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Kenneth L. Huff, a sixth-grade teacher at Mill Middle School in Williamsville, New York, has been named the 2018 recipient of the Edward C. Roy, Jr. Award for Excellence in K-8 Earth Science Teaching. Huff earned his master's degree in education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo and is National Board certified in Early Adolescence/Science. In addition to teaching, Huff was the co-chair of the Teacher Advisory Council for the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine.
"Mr. Huff is an exceptionally accomplished earth and space science teacher," said Allyson Anderson Book, executive director of the American Geosciences Institute. "His demonstrated strength for connecting his students with professional geoscientists and his thoughtful lesson plans have earned the admiration of his colleagues and national recognition in the teaching community."
Huff received the award this month at the National Earth Science Teachers Association (NESTA) Friends of Earth Science Reception during the 2018 National Science Teachers Association Conference in Atlanta. This year's finalists were Anica Brown of Pound Middle School in Lincoln, Nebraska, and Chris Spiegl of Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville, Tennessee.
Given annually, AGI's Edward C. Roy, Jr. Award recognizes one classroom teacher from kindergarten to eighth grade for leadership and innovation in Earth science education. The award is named in honor of Dr. Edward C. Roy, Jr., who was a strong and dedicated supporter of Earth science education. To learn more, please see the Roy Award website.
NMLSTA Board Member, Melissa Sleeper, has been named a NASA Solar System Ambassador! The Solar System Ambassadors program is a public engagement effort that works with motivated volunteers across the nation to communicate the science and excitement of NASA's space exploration missions and discoveries to the people in their communities. More details about Melissa's appointment can be found at the link below.
More info about the Solar System Ambassador program can be found at:
I do this, well, a lot. I look for professional opportunities to push me as an educator out of my comfort zone. So, when we started talking about adding robotics to the curriculum, I was off to Connecticut to learn with the American Radio Relay Team. More about astronomy? Space Camp in Alabama. Get those students out of the classroom? No Teacher Left Inside in Northern Wisconsin. Learn more about our Great Lakes? A week on an EPA Research vessel on Lake Superior. Want to incorporate more history? WWII Museum in New Orleans.
Why? Why do I spend my winter searching out these (free) opportunities and writing applications for these programs and then my summers going to them? For one, I learn - a lot. Each of these has enhanced not only my content knowledge about an area, but I also come home with hands on activities to translate that knowledge into interactive, exciting lessons for my students.
Second, each of these opportunities has pushed me to grow. It isn’t easy to travel away from home and immerse yourself into a group of people you have never met and into a topic you may be feeling insecure about. I cried when I couldn’t understand the physics behind a radio telescope, re-soldered my circuit at least three times in the robotics class and I was deathly afraid of the water challenge at Space Camp. But I did it- I get the Physics now, my clock’s LED’s lit up and I did the water challenge. How? Well, with a new friend who walked me through the Physics, new friends who sat with me in the hotel lobby as I soldered (and re-soldered) and with a friend who literally held my hand during the Water Challenge. I learned a whole lot more than Physics - I remembered what it was like to be the student. It is good to be a student - to feel the insecurity of not knowing what to do or the fear of being wrong. It is amazing to feel the sense of accomplishment when your robot makes it through the course or when you finally identify the macro invertebrate you’ve been looking for. It is good to be in a situation you don’t control. If nothing else, you learn empathy for what our students feel those first days of middle school and you remember what it feels like to conquer something you tried.
But from these experiences, I also have gained an invaluable group of colleagues, mentors and friends. I have friends across the globe with whom I have shared rooms, meals, laughs and tears. I have friends who help when I am stuck, offer suggestions and criticisms and cheer me. These are people who may teach in a different town or part of the world, but who “get” what it is like to teach science to middle school students.
We all have responsibilities to our students and our schools, but we must not ignore the responsibility we have to ourselves to continue to grow. I love the Yeats quote, “Education is not the filling of a bucket but the lighting of a fire”. Keep your fires burning and you will find you have stoked your students’ fires as well.
A look back on the 2017 NMLSTA/NSTA Meet Me In The Middle Day, by Kathy Biernat: http://nstacommunities.org/blog/2017/06/07/nsta17-meet-me-in-the-middle-day-re-cap/
Take a look at Kathy Biernat's interesting blog about the relevancy of science fairs in today's education @ http://www.sciencetakeout.com/science-fair-relevant-or-ridiculous/
In the spring of 2016 I was selected to participate in an On the Farm STEM Experience sponsored by the American Farm Bureau. I came away with a fundamental understanding that decisions made by farmers are done so using a STEM-based approach that requires critical thinking and knowledge. This approach is one that is driven by economic, environmental, and health factors.
Many students have little knowledge of where their food comes from and lack an understanding of how it is raised. Students often harbor misconceptions that range from the impact that the farming industry has on environmental health to the amount of hormones that an animal may receive. In reality, agriculture is a pioneer industry when it comes to using science to make informed decisions. For example, today’s tractors contain GPS software that allows farmers to farm precisely through actions such as “farm planning, field mapping, soil sampling, tractor guidance, crop scouting, variable rate applications, and yield mapping” (http://www.gps.gov/applications/agriculture ). Techniques related to applied genetics, such as selective breeding and in-vitro fertilization, have been useful in reducing the amount of fat in meat and increasing milk production to feed a growing world.
If you are interested in having your students become critical thinkers, I suggest letting them research the misconceptions related to the agricultural industry so that they can come to their own conclusions. If you are in search of misconceptions, the American Farm Bureau website discusses numerous misconceptions at http://www.agfoundation.org/resources/addressing-misconceptions.
Investigating misconceptions related to agriculture easily lends itself to a project-based learning approach. Indeed, vocational agriculture students are often tasked with solving problems that require knowledge of STEM subjects, like those discussed in a post by Ken Messersmith http://www.edutopia.org/vocational-educators-get-it). Messersmith suggests that such an approach, which engages students in critical thinking and communication, may be beneficial to all students.
For more information on Problem-Based Learning see the Following Resources:
Buck Institute for Education (contains a searchable data base of projects)
GMO’s Go Global: Should They Be Labeled?
Managing Nutrient Needs in Agriculture
2019 Meet Me In The Middle Day Sponsors
Interested in sponsoring NMLSTA? Email President Mary Lou Lipscomb
National Middle Level Science Teacher's Association
"NMLSTA" is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.