Congratuations to Debra Ericksen and Denise Rawding - Recepients of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST)
On June 25, 2018, the White House announced the most recent recipients of the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. This year's teachers represent K-6th grade educators from across the United States. NJSTA President Linda Smith spoke at the celebration as a representative of PAEMST.
The award recognizes those teachers who develop and implement a high-quality instructional program that is informed by content knowledge and enhances student learning. Awardees serve as models for their colleagues, inspiration to their communities, and leaders in the improvement of STEM (including computer science) education.
Debra Ericksen from the Adamsville Primary School in Bridgewater, was the Science honoree from NJ.
Debra Ericksen is in her 10th year as an educator, teaching all subjects of fourth grade at Adamsville Primary School for the past five years. She has experience teaching gifted and talented students, English language learners, and special education students within a co-teaching classroom.
Debra is passionate about providing students with opportunities to learn science through interdisciplinary instruction, and has been recognized for her accomplishments through the National Science Teachers Association’s Sylvia Shugrue Award. She is a 2012 graduate of the Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy. As a school science coordinator, she has chaired science fairs and partnered with local scientists and engineers to work with students. She is a member of the New Jersey Next Generation Science Standards’ Teacher Leader Cohort, and facilitates science workshops for her district and at New Jersey Science Conventions.
Debra’s classroom is a collaborative community of learners who embrace discovery, and persevere through problem solving. She has received several grants providing technology and literacy resources to support student learning.
Debra earned a B.A. in political science from Susquehanna University and a M.B.A. in human resources from Fairleigh Dickinson University. She is certified in elementary education, middle school English language arts, and middle school social studies.
The NJ honoree in Mathematics was Denise Rawding from Newark Public Schools
NJSTA Retiring President, Scott Goldthorp was elected to the NSTA Council as DIstrict IV Director, serving NJ, NY and PA.
District Directors are elected for a three-year term of office. District Directors must be NSTA members and reside and/or work in the district which they represent. Only NSTA members residing in districts for which directors are running for election may vote for their district’s director. See Operating Policies “Council” for the election cycle. Specific duties, obligations, and ways in which the Director can be helpful:
New NSTA Board and Council Members Elected
Congratulations to all the newly elected NSTA Board and Council members for 2018 who will take office beginning June 1. Dennis Schatz, senior advisor with the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Washington, will join the presidential chain this summer alongside 2017–18 President David Crowther and 2018–19 President Christine Royce.
Applying the Versatility of Chem Lab Reactions to Generate Understanding through Evidence
From the article "Modeling Periodic Patterns" in The Science Teacher, NSTA September 2017
Perhaps we might regard chemical experiments being taught in high school from a different perspective … one of a thinking process over a proof. Though redox and electronegativity are among many examples of concepts that must be learned and tested for, what makes them believable? Chemical reactions commonly used in high school potentially offer broader opportunities for the NGSS Teacher to engage students in learning to work the evidence. While it is always faster and easier (for a teacher) to simply give working definitions and draw models, processing given experiments for different purposes is far more memorable and open to valuable, formative discussion. This is what Ms. Dusty Carroll of Seneca High School is doing.
Ms. Carroll successfully used concepts in common reactions to provoke evidence rather than simply show a predictable response. Her high school classes were asked to draw on the evidence for thinking how two simple concepts - electron affinity and ionization energy - work. The NGSS approach to understanding changes occurring during a chemical reaction needed a working phenomenon for this – namely, the snatching of electrons from weaker atomic structures. While this paradigm is universally intriguing to humans, it is also evidential. Metals with acids and halogen/halide reactions provide the means to demonstrate the evidence desirable in showing comparative atomic structure functions and properties. For Dusty, it was another way to use chemistry to strengthen her students’ confidence in doing science as well as their reasoning abilities.
We have all found it difficult at times to generate a “wow” factor during lab work; but when Dusty’s students were asked to think through a reaction on their own based on evidence seen, she found that students were more pleased with their success since something they had considered difficult to understand was actually possible to show.
When asked what drew her to write an article on this topic, she modestly replied she wanted to share her ideas; but also wanted others to understand that she continues to tweak labs for deeper purposes and approaches within the NGSS. But isn’t that exactly what science is all about?
I asked if she considered any Real World applications in teaching her Property Reaction topics. She replied that perhaps the broader considerations of how materials work together should be considered, especially within the area of materials science. She advocates working with the students in seeing “patterns” with properties and posing questions. She asks her students to look for the “why” aspect. When there is no prior knowledge to use, patterns are very useful.
When I asked what motivated her students, she was quick to indicate that color really draws in the students when working with chemical reactions. Just like with elementary children, bubbles, color, temperature and other changes focus the interest. She also uses catchy phrases like “stealing an electron”; but later substitutes more appropriate worded phrases and definitions. Nevertheless, the metaphors certainly assist the visualization! Accurate communication is something she insists on, and notebooks are kept with drawings encouraged. Even though mistakes are made due to lack of experience (judging color, time of reaction, degree of change), these are qualitative errors that correct themselves over time. Students are not yet coming to high school with solid understandings of properties and equations.
As for assessing these developing skills in her students, she goes for the “storyline” approach that Mike Heinz introduced during one of his assessment seminars - reasoning being emphasized by evidence.
Dusty is delighted to share her ideas and has with her high school peers. She likes the Peer Review process and uses the feedback. As an active member of NJSTA, we hope to find more articles in NSTA’s The Science Teacher by her as she harnesses more of the NGSS approach.
Dusty Carroll can be reached at Seneca High School, Tabernacle, NJ or at
Submitted by Linda Burroughs, NJSTA Vice-President
The Great Impromptu Tomato Escapade
A Sixth Grade Garden Adventure
It was a dark and stormy night … or it might as well have been as far as the experimental tomatoes were concerned in Ms. Julie Ogden’s class garden. Normally tomatoes in New Jersey have a great reputation – huge, red and flavorful. Not this time. The weather at the end of this summer and into the fall was very different this year. Was this part of the great Climate Change everyone is talking about, or simply part of normal seasonal fluctuation? In any event, a very concerned class of students noticed that something very unexpected. NONE of their tomatoes ripened! There wasn’t a red Beefsteak, plum or cherry tomato to be seen. Why had this happened? They had tilled the soil, feed the plants, watered them when needed – and there were bunches of tomatoes growing everywhere – but all were GREEN. None were red and ripened. This was an NGSS Phenomenon worthy of scientific investigation – and that is exactly what her class set out to do.
Julie Ogden reports: Our garden was growing tons of tomatoes; but they stayed green throughout the beautiful fall weather. The students were challenged to research why this was happening. They discovered that the cool end of August and the fall temperatures under 75 degrees, while stopping the tomatoes from ripening, had nevertheless allowed for their growth. Another unusual seasonal event - a frost over the 4 day weekend – offered another opportunity. Once the students understood that a frost would cause the tomatoes to burst, they wanted to find a way to save them. They decided to harvest them and find a way to use them. This crossed over into our Social Studies class as we researched early colonist survival and how so much valuable food would never have been wasted. We harvested a little over 42 pounds of green tomatoes (Beefsteak, cherry, and plum). The students took home many of them and sent back recipes for pickles, salsa, jams, soup, and breads. We couldn't taste everything because of allergies; but many of the dishes looked delicious.
The students researched ways to ripen the tomatoes. They came up with (1) pulling out the whole plant and hanging it upside down. (Hence the dirt and leaves from the garden to my classroom), (2) placing the tomatoes on a sunny window sill, (3) placing them in a brown bag with a banana or apple. The brown bag method did not work very well. Data were collected, but results were mixed. Hanging the whole plant was a close tie to the windowsill method; but the whole plant ripened a little better. Taste testing was then scheduled.
The Taste Test was a surprise. Although the tomatoes from the window sill and whole plant looked good, the kids said they had no flavor. The winner was the tomato in the bag with the apple. Recipes for cooking tomato soup and pickled cherry tomatoes, however, worked very well with green tomatoes. Recipes upon request!
Several Real World scenarios emerged from this study; weather impact, crop abundance, changing the science plan and modifying crop yields. These young farmers created a happy ending in the long run.
Using Technology in Designing a Hawk Migration Curriculum: A Young Teacher’s Journey
Kirsten Fuller’s interest in birds began while being homeschooled. Her mother was interested in birds and the natural world, so she designed Kirsten’s curriculum around environmental science and ecology. Both participated in the Cornell University Citizen Scientist Project called “FeederWatch”, which required the identification of birds that visited their home birdfeeder for Cornell’s data base. This interest continued with an ornithology course at Rowan University, and introduced Kirsten to employment opportunities in the field of ornithology. After graduating, her first internship was with New Jersey Audubon at the Cape May Bird Observatory (http://www.njaudubon.org) where she educated children and adults about birds. This internship was followed up at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary (www.hawkmountain.org), in Kempton, Pennsylvania. In this position, she designed an educational curriculum that highlighted scientific data collected on Broad-winged Hawks; and ultimately solidified her passion for birds of prey. What would be more satisfying, however, was participation in a real scientific study. This opportunity would become available with an organization called The Peregrine Fund (www.peregrinefund.org).
During her internship at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, her studies focused on a species of hawk called the Broad-winged Hawk. These birds are local residents of eastern deciduous forests during their breeding period, and are known for spending the rest of the year undertaking a 10,000-mile migration to South America (See picture). This made them an ideal subject for a multi-dimensional study curriculum. Scientists at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary researched the specific movements of these birds by attaching tracking devices to the backs of thirteen birds (See picture). Currently, the research activity focuses primarily on the ecology of the hawk during its migration. Google Earth Pro is used to analyze this scientific data by helping plot where the migrating birds are found during these months. Kirsten went on to use the data collected by these tracking devices to create a STEM curriculum for high school students.
Though curriculum is primarily science-based, it has the potential for extensions into other STEM areas as physics, math, and engineering. Extension activities using physics and engineering practices were developed with her supervising professor at Rowan University, Dr. Issam Abi-El-Mona. One extension includes using engineering practices to design model airplanes, mimicking the wing design of different species of birds. For example, an airplane designed with long, wide wings for soaring, like a Broad-winged Hawk would be tested against an airplane designed with pointed wings for diving at fast speeds, like a peregrine falcon. Besides understanding the physics of Bernoulli’s Principle, students would need to collect mathematical data as evidence of their interpretation of the Structure & Function [NGSS Cross Cutting Concept] of a bird’s wing. Kirsten has aligned the curriculum with the Next Generation Science Standards to make it easier for teachers to implement in their classrooms. In fact, she plans to pilot this curriculum in her own student teaching this fall.
As Kirsten gained experience with researching birds, she quickly realized that in order for her to teach this science, she would benefit from even more experience. An opportunity arose for her to work for The Peregrine Fund, an organization that conducts avian conservation studies worldwide. Her project focused on an endangered species called the Puerto Rican Sharp-shinned Hawk in the central mountain region in Puerto Rico, and so that is where she went this summer. This was a much different experience than her previous internships because it involved professional field research. Within this project, she acquired many new science skills and conducted actual nest observations of this species throughout their breeding cycle in Puerto Rico. An adventure she will always remember, Kirsten plans a future that will include attending graduate school so she may continue her interest in ornithology.
By Linda Burroughs
Vice President / Central Region NJSTA
Science Education Specialist
Kirsten Fuller is 24 and a 2015 graduate of Rowan University with a BS in Biology and a BA in secondary education this December 2017. Since 2015, she has been employed by several conservation organizations, notably the New Jersey Audubon, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, and the Peregrine Fund. This fall she is student teaching at Atlantic City High School to complete her teaching certificate.
She can be reached at Kirstenafuller@gmail.com for more information on her Broad-winged Hawk curriculum for interested teachers. She is also available to speak to a class in person. Check out www.hawkmountain.org, www.njaudubon.org, and www.peregrinefund.org for more information about the organizations where she interned. See also http://www.birds.cornell.edu/citscitoolkit/projects/clo/PFW for FeederWatch.
This summer, workshops were offered to science, technology and social studies teachers from grades 5-12 to pilot this new Data Literacy Series. As a professional development program, it focuses on (1) the essential aspects of data literacy and (2) what trips up our students when they look at data. The first segment entailed exploring the different kinds of data, where to find data, and data visualizations. The second segment dove further into data variability. In communicating science, it is necessary for students to know the language of data variation, how to find patterns and how to speak to the confidence shown in these patterns. The third segment was spent exploring how to help students understand what they can and cannot say from data, and how best to accurately communicate results this way.
Using hands-on activities, interactive presentations and small group discussions, each of the key parts of data literacy was experienced by the teacher “students” so they could learn tips and tricks for helping their own students gain these skills. Each workshop reviewed multiple strategies for bringing data skills into the classroom, and culminated in a dedicated time to think about how to apply something from their current teaching into the data topics.
Teaching effectively with data in our current educational system is imperative for two reasons. First, we are surrounded by an ever-growing amount of data in our society being used to support ideas as well as build knowledge. In order to prepare our students for a wider range of career paths, they need a strong foundation in Data literacy in addition to Numeracy and traditional literacy. Secondly, working with Data as Evidence is a foundational component of 21st century science. Thus, if we are going to truly integrate science practices into our NGSS instruction, students and teachers both need the best possible sense and understanding of what makes data viable.
To learn more about the series, and see some of the materials, check out: https://tinyurl.com/dataliteracyseries. The next round of Data Literacy Series will be held on Wednesday evenings (5:30-8:30pm) at the Rutgers University, NJ from October 2017-January 2018.
Access the Dataspire blog to find more resources for integrating data into your teaching:
Four Dataspire workshops will be offered at the upcoming New Jersey Science Convention so that more teachers can dive into the power of understanding data. She hopes to see you there!
By Linda Burroughs
Vice President / Central Region NJSTA
Science Education Specialist
Happily, she followed up on my observation with an article that she and her collaborators produced in the Feb’17 issue of the NSTA journal Science Scope entitled From Fish Tank to Fuel Tank. Congratulations to Eileen Antonison and her students on successfully developing a STEM design to produce a biofuel from common algae that could replace the more expensive application of corn or soy plants as we do now.
Ms. Antonison is a STEM teacher at the Franklin Avenue Middle School in Franklin Lakes, NJ and an NJSTA Simmons Scholar. Though the generosity of grants and collaboration with two other teachers in the fields of technology and science, her students successfully transformed a common photosynthesis lab into a proper NGSS research investigation.
Among other STEM skills employed, the apps for Google Sketch-up, Python and Raspberry Pi helped the students design the growth chambers for the algae. Real World laboratory conditions with Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, a Biosafety One organism, were utilized to regulate growth parameters, arguing further testing from data and generating many group discussion sessions. As often happens with science investigations, an “accident” resulted in an unanticipated outcome when two different fertilizers were inadvertently purchased. These micro-nutrients were tested individually anyway, and then mixed with no expectations of a difference. However, the results showed that they worked best if used together!
Read more about their foray into this exciting research in their article. Hopefully, while we are asking our students to communicate better through the NGSS experience, more teachers will seriously consider writing up their classroom experiences for publication!
From Fish Tank to Fuel Tank is available for download from the NSTA site.
By Linda Burroughs
Vice President / Central Region NJSTA
Science Education Specialist