NSTA 2019 marks my sixth national conference and the start to a 51-week countdown to NSTA’s 2020 National Conference in Boston! Plenty of personalized learning opportunities and professional networking happens at an NSTA conference, even if you can only attend a day or two! Here are some of my takeaways from this year’s conference in St. Louis.
#1: “Where we start is no indicator of what we can become”
Astronaut and spacewalker, Scott Kelly’s message as the conference keynote did not include instructional takeaways or pedagogical know-how. Instead his reminder that those we do not identify as “model students” are still capable of great accomplishments and exceeding our own self-identified potential. His quote, ““where we start is no indicator of what we can become” is echoed in the K-12 Science Framework’s emphasis on “Science for All Students” and a message I hope will percolate in my mind the next time I find myself doubting my own students’ potential. His acknowledgement of Tom Wolfe’s 1979 book, “The Right Stuff” as his inspiration spoke to the power of a spark that lights a student’s imagination, and the power of literature to carry ideas and experiences to our audience with perspective and authenticity. Plus, there was this:
#2: “We are all in this together”
While cliche to say “there’s always more to learn” it is powerful to hear this message from noted leaders such as Paul Anderson, creator of the Youtube series Bozeman Science and now his own education consulting business, “The Wonder of Science.” During his packed presentation Andersen shared acknowledgements to those he continues to learn from…
… while sharing his own resources designed to support teachers in bolstering their instructional methods and train their eyes to identify strong, three-dimensional curriculum and assessments. His hat tip to elementary educators as teachers who should be stood with and not over as deliverers of science education spoke to me personally – noting that they are teaching “half the science education in our students’ K-12 schooling.” Putting his message that “we are all in this together” to practice, his fantastic, Creative Commons stamped materials can be found on his website under the resources tab including his SEP and CCC graphic organizers and new three-dimensional “Inquiry Cards”. This reminder, like Scott Kelly’s, was also one shared at NSTA and will aim to keep with me from a science, education, and science education perspective:
#3: Interest and resources for Standards Based Grading is growing across grades K-12
I was both floored and heartened by the number of high school teachers present at the presentation “Standards-Based Grading: Impact on Student Engagement in a Science Classroom” as SBG remains an enigma in our 6-12 Burlington grades. The connection between the SBG criteria and standards they made visible to students through their “I can” statements (replacing the more traditional “objective” statement). Time and encouragement of student-to-student support to achieve for mastery was also a shared staple. Room for improvement remains as examples shared centered around parochial school practice-based standards unfamiliar to me and did not explicitly connect with SEPs, DCIs, or CCCs. Admission that their SBG system had yet broken free from the requirements and mindsets of a school’s point scale system also demonstrated work to be done. Nevertheless their willingness to share in front of a packed house and their status as pioneers in this space should be honored!
#4: NSTA’s “Elementary Extravaganza” never disappoints!
Friday’s learning started with the dopamine hit that is the Elementary Extravaganza. Every turn of the head brought about an interest-piquing investigation, new and delightful trade book, or connection with an organization such as CESI or NEAYC leaving me ready to enlist in their membership ranks as well! I loved an ocean-oriented variation on the bird beaks lesson involving fish mouths and a balloon joust requiring clever engineering of a ramp car to both pop and defend. An inheritance variation tree innocently introduced the idea of dominant and recessive traits while a three rope tug-of-war brought about force diagram arrows to kindergarten children!
I hope that others will share their learning from NSTA 2019 and also come to Boston in 2020. Boston is NSTA’s largest national conference and never disappoints with its rich learning and cultural opportunities. See you there!