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Calling All Science Educators…

Attending the NSTA Conference:  Calling All Science Educators…

Author: Jennifer Heisler Asociacion Escuelas Lincoln, Argentina Twitter: @JenHeisler1 I recently attended the 2017 National Science Teacher’s Conference (NSTA) in Los Angeles, California. Without a doubt, it was one of the best professional development learning opportunities that I have ever experienced. Partially, this was because it was a huge conference that was totally focused on my subject area: science education. However, it was also because the people presenting at this conference were passionate about science in general as well as their specific fields. Their passion and enthusiasm were contagious! I returned to Buenos Aires with a renewed energy and focus on being a science educator.

One of the most motivating moments for me was hearing Bill Nye speak. He was like a rock star at this conference. Before his speech, I happen to run into him while he was being interviewed by a local TV station; the buzz from the teachers around was palpable. I would not have been surprised if people had started screaming or chanting his name like he was Elvis or the Beatles. Truthfully, I had to hold back my own squeal of delight at seeing him and refrained from singing the opening song to his videos (“Bill Nye the Science guy, Bill, Bill, Bill, Bill…”).  Even though his science videos were produced in the 1990’s they are still quite relevant and useful today.

Before his speech we were lined up and camped out like we were all waiting for a concert. Bill did not disappoint. His speech pulled no punches on the current political state in the U.S. and was almost a call to arms for all science teachers as he instructed teachers to be proactive and stand up for science as it is currently under attack. He advised us that, at every opportunity through teaching science, we have the chance to “Change the world!” Bill Nye’s enthusiasm, gallantry, and spirit were incredible!

While Mr. Nye’s speech was motivating, it was also highly informative and solution based. He pointed out that clean energy could be profitable and produce job opportunities for many workers. As a representative of science, Bill Nye is all over the media stage these days. He has a new series coming out on Netflix called Bill Nye Saves the World which is targeted at adults. And so as not to forget his student base, he has written the first book in a series specifically for middle school students called Jack and the Geniuses: At the Bottom of the World. Bill explained that he wrote for this age group because most engineers and scientist will decide their career path at around this time.

Some of the amazing lectures I attended at the NSTA Conference in Los Angeles were centered on navigating the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I readily admit that since their publication, I have done my best with the NGSS but have floundered at times; unsure how to tackle and translate these standards into the classroom. After hearing from some of the leading experts in the field, I am now much better equipped. For example, I am implementing a 3-Dimensional learning model to address NGSS which consist of disciplinary core ideas, scientific practices, and crosscutting concepts.

In addition to looking at curriculum standards, I also added some other skills to my teaching toolkit such as utilizing phenomena based learning, giving a strong foundation of claim-evidence-reasoning, and using argument-driven inquiry.  I also acquired a number of outstanding ideas and activities from the science educators that presented at the conference. For example, I will be using activities like modeling disease spreading in a population through a zombie apocalypse event and utilizing the science of Harry Potter to engage and excite students. The workshop that I attended on sustainability could not only benefit my students but hopefully the community at large. Additionally, there were a number of workshops that addressed using citizen science in your classroom.

There were science educators at this conference but there were also a number of leading expert scientists in their fields of study.  For instance, I attended a lecture from Dr. Veerabhadran Reamanathan (Dr. Ram for short!) about why K-12 education is an integral part of the climate change solution. Dr. Ram has been conducting research since the 1970’s and making accurate climate change predictions. In addition to his climate research, he has also been published on the topic of why children are an integral part of the solution on effecting change in the arena of climate change and other ecological development.

Even if you can’t attend an NSTA conference, I would highly encourage you to visit the website and become a member of the NSTA . The resources for science educators are abundant and it is where many science organizations distribute information and resources. Whether you teach first grade or high school biology, teachers can benefit from the outstanding work of this organization. My biggest take-away from this conference was how absolutely necessary great science teaching & learning is at this time in human history. As professionals we have to stay on the cusp of science discoveries and keep up to date on what is happening with science education. We must prepare our students with the skill set to survive and thrive in the future and there is no better place for that to happen then in science class. Now, please forgive me for signing off as I must prepare for my classes and in the words of Bill Nye…“Change the World!”


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