MDE logo

Science Updates...from the Minnesota Department of Education!

View past MDE Science Updates - Click Here

Preparing for New Minnesota Science Standards

John Olson, Minnesota Department of Education Science Specialist and colleagues are writing a series of articles for the MnSTA newsletter in preparation for the review of the science standards in 2018-19. They are including ideas about science learning and teaching that have come from research and teaching experience, which will influence the writing and implementation of our next science standards.

Please access the articles here!

For further information see the MN Dept. of Education standards webpage or contact

Most recent MDE Science Update

August 2017

This periodic update from the Minn. Dept. of Education (MDE) is sent to a few email lists, including the Minn. Science Teachers Assn. (MnSTA) and district/organization contacts. We encourage you to forward this to other teachers and science leaders. Archived editions are at this site. See MDE contacts at the end of this document.

Note: MDE does not endorse any resource or event that is not conducted by MDE.

* indicates an item that was not in the previous edition


*Faster News and Resources

A couple web resources provide daily and weekly announcements of events and resources for science educators.

  • MnSTA: the Minnesota Science Teachers Assn. posts new items almost every day on its website and Facebook page. The website postings are open to anyone. MnSTA members are eligible to join the Facebook group and they receive weekly summaries of the website postings.
  • Get STEM: The Minnesota High Technology Assn and the MN Dept. of Education operate the website, which connects STEM educators and businesses. Teachers can post “asks” and business people and other resource providers can make “offers.” Subscribers get a weekly update of new entries

*ESSA State Plan and Funding Opportunity

Minnesota's Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) state plan draft is posted on the ESSA webpage for a month of public comment beginning on August 1. As part of the public comment period, Commissioner Cassellius will host regional meetings in St. Paul, Rochester, Mankato, Moorhead, Sartell and Duluth to share the draft plan, answer questions and take public comments. The tour will begin August

  1.   Register now to attend one of these meetings. There is also an online survey available for comments. You may especially be interested in the role of the Science MCA in the plan.
The Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant Program instructions, application, and budget documentation are now available on MDE’s grant opportunity site. The Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant Program is for public school districts, charter schools, or consortia of districts located in the State of Minnesota, for the purpose of activities and programs that provide all students with a well-rounded education, support safe and healthy students, and the enhancement of technology to improve academic achievement and digital literacy of all. Please click the link above to access the documents. For an initial understanding, look at the Grant Instructions document.

This is a competitive grant program and the proposals are due on August 28. This is an opportunity for you to advocate for science and STEM programs within your district’s or charter school’s application.

*Minnesota Presidential Award Finalists

The 2017 Minnesota finalists in science for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching are:

  • Stacey Bartlett, biology teacher, Stillwater High School
  • James Lane, biology teacher, Mahtomedi High School
  • Marta Stoeckel-Rogers, physics teacher, Tartan High School

Their applications will be reviewed at the national level and one of them will likely receive the Presidential Award from The White House. The award includes a $10,000 cash fund and recognition events in Washington DC. The award is available to K-6 teachers next year and the application is available October 1 at the program website.

*STEM TC (“Frameworks”) survey request

You are being invited to participate in a brief survey if you have used the MN STEM Teacher Center website (The Frameworks for MN Mathematics and Science Standards). We are seeking funding to repair

broken links and perform other essential maintenance and we’d like to use this opportunity to make additional changes to the website, add resources, and continue to make this a relevant site for STEM

teachers and STEM stakeholders in Minnesota and elsewhere. The survey is at this link.

The Great American Eclipse

On August 21st, the moon will block out the sun and the sky will go dark in the middle of the day. There hasn’t been a total solar eclipse on the Continental US since 1979.

Although Minnesota is not on the Path of Totality (the 70 mile wide track of the umbra or dark shadow of the moon), the state will experience an excellent partial solar eclipse - between 72%-91% of the sun will be blocked out by the moon, depending on location in the state. The highest level partial eclipse happens in the southwest corner of the state.

This is a phenomenal opportunity for kids and teachers. There is a teacher toolkit from a collaboration of NASA and WGBH. The American Astronomical Society has a compilation of educational materials and videos. For a letter that encourages administrators to let students observe the eclipse and dispels eclipse myths, go to this link.

MnSTA responds to Climate Change Denial Materials

The Minnesota Science Teachers Association is alerting teachers about anti-science mailings, specifically from the Heartland Institute. The mailing contains an anti-science book, a CD, and a letter. MnSTA states, “the materials seek to ask teachers ‘to consider the possibility that the science [of Global Climate Change] is not settled’ [Heartland Institute letter]. ‘The materials play on the scientific consensus gap which is defined as a large gap between the public perception of consensus on anthropogenic global warming (AGW) and the 97% agreement among climate scientists. The media gives the 3% a disproportionate amount of attention which creates confusion in the public’ [The Consensus Project]. The goal of the Heartland mailing is to spread an artificial doubt about the scientific evidence supporting global climate change.”

The National Science Teachers Association’s Executive Director sent a letter to its membership, which provides resources for teachers in addressing the mailing and for teaching about global climate change. Another resource for teaching about climate change is Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy.

Green Ribbon School Awards

The U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Awards honor schools that are leading the way in reducing environmental impact, promoting health, and ensuring a high-quality environmental education programming. Two Minnesota schools and one college received the 2017 award

  • Bemidji State University
  • Edgewood School & La ola del lago, Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools
  • Pilot Knob STEM Magnet School, West St. Paul – Mendota Heights – Eagan Schools

The application promotes a self-examination of sustainability practices and the opportunity to set goals for future efforts. A report with highlights of the schools is available here. The application for the 2018 award will be available in September and due in December at this MDE website.


Teacher Events and Workshops

MnCOSE Logo 

MnSTA Conference on Science Education, Nov. 10 11, St. Cloud

MnSTA is switching to a new time of the year to provide innovative teaching tools to you earlier in the school year!

 The keynote speaker is Dr. Jim Kakalios who is the author of The Physics of Superheroes. It is likely to be an engaging presentation as we find out how well comics books reflect accurate science. The conference will have strands of sessions for elementary, life science, earth science, physics and chemistry. Share your good instructional ideas by sending in a presentation proposal by September 15. More information and registration is at the conference website.

*Gender Equitable STEM Teaching Strategies Courses

SciGirls at Twin Cities Public Television invites high school STEM and CTE Teachers and school councilors to participate in SciGirls Strategies: Gender Equitable Teaching Practices in CTE Pathways for High School Girls! There are two versions of this course available; a six week face-to-face course and a twelve week online version. Both provide stipends, continuing education credits and resources. If you are interested in participating, or have questions about this project, please contact Alex Dexheimer (, 651-229-1204 at Twin Cities PBS.


Teacher and School Awards and Opportunities

*MnSTA Science Teaching Award

Be reward for great teaching. Members of the Mn Science Teaching Assn. are encouraged to apply for the MnSTA Science Teaching Award. An elementary teacher and a secondary teacher will each receive a $1,000 grant for use in their classrooms and they will be recognized at the MnSTA conference. The application is relatively easy and is due October 1. Nomination and application information is available at this link.

*GIS Teacher Video Challenge

Create a testimonial video of up to 60-seconds, sharing how you use ArcGIS Online (e.g. may include GeoInquiriesTM, Survey123, Community Analyst, etc) in your classroom instruction. Ten prizes of $500 will be give one per month during the school year. Go to this link for details.

*Celestron Binocular Grants

Celestron Optics is providing binoculars to classrooms participating in citizen-science projects. Whether you’re watching a bird feeder, going out on regular bird walks, or participating in a bio blitz, share with us how your students are scientists and what you could accomplish with a classroom set of binoculars. This grant will be distributed on a rolling basis until all binoculars have been distributed. Grant recipients will be selected at the end of each month. If you are a mini-grant recipient, you will be required to share your grant experience through the BirdSleuth Action Map. Go to this site.


School Programs and Resources

*Resource Guide for Native American Science and Engineering

The Science Museum of Minnesota is making available the Educator Guide for their exhibit “We Move and We Stay,” which is about contemporary and historic Ojibwe and Dakota People. The guide provides resources that support Minnesota Science, Social Studies and ELA standards, including classroom activities and links to websites. There are many resources about science and engineering within Native American cultures that can be used without going to the museum exhibit.

*Help students protect freshwater mussels

The Minnesota Zoo is looking for high school teachers to help develop curriculum and resources for freshwater mussel conservation and water quality. These resources would support high school students in developing digital media campaigns to promote mussel conservation, water quality awareness and personal or community action.

Partner teachers will receive $1000 for working with Zoo staff to develop materials and implement the project with at least one class of students, as well as teacher training and CEUs. Visit this site for details.

*The Compass to Nature

The Prairie Wetlands Learning Center offers a free booklet which provides teachers, parents, and other educators a way to lead the hearts and minds of children and adults into nature. "The Compass to Nature: Teaching in the Outdoor Classroom" is now available at their web site.

Just as a navigational compass enables us to guide our way outside, the four points of the Compass to Nature provide unfailing direction for all who seek to lead others in the development of a connected, caring relationship with the world we live in. The four Compass points are Place, Phenology, Naturalists, and Journals, unified by the Sense of Wonder.

*School garden survey 2017

Jeffers Foundation is conducting a survey to determine how many School Garden Programs are in Minnesota. At the following website you will see the names of 169 schools that have a garden program (that produces fruits or vegetables). Please check this website to see if your school is on this list. Note: Schools are listed at bottom of the page.

If you have a school garden and are not on this list, please notify: Dar Fosse, 612-747-3245

*Enroll your school in Science News in High Schools for free!

Receive integrated, dynamic science journalism and ready-to-use, standard-aligned teaching content through our Science News in High Schools program. Regeneron is funding the participation of 4,000

public high schools during the 2017-18 school year. Schools enrolled in SNHS will receive 10 hard copies of the biweekly Science News magazine, free digital access for all faculty and students, and an educator guide with activities and discussion questions to support classroom learning.

You can learn more about the Science News in High Schools program and access our interest form to sign up here. Spots are filling up fast, so be sure to sign up today!

*Environmental Issues Forums in the Classroom

This high school level teacher's guide provides an introduction to the Environmental Issues Forum guide Climate Choices: How should we meet the challenges of a warming planet? Using Climate Choices offers an opportunity for teachers and students to use a deliberative process to consider climate change choices. This resource provides background information on deliberation, how to use Climate Choices in the classroom, and material to help teachers moderate a forum with students. It also includes STEM activities on teaching about climate change. This resource is brought to you by the North American Association for Environmental Education.

*Earth Science Week Toolkits

The American Geosciences Institute (AGI) is now accepting advance orders for the Earth Science Week 2017 Toolkit. Earth Science week is celebrated Oct. 8 – 14. The Toolkit contains educational materials for all ages that correspond to this year's event theme, "Earth and Human Activity."

Materials include the traditional program poster and school-year activity calendar, as well as posters, activities, a game, and other resources from distinguished program partners. This year's Toolkit provides students with the opportunity to learn what geoscience tells us about human interaction with the planet's natural systems and processes. To order go to this website.

State of the Mississippi River Report and Teacher Guide

Friends of the Mississippi River and the National Park Service are pleased to present the second edition of the State of the River Report. The report presents the status and trends of 14 key indicators of river health and presents in a way that non-scientists can understand. A teachers’ guide provides lesson plans tied to Minnesota standards across grades 3-12 that can be embedded into instruction or stand alone.

Como Planetarium Opportunities, Saint Paul

With our state of the art digital immersive technology, your students will experience the Minnesota Grade 3 and Grade 8 Space Science Standards in new and exciting ways. At Como Planetarium, we observe the movement of the sun and the moon, fly to hostile planets, visit moons with geysers, explore black holes, and much more.

Explore the sky with Big Bird, learn about moon phases with Coyote, and venture into the unknown of a Black Hole with Liam Neeson. Whether you’re looking to address Space Science Standards, or looking for a fun and informative program, your students are sure to experience our sky and space in a new way. All programs include a look at the constellations and planets currently visible in our sky. Contact us today to

book shows through the end of May or for school year 2017-18. Call 651-293-5398 or visit the planetarium website.


Student Programs, Awards and Competitions

*STEM Day at the State Fair, Aug 24, St. Paul

Get an up-close look at intriguing, interactive adventures brought to the fair by more than 30 organizations in the Minnesota STEM Network, an initiative of SciMathMN, including robots, rocketry, computer coding and more designed for children of all ages. There will be stage shows each hour, including the Physics Force, the UM Raptor Center, and WCCO Weather Science. It all happens in the area south of the grandstand called Dan Patch Park. More info is at the SciMathMn website.

*Awards for students studying Beetles

The Coleopterists Society, an international organization of professionals and hobbyists interested in the study of beetles, has established a program to recognize young people in grades 7 – 12 who are studying beetles. The Society has pledged to provide up to $600 each year for the Youth Incentive Award Program. The Junior award is a monetary grant of $200 and the Senior award is $400. Award recipients also will receive up to $200 (Junior) and $400 (Senior) of equipment credit from the BioQuip Products catalog. For more information, go to the award link. The deadline is November 1.

Minnesota Competitions and Programs

Many competitions, out-of-school programs and field trip opportunities are posted at

the Mn-STEM website and listed in the Reach for the Stars Catalog of Programs and Activities.



MDE Contacts:

Dawn Cameron, Science Assessment Specialist

John Olson, Science Content Specialist, @JohnCasperOlson

Doug Paulson, STEM Integration Specialist, @DPaulsonSTEM

Jim Wood, Science Assessment Specialist

Send submissions for the Science Update to John Olson


Other Minnesota Links:

Minn. Dept. of Education Science Page

Minn. Science Teachers Association

Frameworks for MN Science and Mathematics Standards

Get – STEM Connections between schools and businesses

Mn-STEM STEM programs and resources for families, schools and community

Sharing Environmental Education Knowledge environmental education resources

Minnesota Academy of Science: Science Fair, Science Bowl and other competitions

Mn DNR Education website: Curriculum, professional development, posters, etc.


MDE Updates - Open Access

Science Update August 2017
Science_Update_Aug_2017.pdf (application/pdf, 753.7 K) posted at 3:34 PM, August 18, 2017
Science Update May 2017
Science_Update_May_2017.pdf (application/pdf, 1903.2 K) posted at 9:00 AM, May 18, 2017
Science Update April 2017
Science_Update_Apr_2017.pdf (application/pdf, 738.5 K) posted at 8:59 AM, May 18, 2017
Science Update March 2017
Science_Update_Mar_2017.pdf (application/pdf, 872.7 K) posted at 8:58 AM, May 18, 2017
Science Update February 2017
Science_Update_Feb_2017.pdf (application/pdf, 851.6 K) posted at 8:57 AM, May 18, 2017
Science Update January 2017
Science_Update_Jan_2017.pdf (application/pdf, 712.3 K) posted at 8:56 AM, May 18, 2017
Science Update November 2016
Science_Update_November_2016.pdf (application/pdf, 656.7 K) posted at 8:55 AM, May 18, 2017
Science Update October 2016
Science_Update_October_2016.pdf (application/pdf, 617.7 K) posted at 8:55 AM, May 18, 2017
Science Update August 2016
Science_Update_August_2016.pdf (application/pdf, 372.2 K) posted at 8:54 AM, May 18, 2017


John Olson, Science Content Specialist,

Dawn Cameron, Science Assessment Specialist,

Jim Wood, Science Assessment Specialist,

Doug Paulson, STEM Integration Specialist,


MDE Quick Links

MDE Science Page (standards, awards, misc.)

MDE Statewide Testing (MCA resources)

Frameworks for the Minnesota Science & Mathematics Standards