Supporting Excellent Science Teaching for Georgia

Promoting Equity STEM
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 March 2017 Promoting Equity in STEM

In This Issue
· Inclusive STEM Classrooms
· Women in STEM
· Engineering Wind Spinners

· Achieving Rigor & Equity Through Phenomena

· Making Classrooms Mirror the Real World
· Kuhn Named AP Biology Awardee
· 3D Learning Tools
· GSTA Recommends
· General
· Elementary
· Middle/High
Sponsored by:
Quick Links
GA Performance Stds
CCGPS Literacy Stds
Science GSE
A Framework for K-12 Science Education
3D Learning Tools
GSE Phenomena Bank

The word phenomenon actually never appears in the Science GSE, but grounding lessons and units in real-world phenomena is absolutely essential to 3D learning. The value of building from these authentic experiences is self-evident and most teachers are eager to get started with phenomena-based learning. We have often heard teachers, though, ask good phenomena to select from and model after. So, GSTA is proud to announce that we are working to meet that need.  GSTA's Science GSE Phenomena Bank offers a visual, searchable database of productive classroom phenomena that can used to anchor lessons and units under the new standards. Teachers can search by course, standard, element, or keyword.
GSTA Recommends


Education for the Information Age is an understatement for Edinformatics. Any K-12 teacher, student or parent can find something of educational value within a few clicks of visiting this resourceful website! Databases, testing resources, and NGSS activities are just a few of the notable jewels waiting to be discovered. Do you teach middle school? Take the Edinformatics Challenge. Edinformatics has designed a two-part end-of-year 8th-grade science test that accesses both "Knowledge and Concepts" (Part I), and "Reasoning and Analysis Skills" (part II). Most of the science material used for the test is consistent with current intermediate school textbooks. Several questions require more rigorous mathematics that is contained within the newly initiated Common Core Standards and the NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards).

    Sponsored by:
    GSTA/NSTA News
    Safer STEM Labs

    - via NSTA Blog

    NSTA's safety consultant Kenneth Roy outlines some key safety concerns that arise when we expand from science labs to STEM labs. Read the full blog here.
    President's Budget Proposal Would Cut Federal Education Support

    NSTA's latest legislative update outlines how President Trump's initial budget proposal would affect education spending. Read more here.
    NSTA Becomes Official Partner for April 22nd March for Science

    NSTA Executive Director David Evans announced last week that the group was signing on as an official partner in the March for Science, to be held Saturday, April 22nd, in Washington, D.C. The goal of the March is to "gain visibility for the critical role science plays in our lives and the need to respect the openness, transparency, and the free flow of ideas inherent in the sciences." You can read more about the event and NSTA's involvement here. In addition to the D.C. march, more than 400 satellite marches are planned around the country. This includes six marches planned for Georgia.
    Notes From the Editors

    Share Your Great Ideas! Write for eObservations

    Do you have a great lesson or idea to share with your colleagues? Help us make eObservations a valuable professional resource and gain recognition for your great work with students by submitting an article for publication. Each month, we feature articles of ~500-750 words that fit into one of the three series described below. In addition we invite classroom-oriented education research, or K-12 student scientific research. Articles should include 1-2 supporting images and one or more links to additional information or supporting files. Articles can be submitted to

    Building Toward the GSE

    This series is intended to build teachers' capacity for the new Science Georgia Standards of Excellence and to increase their understanding of the Framework for K-12 Science Education by highlighting model classroom lessons that support students in three-dimensional science learning. Articles should describe lessons that challenge students to integrate core ides, science & engineering practices, and crosscutting concepts to explain phenomena or solve problems.

    Connecting Research & Best Practice

    This series is intended to help teachers incorporate research-based best practices into their science and STEM classrooms. Articles should focus on curriculum, instructional, or assessment approaches that are demonstrated to support science learning within the context of Georgia's student assessment and teacher evaluation systems. Each article should provide relevant background information and practical guidance for classroom implementation.

    Speaking Up for Science Education
    This series offers a space for GSTA members to share their perspectives on key issues facing science education in our state and nation. We seek articles that inform and support members in acting as leaders and advocates for science education on the local, state, and national levels.
    Have Something to Share with GSTA Members?

    GSTA seeks to share announcements, information, and resources from not-for-profit or government-sponsored programs at no cost. We also offer paid advertising options for commercial interests that align with GSTA's goals. Please visit GSTA's Newsletter Information for details.

    Sponsored by:
    Connecting Research & Best Practice

    How Inclusive is STEM in Your Classroom?

    - Brian Butler, President

    STEM, Diversity, differentiated instruction, meeting the needs of all learners…  All of these words or phrases are probably uttered in your building on a regular basis.  As educators, we all strive to give our students what they need to be successful, and the fact that you are reading this demonstrates your commitment to being a life-long learner and to improving your craft.  But, is what we are doing giving us the best bang in encouraging our students to pursue STEM and STEM careers?

    According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, STEM jobs are set to increase by 17% between 2014 and 2024—the fastest growing sector, and by most predictions many of these jobs will be filled by white or Asian males.  According to the National Science Foundation, presently 84% of STEM positions in the US are held by white or Asian males, but it isn’t that way everywhere.  The Wharton School of Business found that 40% of new engineers in China are female and 58% in the former USSR.

    No big surprise there—we know girls don’t pursue STEM in equal numbers as boys, but why?  Well, there are many theories, but I invite you to consider longstanding stereotypes and their inclusion in media depictions.  The Big Bang Theory has been a hit for a decade now (yup—it really has been ten years) and the primary characters are 3 white males and an Asian male who are scientists and one woman—one who just cannot get science at all.  (True Mayim Bialick has been a mainstay and other women scientists have been involved over the years, but Penny remains the star and the stereotypical unable-to-get-science girl).  Think about most of the shows and movies you have seen and consider the STEM roles.  How many of them are female or non-white or Asian?  I am not blaming the media here, but the point is that girls and other underrepresented groups just don’t get equal time to see themselves in STEM roles and that is an issue.  I invite you to learn more about this issue through our friends at STEM Georgia.

    I get it, but what does it mean for me as a Georgia educator?  It means that you should consider equity and diversity in STEM when planning your lessons and seeking opportunities for your students to have positive STEM experiences.  You probably have students who truly believe that their success in STEM is due to genetics and that no amount of effort or experience can change that.  You have to provide them a chance to challenge that preconceived notion.  

    How do I do that?  Consider your approach.  Opportunities for collaborative groups vs. competitive groups, ensuring all students get to be a project leader, and incorporating varied activities into your instruction are just a few of the options.  A great list for educators at different levels is provided by the University of Nevada-Reno.  STEM Georgia has an excellent list of things you should also check out. 

    There are many great opportunities right here in Georgia that you can use to encourage your students to participate in STEM.  STEM Georgia comes through again.  Check out all of their great opportunities here.

    Sponsored by:
    Building Toward the GSE

    Encouraging Women in STEM

    - Dr. Katie Brkich, District 8 Director

    As March is Women’s History Month, I thought it would be a great time to share some of the new research and fantastic free resources out there for teachers and students on women in STEM fields.

    It’s no secret there is a problem nationally and internationally with getting and keeping women in STEM fields, but a recent survey commissioned by Microsoft found that young girls in Europe become captivated by these fields around age 11.5 and then quickly lose interest around age 15. “This means that governments, teachers, and parents only have four to five years to nurture girls’ passion before they turn their backs on these areas, potentially for good,” Microsoft said. Interestingly, the report, which surveyed 11,500 girls and women age 11-30 across 12 European countries, also found that girls’ interest in the humanities drops around the same age, but then rebounds sharply. Interest in STEM did not rebound or recover!

    The key reason given for why they didn’t pursue a career in STEM-related fields was lack of a female role model. Other problems noted were lack of enough practical, hands-on experience with STEM subjects in school, leading to just 42% saying they would consider a STEM career in the future, whereas 60% said they would feel more confident pursuing a career in STEM fields if they knew men and women were equally employed in those professions. Teachers also play an important role in this process, as more than half (57%) of the young women said that having a teacher who encouraged them to pursue STEM would make them more likely to follow that career path. 

    To support this work, a number of companies and groups have created websites to help girls and women get information about STEM-careers, and many focus on providing role models. In the US, Microsoft has DigiGirlz – which allows a look inside working at the company and also aims to build girls’ digital skills through training and mentoring sessions. They have also released Codess – which aims to inspire female coders through similar opportunities (networking, mentoring, advice). Further, they last year launched the #MakeWhatsNext campaign, which is also aimed at introducing girls to role models and providing hands-on experiences with the latest technology for “Girlz in Tech Europe”. 

    But, wait – there’s more! To celebrate International Women’s Day, NASA and Google Expeditions released a series of virtual field trips highlighting the careers of seven women and their contributions to America’s space program. The tours are part of the fantastic new Modern Figures program, which builds on the popularity of the book “Hidden Figures” by Margot Lee Shetterly and the recent movie from 20th Century Fox by the same title. This program provides teachers with a NASA Modern Figures Toolkit, which is a collection of resources and educational activities for students in grades K-12, related (some very loosely) to Katherine Johnson and her fellow “Human Computers”, who are the focus of the book and film. This resource would integrate nicely with an ELA unit in which students read the Young Reader’s Edition of the book, for ages 8-12, and then would do STEM activities which aligned with their reading. . 

      Building Toward the GSE

      Engineering Wind Spinners Using the 5E Model

      - Ronnie Thomas, District 4 Director
      Sponsored by: 

      Earth’s natural resources are depleting, and our over consumption is causing irreversible effects. Scientists speculate that global warming and population increases will put significant strain on future citizens. Will states and countries around the world be able to maintain the production of energy to meet the demand? How is our state thinking forward to ensure that Georgians have access to equal options and affordable energy opportunities? Will future residents struggle to share resources with each other and other living things/communities? 

      What will Georgia do to ensure affordable energy options for the future? According to the 2016 Georgia Energy Report the state has continued on a path of significant growth and change in the energy sector. While energy production has surged in the U.S. and the prices of oil and natural gas have dropped, Georgia has significantly increased its energy efficiency and grown its renewable resources. Renewable energy is taking off in Georgia! Georgia is at the forefront of solar growth in the U.S., ranking eighth in solar installations in 2015, up from 16th in 2014. THE GEORGIA LEGISLATURE PASSED HB 57 — THE SOLAR POWER FREE-MARKET FINANCING ACT OF 2015 — THAT OPENS UP THE STATE TO SOLAR LEASING AND POWER-PURCHASE AGREEMENTS (PPAS), WHICH HELPS HOMEOWNERS ACCESS SOLAR POWER. 

      It isn’t only solar energy taking hold in Georgia, but wind energy has also made an impact. While not traditionally seen as a wind power state, there has been recent movement to incorporate wind power into Georgia’s generation mix and to evaluate future options. Based on average turbine heights and typically low wind speeds, Georgia does not have a significant amount of potential for wind with current technology. However, it is possible to bring in wind energy via the transmission network from windy areas of the Midwest and Great Plains. 

      Students at Atlanta International School demonstrated three dimensional learning by infusing literature, engineering design, and science to create a unique structure that spins in the wind--then experiment with its rotation using the Science Journal App. The motivation for the lesson came from the central idea that people and animals build a variety of structures to meet their needs. Students gained empathy from reading The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind where the main character sought to build a water pump that would address the fatal drought in his community. This lesson was adapted from the Google Making & Science platform.  Read below for the 5E lesson outline.

      Sponsored by:
      Building Toward the GSE

      Achieving Rigor & Equity Through Phenomena

      - Dr. Jeremy Peacock. Executive Director

      The Framework for K-12 Science Education, and by extension the Science GSE, set out two competing goals for science teachers. While increasing rigor by demanding deeper, more meaningful learning, our new standards also call for all students to develop the knowledge and critical thinking skills needed to understand and apply science in the real world. While these goals are sometimes seen as being mutually exclusive, I believe we can achieve both through effective implementation of the three-dimensional approach to science learning that is embedded in the Science GSE.  The foundation for that 3D learning and the bridge between rigor and equity lies in authentic phenomena.

      Our new standards require students to develop scientific understanding as they engage in making sense of real-world phenomena or designing solutions to authentic problems. These phenomena and problems give context and meaning to student learning and, when carefully selected, can help us ensure that all students have access to meaningful 3D science learning. So as the quote featured above states, “Engagement is a crucial access and equity issue,” and we can support student engagement by “selecting phenomena that students find interesting, relevant, and consequential.” Selecting phenomena that students care about and that connect to students’ prior experiences can be an important first step toward valuing and capitalizing on students’ diverse backgrounds and sense-making strategies. This, like many things in teaching, can be easier said than done but is ultimately worth the effort.

      I have had the experience of planning an elaborate project-based learning unit around a phenomenon--the fact that our local utility purchased energy from a nuclear power plant--in which I assumed students would share my interest and curiosity. My unveiling of that phenomenon, and ultimately the whole project, fell flat, because it did not connect to meaningful aspects of my students’ lives. I needed to do a better job getting to know my students and building on their experiences and interests. In contrast, my students were fully engaged when we conducted a case study on the potential links between cell phone usage and brain tumor development.

      So, as we seek engaging classroom phenomena, we need to ask ourselves, “What makes this phenomenon culturally relevant or connected to my students’ lives?”  This is one of eight questions posed in T.J. McKenna’s Heuristic for Coming up with Academically Productive Phenomena. All eight questions are important to keep in mind as we brainstorm new phenomena or select them from a source like GSTA’s new Science GSE Phenomena Bank. We will have to constantly remind ourselves selecting good phenomena is critical to reaching all students and that the phenomena have to be interesting to our students and not only to us.

      Selecting quality phenomena is a crucial step in planning science and STEM learning, but it’s not the only step.  The following collection of STEM Teaching Tools provides a broader perspective on how we can strive toward equity within science and STEM education.

      Connecting Research & Best Practice

      Making Classrooms Mirror the Real World

      - Dr. Donald White, President Elect
      (Editors' Note: This article first appeared on

       Sponsored by:

      The results of the 2015 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), showed the United States ranking 25th for science, making our performance, as CNN put it, “middling.”

      At least part of the problem lies with educators asking students to work with just paper and pencil in lieu of more engaging technology, which leads to students not perceiving the connection between their studies and what they consider the real world. That, in turn, causes what can be called “missing engagement.”

      This year the Coweta County School System took a big step to address that disconnect by introducing a 1:1 Chromebook program, moving towards a 100 percent digital curriculum, and enlisting a select group of science teachers to be “science ambassadors” who are evaluating several new technology products to see which can help us move from worksheet-driven classrooms to hands-on, inquiry-based classrooms in compliance with Georgia’s pending new science standards.

      In addition, we recently had the opportunity to expand our field tests of one of these products when our vendor partner, PowerUp EDU, contacted us about participating in a multi-state and country science experiment as part of Boxlight STEM Day.

      In this December 9 event, students from schools in Arizona, New Mexico, Florida as well as Mexico and Guatemala simultaneously used the wireless Labdisc portable STEM lab from Boxlight (which we had been piloting) to study the relationship between temperature and humidity in several locations around our East Coweta High School campus. The event paired perfectly with the AP Environmental Science classroom of Regina Ahman, a science teacher at East Coweta High. Regina also included students from her Zoology class so we could get feedback on the device and the event from students of different grade levels and science classes.

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      Building Toward the GSE

      Achieving Rigor & Equity Through Phenomena

      - via NABT News & Views

      By all accounts, Bob Kuhn used to be a really good AP Biology teacher. His students learned the material and did well on the exam. But every year Bob “looked across the curriculum as if it was a vast ocean, sometimes unsure how we would get to the other side.“ Bob wanted his students to get more from the course, so when the redesigned AP Biology Curriculum was released in 2011 Bob completely redesigned how he taught the course. And he invited his colleagues to follow his progress as he shared ideas, successes, and failures.

      Bob’s engagement with the AP Biology Community, both as a teacher and as a facilitator, is one of the main reasons Bob was named the recipient of the 2016 Kim Foglia AP Biology Service Award . This award is sponsored by NABT, Pearson, and the Neil Campbell Educational Trust and celebrates the commitment to community that is the legacy of Kim Foglia.

      Bob started teaching soon after he graduated with a B.S. in Geology and a M.S. in Paleontology from the University of Georgia and after a brief stint at the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. He started at Centennial High School in Roswell, Georgia almost 20 years ago and hasn’t looked back. He currently teaches honors biology to 9th graders and AP biology to upperclassmen and serves as a leader in school, community and district.

      What changed for Bob five years ago is that Bob changed. He had two goals: change the learning structure and the physical learning environment. He explored ways to encourage deeper understanding of biology for his students. He attended the BSCS/NABT AP Biology Leadership Academy and other professional development workshops. As he dove into revamping his curriculum he also worked to create a more collaborative environment for his students. He adopted standards based learning (SBL) strategies. He redesigned his classroom by starting a crowdsourcing campaign to buy nine rolling tables so his students could more easily work in groups.

      His students aren’t the only ones who have benefitted as Bob transformed his classroom. Teaching AP Biology can be a lonely proposition, especially if you are the sole AP teacher in your school or district. So when Bob started changing his course he made it easy for other biology teachers to follow along. If you teach AP Biology you probably know Bob even if you have never met him. He is a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, has become a frequent presenter at NABT, NSTA, and GSTA conferences, serves as an HHMI BioInteractive Ambassador, is a reader for the AP Biology exam, was a contributor to the popular podcast Horizontal Transfer, and frequently posts to – and moderates – the College Board’s AP Biology Online Community.

      A few years ago, Bob Kuhn was a really good teacher. Today he is an excellent one! And we are all better because of it. Congratulations again to Bob Kuhn for receiving the Kim Foglia AP Biology Service Award. 

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      Science on My Mind - 2018 NSTA National Conference is Coming to Atlanta, March 15-18

      Save the Date
      NSTA's 2018 National Conference will be in Atlanta, March 15-18. The conference is being planned collaboratively by NSTA and a local planning committee with strong GSTA representation. The result will be a combination of nationally prominent presenters, thousands of science teachers from across the country, and programming that is directly relevant to Georgia science teachers. The conference theme will be Science on My Mind, and the meeting will feature the following strands.
      • Focusing On Evidence of 3D Learning
      • Imagining Science as the Foundation for STEM
      • Reflecting On Access for All Students
      • Comprehending the Role of Literacy in Science
      Mark these dates on your calendar and begin talking to your school or district about the value of this incredible professional learning opportunity. If you have never attended an NSTA conference, you can learn more here.

      Submit a Session Proposal
      Besides being an excellent professional learning opportunity, the NSTA conference will offer a national stage for the great things you are doing in your classroom. What better way to demonstrate teacher leadership than to present to colleagues from all over the nation? NSTA is accepting proposals for teacher sessions now through April 17, 2017. Click here for more information and to submit proposals. Email Linda Crossley with any questions.
      Sponsored by:
      Computer Science at the STEM Think Tank & Conference

      Do you teacher computer science or want to integrate coding into your STEM course? Are you worried about what works for girls?  Join the Center for STEM Education for Girls for this year's computer science area of focus at the STEM Think Tank and Conference. The conference will feature sessions for everyone from the noivce to the expert. The conference will be held at Harpeth Hall School in Nashville, TN. Read more and register here.

      Noise Pollution

      Teach K–5 students about noise pollution and how to protect their hearing and health with this activity book from the EPA. Featuring facts, diagrams, photographs, word games, puzzles, and more, the book helps students understand how we hear, how sound is measured, and how to identify which sounds can harm your hearing. In addition, the book provides suggestions for students to protect against hearing loss.

      Wild Music

      Expanding the study of sound beyond human experiences to other animals’ uses of sounds encompasses the interdisciplinary work of scientists in the emerging field of BioMusic. In BioMusic, scientists study the sounds created by living organisms with particular emphasis on patterns, pitch, and rhythm, as well as the use of sound for both aesthetics and communication. At this website, K–12 educators can access a teacher’s guide and other resources to explore this new field in the classroom. To begin, students can take a virtual tour of a traveling museum exhibition, Wild Music, which examines the biological origins of music. The exploration continues with various activities from the teacher’s guide, as students learn to listen to “silence” (grades K–12), create a sound map (grades 5–8), represent sounds with our senses (grades K–12), and reflect on Wild Music (grades 7–12).

      Picture-Perfect STEM

      The popular Picture-Perfect Science series by Emily Morgan and Karen Ansberry is expanding this month with new STEM-focused lessons in Picture-Perfect STEM Lessons, K–2: Using Children's Books to Inspire STEM Learning. Lessons cover key STEM topics such as force and motion, pollinators, engineering design, and habitats. Download the lesson "Robots Everywhere" for a fun lesson about robots and how they're designed and programmed to perform tasks. Students will explore different types of robots and then take on the role of young roboticists to design their very own robots to solve a human problem or meet a need in their home or classroom. Also watch for Picture-Perfect STEM Lessons, 3–5, coming in May!

      STEM in 30: WWII and Tuskegee Airmen

      STEM in 30, from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, is an interactive classroom program consisting of 30-minute live webcasts that engage middle school students in STEM topics ranging from WWI airplanes to rovers on Mars. Chat with experts, submit your questions to be answered live, take a poll, discover related content, and participate in follow-up activities. All episodes are als archived for later viewing online. This episode, WWII and Tuskegee Arimen, from February explores the first African American pilots in the United States Armed Forces and how World War II changed aviation history.
      STEM Programs at GTRI

      The Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) is making STEM a top priority by utilizing creative ways to get more students interested in STEM fields.  They have especially focused efforts on reaching minorities and underserved students at all levels. Earsketch uses Computer Science Principles to teach coding in Python and JavaScript, through music composition.  It is web-based, requires no installation and no membership.    The Direct-to-Discovery program at Georgia Tech brings STEM straight to the K-12 classroom, empowering both teachers and students.  Direct-to-Discovery is an eCommunity teaching and learning environment.

      Using LOOPY To Build and Test Models

      LOOPY is a free online feedback model building website created by Nicky Case. The site allows anyone to build models with positive and negative outcomes and test the model through a play button that simulates the model. LOOPY is open source and public domain. Programmers can alter the source code to improve on the program. 

      In biology this is nice for enzyme pathways, systems feedback loops and hormone production. In ecology you can build models of energy transfer, trophic cascades and biogeochemical cycles. In chemistry, models of thermodynamics or chemical reactions can be modeled. In physics almost any system can be modeled and tested. 

      The LOOPY models can be shared between students and “remixed” with new ideas. For example, one student could build a simple model and other groups could test and modify it. Alternatively, a student could begin a complex model and as it is passed among students, they could add more nodes to the model, testing it for correctness as they go. 

      Here is a quick example for fruit ripening

      Science 2.0: Help Students Become Global Collaborators

      - via NSTA Blog

      Ben Smith and Jared Mader continue their series focused on the International Society for Technology in Education standards with a look at global collaboration. View video and read the full blog here.
      eCYBERMISSION Mini-Grant

      Applications Now Open
      The eCYBERMISSION Mini-Grant is intended to support teachers/program leaders as they implement eCYBERMISSION with their teams. Educators (formal and informal) of students in grades 6-9 are encouraged to apply. Special consideration is given to Title 1 schools and to those with underserved/ under-represented populations.

      Mini-Grant applications must be received by Wednesday, October 11, 2017.

      Florida Regional AP Biology Teacher Academy Offered in June

      The NABT / BSCS AP Biology Teacher Academy is an expansion of the popular BSCS / NABT AP Biology Leadership Academy, a program that develops and supports a new generation of leaders in biology education who truly understand the AP Biology Curriculum Framework. Courses are open to all educators, not just those teaching AP. The Florida Academy will be held June 25-30 at Saint Stephen's Episcopal School in
      Bradenton, FL. Read more and register here.


      eObservations Co-editors: Dr. Amy Peacock and Dr. Jeremy Peacock
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