APAST supports NGSS

APAST President Kenneth Huff has released a letter that is intended to express the support of the Association of Presidential Awardees in Science Teaching (APAST) toward the development and implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards. We believe this is an important step to guide science teaching and learning in the 21st Century.

To view this letter, please click here.

Next Generation Science Standards

Upcoming NSTA Web Seminars on Preparing for the Next Generation Science Standards—Crosscutting Concepts

NSTA is presenting a series of seven web seminars on the Crosscutting Concepts described in The Framework for K-12 Science Education, released in 2011 by the National Research Council (NRC).  The Framework describes the major practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas that all students should be familiar with by the end of high school and is being used to guide the development of the Next Generations Science Standards. 

The crosscutting concepts included in the Framework (and the final version of the NGSS) represent current research about how students learn best. Teachers are encouraged to learn more about these crosscutting concepts now in advance of the final release of NGSS and begin incorporating them into instruction to provide students the skill sets they need to be successful in learning any content.

The web seminars will be a valuable professional development experience for any science educator, but will be especially practical for those at the middle and high school level. They will also be helpful for science coordinators, supervisors, state science supervisors and others.

The web seminars are offered free of charge and are designed so that participants can attend just one or all seven sessions. They will run from 6:30-8:00 pm Eastern Time every other Tuesday starting on Tuesday, February 19.

NSTA Web Seminars on Crosscutting Concepts Feb. 19: Patterns March 5: Cause and effect: Mechanism and explanation March 19: Scale, proportion, and quantity April 2: Systems and system models April 16: Energy and matter: Flows, cycles, and conservation April 30: Structure and function May 14: Stability and change

For more information and to register visit:


Thank you to McGraw-Hill and VWR Education

Thank you to McGraw-Hill Education for sponsoring our breakfast meeting and VWR Education for sponsoring our business meeting and social at the NSTA National Conference in Indianapolis.  The Association of Presidential Awardees in Science Teaching is grateful for the continued support and commitment of our sponsors.



Photos courtesy of Fred Myers

STEMIE Awards presented by McGraw-Hill Education


• Do you have an innovative math lesson?
• Have an interesting idea for math game or science activity?
• Want to share your most intriguing science project?

McGraw-Hill Education is celebrating extraordinary STEM teachers like you, with the 2012 STEM Innovative Educator Awards (STEMIE Awards for short). All you have to do is record a 2-minute video demonstrating something innovative you’ve done in the classroom along with a short essay and lesson plan, and submit it on this site. First place wins $15,000, second place gets $5,000, and third place will win $2,500, plus we’ll grant up to $2,500 more in fun awards like Honorable Mentions.

You can learn more on the Contest Details page, or if you’re ready enter now!


PAEMST Book Published

 The Making of a Presidential Mathematics & Science Educator
Edited by Sean Nank, Ph.D.

To order, visit http://www.discoveryassociationpublishinghouse.com/Purchase_the_PAEMST_book.html

The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) was first awarded in 1983. It is the only K-12 education award issued by the President of the United States. It is the highest award in the entire nation that anyone can bestow on mathematics and science teachers. One mathematics teacher and one science teacher can win the award from each state, Washington DC, Puerto Rico, United States territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity.

When a teacher has been nominated, s/he completes the application process and is judged at the state level. Between zero and three finalists are chosen at this level. From there, the finalists are judged again at the national level. Either one winner is chosen or the award for that particular state goes unfilled. The PAEMST is considered the Nobel Prize for educators.

When I was honored at the week-long award ceremony in Washington DC, I was surrounded by some of the best educators in the nation. Being in a room with PAEMST awardees, one cannot help but experience the excitement for educa­tion, dedication to teaching, and the vast amount of pedagogical and curricular knowledge, reflection, and appreciation for being a professional educator. These teachers’ pedagogical strategies, perspectives on math and science curricula, and personal teaching stories intrigued me. I was in awe at the insight and professional dedication and was compelled to learn as much as I could from these PAEMST teachers. I wanted to hear their stories and understand their journeys. This cama­raderie and admiration for the importance of their stories is what motivated and is captured in this book.

During one of the award weeks in Washington DC, a guest speaker told the new awardees that when they returned to their schools and communities, people might wonder, “What makes you so great?” This book is, in part, is an answer to the query.

The PAEMST awardees’ climb to excellence began long before their recogni­tion in Washington DC. These teachers measure their success by the time and support given to students as they share their honor with the myriad of people, contexts, and influences that made them the teachers they have become. Every chapter describes the teachers’ commitment to students, colleagues, and the pro­fession of teaching.

This book is a collection of 50 autobiographical stories of PAEMST educa­tors’ journeys through life and their educational experiences, both as students and as teachers. Nineteen of the award years are represented. Also represented are 28 states, Washington DC, and the Department of Defense Education Activity. Teaching experiences range from younger teachers and new awardees to retired teachers who were awarded the PAEMST over 20 years ago. Life experiences range from people who were born under communist rule and vividly remember the launch of Sputnik to people who were born after the Vietnam War ended.

Teleconferences and individual conversations with the authors in this book greatly influenced the organization of the chapters. The editor and many of the PAEMST awardees voiced concern that the mathematics and science chapters not be segregated. There is a consistent dialogue of segregation familiar to mathemat­ics and science educators. The integration of mathematics and science chapters endorses a Deweyan approach of avoiding the artificial separation of subject mat­ters. Mathematics and science are intricately entwined in research, discussions, pedagogical strategies, and curricula. Their symbiotic nature serves as a catalyst to foster greater integration in educational settings both in and out of the classroom.

The product of their efforts is a collection of chapters in which PAEMST awardees candidly describe their experiences, influences, and motivations, first, to become teachers and, then, to become great teachers. Each chapter provides a window into the making of a teacher of PAEMST status. The chapters are inspirational, educational, and candidly honest. Some awardees had “normal” lives while others lived through tragedy. Some had fond memories of their time as students and others recalled negative experiences. Although their stories vary greatly, the one commonality though all the chapters is that somewhere along their journey, they became outstanding.

Family Science

Observe, explore, experiment…exciting for scientists of all ages. These activities are great ones for families to share as children attempt to answer their authentic questions about the natural world. The home and neighborhood are great science labs. Here are ideas from teachers who have earned a Presidential Award to nurture tomorrow’s scientific minds.   Ron Poirier, Past-president 

We all “do” science all the time. It begins with “I wonder…” “ Why is the sky blue?” “Why do pancakes taste better with strawberries inside?” Parents can foster natural curiosity by encouraging such questions. They can also help their children find answers by showing them how to search and observe. Look at some of the questions families can explore together. 

At the Beach:

I wonder what the best mix of sand and water for making a castle.

I wonder if waves always “break” at the same place.

Backyard Investigations:

I wonder why birds sing.

I wonder if different songs come from different kinds of birds.

I wonder which color M&Ms melts fastest…and why?

Looking up:

I wonder why it is still light out at dinnertime in the summer when it is dark by dinnertime in the winter.

I wonder why the moon looks different from week to week.


I wonder if the amount of air in a basketball affects play.

I wonder if I play better before or after lunch.

From the Candy Counter to Mars by Ken Huff:
You can use candy to learn how surface core samples can tell us about the structure of Earth and Mars.

What each person will need:

  • 1 bite size candy bar at room temperature (Don’t reveal the brand!)
  • 1 10-cm long clear, plastic straw
  • 1 small paper plate
  • 1 plastic knife
  • 1 cm ruler
  • 1 paper towel for clean up

Imagine that your candy is a section of a planet. Act like a geologist: take “core sample” by carefully drilling the straw into it. Record your observations. Take plastic knife and cut candy bar in half. Record the layers. Then trade notes. Can you tell which candy matches which core? 

How are the cores different?

If these were layers of a planet, which would be the oldest?

What causes different rock layers to occur?

How would a core of Earth be different than a core of Mars??

Explore the unique environmental features of the planet Mars on websites like http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov

Juliana Texley

We often talk about enzymes; they are the chemicals that make things “go” in cells. Here’s an activity to explore what an enzyme does: 

You’ll need:

  • Drugstore hydrogen peroxide
  • A potato
  • A fork
  • Water
  • Paper punches
  • A small “dose” or catsup cup.
  • Eye protection

Pour a small amount of peroxide into the smallest cup you can find. (The tiny catsup cups from fast food restaurants or dose cups from hospitals work well.)

Mush a bit of fresh potato to get some potato juice. Soak one paper punch in that juice. Soak another punch in plain water. Put them both into the tiny cup of peroxide. Watch what happens carefully!

Why do the punches act differently?

What kind of particles (atoms) make up hydrogen peroxide?

What kinds of particles could come from broken down hydrogen peroxide??

Would juice from a cooked potato act the same way?

More enzyme experiments:

Jello™ is a protein. Make tiny cubes of “finger Jello” (twice as concentrated as regular.) Put one cube in water and another the same size in an enzyme solution. (Meat tenderizer, contact lens solution, or enzyme detergent.) What happens?

Be a Science Star

John Hunt 

Very simple physical processes can make very big things happen! 

Here’s a demonstration that you can do while waiting for a restaurant meal. But to understand what it means, you might have to go outside. What you’ll need:

  • Five toothpicks
  • A very smooth surface, like an acetate sheet or a polished table surface.
  • Water

Bend 5 toothpicks in half but leave the parts together so they make “V’s” Place the 5 V-shaped toothpicks on the smooth surface, with their points as close together as possible. You’ll have a star shape. Put a drop of water into the center of the toothpick formation. Observe what happens. Can you explain?

Then go outside and look at the tallest tree. Inside that tree are tubes. The tree gets water from the soil.

How is toothpick wood like tree wood?

How does the water reach the top?

Why do northern trees drop their leaves in the winter?

Dancing Raisins and More 

Ruth Ruud 

Chemistry is the interaction of matter. In this activity you’ll mix water, liquid music and dance powder. 

Your challenge is to make raisins dance. You may have to repeat this activity several times to get just the right tempo.

  • 4 raisins
  • Dance powder*
  • Liquid music*
  • Water (50 ml)
  • Spoon
  • Small (juice) glass

Place the raisins at the bottom of the glass. Fill it half way with water. Any dancing yet? Add a spoonful of dance powder. Any dancing yet? Add a spoonful of liquid music to the mix. Now what’s dancing?


  • How many times does a dancer come up for air in a minute?
  • Can you make the raisins go faster or slower? How?

 Penny Secrets 

Here’s another experiment that can be done with almost no equipment.

How many drops of water can you place on the surface of a clean penny before the water begins to run off? Use a dropper or tubular coffee stirrer (and don’t squeeze.) What if a bit of hand soap is added to the water? Does the number change?

Communicating with Children about the Natural World  

In our rush to get to places and get things done, we seldom have time for the sort of creative discussions about children’s questions that lead to constructing new ideas.  

Talking the Talk 

When children wonder, it’s important to give them plenty of time…to think about what they want to say, and to explain. Here are some tips for good scientific conversations:

  • Avoid questions that have “yes” or “no” answers. Ask children to describe, explain, or ask their opinions.
  • Take plenty of time to wait for answers. Don’t rush the pace of conversation.
  • Rephrase their questions and their answers: “Do you mean…?”
  • Offer other ways for communication, like drawing, podcasting, photography or construction.

Crib Sheet for Parents

Adults are often reluctant to begin an exploration with children unless they know explanation up front. That’s really not necessary. “I don’t know but we can find out together” is a great model for a child’s inquiry. But for the faint of heart, we’ll provide some hints to the activities in this flyer in the next column.

From the Candy Counter to Mars

Geologists often assume each layer of a planet’s surface is younger than the one below. That’s not always true: lava can push between layers or quakes can tip them. But usually each new layer in a core tells a story of a newer time period.

An enzyme in potato juice breaks peroxide (H2O2) into hydrogen and oxygen. The oxygen bubbles cling to the punches and lift them.

Be a Science Star

Water clings to fibers in wood through adhesion. Evaporation helps pull water from the roots in a process called transpiration. In cold winters, trees don’t want so much water in their trunks as they could crack so they drop leaves.

Dancing Raisins

Like the paper punches, the raisins are lifted—but this time from carbon dioxide (CO2) released from baking soda by the influence of acidic lemon juice.

Penny Secrets

Water forms drops because of its surface tension. Its molecules prefer contact with other water molecules unless the force of gravity is greater than the surface tension. Detergent changes the forces between the molecules and lowers the surface tension.

 A Note about Safety 

A child’s questions can lead to exploration of something new and potentially unsafe. It’s important to emphasize common sense precautions in every exploration. These are just examples of common sense rules:

  • Respect chemicals: Never taste a chemical and always wear eye protection when using them.
  • Never experiment with fire or something that might explode.
  • Don’t approach wild or unfamiliar animals.
  • Don’t use sharp or power tools without an adult’s help.


Einstein Fellowship Information

Einstein Fellowship
Teachers: Share Your Passion! 
Are you ready to share your passion for STEM education at the Federal level?  Bring your passion and advocacy skills to Washington, DC as an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow.

This prestigious fellowship program brings outstanding K-12 science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) educators to Washington, DC for a school year to share their practical insights and real-world perspectives into  the sponsoring agencies’ offices or on Capitol Hill.  As an Einstein Fellow, you will receive a monthly stipend, a moving allowance and a travel budget.    You are an excellent candidate for an Einstein Fellowship if you…

  • · Thrive on personal and professional challenges.
  • · Would relish the opportunity to network with creative, passionate, intelligent colleagues.
  • · Recognize the importance of experienced educators sharing their knowledge in the national education arena.
  • · Possess the desire and the confidence to work on educational programs and/or issues at a national level.
  • · Interested in learning about the role of federal agencies in education, and influence program and policy decisions affecting students and teachers.

 The program is administered by the U.S. Department of Energy and managed by the Triangle Coalition for Science and Technology Education.  Visit http://www.trianglecoalition.org/ein.htm  to learn more about the program.  You will find additional information and a link to the online application using the navigation menu above Dr. Einstein’s picture.   Access the application by clicking on the word “apply” in the box on the left side of the page once you link to the Department of Energy’s page.  Create an ID and password to begin and you are on your way! If you have any questions about the program once you review the web information, contact Kathryn Culbertson, Program Manager, at culbertsonk@triangle-coalition.org or by phone at 703-516-5963.


Post a Project and Enter the National Lab Day Video Contest

Attention all science educators, for a limited time you can win money for your school by posting a hands-on learning project on NationalLabDay.org.

The first place winner for the NLD online video contest will receive a $1,500 “shopping spree” on DonorsChoose.org and a Flip Video Camcorder. The second prize winner will receive a $500 “shopping spree” on DonorsChoose.org and a Flip Video Camcorder. All submissions are due by June 1, 2010. For more information go to the NLD contest web page.

Science Objects at NSTA

Science Objects are two hour on-line interactive inquiry-based content modules that help teachers better understand the science content they teach.  There are 60 different modules that cover all areas in science education. 
The FAQs on Science Objects

  • What are Science Objects? Free learning experiences available online anytime, anywhere. They’re specifically designed to help teachers understand a prescribed set of ideas based on the science literacy goals in the Standards.
  • What do Science Objects cover? Each one focuses on a key content idea—such as Newton’s First Law or Mendel’s Principles of Heredity. Right now there are 33 content ideas with more on the way.
  • How will Science Objects help me learn? Interactive simulations get you engaged; embedded questions make sure you understand and remember. The style and tone are lively—even entertaining.
  • How will Science Objects help me teach? They challenge you to explore and explain real-world phenomena, and offer student misconceptions to watch out for and practical ideas for addressing them.
  • How much time will it take me to work through a Science Object? Just one to two hours, at your convenience. You can start and stop at any point.
  • What do Science Objects cost? Best of all, they’re free, thanks so support from sponsors including NASA, NOAA, the FDA, the National Highway Safety and Transportation Administration, the Hewlett Foundation, and the GE Foundation. All teachers of science have open access to these valuable new resources.
  • The system check will detect your current browser settings and plug-ins you have on your computer as are required to access the rich media content in the Science Objects, such as the Flash and QuickTime media players. If you do not have the proper settings or plug-ins installed instructions will be provided.
  • So how do I start? Do it now! Begin or just browse at the links below.

A few samples are linked below.

Coral Reef Ecosystems: Interdependence

Earth, Sun, and Moon: Our Moving Earth

Coral Reef Ecosystems: The Living Reef

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  • About APAST

    The APAST is a membership organization composed of exemplary science educators who have been recognized for their teaching and honored with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching.   Learn More...