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

MDE provides updates to help schools implement the Every Student Succeeds Act here.

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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

October 2019

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 MnSTA 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



*Rolling out the New Science Standards

There will be several opportunities to learn about the new science standards, experience the teaching strategies that support the new standards, and plan for implementation.

  • MEA  Oct. 17 – breakout session introducing the new standards
  • MnSTA Conference on Science Education, Nov. 7-9 in St. Cloud
    • Keynote by Peter McLaren from Rhode Island, an NGSS writer and consultant helping states and districts implement new standards.
    • Breakout sessions about standards and instruction, including two that I will do
    • Saturday – 4 hour workshop focusing on instructional practices led by Mary Colson, NGSS writer and co-chair of the Standards Committee,
  • Regional Workshops presented by MDE, mostly at Service Cooperatives, will present standards and instructional practices for teacher and leader audiences. Dates will be set soon.
  • MnSTA Regional meetings. Board members will present evening sessions exploring the new standards.
  • We are also planning some webinar sessions and may be available for district meetings via WebEx.

Since the 2019 standards and benchmarks reflect several changes in understanding about science learning and made several changes in grade placement of benchmarks, you are encouraged to read the introduction to the standards carefully. Due to the large changes, the committee recommended a five year implementation period. Districts may wish to consider the following implementation timeline:

2019-20 – Professional development focused on Science and Engineering Practices (SEP). Start using SEPs with existing instruction of 2009 standards. Start planning courses.

20-21 – Professional development focused on phenomena, storylines and assessment. Start adding phenomena and other three dimensional strategies to existing instruction of 2009 standards. . Development of unit plans. Review instructional materials.

21-22 – Teach the new standards in grades K, 3, 6, and a ninth grade course

22-23 – Add new standards in grades 1, 4, 7, and another HS course

23-24 – add grades 2, 5, 8 and biology (to line up with the grades that are tested on the MCA)


Teacher Events and Workshops


Nature and the New Science Standards, Oct. 18, St. Paul

Spend "MEA Friday" at the Science Museum of Minnesota and get fun, hands-on lessons that use trees and forests to teach math, science, social studies, language and writing. If you're tired of hearing "Why do we have to learn this?" come to this training. Your students will love how Project Learning Tree lessons use real-world objects such as schoolyard trees and habitats, leaves, and local cultural stories. Information

  • Learn outside! Parts of the workshop will be outdoors, so dress for the weather.
  • Short tour of the museum archives--a rare opportunity!
  • Day pass to museum exhibits -- explore after the workshop.
  • PLT K-8 Environmental Education Activity Guide


PLT K-8: Let Nature be your Teacher, Nov. 2, Plymouth

Your K-8 students will love these fun, practical, hands-on lessons that use your local trees, forests, and the natural world to teach skills in science, math, language arts, and social studies. Lessons can be done in your classroom, schoolyard, or school forest in all seasons. Dress for the weather and bring your laptop. 

Instructors are DNR-trained environmental educators: Jen Kullgren is a Hennepin County forester and tree expert, and Alexa Swan is a Learning Experiences Specialist for St. Paul Parks and Recreation. Information


*Race Program Package Teacher Preview, Nov. 2, St. Paul

Context for — and conversations about –race have never been so important. Race: Are We So Different? one of the museum’s most powerful exhibit experiences –helps learners of all ages examine the biology, history, and contemporary lived experience of race and racism in the United States.

Join us for a special preview of the RACE Program Package offered only for school field trips. This preview includes a visit to the RACE: Are We So Different? exhibit, the Science Live show “Race to the Finish”, and hear from a panel of teachers who have utilized this program in the past. This is a free event, parking not included. Registration.


*Magnet Conference: STEM through the Magnet Lens, Nov. 2, Apple Valley

District 196 is inviting schools representatives to their Magnet Conference, Nov. 2, 9am –noon at Valley Middle School of STEM. Learn best practices in curriculum and instruction, technology integration, school leadership and magnet school design. Registration. Questions:


MnSTA Conference on Science Education, Nov 7-9, St. Cloud

Raising the Standard of Science Education in Minnesota is the theme of the Minnesota Science Teachers Association annual conference. Learn how to incorporate the new science standards in your classroom. Check out a variety of presentations from across the nation. Visit the vendors to view new curriculum materials and equipment. This year the venue is the Rivers Edge Conference Center in St. Cloud. Here are some of the highlights:

Thursday – Free activities

  • All day workshop: Climate Change and the new Science Standards led by Climate Generation. Registration
  • Evening Workshop: Team Teaching with Mother Nature led by Jeffers Foundation
  • Movie Screening: The Human Element: Spectacular videography of the elements affecting and affected by climate changes, including earth, air, water, fire and humans. Available with resources for free school use.


Friday – 60 Sessions

  • Keynote Address: Peter McLaren, co-writer of the Next Generation Science Standards
  • Strand speakers and breakout sessions for biology, chemistry, earth science, elementary and physics
  • Sessions on the new standards and teaching strategies
  • Social event


Saturday – single day rate available

  • 4 hour workshop on teaching strategies for the new science standards led by Mary Colson, national presenter on science instruction.
  • Elementary and secondary hands-on workshops
  • Relicensure sessions “Relicensure in a day”


Conference information and registration is at the MnSTA website.


STEM Education Conference: December 3, St. Paul

Transcending Boundaries: Connecting School, Career and community through STEM is the theme of the annual STEM education conference sponsored by SciMathMN and this year co-sponsored by The Works Museum. Join colleagues from Minnesota’s STEM learning ecosystem to consider the role of STEM education in providing inclusive environments, adequate resources, and career-connected learning that prepare the next generation for the future. Conference attendees and presenters will include: preK-12, university, informal, community, and afterschool educators and leaders; industry partners, professional organizations, employers and funders; and policy makers and community members.

Registration is now open - click here for more information and to register.


*Costa Rica Field Methods in Environmental and Science Teaching, January

Join Teachers and other educators for a field trip to Costa Rica this January! Patty Born Selly, Program Director for Hamline University's Natural Science and Environmental Education program, along with Ecology Project International, will be taking students on a 9-day adventure in Costa Rica's Osa Peninsula, considered one of Earth's biodiversity hotspots. For information, click on this link or reach out to Patty at


Earth Science Teaching Conference, Feb 7, Plymouth

The Minnesota Earth Science Teachers Association proudly announces that registration for the upcoming conference is now open.  Mark your calendars for Friday, February 7, 2020. Meteorologist Sven Sundgaard of KARE 11-TV will be the keynote speaker on “Climate Change by the Numbers.” 

Breakout sessions will include Mary Colson on ways to meet the new science standards, Ken Fiscus on teaching moon phases, George Hudak on Circular Economy Concepts, and Phillip Schoeneberger on Soil Hydrology. 

Take this opportunity to connect and reconnect with your colleagues from across the state and enjoy spending the day learning with other Earth science enthusiasts.  Information and Registration.


*National STEM Scholar Program, May 31 – June 6, Kentucky

All-Expenses-Paid Professional Learning Opportunity for Middle School Science Teachers. Ten middle school science teachers will be chosen for a prestigious opportunity offered by The Center for Gifted Studies & the National Stem Cell Foundation

Scholars will engage in hands-on, minds-on science activities; connect with speakers and thought leaders in STEM education; learn with skilled science educators; and develop a creative Challenge Project for classroom implementation. Each Scholar will receive a Chromebook and funding for Challenge Project supplies and materials. Information and Registration.


Teacher and School Awards and Opportunities


* Presidential Award Science Finalists

The Minnesota science finalists for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) for 2019 are:

-        Eric Friberg, biology teacher, Henry Sibley High School, Mendota High School

-        Marta Stoeckel-Rogers, physics teacher, Tartan High School, Oakdale

-        Cynthia Welch, life and earth science teacher, Cloquet Middle School, Cloquet

They were announced at STEM Day at the State Fair and they will be formally recognized at the MnSTA Conference on Science Education in St. Cloud November 8. Their applications will be reviewed at the national level by the National Science Foundation and the awardee will be selected by the White House. Nominations and applications for the 2020 award for K-6 teachers are now open with a May 1 deadline. Support and mentorships are available. Information.


Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship

The AEF Program provides a unique opportunity for accomplished K-12 educators in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to serve for eleven months in Federal agencies or in U.S. Congressional offices, applying their extensive knowledge and classroom experiences to national education programs and/or education policy efforts. Applications are due by November 15.


Green Ribbon School Award

Forest Lake Area High School is a 2019 recipient of the US Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Award. They join 34 other schools from across the nation in achieving this prestigious. They received their award in Washington, DC on September 25. John Olson received the State Director’s award.

A few highlights of Forest Lake’s accomplishments are:

  • Energy reductions through the installation of solar panels which saves the district about $70,000 per year.
  • Student well-being support provided by junior and senior students serving as mentors for ninth and tenth graders.
  • Volunteer hours surpassed 3000 hours in fall 2018.
  • Comprehensive environmental outdoor education in multiple content areas, including biology, agriculture, earth science, physical education and conservation electives.
  • A strong environmental club which researched and wrote much of the application for the award.

Highlights of their programs are available here. Information about the award program and how to apply is available here. Applications are due in January.


*“No Child Left Inside” grants from the DNR

The Department of Natural Resources is offering a new grant program to help more children cast a fishing line, study animal tracks, hike or bike, or simply learn more about nature. Funding can be used for outdoor recreation equipment, transportation and related natural resource education expenses.

Public entities and nonprofit organizations serving youth under age 18 are eligible to apply for this first phase of the grant program, which features a simple application and a quick review. In the first phase, $182,000 is available for programs all around Minnesota. The minimum request is $500 and the maximum is $5,000. Applications can be submitted starting Wednesday, Oct. 23, and awards will be made on a rolling basis. For more information on the grant program and a link to the application, visit the DNR’s recruit, retain and reactivate page.


School Programs and Resources


*Samsung Solve for Tomorrow

This nationwide contest is designed to boost interest and proficiency in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), and challenges public school teachers and students in grades 6-12 to show how STEM can be applied to help improve their local community. All that’s required is one STEM project idea, based on a problem teachers would like their students to solve for in their community. Along the way, 300 schools win a share of $3 million in technology and classroom materials. School application deadline is October 23. More Information.


*FREE Girls Who Code Clubs

Girls Who Code Clubs are FREE after-school programs for 3rd-5th or 6th-12th grade girls to join a sisterhood of supportive peers and role models and use computer science to change the world. Participants not only learn hard coding skills and computational thinking, but they’ll also learn project management skills, collaboration, bravery, resilience, how to positively impact their community, and so much more.

When you start a GWC Club, you’ll gain access to free resources, flexible plug and play curriculum, a $300 clubs fund, ongoing support, alumni opportunities for your young learners, and more! There’s no computer science experience needed to get started since GWC is there for you every step of the way. Apply now with the quick 15 min Clubs Application or contact Megan Cindric ( to learn more.


*Physics Force Demonstration Shows, January 13-17, Minneapolis

Physics is fun! Please join us with your students to experience the fun first hand. The University of Minnesota's Physics Force will be performing its annual series of educational and immensely entertaining shows in January 2020. This year's shows are better than ever with live fire, lightning, a crushing barrel, and more! Information and free registration.

*ArcGIS Mapping Competition for High School and Middle School Students

Esri challenges students to conduct and share projects about something in their home state. Students analyze interpret, and present data via an online Geographic Information System (GIS) map app or story map. Projects are submitted for state level review and prizes, with the potential of greater prizes at the national level. Information.

GIS resources are available free to schools through a state license program. For more information about licenses, training, and school support go to the MDE GIS page.


*The Human Element movie available free to teachers

In an arresting new documentary from the producers of Chasing Ice, environmental photographer James Balog captures the lives of everyday Americans on the front lines of climate change. With rare compassion and heart, The Human Element inspires us to reevaluate our relationship with the natural world.

The film and segments of the film along with lesson plans are available FREE to teachers. For a preview and resource go The Human Element movie website.


Student Programs, Awards and Competitions


*Bridge Competition and Transportation Program

The National Bridge and Structure Competition is held annually for students in grades 7-12 from states that participate in TRAC (Transportation and Civil Engineering) & RIDES (Roadways In Developing Elementary Students). Minnesota students qualify as it is a participating state. 

TRAC & RIDES is an educational outreach program from the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO). The program offers hands-on activities that introduce K-12 students to the working world of transportation and civil engineering and inspire them to consider careers in those fields.

The Mn Department of Transportation wants to support schools and students interested in participating and can help find an advisor. Contact


*World Series of Innovation

The World Series of Innovation invites young people to get involved in solving the biggest challenges facing humanity today and help advance the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Pick from 9 challenges and submit your ideas. Open to ages 13 – 24. Information.


More Science and Engineering Competitions

This is the time of the year to plan and register for student competitions. Check out the follow program for your classes and individual students. - Classroom based for all grades – middle and high school


Minnesota Programs and Competitions

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:

John Olson, Science Content Specialist, @JohnCasperOlson

Jim Wood, Science Assessment Specialist

Judi Iverson, 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.

Youth Eco Solutions (YES!) – Statewide, youth-led program for hands-on eco related projects


MDE Updates - Open Access

Science Update Oct 2019.pdf
Science_Update_Oct_2019.pdf (application/pdf, 2190.8 K) posted at 7:10 PM, October 8, 2019
Science Update Sep 2019
Science_Update_Sep_2019.pdf (application/pdf, 962.6 K) posted at 5:33 PM, September 4, 2019
Science Update May 2019
Science_Update_May_2019.pdf (application/pdf, 788.5 K) posted at 7:32 AM, May 24, 2019
Science Update April 2019
Science_Update_April_2019.pdf (application/pdf, 784.3 K) posted at 7:14 PM, April 4, 2019
Science Update March 2019
Science_Update_March_2019.pdf (application/pdf, 716.5 K) posted at 2:57 PM, March 6, 2019
Science Update Feb 2019
Science_Update_Feb_2019.pdf (application/pdf, 637.7 K) posted at 11:20 AM, February 5, 2019
Science Update Jan 2019
Science_Update_Jan_2019.pdf (application/pdf, 1219.5 K) posted at 12:37 PM, January 1, 2019
Science Update November 2018
Science_Update_Nov_2018.pdf (application/pdf, 729.7 K) posted at 5:23 PM, October 26, 2018
Science Update October 2018
Science_Update_Oct_2018.pdf (application/pdf, 780.7 K) posted at 12:45 PM, October 3, 2018
Science Update Sept 2018
Science_Update_Sep_2018.pdf (application/pdf, 764.4 K) posted at 5:45 PM, September 4, 2018

More documents

All 29 documents


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