For the first time in my teaching career, I stepped away from my local network and went national. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to attend the 2016 National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) Conference in Nashville, TN to meet with and learn from teachers around the country. Participation included numerous engaging and informative workshops presented by teachers with diverse backgrounds and levels of experience from a variety of education sectors. Within each workshop, teachers described the successes and challenges they have been facing in their classrooms and other educational settings.
To my surprise, science teachers from all educational environments (e.g., informal to formal), grades (e.g., pre-K to High School AP) and experience (e.g., first year teachers to instructional coaches) posed a question on common ground: "How do we enhance science education for students from all backgrounds and learning styles, while designing and implementing Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) curriculum that is three dimensionally aligned?" The workshops I attended emphasized current research and teaching strategies centered on the application of the 3-Dimensional framework – the foundation of the NGSS. Others built on each other. For example, I participated in a series of workshops that focused on analyzing and improving existing science units. Working in small groups, the goal was to revise the units to make them more 3-Dimensionally aligned. Each session built on the previous and the same group of teachers worked together throughout the five workshops. This type of continuous learning was a highlight for me.
My NSTA Conference experience was a rewarding professional and personal learning opportunity. NSTA 2016 enabled me to expand my professional network and afforded me the chance to see a part of the country that I have never traveled to before. Nashville is a unique city that proudly celebrates its deep roots in American music history and culture. I look forward to attending future conferences at the national level and representing the mission of Sierra Nevada Journeys and its impact that we as an organization have in the community we live.
- Michael Casale, SNJ Experiential Educator