Instead of spending my spring break lounging on the beach drinking mimosas, I decided to head to Atlanta, Georgia for the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) National Conference! I mingled with thousands of other educators across the country all passionate about teaching science. As a first-time attendee, here are my takeaways from NSTA including a list of my top 6 STEM resource finds!
NSTA is Overwhelming
With a gigantic hall of exhibits and hundreds of sessions to attend, the sheer volume of information is intimidating. Selecting which session to attend each hour was a daunting task, and I tried to pick based on topic and background of the speaker. I wish they had a better system for sorting the sessions to more quickly find the best fit.
The same went for the hundreds of booths in the exhibit hall. I manned a booth for Vivify as part of the National Coalition for Aviation and Space Education table, and this was a great opportunity for some people watching. I saw many teachers walking around in a state of panic either grabbing everything they could get their hands-on or moving like a zombie trying to avoid eye contact. At one point, I tried providing some information on STEM to a teacher, but she quickly stopped me to say, “my brain is too full right now, just give me a pamphlet and I will process this later.”
Teachers Love Harry Potter
I attended two sessions in the same room. The first was a featured presentation by a former president of NSTA on the importance of science in STEM. The second was titled "Dumbledore's Transfiguration Class: Science and Magic from Hogwart's Academy." Any guesses on which session packed the room?
The Hogwarts session was presented by a retired professor from San Diego who spent his time coming up with science experiments and engineering challenges related to the Harry Potter series. Imagine a combination of story time, magic show, and science demonstration. For example, he made a "flobberworm" and connected to the properties of polymers. He also presented various ideas for Harry Potter-themed engineering design challenges. After reading an excerpt from the Chamber of Secrets, he performed a “magic trick” of a tea kettle that could squirt water 10 feet away. Students then had to reverse engineer how they would design and build such a contraption. I can see this as a great theme for a summer STEM program!
Teachers Love Capes
With over 300 exhibits spread across the Georgia Convention Center Exhibit Hall, everyone had to do their best to attract the throngs of teachers walking by. However, not everyone succeeded, as there was a large number of dejected looking exhibiters hunched over their phones or wistfully watching a lively booth nearby with groups of teachers gathered around. Based on my observations, this is how you attract teachers:
- Free popcorn
- Free posters
- Ok, free anything!
- Lots of people wearing capes and cheering
- Hands-on demos including robotics, microscopes, and 3D printers
- A really cool Space Camp gyroscope ride
- Free massages
- More free stuff
TpT is at NSTA
TpT sellers are starting to have a presence in the exhibit hall and sessions! I spotted Amy Brown Science, Smart Chick, and Science Island all selling their curriculum next to established vendors like Pitsco and Carolina Biological. So awesome! Plus, I joined Brooke Brown's launch party for selling her STEM Bins by Teach Outside the Box through ETA Hand2Mind!
Top 6 NSTA STEM Resources
In the end, I learned a lot from NSTA, and I look forward to going back! After exploring all the exhibits, I narrowed down my top six resources for STEM education.
- Civil Air Patrol: Interested in SPRK robots, telescopes, or quadcopters for your classroom? Join this program and get these STEM kits for FREE! I was skeptical at first, but after a $35 membership fee (one-time), you can apply for one of 15 STEM kits to use in your classroom or informal program. They send you everything you will need along with curriculum, and it is yours to keep and use! For example, you can request 5 SPRK robots, a value of $600!
- CASIS Space Station Explorers: A great starting point to incorporate space science in your classroom! Talk with astronauts, engage in space-based research, and even design and launch your own experiments through their free programs and resources. I am currently invovled with the ARISS program that allows my students to use HAM radio to talk directly with an astroanut on the ISS! I will report back in May once we complete the project.
- Jimu Robot: Unlike Lego that is a toy company, Jimu is developed by UBTECH, a leader in robotic technology. Students build the robots using an awesome step-by-step ED instruction manual through the app, learn the basics of coding with a pose, record, play function (the robot remembers the poses and repeats back), and then more advanced coding options.
- Vizitech USA: A company that offers augmented reality and VR set-ups for the classroom. Not sure on prices, but they had some really impressive interactive demos for exploring the human body.
- Boeing & Teaching Channel: These two groups partnered to create a problem-based curriculum by pairing 10 Boeing engineering with 10 teachers in grades 4-8. Materials include videos to connect to real-world engineering.
- dreamUp: Another space resource, this one provides curriculum and support for rocketry, conducting a student experiment on the ISS and classroom kits to replicate experiments in space.
Were you at NSTA? Comment below with your experience!