Seven Polk County Science teachers attended the National Science Teachers Association Conference in Atlanta earlier this year thanks to a Priscilla and Ellis D. Slater Excellence in Teaching Fund grant from the Polk County Community Foundation.
The conference brought together science teachers from all over the nation to attend informational sessions designed to help improve their classroom instructional efforts.
Polk County High School teachers Ethan Abbott, Jennifer Allsbrook, Shannon Haynes and Leslie Rhinehart, Polk County Middle School teachers Stephanie Luedi and Elisa Flynn and Polk Central Elementary teacher Andrea Walter attended the conference.
Thoughts from the teachers attending the conference included:
“One session I really enjoyed was on scientific literacy. The presenters led the participants through a strategy to encourage deeper engagement and comprehension when reading scientific articles. The strategy is called an anticipation guide.
“Anticipation guides are used to help students become more invested in their learning. The students read general facts and identify if they are true or false based on their prior knowledge. Then, they read the article, and as they read they record if the facts were actually true or false based on what the article says. They have to justify their answers by citing the correct paragraph(s).” – Ethan Abbott
“I have been teaching for 25 years, but most of that time has been spend teaching the biological sciences. I double majored in biology and chemistry in college, but I have not had the opportunity until this current school year to teach chemistry. Needless to say, my content knowledge was a little “rusty” (pardon the chemistry pun) and the opportunity to attend sessions that focused on teaching strategies ranging from gas laws, periodic table, chemical reactions, stoichiometry and more was phenomenal.
“I was able to return to PCHS with a wide variety of strategies for conducting micro-scale chemistry experiments, the use of manipulatives like Legos to teach concepts like balancing of reactions and determining limiting reagents, to laboratory safety and project ideas.” – Jennifer Allsbrook
“This was the first conference I have ever attended. While I was always told of the amazing ideas and strategies shared at these conferences I could never finance a trip to one on my own. . . I was thrilled to find out that not only would I be attending the conference, but that I would get to do so with my colleagues to help guide and share the experience.
“I was flabbergasted by all the choices in sessions so I chose as many as possible and then picked alternates in case the session I was in did not seem to be something I could use. I attended all sorts of topics; one of my favorites was a series of short activities or games to do with biology. I developed my own version of a couple of games and my students got to play a protein synthesis version of BINGO. While we all have games, nothing works for long and once a game has become old news it is hard to find time to be creative and revamp it in the world of testing achievement. I also gave myself more practice with PCR to do higher level labs with my Honors students. While they are lengthy and high level, they are also a reflection of what most biology degrees are used for in the world at large.” – Shannon Haynes
“Sessions included hands-on activities with Arduino systems for basic build and programming ideas in my Engineering class, hands-on activities with current Vernier technology already in use in both the General chemistry and AP Chemistry classes as well as new strategies to model conceptual chemistry concepts better for students.
“While exploring the Exhibition Hall, I was able to make new contacts for possible resources for my students both in Engineering and Chemistry as well as Science Olympiad. Other sessions I attended focused on increasing girls in STEM fields by bringing in female mentors in uncommon fields to encourage girls to approach and conquer STEM careers. Overall, the conference both affirmed my path as a teacher as well as gave me ideas and focus for future teaching and learning experiences.” – Leslie Rhinehart
“I was in need of a change and fresh ideas for my ecosystems unit. This ended up being a great session that I molded my whole ecosystems unit around. The lesson shows students how to write “What I See” statements from a picture or observation and then they write “What It Means” statements after they investigate and learn about what is going on in the ecosystem. They then take these statements and piece them together to form a summary. They look at direct and indirect relationships between species and how disturbing one species can impact other species in the ecosystem. It helps them to understand how to write about complex relationships that happen in nature.
“At this conference I gathered tremendous amounts of ready to go lessons that will save me large amounts of time. I also got very good advice on how to incorporate reading skills into science, a few I have already used and were successful. I love to stay up to date on the research that is being conducted and also on how to share with the students the “real” data that is being collected. I have many resources now that will allow students to use data in the classroom.” – Stephanie Luedi
“The National Teachers Conference offers amazing opportunities for teachers in any subject. Science teachers especially need the chance to gain knowledge in an ever changing area.
“Science is the one subject that changes by leaps and bounds with every new innovative discovery, especially with technology. Earth Sciences change the more we learn about carbon and its effects, new discoveries about crustal plates and new life forms. This conference was an engaging experience that allowed us the chance to learn about these new developments in the world of science.” – Elisa Flynn
“A few highlights from my experience:
* There are new national standards for science (The Next Generation Science Standards), which, while not yet adopted by North Carolina, clearly delineate the best practices for teaching science. The new practices call on students to shift from learning about topics to figuring out why or how something happens, and therefore science teachers must shift from teaching about science to teaching how to use science to understand phenomena in the world/universe.
* Developing my content knowledge about the core ideas in science – many sessions provided an excellent overview of current concepts, theories, technology, and best practices.
* Meeting and learning from experts in the field of science education and vendors of science education products.” – Andrea Walter