, ELA, and social studies instruction. . All subjects benefit from being seen as useful and interconnected. Data manipulation and representations can be done in math while reading, writing, and presenting projects are all perfectly suited to ELA. . Social ramifications, geography, and history can all be incorporated.

The last period scenario is another concern that requires some extra effort. . If you can hype activities and keep them quick, engaging and hands-on, you may find that students may want to extend their days because we all know how cool science is!

Hope this helps!


Photo credit: Public domain via Wikimedia

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Ed News: Got STEM Funding? Here’s How To Use It

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This week in education news, Pennsylvania needs to get serious about STEM education; personalized learning has broad appeal, but may be more revolutionary than people think; and to properly integrate coding and computer science into the education system, it is critical to provide teachers with access to training programs that support their personal development.

Pa. Needs To Get Serious About STEM Education. Here’s How To Make That Happen

As a practicing Pennsylvania classroom science teacher for more than 30 years and a National STEM Teacher Ambassador, I appreciate the good work Gov. Tom Wolf has done for STEM and education. His recent PennLive Op-ed “Pa. can build on apprenticeships, skills training and STEM education progress” points out how far we have come in preparing our students for STEM and the workforce. But we have a long way still to go. Read the article featured on

‘I Still Think I Have A Lot To Offer:’ Three Decades Later, A Virginia Teacher’s Words Ring True

On the last day of the only job he’s known for three decades, Dean Howarth wore a kilt. It was the same kilt he’d worn for many first days of school, a purchase inspired by his travels to Scotland years ago, which included a visit to Duart Castle — the ancestral home of the Clan Maclean. A fitting homage, he thought, for his final hours as a physics teacher at McLean High School in Fairfax County. Read the article featured in The Washington Post.

Is The New Education Reform Hiding In Plain Sight?

In December 1997, a sixth-grader at Dan D. Rogers Elementary School here set a three-alarm fire in the library. Erin and Sean Jett, whose house is so nearby they hear the school bell ring, did not have school-aged children at the time. But it left an impression. “My child will not go there,” said Erin. When it comes to their children’s education, parents are like drug-sniffing dogs. Test scores matter. But so do other things. Which is why now, more than 10 years later, Emma Jett will be a fifth-grader at the Dallas school this fall. And her parents are happy about it. Their changed view — and that of others who shunned Rogers and now want in — is driven by what seems to be a magic educational elixir: personalized learning. Read the article featured in The Hechinger Report.

Got STEM Funding? Here’s How To Use It

Schools lack the resources they need to properly offer coding education to students. So it’s not surprising that U.S. employers have only been able to fill 10 percent of available computer science jobs with qualified applicants. Progress was made this year when the U.S. Department of Education (DoE) was tasked to devote at least $200 million of its grant funds annually to STEM education, and this initiative was followed by an additional $300 million from tech giants and the private sector for K-12 computer science programs. Read the article featured in eSchool News.

Workforce Report Highlights Gaps Between Early-Childhood, K-12 Educators

Over the past two years, median wages for educators working in the early-childhood field have increased by 7%, but those working in child-care and preschool programs still earn a fraction of what kindergarten and elementary teachers make, according to the Early Childhood Workforce Index 2018, released by the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment. Read the brief featured in Education DIVE.

Kindergarten Coders: When Is Too Early To Put Kids In Front Of Computer Screens? 

As some parents try to slow the tech tide for their children, has expanded its reach into schools. Twenty-five percent of all U.S. students now have accounts and 800,000 teachers use the site for class lessons, according to the nonprofit. has been pressing states to pass laws and adopt policies that support computer science, and, by extension, put technology in the hands of students at a younger age. Some parents worry not just about excessive screen time, internet addiction and data privacy, they worry that new courses are being taught too early in the name of workforce development.

Stay tuned for next week’s top education news stories.

The Communication, Legislative & Public Affairs (CLPA) team strives to keep NSTA members, teachers, science education leaders, and the general public informed about NSTA programs, products, and services and key science education issues and legislation. In the association’s role as the national voice for science education, its CLPA team actively promotes NSTA’s positions on science education issues and communicates key NSTA messages to essential audiences.

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

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Summertime, and the livin’ is…

I am looking for recommendations on how to spend my summer preparing to implement the science program our school district adopted.

—C., Illinois

Without knowing the specifics of your district’s program I can’t say precisely what to do, but I have some general advice.

First, this is your summer break—take some time to unwind and not think about this at all!

About three weeks from the beginning of term, start reading the introductory material —you might even consider arranging a relaxed planning party with colleagues to go through the material together. Have a calendar handy and take notes.

  • While you read, keep these questions in mind:
  • What is the program’s basic approach to science education?
  • How is it structured? Is it flexible?
  • How does it match with what you are doing in your classroom already?
  • Does it differentiate for the different learners in your classroom?
  • How are assessments structured?
  • Compare it line by line to your state’s curriculum. Note any differences. Can you insert local content?

Many programs use simulations, videos, and class management software. Try to get access to these now. Will there be technical issues using these in your class? Are they good quality and can you substitute media that you already use?

Inspect manipulatives or kits. Are they durable? Will you need to purchase consumable supplies? Start planning when to reorder materials.

What supports are available? Contact them now to establish lines of communication. If there are training sessions start signing up. Coordinate this with your colleagues.

Hope this helps!


Photo credit: H. Zell  via Wikimedia

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Go Direct® Respiration Belt


The Go Direct Respiration Belt measures human respiration rate. While using the Go Direct Respiration Belt, you can measure human breathing patterns with a wireless Bluetooth connection or by plugging-in the device with a USB cord. It works with a sensor and an adjustable nylon strap that goes around the chest to measure respiration effort and respiration rate. So that belt tension can be optimized, an LED indicator provides feedback.

First, if using the Bluetooth, the device will need to be charged, which takes approximately two hours. Respiration rate and exerted force are reported with a free “Graphical Analysis™ 4 app,” which simplifies comparisons between subjects during experiments. The “app” can be downloaded onto a computer or a smart phone.

What’s included:
• Go Direct Respiration Belt
• Micro USB cable

While using the device, the user can observe how respiration rate changes. For example, a student can examine the effect of a particular exercise on respiration effort, which is the force exerted by the chest during respiration changes after exercise or breath holding. Another nice feature is the built-in pedometer, which measure steps and step-rate during experimentation. Continue reading …

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Supplementing STEM’s Palette

Incorporating art into science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) has been a natural consequence for many teachers; for others, a more deliberate process. Art has been intrinsic to the STEAM Lab in the Millstone Township (New Jersey) School District since its inception.

“From very start of our program, it’s been called STEAM. Good design incorporates art. Every good design has to be aesthetically appealing,” asserts STEAM Lab teacher Beth Topinka. “It makes the lab happier having the A in STEAM.”

At The Learning Community in Black Mountain, North Carolina, students collected, sorted, and measured leaves as they learned about patterns, graphing, proportions, and analyzing and interpreting data. Photo courtesy of Melissa Wilson.

For instance, one STEAM Lab project challenges Topinka’s fourth-grade students to design “mountainside mouse motels” after studying erosion and natural hazards. “Students did real angle measurements of the hillside, then designed a motel for a mouse,” she explains. After making risk assessment maps, students received differing material budgets based on their locations’ erosion risks. The assignment also called for students to come up with ways to promote their motels. Topinka monitored the weather forecast, and when rain was expected, had students install their motels, with a container inside to catch and measure water, on the hillside.

Topinka also has coordinated with colleagues to apply what students learn in her lab to other classes. After noting that “these little motels take a pounding,” the language arts teacher created a natural disaster reporting assignment. Topinka also works with the art teacher to make sure students develop the sketching skills they need. Continue reading …

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Science centers—effective and engaging

Child holding up a flowering maple tree twig to view with a hand lens.While handling and examining objects from nature, such as sea shells, pinecones, rocks, and plant leaves, children may encounter patterns and experience properties of different materials. Without additional experiences with these objects children may not learn that structures grow in nature or develop an understanding of the complex relationships in nature—how a leaf grows from a stem or the relationship between plants and the earth they grow in.  A “science center,” where these kinds of objects are made available for children, may be a table, shelf, or just a basket. There may be a fish tank or worm box. These objects and living organisms are gateways to extended science explorations that can happen anywhere in an early childhood program—in the classroom, during “science time” or center time in any center, on the playground, or on a field trip. When children are no longer interested in the objects as science center objects, move them to other locations. Shells can become scoops for water in a tub and pine cones can make interesting impressions in play dough.

If you have a specific location for natural materials sure to leave room for any “finds” that children want to share.  A few days after new objects related to an exploration of a larger topic are placed on the science center, add tools for looking closely and for drawing to renew children’s interest in the objects and open opportunities for talking with children about what they see and think. Magnifiers, paper and crayons, a digital camera, and most importantly, people to talk with as they share their ideas, will extend initial observations into science explorations. Think about how the ideas they share can be explored more fully in additional situations, such as, in a sandbox or on a woodland trail, in the block center or in a book, or using paints or wire to make their ideas visible.

The July 2018 issue of Science and Children is focused on the topic of science centers. Read it now so the ideas related by authors can simmer this month and bring clarity to designing an effective and engaging science center that will support young children’s learning about scientific concepts.

Take a look at this science center and think about how young children might use it. Would you make any changes to the organization of materials? What support, that is not shown, would be helpful to make it possible for children to use and learn about the objects on the table? Do your children need a science center, and if so, what do they need in it?

A child height table crowded with plants, microscope, hand lenses, calculator, scale, worm bin, books, fish tank, magnets, pretend bird nest, and sound shakers.

PS–while you are reading the July 2018 issue of Science and Children, notice that journal Editor Linda Froschauer is saying good-bye: “My heart will be with Science and Children always. That’s what happens when you become involved in an initiative that impacts the lives of so many people.” Thank you, Linda, for making my work as The Early Years columnist more effective and more engaging.

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Redesigning the Science Fair

For the STEAM Fair at Doane Academy in Burlington, New Jersey, upper-school students “complete projects in any field as long as they [relate] in some way to science concepts,” says Michael Russell, STEAM coordinator and mathematics and science department chair. Photo by Jack Newman, director of communications, Doane Academy.

Schools and teachers are transforming traditional science fairs into events incorporating science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) or STEAM (STEM plus Arts). At Lake Washington Girls Middle School in Seattle, Washington, for example, “we have transitioned [to] a Public Health STEAM Fair [in which seventh graders] identify a public health issue in our community, research the issue, develop a question and design a research procedure, then conduct statistical analysis to help them explain their data. Lastly, students present their research to [public health]…experts in the style of a conference,” says Christine Zarker Primomo, STEAM teacher.

“The curriculum in seventh-grade science is biology, so public health works great. But the bigger piece is that it [connects more] to citizen science. Public health is super broad and has a lot of connection to students’ lives,” Primomo observes. In addition, “[s]cience and social justice come together [for students] because their research can impact their community.”

She works closely with the math department because “they teach statistical analysis. [For their project,] students have to collect 30 data points…Students are more motivated to learn about standard deviation when it’s their own data,” she maintains. Local public health department staff provide data sets. Continue reading …

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Ed News: How Maker Education Supports English Language Learners In STEM

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This week in education news, President Trump proposes merging the Education Department with the U.S. Department of Labor; new report found that a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-funded initiative did not improve student performance; teacher shortage becoming a growing concern in Hawaii; Career and Technical Education Bill approved by the Senate education committee; Mattel unveils new Robotics Engineer Barbie; California budget allocates nearly $400 million for science and math education, but not teacher training; NCTM issues a call to action to drastically change the way math is taught so that students can learn more easily; and a new study shows that eighth-grade science teachers without an educational background in science are less likely to practice inquiry-oriented science instruction.

How Maker Education Supports English Languages Learners In STEM

What is the best way to teach STEM to students who haven’t mastered English? Some educators believe the answer lies in maker education, the latest pedagogical movement that embraces hands-on learning through making, building, creating and collaborating. Read the article featured on

Trump Officially Proposes Merging U.S. Departments of Education, Labor

President Donald Trump wants to combine the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Labor into a single agency focused on workforce readiness and career development. But the plan, which was announced during a cabinet meeting last week, will need congressional approval. That’s likely to be a tough lift. Similar efforts to scrap the nearly 40-year-old education department or combine it with another agency have fallen flat. Read the article featured in Education Week.

Continue reading …

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What Does 3-Dimensional Space Look Like

When transitioning my classroom instruction to three dimensional learning, I decided to start with one or two areas in each unit or lesson set where I felt the most need. I was already purposeful in selecting activities that I carefully sequenced to support student learning of concepts and big ideas, but I expected students to make connections using crosscutting concepts without explicit instruction. In addition, I was not using phenomena as a vehicle for explanation, but assumed that once students learned the concepts, they would be able to apply them to explain the everyday phenomena that they encountered. I also knew that the way in which I used models in my classroom needed to be rethought. For that, there was no better place to start than my space science lessons.

I felt very comfortable with the activities I used in my space science instruction. Most of them were models that I had been using in my classroom and with girls at Girl Scout events for many years. Traditionally, teachers have used models in space science instruction to make the concepts and processes that are difficult more accessible to students. In my space science lessons, I used a variety of models – physical models, drawings, diagrams, and even kinesthetic models to illustrate science ideas for students. There is nothing wrong with these types of models and they are an important resource for classroom use; however, I was using them very narrowly thus missing important components for sense making. I was not effective at making sure that students were using the models to develop their ideas or make connections between their ideas and the phenomena. I realized that I needed to take a step back and analyze how students were using the practice of developing and using models in my classroom. How were they using models to connect their ideas to phenomenon and how was I going to better facilitate that?

Continue reading …

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Digital Technology in the Early Childhood Classroom: When is a child ready?

Head shot of Carrie Lynne DraperGuest blogger Carrie Lynne Draper shares resources and discusses the use of digital technology in early childhood programs. Carrie Lynne Draper, M.Ed, is the Executive Director of Readiness Learning Associates, a STEM Readiness organization, in Pasadena, CA,  growing children’s learning processes using science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Focusing on the development of scientific dispositions through STEM and pedagogical design of equity-oriented STEM learning environments, Carrie has worked in early childhood STEM education for more than thirty years as a classroom teacher, program administrator and university instructor. As a long time NSTA member and past board member of NMLSTA, she  is frequently asked to present at national and state meetings on early learning STEM, NGSS and STEM Excellence. 

Welcome Carrie!

Logo of the Fred Rogers CenterThis summer, Fred Rogers’ family keeps the legacy of Mister Rogers Neighborhood alive with a new documentary. Fred believed that the foundation of every child’s healthy development is the power of human connection. “Whether we are parents, educators, media creators, or neighbors, each of us has the unique and enormous potential to nourish children’s lives with positive interactions,” a statement from the Fred Rogers Center. I believe this is certainly true for STEM curriculum writers and teachers.

 As I work in early childhood classrooms I frequently hear teachers ask, “What would Mr. Rogers think about the use of digital learning and how would I know if a child is really ready?” Some refer to today’s early childhood students as the “swipe and scroll generation.” In recent years children have experienced increased exposure to interactive technologies such as computers, tablets and smart phones.  With a vast increase in mobile devices, it is obvious that we need to think about our students as being technologically literate and confident about their future. Many have proposed that meaningful exposure to technology through mass media and other interactive platforms may help young children consequently leaving STEM education, cognitive and developmental psychology, computer science, and human development experts wonder, “What should be our digital technology philosophy in early childhood programs?” And how Two children drawing on paper, outside on a sunny we find the balance between children using 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional learning activities? How does a teacher know when a child is really ready to use digital devices in the classroom? And where does a teacher find trusted resources? There’s no question that children are fascinated about how things work and are made, and are ready to problem solve. And we know that children thrive when they can ask, imagine, plan, and create and interact with the world around them.  Continue reading …

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