Friday, November 18, 2016

NSTA 16 Conference Recap

NSTA16 Portland, Oregon
November 10-12, 2016
Conference Recap

As the Math TOSA in our district, I've been included in planning for implementing NGSS. When I heard a national conference was coming to Portland, I figured I should go. I'm so glad I did!

This conference happened at the end of a weird election week and our town filled with protesters each evening. Welcome to Portland! I was able to drive in and out without much trouble, but I heard some horror stories from people from out of town.

I was able to attend lots of great sessions (sometimes more than one in a time slot...). Here are some highlights and links:

Donna Knoell
Consultant from Kansas
I was hoping to get a feeling for the progressions of NGSS at elementary from this session, but the focus was on more general shifts in science education and sharing resources. My favorite quote was "differentiation doesn't mean expect less, but that we expect different." She also emphasized that students what to know why and we need to give them experiences where they can think, talk, write, and DO. Another quote: "our questions can make people think, or NOT."
A bunch of books were recommended for engaging student interest in science (links to Amazon):
Neo Leo and Now and Ben
If: A Mind-bending Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Numbers

Michael DiSpezio (@mdispezio)
Substitute Keynote
We did an observation activity where we turned away from a partner and changed 5 things about our appearance and then had to notice what our partner changed. He then described how NGSS is a change from traditional teaching to students engaged in science and engineering practices, engineering design, and a project based learning approach. He said "this isn't as easy as me telling them what to do." He also shared a free tool: Google Earth Pro.

Lauren Brodsky
Amplify, Laurence Hall of Science
She shared ideas on using embedded assessment during science instruction. A model of evidence-centered design was shared. Questions were posed about feedback: at what grain size? for the individuals or the group? what's the threshold for full class action? is it aligned to student goals? Many of these ideas reminded me of Feedback by Jane Pollack. The best part of this session was the conversation when it ended with a special education teacher from Hawaii and a science teacher from Prineville. We talked about the election and how topics of equity can be addressed.

Karen Ostlund
Activity available for $4.65 on the presenter's web site. This was a fun activity for later in the afternoon. We watched videos (Russia and Weather Channel) of roofs blowing off of buildings and then tested different roofs and designed a solution to keep them on.

STEM in the Primary Classroom
Jen Gutierrez (Arizona Dept. of Education: Phoenix, AZ, @jengutierrez18), Jennifer Thompson (Harborview Elementary School: Juneau, AK, @jenjuneau)

I caught the end of this fun session on STEM in the Primary Classroom. The presenters share the NTSA position statement on science for young children (PDF). They talked about how important it is for science instruction to be based on inquiry, be place-based, and for students to DO the practices. Real experiences are motivating. They shared a link to They outlined Fundamentals of Learning from West Ed: Making Meaning, Collaborating, and Learning Characteristics. Did you know the engineering design process can be used for behavior management, too? They also recommended the Brookes STEM Toolkit as a resource.

Deena Pierott (@deenapierott)
Implicit Bias and Its Effect on Youth of Color
This was a timely session that started with reflections on the election. What are your areas of concern? What gives us hope - what can we influence? Deena founded a program called iUrbanTeen in multiple cities. More info at She talked about unconscious bias: "if you have a brain, you have bias." We need to be able to see racism without the racist and recognize that we all want to be heard. She shared resources for continuing our equity work: and Cracking the Codes included a great video of African American male students sharing their experiences in public schools. We are Human First.

Elementary NGSS 
A group of Oregon Science Leaders led this session. They led us through an activity to create "Comeback Machines." They also described STEM as a rope with multiple strands and needing all the strands to DO the work of solving problems (more at this blog post).  They also shared the NGSS Playbook that we worked on last year:

I was lucky to spot one of our 3rd grade teachers and work with her on the activity. We had lunch together after and shared ideas about how to move science education forward in our district. 

Flavio Mendez
NSTA Resources from NSTA Learning Center
This presenter had ice cream. He shared the different sites that NSTA provides: for Conference and Membership information for PD resources (some free content, more if you are a member) for NGSS resources
He described how we need to think about PD in Tsunami Mode - we need after shocks!
USDOE recommends blended learning for teachers. 

Phillip Bell (@philiplbell) and Shelley Stromholt from UW (you can sign up for email updates)
We analyzed assessments for representing the 3 dimensions of the science standards: Disciplinary Core Ideas, Science and Engineering Practices, and Cross Cutting Concepts. It was a nice activity that allowed good discussion. The also shared some great resources for writing assessments that address the practices. 

Holly Neill, Beaverton
This was another fun end of the day activity. We build straw rockets and launched them in the hall. Lots of opportunity for math connections in this activity. 

Randy Bell, Oregon State University
Scientific Modeling
I made it back early Saturday morning to learn more about scientific modeling. We use the word model in lots of disciplines and contexts. I knew it was different in science, but I needed more clarification. This session helped. 

Scientific Modeling is when STUDENTS create representations to predict or EXPLAIN phenomena.

This is different from pedagogical modeling, which is not a bad thing. It's the difference between recreation and creation of models. Pedagogical models help students learn scientific ideas, but don't allow them to experience the nature of science. We did a Mystery Tube activity that allowed us to create models. 

Ted Willard
We explored the Science and Engineering Practices:
What are the key elements? 
How do they support the Disciplinary Core Ideas? 
How do you make them happen in instruction/?

Goldilocks Unit
Jamerson School
This was a great activity to end the conference. Two teachers from Florida shared their STEM activity connected to Goldilocks and the Three Bears. The described school wide Engineering Expo activities. They shared the "unplugged" resources from at  The "Goldilocks an engineer?" article was published in an NCTM magazine.

This was a great conference for making connections with other teachers and diving deeper into science instruction. If only there had been free wifi... this blog post would have been written sooner.

Update - links from the exhibitors:
Roadtrip Challenge for iPad:
Fisheries Facts:
Minerals Education Coalition:
Rain measuring project:
CornellLab of Ornithology Resources for Educators:
Newton's Laws on Scooters:
The Martian Classroom Edition Teacher's Guide: email
UW Research and Practice Collaboratory: @rpcollaboratory
The Big Eclipse (8/21/17):
NASA Space Place:  @nasaspaceplace
Bright Schools Competition Submissions Due 2/6:
OSTA Conference October 13-14, 2017: #OSTA17
Gizmos and Reflex:
Vernier Thermal Analysis App:
STEM Solutions:
Digiscoping phone holder:

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