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

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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 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



*Preparing for the Science Standards review in 2018-19

Starting next summer a standards committee will be review our current standards and recommend any revisions. John Olson has written a series of articles for the MnSTA Newsletter that provide information about the review process and also describe ideas that my influence the next science standards. They are archived at the standards page at the MnSTA website. Here are direct links to the articles.

  1. When will we get new standards? Will we adopt national standards? (December 2016)
  2. What are science teachers saying about our current science standards? (March 2017)
  3. What new ideas about science learning might guide our next science standards? (May 2017)
  4. What new ideas about science instruction might guide our next science standards? (September 2017)
  1. What new ideas about science assessment might guide our next science assessments? (Dec 2017)

There will be presentations on preparations for the review at the MnSTA conference on Nov. 10 and other events (see below).


*Science District Leader Network

District-level staff who have responsibility for science education across their district are invited to participate in this network. Some examples are curriculum coordinators, science coaches, TOSAs, and charter school/private school lead teachers. There are about 4 meetings per year for three hours in the morning. The focus is on how to lead professional development and curriculum development along with other aspects of science leadership. There are also some out-state meetings. If you would like to receive announcements of the meetings, contact


Minnesota representation at UN Climate Change conference

Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy, based in Minneapolis, is sending a multi-sector delegation to the UN Climate Change conference (COP23) in Bonn, Germany Nov. 6-17. These discussions among leaders of most nations will build on the Paris accord in 2015 and will emphasize state and local level actions. The Climate Change delegation will provide webinars and daily blogs at the Climate Generation COP23 Website. You can sign up there to receive email updates. Also follow #MNCOP23. The education representative on the delegation is John Olson, the MDE Science Specialist, who will attend the second week of the conference. @JohnCasperOlson


Teacher Events and Workshops


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 comic books reflect accurate science. The conference will have strands of sessions for elementary, life science, earth science, physics and chemistry.


Thursday evening 6 – 9 pm: Team Teaching with Mother Nature, FREE workshop led by the Jeffers Foundation.

Friday: Keynotes and breakout sessions. The strand feature speakers are

·       Biology: Dr. Paul Myers, UM Morris

·       Chemistry Dr. Roger Kugel, Univ. Cincinnati

·       Elementary: Dr. Patricia Paulson, Bethel Univ.

·       Earth Science: Dr. Kent Kirby Univ. of Minn.

The grid of breakout sessions is posted at this site. 

MnCOSE Logo 


Saturday Workshops: ($75 for Saturday only events)

  • Science and Engineering Practices in Action with Lee Schmitt,
  • Squishy Circuits with Tom Tomashek
  • Elementary computer science with org
  • Relicensure in a Day! – meet your licensure requirements with a science focus in reading, accommodations, mental health, Positive Behavioral Interventions, ELL, and technology. Note: Relicensure in a Day is available for any teacher (not just science)

More information and registration is at the conference website. Saturday-only registration is available.


*Science and Engineering Practices in Action (SEPA)

A new series of Minnesota-developed web-enhanced science professional development modules are becoming available. These are designed for groups of teachers, such as PLCs or regional groups, to come together to study ideas for teaching science. The resources for group activities and discussions, including videos of classroom instruction, are delivered online and the groups can select members to be facilitators.

The SEPA modules are developed by Hamline University and are based on A Framework for K-12 Science Education, a compilation of current research that will likely influence on our next science Standards. The first two sets of modules are available and more will be added during the year. Another set of modules focusing on discussion, questioning and modeling strategies are being developed by the University of Minnesota and will be available later in the school year.

You can experience the SEPA modules at several free workshops being organized by the MnSTA regional directors. The first events this year are:

Twin Cities Region: Oct 12, 4:30 – 6:15, Glacier Hills School, Eagan. Contact

West-Central MN: Oct 27, 9:30 – 2:30, Lakes Country Service Coop, Fergus Falls. Contact

Science District Leaders Network, Oct 30, 1:30 – 4:00, MN Dept. Education, Roseville, Contact:

MnSTA Conference: Nov. 11, 8 am – 12 pm, St. Cloud, (conference registration required) Information: MnCOSE Saturday webpage

For more information about exploring and using the SEPA modules, contact

*National Teacher Workshop, Nov. 3, Minneapolis

Grade 6-12 science teachers are invited to a FREE teacher’s workshop during the NOBCChE K-12 STEM week. The workshop will be hosted in part by the American Chemical Society and will apply to all areas of physical and life sciences. Preliminary information and a contact are at this site.


Project Learning Tree Workshops

Through a suite of activity guides ranging from early childhood to high school, PLT offers award-winning lessons designed for indoor and outdoor classroom use. Interdisciplinary, hands-on lessons are designed to engage students in math, science, social studies, language arts, art, music, and P.E.

The only way to get PLT is to attend a workshop!


NSTA Area Conference, Nov. 9 – 11, Milwaukee

Moving Science Forward is the theme for the area conference in Milwaukee. The conference strands are

Preparing All Students for the Voyage,

Navigating STEM Through the NGSS

Buoying Up Literacy with Science

Other NSTA conferences are:

Baltimore Area Conference, Oct 5 – 7

New Orleans Area Conference, Nov. 30 – Dec. 2

Atlanta National Conference, Mar. 15 - 18

The programs and registration are at the NSTA conference site.


Teacher workshops at The Works Museum

The Works Museum offers professional development for elementary educators. Learn engaging ways to facilitate collaboration, creative problem solving, spatial thinking, and other engineering habits of mind with students. These workshops introduce teachers to the engineering requirements in Minnesota’s STEM standards and offer experience with hands-on engineering design challenges for the classroom.Click here for more information.


STEM Conference, Nov. 29-30, St. Paul

Capturing Imaginations, Building Skills is the theme for the joint conference of SciMathMN and Ignite Afterschool at the University of Minnesota Continuing Education Center on the St. Paul campus. Conference tracks invite participants to:

  • Investigate – the “what and why” of effective STEM and afterschool learning. Key focus areas will include ways to create meaningful learning experiences for youth both in and out of school, the importance of helping youth build a healthy “STEM identity”, issues of access and equity in education, and how STEM and afterschool learning can address our future workforce needs.
  • Connect – with each other while learning about successful collaborations, partnerships and policies that close gaps in young people’s access to and achievement in high quality afterschool and STEM learning opportunities.
  • Advance – high quality afterschool and STEM learning opportunities for youth. A key focus will be on effective practices and curriculum that empower and inspire youth and bring our math and science standards to life.

Registration and Information website.


Teacher and School Awards and Opportunities


* Presidential Award nominations and applications are now available.

Nominate exemplary science teachers (including yourself) for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. This is the most prestigious award in this field and includes recognition activities in Washington DC and a $10,000 award. This year, teachers of grades K-6 are eligible submit an application that describes content understanding, instructional strategies, assessment practices, professional development and leadership. Just completing the application provides professional growth. The application is due May 1. For information go to the PAEMST website.

*Science Simulation Pilot for grades 5 and 8

Pearson and MDE are looking for schools and districts to help pilot a series of science simulations that collect “activity stream” data from student actions.

  • The study will be conducted throughout the 2017–2018 school year, and there should be a minimum of 50 students in grade 5 and/or 50 students in grade 8 participating from a district or school.
  • The students will test five simulations that will each take 15 to 30 minutes, provide feedback on the simulations, and take a short traditional assessment for comparison.
  • In conjunction with Pearson, teachers will schedule the simulations to fit in the curriculum, review the results for comparison to other assessments, and provide the end-of-year science scores.
  • Schools will need to provide devices that have the latest technical requirements for using TestNav.

The five simulations include forces in the solar system, engineering design principles, using satellite imagery, principles of force and motion, and food webs and biomes. Though the curriculum may not cover all five topics, your participation in them as enrichment activities is welcome. If you are interested in participating, please contact Lauren Meyer at


School Programs and Resources


*Female STEM Role Models

SciGirls from TPT (Twin Cities Public Television) has produced a dozen video profiles of females in STEM careers that could be used in instruction and other activities. These engaging videos feature women in various careers from chemistry to aviation to welding. They are available at this SciGirls website. These and many other women in STEM have a searchable biographical profile at the FabFems website. There you can make contacts for classroom visits, video conferencing, or even lab visits.


STEM Week Activities Oct 31 – Nov. 4, Minneapolis

The National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineering is bringing their National STEM Week to Minneapolis. The activities include a Science Fair, Science Festival (activities and presentations), Science Bowl competition and Teacher Workshops. Participation is free and travel scholarships are available.

The Teacher's Workshop is scheduled for November 3rd in at the Radisson Blu Hotel.  Teachers can opt to attend the morning or afternoon sessions.  This training is in part conducted by the American Chemical Society and will focus on Grades 6-12 topics in Physical and Life Sciences.  These workshops are congruent with CCSS and NGSS standards.  For more information go to the STEM Week Website.


*Green Apple Day of Service

Green Apple Day of Service unites parents, teachers, students, companies and local organizations for volunteer projects that transform our schools into safe, healthy and sustainable learning environments. Mn Green Schools Coalition is awarding $1000 to a school or district who post a 1 minute video about their project by Oct 16. More information is at this Facebook page.


*Exploradome: new Climate Change Program

The Exploradome from the Bell Museum is an inflatable “planetarium” in which a class can view a variety of projected programs. Debuting this fall: Our Changing Climate. An ExploraDome original program that takes a look at the global problem facing our planet. Visit locations around the Earth to see the effects climate change is having on our oceans, atmosphere, agriculture, and local effects here in Minnesota. Targeted grade levels 5-8th. A variety of other topics are also available. School visits for this fall that are arranged by Oct. 27th receive an earlybird discount. More information at this site. 


*Nature Conservancy Grants

These grants support school projects that implement green infrastructure to address local environmental challenges. These include: access to healthy food, air quality, heat island effect, climate change, and storm water collection. Young people will work as social innovators to help their communities through project design and implementation. Grants of up to $2000 will be awarded to sixty schools across the US. Applications are due Nov. 3. Information is at the Nature Works grant website.


World of 7 Billion Video Contest

The World of 7 Billion student video contest helps you bring technology and creativity into your middle and high school classes. The contest challenges your students to create a short video connecting world population growth and one of three global challenges: Advancing Women and Girls, Feeding 10 Billion, or Preventing Pollution.

Students can win up to $1,000 and participating teachers will receive free curriculum resources. The contest deadline is February 22, 2018 – use this lesson plan to get started now! Full contest guidelines, resources for research, past winners, and more can be found at this website.


DNR Education Resources

Address state standards about Minnesota using innovative outdoor lessons and engaging reading material with help from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Check out the DNR education website for links to curriculum, professional development, colorful posters, and more.

View reading materials and teacher guides from past Conservation Volunteer magazines and sign up for a MinnAqua and Project WILD, WET or Learning Tree professional development workshops for teachers. The DNR can mail you a variety of free books and colorful posters on topics such as Minnesota’s state symbols, biomes, trees, watersheds, fish, and more. Use this link for the DNR Education website.


FREE book for educators about Water Science!

Minnesota Project WET is offering a new book for educators, Water Ways: A Minnesota Water Primer and Project WET Companion. Water Ways is a 150 page book with content on water science basics, Minnesota’s rivers, lakes, groundwater, wetlands, life in water, human use of water, challenges to water resources, and water policy. Each chapter includes suggested Project WET Activities, career profiles, classroom activities, field-trip suggestions and resources. You can download the complete book as a PDF file at this link.


Poster "Animals at Risk from Climate Change"

The complex interaction of biological traits and environmental conditions that cause a species to be susceptible to climate change and the basics of the carbon cycle are made simple and understandable through illustrations, symbols and brief explanatory text--thoroughly documented to reliable sources. Based on studies from the IUCN Climate Change Specialist Group, the US EPA, NOAA and the IPCC, the poster features 25 animals that highlight the fundamental impacts of greenhouse gases—causes, effects and risk of extinction—on all forms of life on the planet. To order or to view all of the elements on the poster, please visit this site.


Student Programs, Awards and Competitions


Tech Savvy: STEM Careers for Girls, Nov. 4, St. Cloud

AAUW Minnesota and the St. Cloud Area Branch of AAUW has teamed up with St. Cloud State University to offer a daylong event for girls, grades five through nine called Tech Savvy. The program includes parents and gives them useful information about preparatory classes, financial resources, and how to support for their daughters who pursue STEM careers.

There will be “hands-on” workshops presented by successful women in STEM fields and time slots for learning other critical skills. Science, math, and technology teachers are asked to recommend students that would benefit from attending the program and explain it to them. Registration acceptance is limited so it’s important not to delay. Central Minnesota STEM teachers are invited to attend in order to tell students about preparatory and college courses. Teachers who want to participate by offering an interactive workshop are encouraged to contact Melissa Hanzsek-Brill, More information on the program.


*Code Day at The Works Museum! Nov. 11, Bloomington

At Code Day, kids can explore programming as The Works Museum showcases the Twin Cities coding community. With hands-on activities and demonstrations designed to introduce kids to programming, Code Day is the perfect opportunity for kids and families to learn about coding together. Perfect for kids ages 5-12.

Visitors to Code Day enjoy kid-friendly experiences such as:

  • Makey makey
  • Blue-Bots
  • Spheros
  • Arduino of Minnesota
  • Scratch
  • Apps developed by teens

More information is at this link.


*ACCESS STEM Scholarships

High achieving, low income students can receive scholarship of up to $9000 for STEM study at St. Cloud State University and four partner community colleges. This NSF funded program also provides academic support services and help with career pathways, internships and jobs. Information is at this SCSU website.


*Minnesota Youth Institute

The Minnesota Youth Institute engages high school students in solving local and global hunger issues. The interactive, day-long program on May 11 brings teens from across the state to the University of Minnesota for an immersive science experience and an opportunity to connect with research and industry leaders. MNYI serves as a gateway to the World Food Prize Symposium and global travel, paid internships while still in high school, and a scholarship to the University of Minnesota.

To participate, students research and write a 3-5 page paper describing a solution to a critical global challenge in a specified country. More information is at the MNYI website.

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 Oct 2017
Science_Update_Oct_2017.pdf (application/pdf, 662.4 K) posted at 2:04 PM, October 12, 2017
Science Update Sep 2017
Science_Update_Sep_2017.pdf (application/pdf, 839.5 K) posted at 12:52 PM, September 21, 2017
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