10,000 + Science Teachers Meet in Boston

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Last week over 11,500 science teachers from around the nation and places like Canada, the United Kingdom and China came to Boston for the National Science Teachers Association’s annual convention. The theme of this year’s conference was “Leading a Science Revolution,” an appropriate nod to Boston’s own revolutionary history and Massachusetts’ cutting edge innovative spirit.

The conference was held at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center in Boston’s Seaport District, where hundreds of workshops, lectures and forums took place throughout the day, alongside a well-stocked science bookstore, and an exhibit hall with the latest science products and teaching tools.

In addition to the conference hall activities, there were dozens of field trips across the state as well. Delegates took four field trips to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where they learned about DNA Proteins, Aeronautics, Augmented Reality games, and interactive video STEM Lessons. They traveled to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod and to the New Bedford Whaling Museum to study marine science. And they visited the Christa McAuliffe Center in Framingham to take a simulated spaceflight mission in the Challenger Learning Center. And locally, the teachers took trips to the Museum of Science, New England Aquarium and the Arnold Arboretum.

One of the big topics of conversation was the “Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), “a set of voluntary, rigorous, internationally bench-marked standards for K-12 science education. These standards are being developed by a  national consortium of science and engineering experts, K-12 and higher education teachers and the science industries, working closely with twenty-six states, including Massachusetts. The goal is to make American children scientifically literate going forward.

So far, eleven states and the District of Columbia have adopted the standards, according to Kate Falk, senior manager of public relations at the National Science Teachers Association. The NSTA has more details.

The discussions around STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education were relevant to Massachusetts, since our state has been a leader in developing this curriculum. Governor Deval Patrick created the Massachusetts STEM Advisory Council in October 2009, and since then the state has worked with public officials to advocate for increased funding for secondary school students. When the Council last met in March 2014, Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy III discussed a bill he co-sponsored in Congress, the STEM Gateways Act, which if enacted would reach underrepresented groups such as girls, minorities and economically disadvantaged students.

One of the interesting workshops at the convention was “Moving from STEM to STEAM,” which discussed the recent movement underway to add art to the STEM curriculum, making for a more interdisciplinary approach to learning.

A number of awards were given out during the conference, and Gary Garber, Science Teacher at Boston University Academy, won a Vernier Technology Award for his use of sensors – including Photogate, Motion Detector and Accelerometer – as well as computer modeling to teach his students physics.

And three Massachusetts science teachers – Janice Lewis of Lawrence School in Falmouth; Laura Rossier of FA Day Middle School in Newtonville; and Jacey Vaughan of Keverian School in Everett – won a Maitland P. Simmons Memorial Award for new teachers.

The National Science Teachers Association last held its national convention here in 2008, and we’re glad they returned. Since 2000 Boston has seen the largest growth in convention market share of any U.S. City. You can find a schedule of upcoming conventions by visiting MassConvention.com.