What Administrators Say:
Renee M. Clary, Ph.D.
Co-Director, Teacher Academy in the Natural Sciences
A Mississippi Mathematics-Science Partnership
Mississippi State University
The goal of the Teacher Academy in the Natural Sciences (TANS) project is to enrich
the science content of Mississippi’s middle school science teachers. To accomplish
this goal, the TANS leadership team at Mississippi State University (MSU) relies
on the over 5,000 resources in the NSTA Learning Center throughout the academic
year to extend and enhance our TANS summer institute content instruction.
SciPacks are in-depth online science modules that our participating teachers can
access and complete at their convenience. With an assortment of SciPack topics available,
the TANS leadership team was able to choose appropriate and relevant modules in
chemistry, physics, and the geosciences: the three content areas targeted by our
Not only does the NSTA Learning Center provide a multitude of convenient online
resources, but the support provided by the NSTA Learning Center team is
superb. They were knowledgeable, patient, and helpful as we initially navigated
the NSTA system and enrolled over 70 teachers in a short period of time. They accommodated
our TANS special requests for customized data output and website appearance. The
NSTA Learning Center staff also worked diligently to provide us with quick, initial
feedback from our TANS teachers so that we could modify our face-to-face instruction
and address problematic science content.
The NSTA Learning Center is an integral component of the Teacher Academy in the
Natural Sciences (TANS) Mississippi Mathematics-Science Partnership at MSU. We look
forward to working closely with the NSTA Learning Center over the next three years.
With best regards,
Marguerite A. Sognier, Ph.D.
Director, Educational Outreach
Texas Regional Collaborative, Galveston
The NSTA Learning Center is an outstanding resource that has proven to be invaluable
to our teachers! We have utilized this resource for both beginning teachers as well
as more experienced teachers. All of our teachers have found this to be a convenient
way to enhance their science content knowledge, an invaluable resource to assist
in explaining specific concepts in class, a useful tool for sharing resources with
colleagues, and a central location for compiling their lesson plans, examples of
student work, and annual progress.
In particular, the Learning Center proved to be extremely valuable during our recovery
following hurricane Ike. During that time, teachers were unable to leave their classrooms
to attend professional development workshops. The NSTA Learning Center came to the
rescue and provided a means for teachers to gain essential knowledge, skills, and
resources without losing classroom time.
The assistance provided in getting started and training teachers how to use the
Learning Center is outstanding. Once established, the help and support for the Learning
Center is also outstanding. All of the Help Desk staff has been extremely helpful,
providing the highest level of service achievable!
Once teachers experience the online learning and utilize the extensive resources
available, they never want to stop using the NSTA Learning Center! I highly recommend
Marguerite A. Sognier, Ph.D.
GEF Grant - Teacher Project Manager
Cincinnati Public Schools
I want to thank you for developing the Learning Center as a place to obtain online
professional development and resources that all teachers of science can use and
explore easily. The SciPacks, SciGuides, and journal articles with lesson plans
In Cincinnati Public Schools, we use the SciPacks as a tool to deepen the science
content knowledge of our teachers. This has helped make teachers feel more comfortable
with science. We have teachers who have changed grade level and/or content area
and have expressed a need to either learn their grade-level science topics or have
a refresher course on the certain topics. The SciPacks help to meet that need. Also
the SciPacks have helped our special education teachers learn the content needed
to teach science to their students and to aid in classrooms that have inclusionary
The SciGuides have helped our teachers spruce up their lessons. Teachers have been
able to discover new ways to help their students obtain that “AH HA” moment and
to refresh their excitement about teaching science.
The articles from the NSTA journals and books online are a valuable asset that is
easily accessed. When the journals are left at home and teachers are discussing
a topic, they can search the site to find the research needed to help change instructional
practice. Also many articles give great ideas about teaching lab safety, classroom
management, and lesson plan ideas.
Once again I would like to say THANK YOU for all the work you have put into the
Learning Center and the continued work to make it a place that science educators
enjoy. I look forward in continuing our partnership with you.
Nebraska Science Director and Technical Advisor for KICKS
Project Director KICKS Science, and Nebraska State Coordinator for Building A Presence
for Science (BaP)
Dear Mr. Byers:
As you know, our Nebraska "Keep Improving Content Knowledge and Skills" (KICKS)
Institutes are designed to increase teachers’ mastery of science concepts and skills.
We have found that Science Objects and SciPacks are the best-received on-line resource
to accomplish that goal. Teachers like the accessibility, format, visuals, interactive
simulations, and knowledge checks. We like the ability to provide a resource to
our teachers to provide opportunities to increase their content knowledge throughout
the school year.
Teachers are trained on the NSTA website Professional Learning Center during our
summer KICKS Institutes. Each teacher builds his/her library of Science Objects/SciPacks
based on the individual teachers’ content goals. Besides adding to their own content
knowledge, teachers have found this resource especially helpful for giving them
ideas on how to present the content to their students.
Melissa, one of our participants in the KICKS Project, had this to say about her
experience with Science Objects.
"I have found the Science Objects to be really helpful in teaching about forces
and motion because I have NEVER really learned about these concepts and had a few
misconceptions of my own to work through. This is also my first time teaching about
these concepts, so I found the Science Object on Force and Motion to be extremely
KICKS will continue to use Science Objects/SciPacks in our KICKS Institutes as well
as feature this resource in professional development workshops conducted across
Thanks so much for making this wonderful professional development resource available
to our teachers.
Jim Woodland and Sheree Person-Pandil
Current President of the Council of State Science Supervisors
New Hampshire State Department of Education Science Supervisor
Dear Mr. Byers:
Research indicates that student achievement is directly tied to the content knowledge
of the teacher in the classroom. The NSTA Learning Center provides solid science
content for teachers of all levels and includes access to quality resources from
professional articles from current and past NSTA journals to new and exciting computer
simulations with rich feedback via SciPacks and SciGuides. This is not a one-size-fits-all
solution but one that can deliver what the individual teacher needs directly. The
NSTA Learning Center takes teacher professional development to a new level. Science
content learning is delivered through a web-based solution which focuses on what
teachers need and delivers it to them when they need it.
[The NSTA PD Plan and Professional Development tool] … provides our leadership teams
and participating districts a source of qualitative information about the growth
and reflections of teachers who participate in the various programs that focus on
building content knowledge. Our partnership with NSTA has provided a NH Interface
through which all our NH teachers travel to get to their personal E– Portfolio.
What we have noticed is that each project uses the portfolio in different ways.
Some projects have begun to venture into and incorporate all of the other features
of the Learning Center (SciPacks, articles, e-chapters of books, web seminars, and
more). This fall, we will launch a pilot with science teachers who have been hired
under critical shortage conditions and are seeking certification in science. Often
districts have difficulty in providing a plan and monitoring to help teacher grow
to meet the state requirements. We think that this use of the e-Portfolio and the
other NSTA learning Center resources, such as SciPacks will make this transition
easier for both the teachers and the administrators.
Robin Anglin, Science Coordinator
Office of Instruction
West Virginia Department of Education
A strong need exists for West Virginia middle school teachers, elementary school
teachers, and special educators to acquire quality, interactive, professional development
in specific content areas of science. In many cases, teachers are not certified
in science and are teaching science with multi-subjects certifications which required
few science specific courses. Special education certified teachers, who team collaboratively
with the general science classroom teachers, also lack the necessary courses of
study to provide strong support for students in those classes.
Teachers have the responsibility of addressing the rigor and relevance of the West
Virginia Content Standards and Objectives. They are to include inquiry based instruction
and hands on investigations where students draw conclusions from the data they have
collected. It has been requested that teachers provide authentic learning opportunities
with problem based scenarios. High-quality professional development with focused
content and pedagogical training for science specific topics gives teachers the
skills and confidence to step away from traditional text book driven classrooms
and provide students with a 21st century education.
During the summers of 2006 thru 2009, elementary school teachers, middle school
science teachers, and special education teachers had opportunities to increase their
science content knowledge by attending regional SciPack trainings. The trainings
focused upon utilizing the SciPack modules to learn content, engage in lab simulations,
access pedagogical implications, and utilize formative and summative assessments.
Technical support was available and provided as needed. Teachers who attend the
sessions are eligible for stipends and college credit was available thru Marshall
After participating in the SciPack program, teacher feedback included-
“I wanted to let you know how valuable the SciPacks have been to me as I have prepared
to take my National Board exam. You may want to consider that as you try to get
people for this year. I can't think of a better way to cover Content Standards and
Objectives than to work through those packs!!!!” 7th grade teacher
“The SciPacks are addictive. I've already completed 2 and I'm working on the third.
Thanks for this great opportunity.” 3rd grade teacher
“Thank you for offering this program to West Virginia teachers. It truly helped
my ability to teach the subjects.” Resource inclusion teacher
“SciPacks are wonderful, effective, online learning experiences for both teachers
and students. I've used the SciPacks in my classroom via my computer, projector,
and SmartBoard to teach some of my Content Standards and Objectives.” 7th grade
“I learned a lot from the training and really enjoyed it. Could you let me know
when the next SciPack training registration starts?” Middle school science teacher
Previous State Science Specialist
West Virginia Department of Education
Office of Curriculum and Instruction
Dear Mr. Byers:
While working at the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) as a state science
coordinator, I was part of an effort by the department to increase teacher content
knowledge in science for middle school teachers. WVDE had found few professional
development options that provided affordable, high-quality professional development
opportunities specific to the delivery of science content. It was through a presentation
of NSTA’s Learning Center that we became acquainted with SciPacks.
There were many aspects of SciPacks that met West Virginia needs. For starters,
SciPacks are similar to short mini-courses, tailored to specific pieces of science
content. Teachers can acquire 10 hours of intensely focused science content based
on their individual needs. The courses are online and provide embedded assessments
and a final assessment that indicate to participants, and to WVDE, teacher competence
and success in mastering the science content.
WVDE conducted a pilot study that informed WVDE’s decision to develop a state initiative
based on NSTA’s SciPacks. WVDE collected data using a pre/post assessment created
by NSTA, a survey of participants, and an open forum to collect verbal accounts.
For those teachers who completed entire SciPacks, WVDE found that teacher mastery
of rigorous science content increased with every participant according to pre and
post tests given to teachers. Common testimonies from teachers successfully completing
SciPacks indicated that they felt “empowered” and “confident” in the respective
content they learned and for which they received a NSTA certificate of proficiency.
As a state science coordinator, I was inspired by the testimonies of special educators
who teach in co-teaching science classrooms, who reported that SciPacks increased
their likelihood of leading rather than observing science lessons. Some teachers
claimed the self-paced, learning-on-demand style of SciPacks to be the best professional
opportunity yet afforded during their careers as teachers.
Throughout the pilot and initiative, NSTA offered support to WVDE through weekly
updates of participating teachers’ progress; a content discussion forum; an "ask
a mentor" content resource; and quick, responsive technical assistance. Compared
to traditional face-to-face trainings, WVDE found NSTA’s SciPacks to be a cost-efficient
and effective method for delivering high-quality science content to teachers.
Bob Sotak, Ed.D.
K-12 Science Curriculum Specialist
Everett Public Schools
In Everett, we are in the fourth year of a K-12 inquiry-based science implementation.
Each year we rolled out new portions of the new curricular materials. Our primary
professional development focus has been on initial use. It is a simple matter of
time and treasure?only so many hours in the day, and only so many dollars to spend
on professional development providers, teacher pay, and release time. The challenge
for us has been getting a critical mass of teachers to attend content courses, let
alone identifying courses that match our staff needs. Teachers want the help, but
do not have time to take a general course in a content area. They want help with
the specific content they have to teach.
Physical science was one of the areas we have had the most requests from our intermediate
level teachers for content training. We decided to try SciPaks as an option and
offered a course to staff teaching particular science modules in grades 5-9. In
a sense, we were able to customize the training to what particular content a teacher
would need for that unit.
Our experience with the force and motion module was valuable, and impact high. Comments
from teachers indicated how much they enjoyed and learned. They wanted to know when
they might be able to do the next one. I was very impressed because the content
depth was more than I expected and in how it was presented, it was accessible to
all the grade 5-9 teachers in the class. None felt overwhelmed.
We plan to include this type of training two ways: First, as a stand alone option
on a menu of science professional development offerings. Second, as a component
in a content professional development course that includes face to face sessions
as well as on-line portions.
This is a powerful tool to help teachers grow in their understanding of the content
and pedagogy we expect them to be teaching.
Lee Ann Nickerson
K-12 Science Specialist
Jefferson County Public Schools
“Thank you for this wonderful opportunity.” “I am so proud of myself for completing
and passing this!” “Now that I understand more, I will be able to better help my
students with their own learning.” These are representative teacher comments I have
received about their NSTA SciPack professional development experience. Just the
kind of feedback I want to hear!
Jefferson County Public Schools has partnered with NSTA this year to offer on-line
SciPack content professional development for elementary and middle school teachers.
This opportunity was made available to JCPS as a component of our GE Foundation
Developing Futures in Education grant. Our teachers are appreciating and enjoying
the ability to have flexible access to these engaging and challenging learning tools.
As our district has moved to a rigorous inquiry-centered K-8 curriculum, our teachers
have expressed the need for deepening their own content knowledge. NSTA SciPacks
have given them a timely, targeted and convenient solution to this problem. The
enthusiastic and positive feedback we are receiving is indicative of the high-quality
and efficacy of these professional development products. The embedded and pre /post
assessments allow our teachers to monitor their own learning.
As our district’s Science Specialist, I appreciate the support that NSTA staff has
offered to develop our plan, provide teacher face-to-face training, and offer prompt
technical assistance. Teacher log-in, completion and success data is readily available
and easy to use. Access to this data makes our district record keeping for professional
development so easy.
We look forward to continued partnership with NSTA to expand the SciPack opportunity
to more of our teachers.
Lee Ann Nickerson
Dr. Michael Odell
Roosth Endowed Chair in Education
Professor, STEM Education
University of Texas at Tyler
East Texas STEM Center: “The East Texas STEM Center (ETXSC) housed at the University
of Texas at Tyler will be using the NSTA Learning Center to support science teacher
professional development in rural schools throughout the state of Texas. Teachers
in rural schools typically teach multiple preparations of science and in some cases
may be the only science teacher in the school. Science teachers in these isolated
settings need timely access to professional development and the NSTA Learning Center
provides access to high quality professional development. Rural science teachers
often have minimal preparation in some science disciplines and SciPacks allow these
teachers to self-assess their professional development needs and select the content
that will be most useful. The accountability tools allow ETXSC staff the ability
to monitor teacher progress and provide targeted assistance to teachers. The ETXSC
will also be utilizing the NSTA LC as the centerpiece to support professional learning
communities in rural schools. The online webinars, SciPacks, and access to NSTA
Journals provides quality materials and programming for teachers to participate
in online professional learning communities.”
Dr. Michael Odell
What College Faculty Say:
Sally Harms, Ed.D.
Natural Sciences/ Science Education
Wayne State College
Dear Dr. Byers and Mr. Mendez,
I have been using the NSTA Learning Center in the physical science content course (for elementary education majors) as well as the Science Methods course for middle and secondary science education majors since the fall of 2012. The variety of resources that are available to these students via the NSTA Learning Center is wonderful! It is also important (to me) that all of the resources have been vetted to assure the information is scientifically correct. Many of my students are beginning to realize that the Learning Center is a “gold mine” that costs them less than the standard textbook(s) they might otherwise be required to purchase for a either the methods or science content course . This membership not only provides Wayne State College’s students valuable resources and a place to store them (My Library), but also many other opportunities for professional development.
As I become familiar with the NSTA resources related to the content I present, I assign specific science objects, book chapters, and journal articles to be completed prior to the class discussions. This semester, rather than giving students the option of completing the pre-assessments, I am requiring them to take the assessment and complete a review of what they thought they knew as well as where they struggled. I’ve recommended that they utilize the suggested resources and then take the assessment again. Several students commented that they appreciated that suggested resources were provided following the assessments so that they were easy to obtain. A few reported that they repeated the assessment following the use of a resource and saw improvement in their scores.
The pre-assessments are a tremendous asset to me because I can easily access the scores for each specific area and see the average knowledge that the students have prior to the onset of the new topic. It is also helpful in selecting the resources that are appropriate to assign for students to read, and/or science objects to complete during the course of study.
NSTA not only provides the students with resources via book chapters, science objects, and journals, it allows the students to experience quality professional development through web seminars, forums, and conferences. I hope that once the students leave my classroom they will continue to build their libraries as well as maintain their membership with NSTA. The opportunities you offer my students through this special membership/subscription opportunity are greatly appreciated.
Richard Jones, Ed.D.
Assistant Professor Science Education
Division of Education
University of Hawaii West Oahu
Aloha Mr. Mendez,
I wanted to share with you some of my experiences using the NSTA Learning Center as my e-Text and eLearning portal for my Elementary Science Students here at UH West Oahu. This fall is the sixth time that I have used the NSTA Leaning Center with my students and each semester we find more resources and ways to enhance our learning together.
Each week I have my students use the Learning Center to find articles to summarize and provide one “Ah-Ha” and one “Take-Away” that relates to the concepts and content that we are covering in class. I also have them listen to podcasts, view web-archives and probably most importantly, complete Science Objects and in several cases complete SciPacks to help them build content knowledge.
For my students, becoming familiar with the NSTA Learning Center while as a student gives them a “leg up” on understanding an accessing one of the recommended Professional Development tools for Hawaii Teachers. This experience allows them to begin to build their Professional Development portfolio even before they become licensed.
I have been very happy with the NSTA Learning Center and will continue to use this valuable tool in my methods classes.
Nate Carnes, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Middle Level Program Coordinator
Department of Instruction and Teacher Education
University of South Carolina
Dear Mr. Mendez,
I have used the NSTA Learning Center for at least a few years in my Middle Level Science Methods course to assist in preparing my teacher candidates to pass the Middle Level Praxis II Science content examination and to prepare them to teach effectively in grades 6- 8. At your suggestion and with your support, I jumped in with both feet in using the NSTA Learning Center bundle. As you know, I was apprehensive about the cost my teacher candidates would be required to pay. However, the decision has been a very cost effective one in that my candidates have had access to so many resources to enhance their content and pedagogical knowledge throughout the semester. In particular, the SciPaks and Science Objects have addressed the anxieties that my preservice teachers have about increasing their content knowledge. This has been a great relief to them and me, as I cannot teach requisite content knowledge and pedagogical skills to my students in 16 short weeks. So, the Learning Center helped them explore and use great resource during their first semester of their yearlong internship. It turns out that the benefits have far outweighed the cost of the class bundle (membership and subscription).
My teacher candidates are beginning to create quality lesson plans, activities, and assessments through increased content knowledge and the use of collections of articles and book chapters about the 5E Learning Cycle, middle level students’ misconceptions, nature of science, and other aspects of science teaching and learning. They have access to the various community forums to collaborate with real classroom teachers and reflect on their learning (and future goals) using the PD Indexer. Although the SciPacks assessments have humbled them, these assessments have prepared them well for the Praxis II content exam. Use of the NSTA Learning as an e-textbook has been one of the reasons why my teacher candidates have touted the middle level science methods course to be more valuable than the other courses that they re required to complete. Furthermore, this multifaceted resource has helped me customize the support that I can give to them throughout the semester and beyond. Thank you so much for providing such a valuable resource for our future middle school teachers and encouraging me to make the jump!
Kathleen Sparrow, Ph.D.
Department of Teaching and Learning, College of Education
Florida International University
Dear Dr. Byers,
I teach pre-service elementary teachers science methods at a Florida International
University. I have been using the NSTA Learning Center as an e-text for seven semesters.
My students purchase a subscription to the NSTA Learning Center. Their subscription
for a year includes a student membership to NSTA and free access to all the resources
(with a couple exceptions).
I've provided my students with 17 collections (e.g., 5E Learning Cycle, Accommodating
All Science Learners, Safety Is Elementary, Sustainability) which are automatically
put into each student's Learning Center library. The collections contain relevant
journal articles, book chapters and other resources that I use in class and for
assignments during the semester. I find that these articles are more relevant and
readable than many science methods textbooks, since many articles are written by
actual classroom teachers--many in tandem with university professors.
There are also multiple forums where pre-service students can interact with teachers-in-the-field.
Students can ask questions, enter into discussions, receive and/or share information
with experienced teachers. My students have certain assignments specifically using
the Learning Center so they become familiar with the different resources.
I see one of the main advantages of using the Learning Center as an e-text for my
pre-service teachers is that they become familiar with this resource and they can
subsequently return to and use once they are in their own classrooms during their
My students also complete at least one of the SciPacks to help their lesson planning
and aid in their content learning. At the end of the semester my students develop
an online portfolio in lieu of an exam, using the Learning Center's PD Plan and
Portfolio tool. I believe at last count, there are over 11,000 resources in the
Learning Center, most of which my students can access free with their subscription.
Kathleen Sparrow, Ph.D.
Kathleen Baka M.Ed.
Science Methods Instructor
Kent State University, Geauga Campus
Middle Childhood Education Program
Dear Mr. Mendez:
I began using the NSTA e-textbook program in my science methods class last spring,
and continued to use it this fall in my course titled Integrating Science and Social
Studies in the Middle Grades. We worked in conjunction with our local Metroparks
to create a new program incorporating history and science in learning about a place
called Chair Factory Falls, a one-time manufacturing area that has returned to nature.
The SciPack, Resources and Human Impact was very valuable in giving the
social studies people some insight into the human side of science and the science
people an understanding that science must include the human element. My students
frequently brought up things they had learned in the SciPack as they related to
our task, so I know they found it valuable.
I also like that I can give them choices of materials to select for other readings.
The Metroparks staff asked that they read about informal education and nature deficit
disorder, and they were able to select readings that appealed to them I also required
that they find articles about integrating science with the other subjects they are
preparing for licensure and they enjoyed doing this very much. Our department emphasizes
constructivism and giving students choices in what and how to study, and the e-textbook
program models that kind of learning beautifully.
For the science methods course, I particularly like that I can require them to do
a SciPack in each of the three areas of science, because they function as both a
refresher course for the Praxis exams, and they include pedagogical ideas to make
teaching more meaningful and fun. I also like that I can use these materials to
model blended learning.
I am very glad that I was sent information from NSTA about this program. It is a
terrific resource for future science teachers and a good resource for any teacher.
Meredith Houle Vaughn, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Science Education
School of Teacher Education
San Diego State University
Dear Mr. Mendez,
I have been using the NSTA Learning Center as an e-textbook with both my pre-service
elementary teachers and teachers enrolled in our Masters of Arts in science education.
Both sets of teachers have found the Learning Center to be an invaluable resource
in supporting content knowledge, developing pedagogical strategies, and as a source
of lesson ideas.
I also appreciate the opportunities the Learning Center provides for my students
and beginning teachers to connect to a larger community of teachers and as a model
of continuous learning opportunities available to teachers beyond the credential
and masters degree programs.
Meredith Houle Vaughn, Ph.D.
Jane Metty, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Education
Tift College of Education
Dear Mr. Mendez,
Please allow me to take a moment to convey what a wonderful resource the NSTA Learning Center has been for my pre-service science methods courses, in-service teacher professional development, and most recently with our Woodrow Wilson Fellows.
I have been using this portal for a number of years and believe it is an exceptional value and unparalleled in quality. The NSTA Learning Center makes individualizing instruction effortless because of the sheer number of learning opportunities that are available within the site. Because the Learning Center subscription extends beyond the semester, I have found it to be an effective induction tool as well as an effective way to get and keep teachers connected in the profession and growing. I would encourage any science educator or professional development provider to consider the NSTA Learning Center. You won't be disappointed.
Jane Metty, Ph.D.
Wendy Ruchti, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Science Education
Department of Teaching and Educational Studies
College of Education
Idaho State University
Dear Dr. Byers and Mr. Mendez,
I have been using the NSTA Learning Center for the last several years in my Elementary
Science Methods course, and want to tell you how great it has been to give this
gift to my students. I believe that learning to teach is a lifelong process, and
as such, I cannot teach everything to my students in 16 short weeks. Therefore,
it is through the Learning Center, I can help them utilize a great resource they
will use in multiple ways throughout the rest of their time in the College of Education,
and well into teaching as they continue to grow and learn.
My students create quality unit plans and assessments through first, understanding
the content better by completing SciPacks and Science Objects and second, studying
pedagogy though use of collections of articles and book chapters about the 5E model,
misconceptions, asking questions, and more. They use the community forums to collaborate
with real classroom teachers and reflect on their learning (and future goals) using
the PD plan and portfolio. In short, they utilize the skills and understandings
they will use as a classroom teacher and are supported fully through the Learning
Center. Most of my students report that they continue to use the Learning Center
well after my class and into their first years of teaching! Thank you for providing
such a valuable resource for our future teachers!
Wendy Ruchti, Ph.D.
Faculty, Northern Arizona University
Dear Mr. Mendez,
I have been an adjunct instructor at the Northern Arizona University for almost
eight years teaching Science Methods courses to pre-service education students.
I recently retired from the Mesa Public Schools in Arizona where I was a science
and social studies specialist.
I wanted to share with you that using the NSTA Learning Center as my e-textbook
for my science methods courses was the best thing I ever did. Instead of an expensive
and outdated science methods books, my students now have the latest and greatest
information and resources to use. I assign topics for students to read and have
them search the NSTA portal to find journal articles. Generally there is a variety
of reading they do and prepare reports. Their 5E lesson plans are found and/or inspired
on the Learning Center. All of the Science and Children journal articles/lessons
use the 5E model. The students enjoy using the Learning Center's PD Indexer as an
assignment to find out what they don't know about topics and adding resources to
their digital library to enhance their content knowledge. Additionally, this experience
gets them used to accessing resources online and being part of a network of science-minded
Ruth S. Burkett, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Science Education
Elementary & Early Childhood Education
University of Central Missouri
Dear Dr. Byers and Mr. Mendez:
I use the NSTA Learning Center (NLC) with my science pre-service teachers in several
ways. First of all I have the students take a number of the pre-tests as diagnostics
for science content knowledge. With their results in hand, the students choose NSTA
SciPaks to enhance their content knowledge and improve their post-test scores.
Beginning the third week of the semester, students are spending half their class
time in the field-based practicum teaching science to students in grades 2, 3, and
4, so I only have them in class once a week. They are using the NLC as a resource
for content knowledge and for lesson plans. I found they were going online and borrowing
lesson plans that were not of the best quality. I now remind them each week that
there are plans in the NLC that they should be using, thus saving me from having
to review and correct those alternative conceptions they all seem to have.
Additionally I have been using resources from the NLC to build Learning Modules
in BlackBoard. These modules must be completed before class so we can discuss and
enhance their learning. Learning Modules include Inquiry Learning, Lesson Planning,
Uncovering Student Ideas, Using Trade Books in Science, etc. For the Learning Module
Uncovering Student Ideas, I shared a Learning Center collection of resources to
be studied including a collection of chapters from Page Keeley's books. Each student
must choose one student idea (maybe even their own misconception) and present a
plan for modifying the child's thinking to become more in line with today's scientific
theories. I can't wait to hear these as I have heard some humdingers in class so
far this semester. Second semester seniors should know better!
I have found so many great resources that next semester I will be using the resources
of the NLC for my freshman level Biology for Teachers' and Physics for Teachers'
courses. These are both online classes and I think this will be an exciting enhancement
of the course content.
Ruth Burkett, Ph.D.
Kenneth Miller, Ph.D.
Chair, Educational Theory and Practice
College of Education
Montana State University Billings
Dear Mr. Mendez,
We are now using the NSTA Learning Center (NLC) for content coursework in the General
Education category for pre-service elementary teachers. Jeanie Kalotay and I (Ken
Miller, both College of Education) have been working with the STEM faculty in the
Biological and Physical Science department. We have taught them how to flip a classroom
and how to blend online with on-campus. We have two basic courses to provide the
content required for licensure in Montana. We have carefully chosen NSTA SciPacks
specific to the content needed for an elementary teacher, built the courses around
the SciPacks, and provide experiences that enable pre-service teachers the skills
and content to teach science well.
While there are pedagogical implications in every SciPack, we are not quite there
yet. We have a separate methods course that ties in the content with appropriate
NGSS practices and methods. My goal is to begin to work on the methods at the same
time as we work with the content. Higher Ed moves at a slow dance, not a Tango.
Here is the structure of the course: Each semester we structure a 3 credit course
with the Science department. Approximately 60 students enter into a specific section
that interfaces with the NLC. Students purchase the subscription to the NSTA Learning
Center to use as their e-Textbook and NSTA student membership for 1-year bundle,
which can be used the next semester as well. Each semester, we have 5 SciPacks required
to be completed. We meet on Thursday nights each week. The first Thursday is a lecture/review/interaction/activities
all relating to the SciPack that the students are just finishing. The second Thursday
is a written test that is proctored over that SciPack. Then the cycle begins again
on a new SciPack.
We are excited about this procedure. The courses prior to this were considered courses
from "Hell" by our students. The students were beat up as well as the faculty. Now
the science faculty are having fun teaching the elementary teachers. The department
chair told me that the NSTA SciPacks offer more in-depth content than what they
had before and the students in this course are scoring about a mean of 18% above
his other more traditional course. He is sold. So am I.
Kenneth Miller, Ph.D.
Michael Odell, Ph.D.
Roosth Chair in Education
Executive Director, The Ingenuity Center
University of Texas at Tyler
I utilize the NSTA Learning Center for my Pre-service Teachers enrolled in my science
methods courses at The University of Texas-Tyler. I utilize the Learning Center
because it is much more comprehensive than a methods text. The NSTA Learning Center
allows me to develop (preload) a library of materials I can share with my students
to serve as their text. It allows the students to build upon the library by adding
their own resources as they learn about science teaching and learning. The access
to the journals provides a great resource for supporting lesson study. The fact
that the system is online allows my students to utilize the Learning Center in their
field placements as well.
In the EC-6 and 4-8 grade level certification programs too many students do not
have the content backgrounds they need in science. The Learning Center allows me
to evaluate my students’ science content knowledge using the free PD Indexer tool
and develop a remediation plan using SciPacks to address their gaps in knowledge.
The best part is that students complete the modules outside of class rather than
taking limited class time. Students also seem to like the SciGuides that are coupled
with the SciPacks and Science Objects, as they provide vetted web-based resources,
lesson plans, and access to the simulations found in the SciPacks for use in the
classroom. I also utilize the Science Objects with their embedded simulations and
formative assessment questions in my class for demonstration purposes.
The fact that students can develop a professional development portfolio is very
attractive. This is an area I will be working to utilize the Learning Center so
that students can upload student products, reflections, and their analyses. I find
the Learning Center to be very dynamic and useful for pre-service education.
Michael Odell, Ph.D.
Christine Anne Royce, Ed.D
Department Chairperson and Associate Professor
NSTA Resources – A Winning Combination for Elementary Science Methods at Shippensburg
Throughout the past two years, NSTA resources have become the major avenue for preparing
future elementary teachers in the area of science education at Shippensburg University.
As a faculty member who teaches elementary science methods, I have become a believer
that NSTA wins the trifecta of providing current resources for pre-service (and
in-service) teachers that will follow them well into their teaching career and provide
countless opportunities for individual professional development. This winning combination
incorporates NSTA membership, the NSTA Learning Center, and NSTA Press books.
Students enrolled in my TCH 346 – Teaching Science in the Elementary School are
required to join NSTA as a student member. Student dues are fairly low, and in conjunction
with the other required NSTA resources, my students will spend much less than traditional
course materials, and although much of what is utilized in class can be done electronically
and through online resources, I feel there is a high value for my students to be
part of a large global network of members who view science teaching as a true profession.
Students are first introduced to resources through the member benefits including
journals and the NSTA Reports. When they realize the wealth of information and ideas
available, it then allows me as the instructor to show them how to become even richer
in resources through the archives available on the website and the ability to create
a personalized library within their NSTA Learning Center.
I am a strong proponent of customizing professional development for the needs of
each teacher. Components in the NSTA Learning Center allow me to provide consistent
and accurate content for my students while at the same time allowing them to tailor
aspects to their individual needs and meet the need for differentiated instruction.
This is accomplished with my students through the Professional Development Indexer
tool which allows them to ascertain their content areas that are sufficient and
those that may need a little bit of a boost. Students can then become the director’s
(along with a little gentle guidance) to their own professional development by selecting
areas of need around which to complete several of their assignments – including
the development of a personal library in the “My Library” area of the Learning Center,
selection of a SciPack in a need area to purchase and complete to increase their
learning. Students were then able to reassess their knowledge at the end of that
SciPack by retaking the individual component of the PD Indexer to bring the PD experience
In surveying my students, one question that was asked was “Describe a single resource
that you used during science methods that you really "liked".” It was clear from
the responses that students found the assignments that utilized the NSTA Learning
Center as valuable as well as likeable. Student responses included: “[the] SciPaks
were really detailed and interesting to go through,” and “I liked the Learning Center.
The articles were very interesting and are a good resource. I really found my SciPack
interesting. I relearned a lot of information that I had forgotten and some that
I was unfamiliar with. I think that the SciPack really helped to expand my science
The final component of my class focuses on the use of NSTA Press books to provide
additional content knowledge and support for pre-service teachers. Whether through
the purchase of an actual book (my students do purchase Lingo of Learning) or the
purchase of individual e-Chapters of books that could be added to their “My Library,”
students can delve deeper into pedagogical and/or content areas in which they are
Overall, my college students and the future students they teach are the winners
in that they reap the benefits of the NSTA’s trifecta.
- Membership introduces them to the larger world of science education as a profession;
- The NSTA Learning Center has allowed me to make the content in my elementary science
methods class dynamic and interactive for individual students while still meeting
the overall goals and objectives of my course; and
- NSTA Press books provide a greater in-depth and focused look at topics students
wish to pursue.
Christine Anne Royce, Ed.D
Susan M. Blunck, Ph.D.
Associate Clinical Professor Science Education
Director UMBC Center for Excellence in STEM Education
Dear Mr. Byers and Mr. Mendez,
I am writing to praise all of you at NSTA for your creative efforts in providing
online professional development resources for teachers and to let you know that
at The University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) we are using the resources
with our pre-service elementary science teachers to boost their content understandings
and help them gain insights into high quality professional development. As the professor
of the UMBC elementary science methods course and as a professional development
researcher, my belief is that the day you decide to become a science teacher you
start on your professional development journey. So, one of the main goals in my
course is to help my pre-service teachers become aware of the resources that will
serve them across their careers as life-long learners. The online professional development
resources on the NSTA website are a perfect fit for helping us reach this goal.
The vision for electronic professional development communities is vividly appearing
on the horizon thanks to NSTA and the creation of the NSTA Learning Center. The
Learning Center provides developmentally appropriate, web-based, instantly accessible,
do it yourself (DIY) experiences that are helping our UMBC students become more
knowledgeable, confident, and caring elementary science teachers.
Across the past three years, UMBC elementary science pre-service teachers, in my
graduate and undergraduate elementary science methods courses, have been taking
advantage of the learning opportunities provided in the Learning Center. Research
shows us that elementary pre-service teachers are often weak in terms of their science
content background so providing quality information on key science concepts is a
key goal of this course. For many years, the students in my class have had assignments
that required them to visit the NSTA website but now that the Learning Center has
become more fully developed the students are focused on the use of content-rich
tools and resources in the Center.
Once students register for a free Learning Center account, they are able to have
experiences with Science Objects, SciPacks, web seminars, books and journal articles,
as well as, the professional development tools, such as the PD Indexer and PD Plan
and Portfolio, all designed to help them develop the habits of a true professional.
To this point in time, the pre-service teachers in my course are required to visit
the Learning Center where they work primarily with the Science Objects in order
to gain stronger content understandings to effectively design a two-week, inquiry-based,
teaching module required for my course. The Science Objects serve as the main tool
students use to gain deeper understanding of essential science concepts. The knowledge
gained by the students is substantial. As a science teacher educator, I have benefited
greatly from using the Learning Center in my classes and look forward to extending
the experiences this year by having my students set professional development learning
goals and provide evidences and reflections to include in their PD Plan and Portfolio.
I encourage other university science educators to get their students involved in
Learning Center activities. Our pre-service teachers deserve the opportunity to
experience NSTA’s innovative, high quality, online professional development learning
experiences as these are the types of activities they will be doing as practicing
Susan M. Blunck, Ph.D.
Bambi L. Bailey, Ph.D.
Associate Professor Science Education
The University of Texas at Tyler
Dear Mr. Mendez,
I have to admit that I was skeptical about the points/badges system working with
my [preservice science methods] students, but I was SO-O-O-O wrong! I simply put
an announcement on Blackboard praising the top folks to date over the weekend. I
didn't even think about the fact that the only man in one class had the overall
top points. Several young women announced, "We can let Terry get away with that!"
And so it began....
Terry mocked them for not checking their profile page for updates on their points.
They asked me how he got so many so quickly. I said different activities receive
different points. By this time Terry had left. One student said, " So if no one
has used the Community Forums yet, I could be the leader for that pretty easily
- huh?" The conversation went on for a while
I haven't met with my other class yet, but they too have upped the ante. I don't
know what their reason is.
I just know that a small group has infected the larger group. They know about their
profile page, the leader boards, and the different types of Learning Center Activities
in a way that will stick with them much better than my overview did.
FYI - They are also excited about the idea of the donations (good idea putting that
tab with the activity/point tab it made a perfect segue to an argument for my non-competitive
people to participate more as well).
Bambi Bailey, Ph.D.
James A. Rye, Professor
West Virginia University
Department of Curriculum & Instruction/Literacy Studies
I have used the NSTA Learning Center resources with undergraduate and graduate students
pursuing initial elementary-level teacher certification. As we know, science presence
is insufficient in today's elementary school classroom. The NSTA Learning Center
is one powerful tool that science educators can utilize in their methods courses
to help equip and motivate future teachers to change this scenario. I have required
pre-service teachers to build and showcase a "My Library" of the free resources,
and I have encouraged them to utilize these resources for other course assignments,
such as the Learning Cycle Unit that they teach and assess in practica and their
Micro-professional Development Session that they provide to their classmates. It
is so rewarding to listen to the pre-service students speak enthusiastically about
the Learning Center resources, e.g., they are amazed that such a valuable resource
Recently, I also have taken advantage of the free web seminars for my pre-service
teachers. We participated in a seminar on garden-based learning, which was so timely
given that we have a small grant to build a program at one of the professional development
schools that provide experiences for our pre-service teachers. Based on the positive
feedback I have received from pre-service teachers, I plan to enhance the utilization
of this tool in future offerings of methods courses and build it into another course
on integrating science-mathematics instruction. Thank you, NSTA, for providing such
a wonderful resource to empower elementary teachers to enhance science learning
James A. Rye, Ph.D.
What Teachers Say:
What Teachers Say about Learning Center e-PD resources and opportunities
SciPacks and Science Objects
"I'm so grateful that I had the opportunity to become acquainted with the SciPacks
and the Learning Center. I've been working on one SciPack after another in the fields
of Earth Science and biology. They are marvelous learning tools. I was asked to
teach Earth Science last year and I had a steep learning curve using whatever material
I could find. After completing a trio of SciPacks I feel totally ready to design
some great units (I do have the NSTA Project Earth Science manuals). I also did
the Nutrition and Cell SciPacks. All of them are excellent resources as models for
sequencing and formative assessment. Thank you for vastly improving what I will
bring to the classroom."
"This was a great use of my time. I would recommend SciPacks for use durning district
"I had taught the unit before, but now I have ideas I never thought of before, and
have additional demonstrations ideas on how to present the topic to facilitate learning."
"It is now starting "to click" and I finally understand it; There were many "aha"
"Going through this experience helped me to emphasize these concepts with my students."
"As I personally experienced the simulations [in the SciPacks], I was then able
to develop better classroom activities. I feel this was directly responsible for
my students improved test scores. As a teacher that does not have a specialization
in science, I found the Force and Motion SciPack very helpful in developing more
effective classroom experiences for my students."
"I found the SciPack Module, Gravity and Orbits, to be helpful in filling in the
gaps of my education. After completing the SciPack, I felt more confident in presenting
the material to my students as well as better informed in trying to address their
questions. The gravity and orbits SciPack was a good review of content for me. I
found myself using a lot of the examples represented in the tutorial with my students."
"I have completed the SciPack on plate tectonics and found it extremely helpful
to me in my teaching. The students seemed to understand the concepts much better
than last year's class. I believe this SciPack helped me to develop a deeper understanding
of this topic and in turn I prepared better lessons for my classes. I feel that
my students really understood plate tectonics because finally their teacher understood
plate tectonics. Each class showed a significant increase in the class average after
the lessons were taught."
The SciPack was really perfect for me. The reading was interspersed with questions
and checking for understanding which really helped me to pace myself and see if
I got the concept. The animations and diagrams were also very specific to the subject
matter which was very helpful. – Shelly Hawksford, middle school teacher, Maryland.
Online Short Course
"I found the course very beneficial and I have come away with several ideas that
I will be able to use in my classroom. To me that is the sign of an excellent course!"
– Alane Peragallo, middle school teacher, Virginia.
"I liked the ability to speak directly to the instructor and moderator. I liked
the ability to respond in different formats and I was overjoyed to use technology
efficiently and to feel more comfortable with the resources." – Alice Mayoral, middle
school teacher, Virginia.
"I liked the convenience of attending class from my living room and interacting
as I needed. Most of the information helped me personally, and the last session
was directly pertinent to my students’ curriculum." – Janet Reichmuth, high school
"The platform and online forum is a great way to engage individuals and increase
learning." – Jim Carr, middle school teacher, Illinois
“Although I have taken several physics courses, I find physics a very difficult
area of science. The [NSTA Short Course in Force and Motion] was very beneficial
in reviewing key concepts and forcing me to examine my own understanding. I was
so impressed with the software used I'm still talking about it with my colleagues.”
“I have already visited some of the links provided in the SciGuides to use in my
classroom next year. I think the simulations are invaluable and I definitely plan
to incorporate them in my lessons next year.”
“The technology was a definite plus. I have taken several on-line courses and even
with my dial up connection, this [NSTA Online Short Course] was by far the best
I have ever participated in! The interactive nature of the Elluminate software was
incredible! I love the voting/polling and instant feedback was great! The program
was designed to target all different learning styles.”
It gave me further resources and connections to broaden my own and my students understanding
of the seasons. – Stephanie Ott-Zurcher, middle school teacher, Pennsylvania
I learned a lot in this class – tonight for instance, I learned about precession,
about how the forces of inertia/momentum and gravity interact, and I better understand
Kepler’s laws. This helps my understanding of gravity and orbits and should make
it more effective when responding to student questions. Also, I’ve gotten a better
idea about what sources to use in an inquiry setting. - Mark Goldsmith, middle school
“[The Web Seminar is] really thought-provoking and cutting edge--lots of ideas for
further learning or discussion.”
"I was super-impressed with the software. I enjoyed the seminar it was interesting
and being able to interact was fun. Very cool!"
“This was an incredible team of experts who talked to all levels of educators- from
preschool to high school. Excellent topic, presentation and resources.”
"This was my first web seminar, and I loved the experience. The live interaction
was wonderful, and the presenters, were so much fun. It is so nice to be able to
participate from the comfort of my own home!"
"I enjoyed having different lecturers and the hands-on activities/lab."
"This is one of the very best professional development institutes I've attended.
"Fantastic experience. Great activities. Can not wait to use the lessons in my class
and share them with other teachers in my school."
"Wow! As a former reading teacher who just switched over to K-5 science, you have
just made me a better science teacher. Thanks!
Other Points of Interest