April 6, 2014 by Dr. G
From Thursday, April 3, through Sunday, April 6, I was in attendance at the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) conference in Boston, Massachusetts. I have attended and presented at NSTA in the past (twice, in fact, when it was held in Philadelphia). This time, I had a very busy agenda, representing the Pennsylvania Earth Science Teachers Association (PAESTA) at several events and giving a presentation for PAESTA as well.
On Thursday, I spent the day at the National Earth Science Teachers Association (NESTA) Board Meeting. Any member of NESTA is allowed to attend and listen to the reports, and as PAESTA is a state affiliate of NESTA, I knew it would be helpful for our organization to hear more about what is happening at the national level. It was a full day of reports that provided some great insights as to what NESTA does and the impact it has on K-12 Earth science teaching. That evening, I attended a special event hosted by HHMI-Biointeractive that showed video clips and discussed the soon-to-be airing special Your Inner Fish. I used this book as a textbook when I taught Earth & Life (GEOSC 021) one semester, and I even got to see the real Tiktaalik roseae fossil at the Academy of Natural Sciences. I think one of the most exciting parts of the evening was learning that the fossil has been scanned, and there is a file available for download where anyone can use a 3D printer to print their own Tiktaalik! I really think 3D printing is going to revolutionize the way historical geology is taught… now, all I need is a 3D printer!
On Friday, I spent the majority of the day at the NESTA Share-a-Thons. A Share-a-Thon is an opportunity for any individual teacher or organization to share curricular innovations or resources at a table. Several tables (in this case, close to 40) were lined up around a room for others to come by to collect new materials and to engage in conversations. Each Share-a-Thon was an hour in length and was themed on: (1) Geology; (2) Climate, Oceans and Atmospheres; and (3) Earth System Science. I set up a booth for PAESTA and gave each person a 1/3 sheet of paper with a URL that would lead them to resources on the PAESTA website that would help with teaching and student learning for each themed Share-a-Thon. I met some great, enthusiastic people, and some even decided to sign up and join PAESTA (why not – membership is free!).
On Saturday, I was back setting up a PAESTA table at the NESTA Space Science Share-a-Thon (PAESTA also has space science resources on its website). Then I took the time to go around the Exhibit Hall and collect some materials from the different vendors to share through PAESTA. The Exhibit Hall was huge and had everyone from scientific equipment suppliers to textbook vendors, to inflatable planetariums to live animals (and, even some mascot animals). The government agencies of NASA, NOAA, USGS, and US Forest Service provided me with some great information, and I also stopped by the PASCO and Mimeo booths to explore some equipment that I could use in my own classroom. The day finished with attending the NESTA Rock/Mineral Raffle and NESTA Annual membership Meeting. I have to say, I have never seen a group so passionate about a rock raffle as NESTA!
The final day of the conference was Sunday. With the Exhibit Hall closed and only a half day of presentations, the Boston Convention Center had significantly fewer people in attendance. My presentation was at 9:30 in the morning, titled “Levels of Leadership for Teachers in Educator-based Organizations: An Example from the Pennsylvania Earth Science Teachers Association.” At first, I was disappointed that there were only four people that came to my talk – but also not surprised, as the conference was going to be ending not long after my session. However, I was thrilled that these four people were all so engaged, furiously typing notes and asking thoughtful questions. Having the attention of 100% of the audience is rare at a conference, and I hope what I shared will make a difference in their efforts for developing communities of teacher leaders. I also met a Philadelphia teacher (one of the four audience attendees), and I’m looking forward to seeing him as a new PAESTA member!
For any of the big sessions and new announcements that I may have missed, NSTA teamed up with a video company to produce NSTA TV, which showed stories on screens in the convention center and conference hotel television stations. I hope I get the time to watch these videos and learn more about what else when on at the conference. It seems that the big event I missed was the keynote presentation by Dr. Mayim Bialik – not only is she Amy Farrah Fowler in the hit comedy The Big Bang Theory, but she has a BS in neuroscience and Hebrew and Jewish studies and later earned a PhD in neuroscience from UCLA.
Now, as I type this at the airport waiting to board my plane, it is time to head home with one piece of luggage filled with dirty laundry, one piece of luggage filled with conference materials, and a head filled with from fresh ideas and perspectives about K-12 Earth science teachers and teaching. But there is little time to rest, as I have to hit the road at 6AM tomorrow morning to drive to State College for a 1/2 day meeting about… what else… PAESTA!