National Science Teachers Association Conference – Boston

The 2014 NSTA conference was in Boston. Around 10000 teachers, hundreds of trade exhibitors and around 500 workshops day meant for a huge and sometimes overwhelming range of choices. When you narrow down your Thursday 8:00am slot and still have 6 conflicting workshops some quick and hard choices have to be made!

The days were full with a range of keynotes, symposiums, presentations and workshops. Many sessions had an explicit STEM focus ranging from the setting up of an integrated STEM curriculum in a school, school case studies to practical design and build activities for elementary and middle school teachers. A number of sessions that I found interesting included;

The Zydeco iPad app for running an inquiry based science learning sequence. A user friendly interface, multi-modal data collection, sequential questioning and the ability to save provide for an effective learning tool.

Sparkfun ran a number of hands-on sessions designed to increase teacher skill and confidence. I’m interested in coding and joined in a Scratch and Picoboard programming session. Scratch really does offer an engaging and stable platform designed to not only build games but for data collection and graphing.

A session on Tinkering with Elementary Engineering provided a packed house with many simple hands-on design and make activities and links to the CEEO.

Connecting Science, Engineering and Literacy in the Elementary Classroom gave an example of cross learning area integration which works so well in the STEM context. The literacy focus is similar to that being investigated at the CEEO Novel Engineering project. It also provides a jumping off point to delve deeper into the project based learning done so well at High Tech High. A powerpoint is available here.

Attending two keynotes was a highlight. The first by well known actress Mayim Bialik (Amy on Big Bag Theory) covered Mayim’s journey through her science studies to a Phd in Neuroscience along with some acting tales. Mayim is a strong supporter of STEM and the sciences, she says that  “maths is a beautiful language that offers so much…’

Later I attended an Aerospace Educators lunch with astronaut Joe Acaba who was selected through the teacher astronaut program, he talked about the similar traits that both astronauts and teachers have including flexibility, discipline, creativity, team players and the like. His bio can be found here.



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