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Michele Glidden, Director of Science Education Programs; Janet Raloff, Senior Editor, Science News for Students; Sharon Snyder, Manager of International Fairs and Volunteer Recruitment; and Caitlin Sullivan, Intel Science Talent Search Program Manager recently attended the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) annual conference in San Antonio, Texas. Their goal was to introduce science teachers and administrators to the resources the Society has to offer for classroom education.
By: Caitlin Sullivan
The experience actually started when I got on the plane from Washington, DC to San Antonio. The flight had a disproportionate number of working-age adults traveling in groups of 2-3 in jeans and sneakers, happily joking, but clearly holding papers to grade on the plane. The ladies in the row behind me whipped out their NSTA magazines as soon as they sat down and had a strategy session while we flew – who had sessions that they couldn’t miss, when they would split up to cover more ground, when would they meet up to compare notes, and equally important – which Tex-Mex restaurant had the best margaritas after the conference ended for the day.
There was great enthusiasm in the exhibit hall and many teachers wanted to make it to every booth to see what resources people had to offer. Some of them said they were skipping lunch to make sure they made it around the room. Some veteran teachers were pulling carts around to hold the goodies they were finding – both freebie items, and brochures with resources circled and starred – and the rookies struggled to balance the many bags they had collected.
NSTA has a name badge scanning system so that teachers can receive e-mails from groups once they are back home to remind them about available resources. We lured many teachers over with free Science News issues, and then had a chance to tell them about Science News for Kids and our education competitions. Most people who visited our booth had heard of one of our programs or publications, but had no idea we were one non-profit who did so many different things to engage the public in science. Again and again, we heard “I’m so glad you stopped me!” and even one “Lord have mercy, you just gave me my lesson plan for Monday!” when we showed one teacher the questions that went along with an SNK article.
Janet [Senior Editor, SNK] was asked for her autograph – I think twice even. Many middle school teachers said they had used Science News for Kids and were thrilled to see the articles sorted by curriculum unit. They couldn’t believe she actually went to Antarctica and then was reporting the news to their students.
I met a teacher who had just shown her students the movie Whiz Kids the week before and was so excited to meet me. She asked if I was the person who had to lock the front door when the deadline passed. I told her it’s all done electronically, but yes, I’m the one who has to lock the computer system and then listen to my voicemail messages the next day for the students who waited too long to apply for the Intel Science Talent Search.
Elmer’s, the official classroom sponsor of Broadcom MASTERS, the Society’s competition for middle school students, was in the booth next to us with a wheel the teachers could spin to win glitter glue and colorful exhibit boards for their students. The middle school teachers we talked to about Broadcom were excited to hear that Elmer’s gives awards to both the teachers and schools of Broadcom MASTERS nominees.
I attended a session called “Increasing the Diversity and Quality of Biology Graduates” run by the Science Learning Center at University of Michigan, in hopes of learning some strategies that could be applied at the high school level to reach a larger population with our science competitions. They were having success with an 8-week intensive summer program prior to freshman year and felt that continued programming and support over the course of the next two years really make the difference.
I also attended a session run by elementary school teachers one how to start and run a successful science club. The two main takeaways I had from the session were to focus on what the students are interested in, and send information to parents and administrators so they can help echo the enthusiasm you have for the club. They also said it’s a great idea to have the club create something science-related that can be sold, such as science posters about recycling and turning lights off, so there is money to go on field trips and buy more supplies.
At one point a flamingo walked past our booth. That sounds like the beginning of a joke, but no, a flamingo actually walked past our booth, coming from the zoo exhibit a few rows over. Clearly all sorts of groups were there, excited about helping teachers.
NSTA is a big event with many teachers who are making an effort to help their students excel in science. Their dedication is inspiring and their enthusiasm is contagious, so I came home feeling excited about the work we do here at Society and the resources we have to offer them.
The Society will also have a informational booth at the STEM Solutions conference being held June 17-19 in Austin, TX.
Want to diversify STEM? Here’s an opportunity to do so.