Category Archives: Conferences

SITR Encouraging Teachers to Fill Classrooms with STEAM

Steve Spangler Hosts a Hands-on Science Institute for Teachers – Science in the Rockies – that Explores Strategies for Incorporating the Arts with Current STEM Initiatives

Lanyards for teachers ready for Science in the Teachers SITR

With more emphasis being put on teaching STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), teachers are eager to learn how to integrate more science and engineering challenges into their daily curriculum. 

The business community has also discovered that students need more than facts and concepts to compete for STEM-based jobs.

Learning how to effectively communicate scientific ideas and engineering solutions requires a connection to the arts (oral, written and visual communication). STEM is turning into STEAM, and Steve Spangler is leading the charge.

Teachers learning and having fun at Science in the Rockies #SITR

That’s why 168 teachers from 5 countries are attending Science in the Rockies this week at the Sheraton Denver West Conference Center. During the three-day training, teachers will participate in more than 75 hands-on science experiments and engineering challenges aimed at engaging students on many levels.

The leader for SITR is none other than Denver’s own Steve Spangler, who is well known throughout the country for his eye-catching science experiments and engaging presentation style as a science communicator. 

Science in the Rockies Flash drives and test tubes - take home learning materials for SITR

“I believe that at its root level STEM is all about creating the next generation of young scientists and engineers,” says Spangler, who started his career as a science teacher in the Cherry Creek Schools from 1991-2003. “Science in the Rockies is all about teaching teachers how to turn ordinary activities into unforgettable learning experiences that will spark passion and enthusiasm in the students they reach.” 

Given Spangler’s reputation for making things fun, participants never know what to expect. What’s in store for this year’s participants? If you’re a betting person, place your money on messy and memorable.

 Teachers Send Home Multiple Boxes of Take Home Supplies from Science in the Rockies SITR

A Science Fair Project on Time Change That Just Might Change the World

By Contributor Scott Yates

It’s true that not everyone is a fan of science fair projects.

But what if students could be involved in a project that directly affects them and their families? What if they could help prove that a governmental decision is a bad one, and one that should be reversed? What if the could get some extra sleep in the spring, right when it’s needed?

Time Change - Science Fair Project | Steve Spangler Science Blog

They can. Here’s how:

Daylight Saving Time is one of the least-understood government mandates out there. It’s confusing, disruptive, and deeply unpopular, especially in the spring when the clocks “spring forward” and we lose an hour of sleep.

I’m happy to say, however, that I’m now leading a movement to do away with the concept, but I need the help of science-minded students all over the country.

You see, the research that has been done about the clock changing for DST is all negative. The New England Journal of Medicine reports that it increases heart attacks. Other studies show that traffic accidents increase, productivity goes down, etc.

And yet, the time change is still with us twice per year. Why?

Well, the time zone a state or even part of a state was in was once something that the state got to decide. Then in 1967 the U.S. Congress passed and the president signed a law making the time more uniform. Only Arizona and Hawaii now keep the same time all year long, an exemption made by that law.

Now when states look at the matter, they find that they can’t decide on their own any more. The federal government will deny any application to change.

The only way we can make it work is if all the states band together. My suggestion is that all the states pass some kind of bill or resolution saying that they want to stop the crazy DST clock-changing. The trick is that no state wants to be first (or last) so I think they should just pass something saying that if two-thirds of the states pass something similar, than they will apply to the Feds and ask to be exempted.

And who should ask our state legislators? I propose that — the science-minded students of America.

There’s not much time left, so the first step is to create a bit of science. I can envision many great experiments, starting with:

  • How does a family’s energy use change?,
  • What are the computational abilities in students on the day after the clock-change?
  • What is the tardiness rates after the change?

Here’s another example from the master himself:

And here’s the part that makes it so great: After you do that science showing that clock-changing for DST is a bad idea, you can take it to your elected state-level official. They love hearing from students.

Than ask them to introduce or at least vote for a resolution that follows this model language for getting rid of Daylight Saving clock-changing.

How’s that for extra credit? Imagine saying that you did some science that helped change federal law and ended the dangerous precedent of changing clocks based on out-dated ideas.

I hope you will join in this effort, and if you do please let me know on this blog. I will be sure to highlight your success there.

 

Scott Yates is founder of a blog writing company, an inventor, and a father.

 

Science in the Rockies Teacher Training Now Aligned to Next Gen and Common Core

As many of you know, the final version of the Next Generation Science Standards were just released in early April. Over the past few weeks, our team has been working feverishly to align Steve Spangler’s hands-on science curriculum from Science in the Rockies with these newly released standards. In addition to the science standards, we know that many of you are looking for creative strategies for connecting more hands-on science with the Common Core reading, writing and math objectives. That’s why we are very excited to share these integration strategies and creative methods for making science even more fun and meaningful for your students in the coming years.

Next Generation Science Standards are a voluntary set of rigorous and internationally benchmarked standards for K-12 science education. Twenty-six states and their teams joined 41 writers and partners to compile science and engineering content that all students should learn to prepare for college and the real world.

“The Next Generation of Science Standards promise to help students understand why is it that we have to know science and help them use scientific learning to develop critical thinking skills-which may be applied throughout their lives, no matter the topic. Today, students see science as simply a list of facts and ideas that they are expected to memorize. In contrast to that approach education researchers have learned, particularly in the last 15 to 20 years, that if we cover fewer ideas, but go into more depth, students come away with a much richer understanding,” said Joseph S. Krajcik, Professor of Science Education in the College of Education at Michigan State University and a member of the writing team.

Common Core State Standards are standards set across states to create a clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, and to put both parents and teachers on the same education team. These standards provide skills and knowledge students need to prepare for college and beyond.

Please join us in Denver July 9th through 11th for Steve Spangler’s Science in the Rockies.

Not familiar with Science in the Rockies? Every July, 150 teachers from around the world come together for three days with a team of instructors who are over-the-top excited about teaching science.

The workshop focuses on ways to bring wonder, discovery, and exploration back into your classroom through Halloween activities, electricity, things that glow, or even launching a potato out of PVC pipes. This is not a “sit-and-watch” teacher training… this is a “get-up-and-do” learning experience featuring over 75 engaging activities that you can take home and immediately share with your students.

You’ll leave the workshop with all the tools you need to become the best science teacher possible, including over $300 of gizmos, gadgets, hands-on learning materials for your students, hard-to-find supplies, and cool resources that accompany the Science in the Rockies curriculum. You’ll also receive a 250-page training manual that details every aspect of your learning experience, from the detailed instructions and recipes to the in-depth explanations and real-world applications.

The enthusiasm for making science fun spreads like a virus! Steve Spangler and his staff will change the way you teach science… forever.

 

Toy Fair 2012 – The Effects of Launching Over 800 Mentos Geyser Cars

This year marked my 14th trip to the New York Toy Fair. And since Toy Fair is always scheduled during Valentine’s Day, this is my 14th year to be away from my wife. So, instead of sending her flowers or taking her to dinner, I just bring her home the latest X-Men action figures and a remote controlled helicopter. Yes, the marriage is going well… thanks for asking.

Almost 27,000 professionals involved in the toy or retail industries from over 100 countries converge on New York to attend the largest and most successful toy trade show. Buyers from over 6,000 retail outlets search through over 100,000 products for “gems” to sell in their stores. Wholesalers and inventors alike display their toys in hoping to find a gateway into the global toy market.

It’s always fun for me to get the opportunity to debut my newest toys at the Be Amazing Toys booth. This is a company that we started in 2002 to serve as the wholesale division for our science toys that were best suited for specialty toy stores and mass-market retailers around the world. After growing and selling the company in 2004, I continue to work in Product Development… which is just a fancy way of saying that I create new science toys and kits each year and market them through Be Amazing Toys.

This year’s hot products were the Mentos Geyser Car and the Energy Stick. Over the course of three days, we launched over 800 Geyser Cars in the booth as prospective buyers considered carrying the new product. Powered by a 2-liter bottle of diet soda and only three Mentos, the new Geyser Rocket Car will travel over 150 feet at a rate of about 12 miles per hour. The fancy Plexiglass enclosure created by our design guru, Jeff Brooks, kept the crowds from getting soaked with spewing diet soda, but the demonstrator (that’s yours truly for part of the time) was not completely protected from the erupting geyser. By the end of the day, my once pale white hands and arms were now a strange shade of carmel brown… which closely resembled the color of Diet Coke. Go figure.

The less messy but ever popular Energy Stick garnered lots of attention from a wide range of interested buyers. It’s a battery-powered device that turns your body into a human conductor of electricity. You and a friend hold onto each end of the Energy Stick while completing the circuit with your other hands. When the circuit is complete, the Energy Stick flashes and the buzzer lets you know that you’ve completed the circuit. Rest assured that there was lots of hand holding going on in the Be Amazing Toys booth at Toy Fair.

Both the Mentos Geyser Car and the Energy Stick are currently available at SteveSpanglerScience.com and will be coming to a toy store near you later this year.

But the best part of Toy Fair for me is being able to walk the exhibit floor to meet up with old friends and to make a few new acquaintances as well. Out of the clear blue, I turned the corner and ran into Cindy Burnham, one of the co-creators of the famous Tornado Tube product. Cindy’s husband, Craig, actually invented the toy many years ago, and it continues to be a best-seller today.

I also had the pleasure of meeting Shelly Brady, the creator of the original Tub Tints. Over the years, our team has created dozens of products that use her fizzing tablets to color water. Shelly is one of those success stories where a great idea gets teamed up with a big company and the rest is history.

I also did a live television segment with Christopher Byrne, the Toy Guy, to talk about the hottest toys this year.

 

It’s easy to gauge the success of Toy Fair by the number of business cards, postcards and other forms of wadded up paper that are bursting out of every pocket. There are lots of phone calls to make, e-mails to write and toys to ship in 2012.

 

ASTC 2011 – My Newest Favorite Science Conference

Niki Hord, Maryland Science Center, Baltimore performing "The Squirty Sphere."

Where do science museums get all of their great ideas for exhibits, live demo shows and everything else that makes us say, “How did they do that?” The secret is ASTC… and I experienced the magic of ASTC this past weekend in Baltimore, Maryland.

ASTC is the Association of Science-Technology Centers and their annual conference is nothing short of a meeting of the greatest science education minds in the world. I’ve known about the conference for years, and I’m good friends with many science museum educators who attend the event, but I’ve never had the opportunity to attend. All of that changed this year with an invitation by the ASTC legend himself, Eddie Goldstein, to present a workshop together at this year’s conference.

Eddie is the Senior Educator and Coordinator for Science Gallery Program at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Eddie and I have been friends for nearly 35 years with our roots dating back to a time when we studied the art of magic with fellow magicians in Denver, Colorado. Aside from being a great magician, Eddie is one of the most recognized and respected educators in the science museum world today. He’s a frequent speaker and lecturer at conferences around the globe, and we’re proud to claim him as one of our own in Colorado.

Playing on our share experiences performing magic, Eddie came up with a great workshop idea for the 2011 ASTC conference… How Being a Magician Made Me a Better Science Demonstrator. Over the years, there’s been a growing interest in pointing out the parallels between science and magic. Eddie’s idea took this concept to a new level by sharing the many parallels between being a good educator and being a good magician. Instead of falling into the trap of doing clever tricks to try to demonstrate scientific principles, the session explored the sophisticated techniques that magicians use to build mental models in people’s minds and how to use those same techniques to build scientifically sound mental models instead.

I’m sharing this because I’d like to hear your thoughts on the similarities and differences between science and magic and/or magicians and teachers.

There were far too many highlights from my ASTC experience to share them all, but one that stands out was being asked to be a part of another ASTC tradition and one of the most popular features of the conference – the LIVE Demo Hour, hosted by none other than… Eddie Goldstein (see, I told you this guy is a big deal). The LIVE Demo Hour gives staff from science centers and museums all over the world the opportunity to showcase some crowd-pleasing (and often messy) demonstrations about scientific principles.

Here are the science rockstars that I had the privilege to meet…

Niki Hord and Chris Blair, Maryland Science Center, Baltimore performing "The Squirty Sphere."

 

Adiel Fernandez, New York Hall of Science, Queens performing the "Frozen Pipe."

 

Jonah Cohen, The Children's Museum, West Hartford, Connecticut performing the "Bottle Rocket."

 

Eddie Goldstein and Jodi Schoemer, Denver Museum of Nature & Science, Colorado performing "Simple Lever Puppets."

 

… and yours truly blasting a few giant rings of smoke from the trash can of science.

 

My sincerest thanks to everyone who attended the ASTC conference for welcoming me into your group and sharing some of your science secrets for making science fun.

For more information about future ASTC conferences, visit www.ASTC.org