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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

January 2020

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




Workshops: Preparing to Implement the New Science Standards

The 2019 K-12 Minnesota Science Standards envision new approaches to teaching and learning science. Learn about the pedagogy associated with the new standards, the timeline for implementation, and ways to prepare to teach the standards. This workshop is targeted for K-12 teachers of science and other science educators. John Olson, Science Specialist at the Minnesota Department of Education, is facilitating this workshop. So far there have been 12 workshop sessions with over 900 participants.

Four more workshops will occur within the next few weeks. Each are 9 am – 3 pm. Currently the following sessions have openings: Jan 8: Albert Lea, and Feb. 1 Eden Prairie. Information and Registration. Anyone may access the Workshop Resources. The February 1st (Saturday) workshop will be live streamed. So you can participate from home. Register for the live stream at this WebEx link.


*MCA IV Development

This year a committee is drafting the test specifications for assessing the new standards. This document provides directions to the people who will write items for the new MCA. The first draft of the test specification will be available in mid-January. We want your feedback and input through the end of February. The link for the Test Specifications draft and feedback survey will be posted on the MDE Test Specifications webpage. The MCA IV will first be given in spring of 2024. (“MCA IV in ‘24”)


*Science Licensure

Department of Education science staff have been meeting with staff of the Professional Educators License and Standards Board to clarify the current science licenses and lay the groundwork for potential changes. They prepared a joint fact sheet on the current licenses and opportunities for science teachers to add licenses. This statement is posted in the Workshop Resources folder and will soon be on the MDE Science webpage. It will be updated with new developments. Any changes in licensure will have to wait until the science standards have been completed the Minnesota Rulemaking process.


Teacher Events and Workshops


*Online Course in Computational Modeling in Physics First, starting Jan 21

The American Modeling Teaching Association is presenting this online course, running January 21 through April 14 on Tuesday evenings. It is intended for middle and high school physics teachers and includes a blend of 45 hours of synchronous, online learning. Information and Registration.


*Earn credits for online professional development: Science and Engineering Practices in Action

Teachers can now get graduate credit for working with the SEPA online professional development modules! Complete all of the modules in their entirety and develop an action plan for implementation of the new science standards. 4 graduate credits available through Hamline University. Please contact Continuing Studies at Hamline University for a registration form. For questions contact Patty Born Selly. For more information about and access to Minnesota’s online professional development modules, open the MDE Online Science Courses document.


Earth Science Teaching Conference, Feb 7, Plymouth

The Minnesota Earth Science Teachers Association proudly announces their annual conference.  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.

Breakfast, lunch, door prizes, and classroom resources are included with your registration.  Optional Hamline graduate credit is available. Thursday’s pre-conference evening features the Como Planetarium and an optional dinner and networking at Granite City Food and Brewery. Information and Registration.


*Lake Superior as a Learning Tool, Feb 12, Duluth

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) laboratory in Duluth is recognized as a leader in advancing scientific knowledge surrounding the impacts of stressors on the water resources of the Great Lakes – such as pesticides, bacteria and changes in land use – on the water quality and quality of life for people in the region. Join the Great Lakes Aquarium at the EPA lab 4:30 – 7 pm to explore with local scientists, learn about current research in the region and how to adapt and incorporate place-based research into your curriculum. More Information and Registration.


*Citizen Science – Minnesota Pollinator Protection, Feb 19, online training: 10am-11:30AM

Citizen Science projects empower students to have an impact on the world. Learn how to plan and get involved in authentic, purposeful scientific research on pollinators that enhances students’ knowledge and 21st century skills. Explore real life examples and online resources to implement Citizen Science in your program. The Minnesota Department of Education is providing this training as part of its commitment to achieving the goals of the state’s Interagency Pollinator Protection Team. Registration.


Schoolyard Gardens Conference, March 6, Chaska

Schoolyard gardens are a successful, growing part of Minnesota schools, and provide an incomparable, hands-on opportunity for educators and students. Join us for this annual conference to:

  • Learn how to meet academic standards through gardening
  • Discover ways to engage with community partners and the school board to sustain your project
  • Explore the latest research and best practices in agriculture, healthy eating, cultural competency, natural systems and more
  • Apply innovative strategies for building, sustaining, and engaging diverse learners in a thriving schoolyard garden


*Exploring the Deep Ocean with NOAA, April 4, Duluth

Join NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research to learn the importance of ocean exploration and current technologies for exploring the deep ocean. Engage with standards-based, hands-on activities and online resources to guide classroom learning around ocean science literacy. Focus on ocean health, underwater mapping, remotely operated vehicles and unique underwater habitats. Tour Large Lakes Observatory’s R/V Blue Heron to explore current and future research taking place on the Great Lakes.

Participants will receive the books NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer Education Materials Collection Volume 1: Why Do We Explore?, Volume 2: How Do We Explore?, and additional resources. Lessons are designed for grades 6-12, but many activities can be scaled to suit educator needs. Breakfast, lunch and a $75 stipend included. More Information and Registration


Computer Science Professional Learning, St. Paul

Applications are open for the Professional Learning Program for middle and high school educators! If you’re interested in teaching computer science for the 2020-21 academic year, this is a great opportunity to explore CS curriculum and collaborate with educators of all experience levels to develop lesson plans and teaching strategies. 
Elementary teachers can sign-up for a one-day workshop near you! Applications are not required for Computer Science Fundamentals workshops and take place throughout the country, year-round. Middle and High School teachers will begin with a 5-day in-person workshop on Computer Science Discoveries and Principles in the summer, with quarterly meetings thereafter.


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 Application Due Feb. 1.


*Educator Academy in the Amazon Rainforest, July 1-11

The Educator Academy in the Amazon Rainforest provides powerful professional development designed to transform student learning. Immersed in the Peruvian Amazon, teachers learn about this key global ecosystem while building their ability to engage students in scientific research, engineering design, cross-cultural connections, and stewardship projects. Field workshops support NGSS 3D learning, STEM, 5E and more. Get the details and download a syllabus and scholarship application at the Educator Academy website


Modeling Instruction Workshops, July

The Modeling Method has been intentionally developed to correct many weaknesses of the lecture-demonstration method of instruction typically seen in STEM classrooms. These weaknesses include the fragmentation of knowledge, student passivity, and the persistence of naive beliefs about the physical world. Instruction is organized into modeling cycles which move students through all phases of model development, evaluation and application in concrete situations — thus promoting an integrated understanding of modeling processes and acquisition of coordinated modeling skills.


*VisChem Institute, July 2 – 12, Ohio

Learn the research foundation and pedagogical moves for the VisChem Approach. The VisChem Approach uses carefully produced dynamic visualizations with teaching strategies informed by a cognitive learning model. Key to VisChem is communication of internal visualizations using storyboards (drawings with explanation) of chemical and physical changes. Apply by Feb.28 for this 4-day, residential, all-expenses paid High School Chemistry Institute at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Information


*Green and Sustainable Chemistry Workshop, July 13-15, Minneapolis

The NSF Center for Sustainable Polymers (CSP) in partnership with the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) will be offering a FREE three-day workshop at the University of Minnesota to high school chemistry teachers on green and sustainable chemistry. 

Participating teachers will receive instruction on green chemistry, industrial applications, and potential impacts to human health and the environment. Shared lesson plans will illustrate how green and sustainable practices apply to secondary chemistry classrooms. Participants will gain hands-on experience with safer, cost-effective labs that minimize waste and are drop-in replacements for traditional secondary chemistry labs. Participants will receive a $300.00 stipend and the option to earn 2 graduate level credits from the Colorado School of Mines. They will also receive resources for lab implementation More Information.


CDC Science Ambassador Fellowship, July 13-17, Atlanta

This program is offered by Center for Disease Control for STEM teachers and educational leaders interested in bringing public health sciences into middle- and high-school classrooms. This competitive fellowship includes a 5-day interactive summer course at CDC headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, and a 1-year distance-based professional development opportunity. Apply by Jan. 15. Information


*American Meteorological Society Summer Institutes, Various dates and locations

Enhance your knowledge of Earth system science and earn graduate credit through AMS Education’s teacher professional development programs. K-12 courses include Project Atmosphere, Project Ocean, DataStreme Atmosphere; DataStreme Ocean, and DataStreme Earth's Climate System. Information.


Teacher and School Awards and Opportunities


Presidential Awards for Science and Math Teaching

Celebrate great teaching! Nominate a colleague or yourself for the Presidential Award, which brings state and national leadership opportunities and $10,000. It is also a great professional growth experience to reflect on your teaching. Mentor support is available. Two teachers from each state receive this award from the White House. This year applications are sought from K-6 teachers with a deadline of May 1. Information and nomination site.


*National Board Certification

National Board Certification was designed to develop, retain and recognize accomplished teachers and to generate ongoing improvement in schools nationwide. It is the most respected professional certification available in K-12 education.

The certification process requires that teachers demonstrate standards-based evidence of the positive effect they have on student learning. They must exhibit a deep understanding of their students, content knowledge, use of data and assessments and teaching practice. They must also show that they participate in learning communities and provide evidence of ongoing reflection and continuous learning. More information.


*No Child Left Inside Grants

Did you miss the deadline to apply for a NCLI grant last month? Here's another chance! You can apply for a Phase 2 grant regardless of whether or not you received a Phase 1 grant. Three types of grants are available: 1. Natural resource education and outdoor recreation 2. Fishing, hunting, and shooting sports programs 3. High school fishing leagues. Requests can range from $5,000 - $49,999. Information


Presidential Environmental Award for Teachers

The Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators (PIAEE) from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognizes outstanding teachers for K-12 who employ innovative approaches to environmental education. Up to two teachers from each of EPA's 10 regions, from different states, will be selected to receive this award. Teachers will receive a Presidential plaque and an award of up to $2,500 to be used to further professional development in environmental education. Winning teachers’ local education agencies will also receive awards of up to $2,500 to fund environmental educational activities and programs. Winners of next year’s awards will be invited to participate in an awards ceremony and poster session in Washington, D.C. in mid-2020, and their projects will also be highlighted on EPA’s website. Application is due Jan. 15. Information


School Programs and Resources


*Environment Impacts of Food Curriculum

Download "Exploring the Environmental Impacts of Our Food," a free curriculum for middle & high school teachers that explores animal agriculture’s effects on our planet and builds scientific literacy on environmental phenomena related to our food system. Information


Physics Force Demonstration Shows, January 13-18, 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.

There are two pulbic shows for all ages on Saturday the 18th: 10 am and 4 pm. Registration


*Kids to Parks Day School Contest

National Park Trust’s contest is open to all Title I schools (40% of students qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch) and school groups in the U.S. in grades preK through 12. The goal of the contest is to help educators engage students with their local parks through education, outdoor recreation, and stewardship. win up to $1,000 to fund your ​dream park experience. Contest closes on February 14, 2020, with winners announced on the Park Trust’s website on March 6, 2020. More Information.


*Free High School Aviation Curriculum

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), is offering free curriculum for high schools across America.  Both of the career pathways — pilot and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) — will help students build career-ready skills while they learn more about opportunities in aviation.

Schools can choose to implement one or more of the ninth, tenth, and eleventh grade courses for the 2020-2021 school year. The courses provide everything a teacher needs including lesson plans, student assessments, student activities, teacher notes, presentations, and more. There are two-day workshops in March for teachers and administrators that want to implement the courses. They can be attended in person in Maryland or virtually. Information.


*Environment Impacts of Food Curriculum

Download "Exploring the Environmental Impacts of Our Food," a free curriculum for middle & high school teachers that explores animal agriculture’s effects on our planet and builds scientific literacy on environmental phenomena related to our food system. Information


Student Programs, Awards and Competitions


*Minnesota Map Competition

The Minnesota ArcGIS Online student competition is launching in January. All interested Minnesota schools - public, private and home schools - are invited to participate in the competition. Students learn how to use Esri’s ArcGIS Online tools to create digital maps and story maps. There are two divisions - grades 4 to 8 compete in the middle school division, and grades 9 to 12 in the high school division. There are two levels of competition in each division. The first is a simple map-making competition where students make maps based on topics selected by their teachers. The second is a Minnesota researched-based competition where students compete state-wide to be one of the top five entries in their division. For complete details go to the competition website.


*Skynet Scholars

It's not too late to register for this fantastic program for middle and high school students! Skynet Scholars at the Bell Museum in St. Paul puts scholars in the driver’s seat to conduct their own scientific explorations of the universe. They learn how to access a global network of research-grade telescopes that serve professional astronomers and students alike over the internet. They will get to experience hands-on astronomy and STEM based activities including the use of robotic telescopes to take their own astronomical images. The program begins January 25, 9:30 – 12. More Information.


*National Youth Science Camp, June 22 – July 15, West Virginia

Teachers of seniors, encourage your students to apply for this life changing experience. We often get very few Minnesota applicants!

Two graduating seniors from Minnesota will be chosen for this prestigious FREE science camp in the mountains of West Virginia. The NYSCamp is a residential STEM program designed to honor and challenge some of the nation’s rising STEM leaders. At the NYSCamp, STEM professionals present lectures and lead small-group directed studies on a broad array of STEM topics; some delegates are able to conduct research at the nearby Green Bank Observatory. The NYSCamp experience also features excursions into the Monongahela National Forest including backpacking, rock-climbing, caving, kayaking and mountain biking.

Delegates are required to participate in the NYSCamp program for its entirety; the fast-paced activities and remote location simply make travel to and from the NYSCamp very difficult. The NYSCamp is offered to selected participants at NO COST so that talented students may attend regardless of their financial ability – transportation included. Minnesota uses the NYSCamp’s online application system. For more information contact, Minnesota coordinator. The application deadline is February 28.


*Genes in Space

Genes in Space is a science contest that challenges students in grades 7 – 12 to design original DNA experiments that address real-life challenges and opportunities of space exploration. The contest is free and does not require equipment. Proposals will be judged solely on their creative and scientific merit. The winning experiment is conducted on the International Space Station, and samples are returned to Earth for you to analyze! Submission deadline is April 17th, 2020. Learn more about the contest HERE.

Turn Genes in Space into a class assignment! Check out the free tools for bringing modern genetic analysis and space biology into your classroom HERE. Resources include interactive videos, lesson plans, classroom activities and worksheets, and more.

Presidential Environmental Award for Students

The Presidential Environmental Youth Awards (PEYA) from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agencies recognizes outstanding environmental stewardship projects from grades K-12, by promoting environmental awareness and encouraging community involvement. EPA will select up to two winners in each of EPA’s 10 Regions – one regional winner for grades K-5, and one regional winner for grades 6-12. Winners of next year’s awards will be invited to participate in an awards ceremony and poster session in Washington, D.C. in mid-2020, and their projects will also be highlighted on EPA’s website. All student projects must be sponsored by at least one adult over the age of 21. And, if the sponsor is not a teacher, the project must have a teacher as a co-sponsor. The application is due Jan. 15. Information.


More Science and Engineering Competitions

Check out the follow program for your classes and individual students.

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 Jan_2020.pdf
Science_Update_Jan_2020.pdf (application/pdf, 2497.7 K) posted at 11:35 AM, January 9, 2020
Science_Update_Dec_2019.pdf (application/pdf, 924.8 K) posted at 11:35 AM, December 3, 2019
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

More documents

All 31 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