Category Archives: Conferences

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 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

HerWorld Conference Encourages Young Women in Science and Technology

I was invited to speak at this year’s HerWorld 2010 Conference put on by DeVry University in Denver. HerWorld is a conference for high school junior and senior young women interested in science and technology. It supports STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math and exposes students to career opportunities in those fields.

They participate in games, hands-on projects like building robots and circuit boards and live discussions. They even do a mock CSI crime scene investigation for those interested in forensics as a possible career path.

I spoke to a group of more than 650 young women about the importance of building connections, sharing ideas and creating experiences for others. I may have also shot off a few potatoes and giant smoke rings.

Everyone took part in a group science lesson about Bernoulli’s Principal and inflated giant Wind Bags. A perfect time to take out the phones and take some pictures to share.

Thanks to everyone at DeVry for hosting me at the event.

Spangler Uses Cool Science Demos at NAEYC Conference to Share His Passion for Teaching Science

Contributed by Guest Blogger, Nancy Leemer

I remember coming to the NAEYC Conference years ago and watching Steve Spangler present his hands-on science activities to a room of 50 or so early childhood educators, but those days are long gone. That intimate workshop experience in the past has given way to a ballroom packed with a few thousand teachers who are wondering what he’s going to do this time.

“I saw Steve last week on the Ellen Show and didn’t even know he was going to be at this conference,” said Shawna Dematre, a second year teacher from an early learning center outside of Nashville. “When I saw his name on the program, I wanted to come to the session to see how I can do more science experiments for my kids.”

When Steve hit the stage, the audience had already been treated to twenty minutes of simple science experiments and other video clips from Spangler’s website. Within five minutes from the start of the program, pieces of potatoes were already flying through the audience and he was setting up his main themes:

  • The difference between good teachers and great teachers is that the great ones know how to create unforgettable learning experiences.
  • Just because kids have “stuff” in their hands doesn’t mean that they’re doing science.
  • Throwing in a few science terms here or there doesn’t mean that you’re teaching science!
  • Children need the opportunity to wonder, discover and explore in an environment that challenges their inquisitive nature.
  • If it gets to the dinner table, you win!

If you’ve ever heard Steve speak at a conference, you know that he’s not a PowerPoint presenter. Instead, he uses lots of demos and props and stories to illustrate each of the points. I found myself getting so caught up in watching the science experiments that I had to quickly scribble notes as he transitioned to his next point. But my favorite idea was so simple, and it makes sense: If it gets to the dinner table, you win. He’s speaking to his earlier observation that there’s a difference between doing an activity and creating an experience. When teachers create experiences, kids will remember them and even share them (on their own!) at the dinner table. The whole thing comes full circle when the parents stop by and ask questions about something that happened in class like… Did you really float a bowling ball? or Why does my daughter want 10 boxes of cornstarch?

“I’m so honored that this many teachers would attend this session,” said Steve after an impromptu book signing session at the edge of the stage. “I’m never quite sure what to share because so many of these teachers have seen me speak in the past. I want to give them something new to try with their kids while at the same time addressing some of the bigger ideas of creating experiences that the children will never forget.”

Spangler shared stories about a kindergarten experience he had trying to push straws through potatoes. While it seems impossible, it’s actually quite easy if you know the secret: Put your thumb over the end of the straw to trap the air and to give the straw rigidity and strength. This simple experiment morphed into a larger scale potato “pusher” that launched a chunk of spud a few hundred feet to the back of the room. Again, it’s a story about creating experiences, which is something that Spangler does well, even with his audiences. Within just a few minutes of demonstrating his giant air bag activity, everyone in the audience (yes, everyone!) was doing the activity themselves. The room literally erupted into a giant science experiment.

As Spangler points out, “If you’re going to be a creator of experiences, you need to feel the excitement of being the recipient of an experience as well.”

During the remainder of the session, we were treated to the sounds of science as Steve showed us how to use an ordinary turkey baster or a saw from the hardware store to teach children about vibrations and sounds. While it wasn’t part of his original line-up of demos for the session, Steve shared the same science experiment he did on the Ellen DeGeneres Show just last week when he used a heavy gas to make her voice sound very low. The special gas called sulfur hexafluoride was donated by the props people at the Ellen Show to share at NAEYC.

One of the great take-away ideas for me was Steve’s suggestion of partnering with a chemistry club at the local high school or college. He reminded us that these people are eager to find an audience for their students to share cool science demonstrations that might otherwise be too expensive or complicated for an early childhood teacher to do themselves. Ultimately, it’s the children who benefit from experiencing the excitement of being a part of the demonstration. Exposing our young children to many different types of science is a method that I think really works. As an example of what a local chemistry club or traveling science group might do, Steve shared this quick experiment called “Monster Foam.”


The event wrapped up with signature Steve Spangler experiment – his trash can smoke ring generator. Everyone learned how to take advantage of post-Halloween sales to find a simple smoke machine, cut the hole in the trash can, stretch the shower curtain (from the Holiday Inn – ha!), and blow out amazing smoke rings. His skill at knocking Styrofoam cups off the heads of audience members to the booming sounds of the William Tell Overture was the perfect, high-energy ending to an experience I’ll never forget.