Science Class: A Place Where Children Should Be Seen and Heard

I recently observed a lesson about how shadows change throughout the day, and I was fascinated by the amount of time the teacher and the class took to listen to and watch one another as they discussed the data. The careful structuring of time for analyzing data in small- and whole-group discussions gave students confidence as they shared. Ms. Hall asked her class to examine the data they collected about the length of a pencil’s shadow in the morning, at noon, and in the afternoon. The teacher also measured the shadow later in the afternoon after class so students could see how it continued to change. Continue reading …

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Center Your Learning in the NSTA Learning Center

Are you looking for a professional learning community specifically for K-16 science teachers? The NSTA Learning Center is stocked with resources, customized lesson plans, online modules, and community forums, and will change the ways you access and leverage professional learning. Research suggests that professional learning for science educators should be an ongoing, continuous endeavor taking anywhere from 50-80 hours per year. The NSTA Learning Center allows you to control the place, the pace, and the time as you work to transform instruction in your classroom.

Consider choosing one of these seven introductory steps to take advantage of what the NSTA Learning Center has to offer:

  1. Activate your account and personalize your profile.

All NSTA members already have a Learning Center account. To activate your account for the first time, use your last name and your NSTA Member Number. Once you’re logged in, make sure to upload a profile picture, school/work affiliation, your geographic location, and any professional social media channels like Twitter or Facebook. Updating your profile makes you more visible to more than 215,000 community members.

  1. Join us for web seminars, online book studies, virtual conferences, and more.

The Learning Center features opportunities to enrich your own professional learning with a range of online options, so you can engage when it works for you. Learn more about upcoming events. Continue reading …

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Introducing the NSTA Elementary Science Position Statement

Jennifer Thompson, early elementary teacher and former chair of the NSTA Preschool and Elementary Committee, is the ideal person to introduce the updated NSTA Elementary Science Position Statement.

Welcome Jennifer!

First page of the NSTA Elementary Science Position StatementThe National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) has recently revised and adopted a position statement in support of science for the elementary years, The Elementary Science Position Statement. The intention for this statement is to build on and connect the Early Childhood Science Position Statement (for ages 3 – 5) with a natural flow into the elementary years and then on to the Middle School Science Statement (for grades 6 – 8). In this way all children are supported to have science education from their earliest learning, into the more formal elementary years, and entering middle school with a background of experiences of being immersed in the practices of science and engineering.

This research based document was developed over time by a committee, many whom were serving on the NSTA Pre-school Elementary Science Education Committee, a group of elementary and early childhood teachers, researchers, professors and advocates of science education. I am hugely appreciative of the Committee’s time, energy and powerful discussions from multiple perspectives that led to the final document. Research for the position statement came from the National Research Council’s Framework for K – 12 Science Education as well as other documents and peer-reviewed articles that emphasize the importance of time, preparation and thoughtful investigations as part of the daily instruction in all years of elementary school. 

Continue reading …

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Why Attend? | #NSTA18 in Charlotte, North Carolina

Known as the “Queen City,” Charlotte, North Carolina, is the third-fastest-growing major city in the United States. It is easy to understand what makes the city so popular thanks to its bustling and diverse restaurant and art scene, fabulous weather, and friendly people.

That’s why NSTA is excited to host the NSTA Area Conference on Science Education in Charlotte in just a few short weeks. The conference provides opportunities to network, learn new ideas, and gather teaching resources. And, you’ll get a chance to see firsthand what makes Charlotte such a beautiful southern town.

Here are more reasons why you should attend:

Expand Your Knowledge

Don’t miss the featured sessions from nationally known presenters, including keynote speaker Andrés Ruzo, geothermal scientist and National Geographic Explorer. Ruzo’s keynote talk, “Scientific Research, Amazonian Conservation, and K–12 Classrooms: A Story of Potential Energy,” takes us on a journey into the Amazon to explore the forces threatening the jungle, and potential solutions that may come from crossing disciplines and grade levels. In 2011, Ruzo became the first geothermal scientist granted permission to study the sacred Boiling River of the Amazon. He believes that environmental responsibility and economic prosperity can go hand in hand, and uses science to unite both aims.

Make a list of “must-attend” sessions ahead of time with the online session browser. And, gather some valuable tips for making the most of your time at the conference.

Connect with Colleagues

NSTA conferences are a terrific way to network with colleagues and friends. Play a game of Giant Connect 4 or Jenga with your friends in the new NSTA Teacher’s Lounge, which offers a convenient meeting spot at the conference.

In addition, “meet and greet” your elected NSTA officers on your way to the exhibits on Friday, November 30, from 2:45 to 3:30 p.m. The President, President-Elect, and Retiring President along with your Board and Council members are looking forward to talking with you at the conference. NSTA will be giving away several gift cards for use in the NSTA Store totaling $100, but you must be present to win. Drawing will take place at 3:20 p.m.

Renew Your Excitement about Science Teaching

With more than 300 presenter sessions and over 100 exhibitor workshops, you’ll feel energized and ready to take a ton of new ideas back to your classroom.

Jump right in on the first day of the conference with the NCSTA Share-A-Palooza, which takes place at the Westin Charlotte, from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. As many as 50 dedicated science educators from across the state will share their most successful activities. Share-a-thons will take place at the same time for elementary; middle school; and Earth, life, and physical sciences. A keynote speaker will follow.

Explore the Exhibits

Discover cutting-edge solutions and the latest innovations and curriculum resources in the conference exhibit hall, and don’t forget to pick up FREE samples of high-quality teaching tools. 

In addition: 

  • Find out how to help your students earn grants and savings bonds PLUS learn how you can win a comprehensive lab makeover for your school;
  • Engage in hands-on lab activities led by expert trainers;
  • Learn how to enhance your teaching credentials with an advanced degree from a variety of leading educational institutions;
  • Discover how to take your students on an educational trip from leading eco-travel and tourism experts; and 
  • Enter to win Southwest Airlines tickets + FREE registration to next year’s National Conference in St. Louis or the 8th Annual STEM Forum & Expo, hosted by NSTA, in San Francisco.

Have Fun!  

Don’t miss out on “Science Social, Tinkering, and Energy Extravaganza!” on Thursday, November 29, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at Discovery Place’s Education Studio, a museum center for innovation in education, for a night of fun and science! Enjoy delicious treats and drinks while you learn by play. Engaging energy challenges will pique your interest and inspire you to try your hand at solving some of the major energy problems of the future. Record your ideas and solutions on social media and win a prize for the best tweet of the night! RSVP by Monday, November 19. Space is limited.

And, if you’re a NASCAR fan (or even if you just want to check out what all the hoopla is about), show your NSTA conference badge at the NASCAR Hall of Fame box office and receive a discounted $15 ticket.

We look forward to seeing you at the NSTA Area Conference on Science Education in Charlotte!

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Ideas and inspiration from NSTA’s November 2018 K-12 journals

Regardless of what grade level or subject you teach, check out all three K-12 journals. As you skim through titles and descriptions of the articles, you may find ideas for lessons that would be interesting for your students, the inspiration to adapt a lesson to your grade level or subject, or the challenge to create/share your own lessons and ideas.

NSTA members, as always, have access to the articles in all journals! Click on the links to read or add to your library.


Science Scope – Motion and Stability

From the Editor’s Desk: Playing With Forces and Motion –”…because forces and motion are central to our lives, it is easy for students to harbor misconstructions as a result of observations made in daily life. Unfortunately, these misconstructions can lead to inaccurate conclusions that can be difficult to dispel…[students] need to confront their misconceptions through lab experiences that require them to observe, apply, and explain.”

These monthly columns continue to provide background knowledge and classroom ideas:

For more on the content that provides a context for projects and strategies described in this issue, see the SciLinks topics Cell Structure, Cells, Electric Circuits, Energy Transformations, Friction, Gravity, Law of Conservation of Energy, Metric System, Motion-Speed Relationship, Newton’s Laws of Motion, Newton’s First Law, Newton’s Second Law, Newton’s Third Law, Ohm’s Law, Pendulums, Plate Tectonics, Roller Coaster Physics,

Many authors share resources related to the lessons and strategies in their articles. These resources include rubrics, graphic organizers, handouts, diagrams, lists of resources, and complete lessons. You can access these through the Connections link for Science Scope.

Continue for Science & Children and The Science Teacher

Continue reading …

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Legislative Update: Key Midterm Election Results & What’s Ahead for Education and Science

As widely reported, the Democrats won the majority of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives which means some key changes ahead.

Education: House committee leadership positions will switch over at the start of the 116th Congress on January 3. It is widely expected that Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), a 13-term congressman and the ranking member on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, will take over as chair. Scott was one of the main architects of the Every Student Succeeds Act (which comes up for reauthorization in 2019).

It is also expected that this committee will be renamed the “Committee on Education and Labor.”

Rep. Scott told POLITICO last week he is hopeful that Congress can pass a bipartisan bill to update the Higher Education Act.  All eyes are also on the Democrats legislative agenda, particularly Rep. Scott’s infrastructure bill, the Rebuild America’s Schools Act, H.R. 2475 (115) which would create a $70 billion grant program and $30 billion tax credit bond program to improve school buildings in high-poverty schools and create a national database on the condition of public school facilities.

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) is expected to take charge of the House Appropriations Committee for Labor/HHS and Education. Challenges next year will include the threat of sequestration and significantly lowered spending caps, and a 5% across-the-board cut proposed by the Administration.

With the Democrats in charge, watch for new oversight power they will use to scrutinize the Department of Education, especially around ESSA and civil rights issues.  But will it be Secretary DeVos testifying before the Congressional oversight committees? It is rumored that she is likely to be one of the cabinet secretaries expected to leave at the end of the year.

In the Senate: Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) remains chair of the Senate HELP Committee and many anticipate the Senator will push to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA) before his term is up in 2020.

Two election results of particular interest to the education community: Wisconsin Governor-elect Tony Evers (D) the Wisconsin state superintendent, defeated incumbent Governor Scott Walker and U.S. Representative-elect Jahana Hayes (D-CT) Hayes, the 2016 National Teacher of the Year, will be the first African-American woman to represent Connecticut in Congress.

For a deeper dive into election results check out the Education Commission of the States post-election resources include results every state across the country in their infographic, education leadership changes and key takeaways from state ballot issues.

Science: Several new scientists will join the 116th session of Congress. Reports the Washington Post, “The newcomers, mostly Democrats, include Chrissy Houlahan, who has a degree in industrial engineering and won in Pennsylvania. Sean Casten, who has worked as a biochemist, flipped a longtime Republican district in Chicago. Ocean engineer Joe Cunningham, who came out strongly against offshore drilling, won in South Carolina. Lauren Underwood, a registered nurse, won Illinois’s 14th District. In Virginia, Elaine Luria, who has a nuclear engineering background, defeated the Republican incumbent, Scott Taylor. Jeff Van Drew, who won a seat representing the 2nd Congressional District in New Jersey, is a dentist.” In addition, Pediatrician Kim Schrier won the race in Washington’s 8th District and Rep Kevin Hern, a Republican from Oklahoma, holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering.

Two incumbents–Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.), a former high-energy physicist at Fermilab, and Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.), who worked as an engineer and has a PhD in mathematics—kept their seats in Congress.

Shortly after the election Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), issued a statement indicating she will seek to be chair of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee in January. Johnson is currently ranking member of the committee. She vows to pursue an agenda that will:

  • “Ensure that the United States remains the global leader in innovation, which will require attention to a wide range of activities: promoting effective STEM education solutions, engaging the underrepresented minorities and blue collar workers in the STEM fields, supporting a robust federally funded R&D enterprise and emerging areas of science and technology, defending the scientific enterprise from political and ideological attacks, and challenging misguided or harmful Administration actions;
  • Address the challenge of climate change, starting with acknowledging it is real, seeking to understand what climate science is telling us, and working to understand the ways we can mitigate it; and finally,
  • Restore the credibility of the Science Committee as a place where science is respected and recognized as a crucial input to good policymaking.”

For more on the new science face of Congress, read Business Insider’s article, Eight New Scientists Elected to the House and Senate and the Washington Post article, How Science Fared in the Midterm Election.

U.S. Department of Education Declares National STEM Day

The U.S. Department of Education declared November 8 to be National STEM Day. On that day they announced that it had surpassed President Trump’s directive to invest $200 million in high-quality science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education.  In total, the agency obligated $279 million in STEM discretionary funds in Fiscal Year 2018.

The Department also released the first ever data story on STEM, which explores both access to and enrollment in Algebra I in K-12 public schools using the 2015–16 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC).

The study shows that “80% of all eighth-grade students attend a school that offers Algebra I, but only 24% of these students are actually enrolled in the course.  This “leak” in the STEM pipeline can have long-term effects on students’ education, since Algebra I is considered the gatekeeper course to advanced math and science coursework.”

Understanding ESSA Report Cards

And finally, last week Secretary DeVos released a guide to help parents understand the report cards that states and school districts are required to publish under the Every Student Succeeds Act, detailing school performance.

Stay tuned, and watch for more updates in future issues of NSTA Express.

Jodi Peterson is the Assistant Executive Director of Communication, Legislative & Public Affairs for the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and Chair of the STEM Education Coalition. Reach her via e-mail at or via Twitter at @stemedadvocate.

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

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Ed News: STEM: What’s Holding Females Back?

News Roundup banner

This week in education news, Amazon announces new Amazon Future Engineer initiative; research project at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville is exploring the use of flipped teaching in STEM courses; NASBE implores states to focus on the lowest-performing students in ESSA plans; music matters to STEM students; 2016 National Teacher of the Year elected to the U.S. House of Representatives; environmentalists are hoping that Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson will bring science back to the House science committee when she takes over as chair in the next Congress; the U.S. Department of Education will continue to focus on plugging “leaks” in the STEM education pipeline; research finds small benefits to small classes; and personalized learning has a big problem.

Amazon Future Engineer Program Expands STEM Access to Low-Income Student

As computer science jobs continue opening with too few college graduates possessing the necessary skills, Amazon announced Thursday its Amazon Future Engineer initiative, which will help “inspire, educate and train children and young adults from underserved and low-income communities to pursue careers in computer science,” according to a news release. Read the brief featured in Education DIVE.

STEM: What’s Holding Females Back?

While the 20th century saw women stride ahead in their participation in education and the workforce, there are still gender differences apparent in some areas of education. In particular, females do not enroll in higher mathematics, science, or ICT, or move into STEM-based careers to the same extent as males. Read the article featured in Teacher Magazine.

Researchers to Explore Flipped Teaching in STEM Courses

A research project at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville is exploring the use of flipped teaching in STEM courses. Supported by a $598,402 grant from the National Science Foundation, the three-year project will help STEM faculty at SIUE and St. Louis Community College implement flipped teaching in their courses and examine both faculty and student experiences with the method. Read the article featured in Campus Technology.

Continue reading …

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Public Posts

I am hoping to have “word walls” in my classroom for subject areas. What would be some beneficial words no matter the age level for the science classroom?  — H., Iowa

Great idea! I have always maintained that teaching science is also like teaching a new language to students. Working on vocabulary to use when communicating scientifically is important and should start at an early age.

In conjunction with words highlighting cross-cutting concepts, I believe that it would be ideal to have actions, skills, processes, and terms that span across all topics and disciplines of science on your word wall. Check your curriculum documents and you’ll find many such words.

Rather than have a list of words on the wall for students to memorize, developing your wall should also be an excellent learning activity for your class. Have them brainstorm the words they believe should be on the wall after some readings or activities on the nature of science. Depending on the grade level, you could have groups present or make a case to include each word. The wall does not have to be static. Add to it as the year passes. To bolster terminology specific to some topics, you could create a temporary word wall alongside your cross-cutting words.

Words I believe cut across all disciplines and could be used and taught at almost any age (in no particular order and by no means exhaustive):

Proof Researching Experimenting Designing
Evidence Observing Variables Theories
Fact Recording Controls Conjectures
Data Questioning Hypotheses Laws
Inquiring Communicating Repeatability Conclusions

Hope this helps!  


Photo credit:  Science Scope

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Go Knights!

This month’s blogs feature questions sent to me by students of Michael D. Bechtel, EdD, assistant professor of science education, Biology Department of Wartburg College, Iowa. As part of their coursework they were asked to connect to professional learning communities and many of them found resources on the NSTA website – including this blog. Many thanks to Dr. Bechtel and the up-and-coming teachers of Wartburg College for their insightful questions!



Graphic credit: Wartburg College [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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NSTA’s 2018 National Harbor Conference: Personalize Your Schedule Based on Content Area

Happening right outside the nation’s capital, NSTA’s 2018 National Harbor conference on science education will take place November 15–17.

If you’ve ever attended, you know that the best thing about the conference is that there is so much to choose from—and you also know that’s the most challenging thing about attending an NSTA conferenceso what do you do? One way to make the best use of your time is to consider sessions devoted to your content area. The place to begin is with a keyword search of the session browser for National Harbor. Browse below to find ideas for your content area, and see all conference details here.


Into biology? Put the keynote speaker on your schedule right away!

Mireya Mayor
Primatologist and National Geographic Explorer
WILD ABOUT SCIENCE: My Journey from NFL Cheerleader to National Geographic Explorer
Thursday, November 15, 2018
9:15–10:30 AM
Maryland A-D, Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center

Join Mireya Mayor for a morning of adventure, as this one-time Miami Dolphins cheerleader shares how she went on to earn a Fulbright Scholarship, discovered a previously unknown species of mouse lemur, and earned her PhD, proving there is more than one path to success. As an advocate for science and education, her passion is both inspiring and contagious.

Here are a few more sessions you may want to target:

  • Facilitating Student-Created Field Studies in Your Local Environment
  • 3-D Natural Selection
  • NSTA Press Session: Argument-Driven Inquiry in Biology, Chemistry, and Physics: Lab Investigations for Grades 9–12
  • Exploring Life Sciences and Climate Change in Antarctica to Develop Scientifically Literate Global Citizens
  • Easy Modeling Techniques for a Life Science Classroom


Looking to bond with other chemistry teachers? Join us for Chemistry Day on Friday, November 16, sponsored by the American Chemical Society. Look for their name on presentations.

Want more? Search the session browser using the keyword “chemistry,” and find the events that are right for you. Here are a few you may like:

  • NGSS for Struggling Learners in Chemistry
  • Chemical Evolution of Earth for High School Chemistry and Earth Science Classes
  • Solids: The Neglected “State” of Chemistry
  • Kinesthetic Chemistry: Get Your Students Up and Moving
  • NSTA Press Session: Argument-Driven Inquiry in Biology, Chemistry, and Physics: Lab Investigations for Grades 9–12

Next Generation Science Standards

Whether your state has adopted the Next  Generation Science Standards (NGSS) or you’re personally committed to 3D teaching and learning, you’ll find a lot at National Harbor when you browse the scheduler. Here are some you may want to attend:

  • More Than a Lesson—What an NGSS Unit Looks Like
  • Blended Learning in the Elementary Science Classroom: Transitioning to the NGSS Using Individualized Learning
  • NSTA Press Session: Instructional Sequence Matters—Structuring Lessons with the NGSS in Mind
  • Grounding STEM Education Programs in NGSS Practices
  • Advancing Scientific Literacy with Lesson Plans that Meet the CCSS and NGSS


Physics teachers: Join us for Physics Day on Friday, November 16. And throughout the entire conference find events that are right for you. Here are a few you may like:

  • Cars: Science Lessons That DRIVE Science Concepts
  • ASEE Session: Make and Code…Together
  • Exploring the Science and Engineering Practices
  • Energy Explorations at the Primary Level
  • Local Ice Rinks Are a STEM Wonderland and Feature Newton’s Laws at Play—Year Round!


STEM stars will want to put this featured speaker on their schedules:

Heidi Schweingruber
Director, Board on Education, The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 
Becoming Scientifically Literate: Insights from Research on Learning and Teaching
Thursday, November 15, 2018
2:00–3:00 PM
Maryland C, Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center

Join Heidi Schweingruber for great insights. Science is a way of knowing about our world. In a society where science and technology now touch nearly every part of our lives, it is critical to understand the processes and practices of science and to become critical consumers of scientific research. Drawing on studies from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, Heidi’s talk focuses on exploring what scientific literacy is and the kinds of learning experiences students need to become more scientifically literate.

STEM, STEAM, Maker Spaces—they’re everyone, and National Harbor will be no exception. Browse the sessions to find your favorites. Here are a few samples:

  • How to Implement STEM and NGSS into Your Classroom Through the Use of NSTA Competitions
  • STEM on a Budget: Leveraging University and Community Partnerships
  • Find the Fund$ for STEM: Grant Writing 101
  • STEM Design Challenges in a Diverse Inclusion Classroom
  • Taking STEM Outside
  • NSTA Press Session: Engage Your Students: Designing Meaningful STEM Lessons

Pro Tips

Check out more sessions and other events with the National Harbor Session Browser/Personal Scheduler. Follow all our conference tweets using #NSTA18, and if you tweet, please feel free to tag us @NSTA so we see it!

Need help requesting funding or time off from your principal or supervisor? Download a letter of support and bring it with you! National Harbor support letter

And don’t forget, NSTA members save up to $95 off the price of registration. Not a member? Join here.

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

Future NSTA Conferences

2018 Area Conferences

“Dive into Three-Dimensional Instruction” Workshop
National Harbor, November 16–17, 2018

2019 National Conference
St. Louis, April 11–14

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