Last week, our Director of Science and SEL, Christine, attended the NSTA National Conference in Atlanta. This conference provides an unparalleled professional learning experience and shared space for educators and curriculum specialists to really dive deeply into pedagogy by exploring new ideas and best practices when it comes to Science and STEM instruction. CSA has been attending the NSTA National Conference for several years, and we always walk away with renewed inspiration and innovative strategies we can apply to our Science and STEM projects. Continue reading for Christine’s highlights and key takeaways from NSTA Atlanta 23!
Highlights from Conference
A big highlight for me at the conference was hearing the three keynote speakers from the Teacher Voices Keynote Panel: Humanizing Science Education: Places, People, and Community. Stephen Pruitt, President of the Southern Regional Education Board, was the moderator. The three presenters were classroom teachers from very different areas of the country: Hawaii, Montana, and Colorado. Not only did they all have such interesting backgrounds and experiences that they brought to their teaching, but they incorporated their cultures into their teaching as well. It was a pleasure to hear about how they engage students in their classrooms and make everyone feel included while also helping students become more connected to their communities. They made Science very real and very relative to students. They were able to answer that age-old question of “Why do I have to learn this?”
Reflecting back on the week, I have four main takeaways from NSTA. First, teachers are still struggling with burnout, so it is imperative that we provide a curriculum that is easy to use and easily accessible as well as adaptable to their ever-changing needs within the classroom.
Second, it is important that phenomena is a part of any Science curriculum/lesson and that it too is relatable and/or brings in the opportunity for students to share their cultures. The phenomenon must be engaging and provide a real-world example for students to experience.
Third, now more than ever, students need to feel like they belong in their classroom—that their opinions matter and that they are valued. Clear expectations need to be set by both teachers and students, creating a safe environment that allows students to feel free to be themselves. Creating a classroom community is key to bringing Science together for everyone. Social and emotional learning will continue to be a huge part of every teacher’s classroom. Students need to see themselves in Science and/or STEM classrooms.
The last key takeaway from the conference is that teachers are still saying that there is no time for Science, so they are finding ways to incorporate Science into their literacy/reading block. Many state and national standards have requirements that students engage with nonfiction texts and Science is the perfect time to incorporate that. Combining those areas then allows students time to do hands-on inquiry during their Science block. After all, Science is still all about doing!
This year’s NSTA National Conference was informative, engaging, and fun! Christine walked away with some new strategies and perspectives to apply to our work here at CSA. For more information about any of our Science services, feel free to contact us.