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

May 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 students for 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.

* MnSTA reponds 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. See also the Climate Change Education Institute listed below and the education resources from Climate Generation.

*Green Ribbon School Awards

The U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Awards honor schools across the nation that are leading the way in reducing environmental impact, promoting health, and ensuring a high-quality environmental education programming that prepares students with the skills and sustainability concepts need in the growing global economy. Two Minnesota schools and one college received the 2017 award announced this week.

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

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.

Teacher Events and Workshops

*Free Educator Preview of “Dream Big: Engineering Our World”, May 20, St. Paul

Opening in the Science Museum Omnitheater in February 2018, Dream Big: Engineering Our World is a journey of inspiration through the visionary advances made by engineers.

Join us for a free educator preview on Saturday, May 20 at 9 a.m. RSVP by calling (651) 221-9444 by May 16. You and one guest are invited to enjoy this film and learn about other Science Museum programs that support engineering standards and curriculum. 2018 is the Year of the Engineer at the Science Museum!

Using a series of surprising human stories, the film explores how engineers have changed both everyday lives and entire societies: from the Roman Arch to the Great Wall of China, from one much-needed village bridge to the International Space Station, from underwater robots to death-defying roller coasters, wind-defying skyscrapers and more.

*Energy Education for Educators, starting June 12, Various MN locations

The Minnesota State Energy Center of Excellence provides an opportunity for high school teachers to attend an energy-related 2-day workshop at no charge. There are eight different locations for the workshops, and attendees can attend more than one if they’re interested in learning about other topics. The attendees will receive curriculum, lab kits, 16 CEU’s, one nights’ hotel stay if needed, and the opportunity to schedule our Energy Science Trailer for one week at their school during the 2017-2018 school year. The trailer is loaded with wind, solar, hydro, and other energy kits. We also provide resource information for teachers regarding the kits so they can be prepared to teach their students.

Registration closes on May 15th, and it will be appreciated if you can share this with other colleagues.
For those interested in attending, this link will bring them directly to the registration site for all 8 locations.

*STEM Equity Workshop, June 19, Eden Prairie

NAPE’s Explore STEM Careers Toolkit provides a framework with lesson plans and activities to help staff, faculty, and administrators to educate and inspire every student to consider a career in STEM. This professional development provides research-based messaging to effectively reach and encourage a diverse group of students to consider a future career in STEM.

The National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE) will present an overview of STEM careers, introduce messages that use positive language for talking with students, and connect the messaging with tools, activities, and resources. The professional development will help educators, counselors and administrators learn how to talk about the wide range of career options in STEM and enable students to explore STEM career opportunities. It will also equip educators with new ways to talk to students about engineering and other STEM-related careers to build their self-efficacy and promote a multitude of career options. The free workshop is 1 – 4 pm at Hennepin Technical College in Eden Prairie. Register at this site.

Bakken Teacher Academy, June 19-22, Minneapolis

Science Learning from the Works of Scientists is a year-long program for middle- and high-school science teachers featuring history-of-science resources from The Bakken’s special collections library and contemporary science publications. The program consists of a four-day summer institute that continues with workshops during the school year. The summer institute engages participants in practices for reading informational text to enhance science students’ understanding of concepts as well as their critical thinking and communication skills. During the school year: participants apply what they learned to design, deliver and evaluate their own action research project for implementing effective reading practices in the science classroom.

Participants will earn four graduate credits in science education from Hamline University. A $270 stipend is provided for completing the full course, as well as books and other materials and metals/beverages. For more information visit this link.

Minerals Education Workshop, June 20 – 22, Ely

The MMEW is a three-day workshop held annually for K-12 earth science educators that offers short courses and field trips focused on the geology and mineral resources of Minnesota. On the first day of the workshop, participants may choose among 16 different short course topics taught by professional geologists, academics, government scientists, and K-12 educators.  Many of the courses introduce curriculum ideas for various grade levels. The second and third days of the workshop will involve field trips designed to familiarize participants with the geology and mineral resources in northeastern Minnesota.  


Participants will receive a variety of resource materials including rock and mineral samples, lesson plan ideas, posters, maps, videos, and other useful information.   Cost is $40. Information and registration are at this site.

Driven to Discover: Citizen Science 2017, June 26-30, July 10-14, St. Peter and St. Paul

Immerse yourself in authentic field science with UMN scientists AND deepen your classroom practice for full scientific investigations that include analysis and communication. We utilize established citizen science projects as spring-boards to engage students in on-going ecology research that inspire their own investigations. Our goal is to have student work reflect the language and mathematics of science. Join a collaboration between the UMN Monarch Lab and UMN Curriculum and Instruction Department to strengthen your teaching of critical STEM content, current ecology research, and using claims, evidence and reasoning to further science literacy within your classroom.


The first four days are at Gustavus Adolphus College and remaining days at the University of Minnesota. There are additional meetings and support during the school year and Participants receive a $2266 stipend or 3 graduate credits, equipment, supplies and more benefits. See more information at this site or contact Sarah Weaver at

STEM Rivers Institutes, June 26 – 28 or July 24 – 26

Hamline University presents FREE, three day field-based professional development opportunities that inspires, educates, and prepares 3rd-8th grade teachers to engage students in STEM disciplines through hands-on, inquiry-based investigations at local watersheds. Details and information are at this website.

St. Croix River Institute, June 26-28, 2017 (Monday-Wednesday)

Mississippi River Institute, July 24-26, 2017 (Monday-Wednesday)

Summer Institute for Climate Change Education, June 26-28, St. Paul

Climate Generation is a recognized leader in climate change education nationally, and we are joining forces with University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, where leading climate change research is happening. Hear directly from climate change and solutions experts, and engage with hands-on activities that will help bring these concepts to life in your classroom.

Join a network of teachers from across the country dedicated to bringing science, critical thinking, and problem solving about climate change into the classroom. The location is the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, with the opportunity for a field trip to the Cedar Creek Ecosystem Reserve on the 29th (extra fee).

Registration: $150 (includes breakfast and lunch each day!) Lodging is available ($48/night single, double/shared $36) 2 Graduate Credits optional (fee). Click here for information and registration

Minnesota Modeling Instruction workshops, July 10 – 14, Shakopee

The Modeling Instruction method relies less on presentation and more on engaging students using experimentation to construct and revise scientific models to explain physical phenomena. Workshop being held at Shakopee High School this summer:

  • Introduction to Chemistry modeling July 10 – 14
  • Introduction to Physics modeling July 10 – 14
  • Mechanics Modeling July 17 – 21

For information contact Casey Rutherford

Got Milkweed? FREE Summer Workshop For Educators. July 11-13, Northfield

Monarch caterpillars only eat one kind of plant--milkweed. As monarch butterfly populations are declining and more people are planting milkweed, what is important to understand about this food source? This workshop introduces participants to a distributed research project designed to help students understand evolution and ecology through inquiry about milkweed plants while simultaneously gathering data to answer important scientific questions, such as: “What should we do to slow the decline of the monarch butterfly populations?” and  “Does the origin of milkweed seeds affect their growth?”

Participating institutions will plant milkweed seeds from local and non-local populations and gather data on milkweed growth annually in spring and fall to determine whether milkweed populations are locally adapted. Learning opportunities align well with Life Science Standards at both middle and high school levels. The project requires a one-time collection of common milkweed seeds from a naturally occurring (not planted) local population, space and time to plant 20 or more milkweed plants, and a commitment to work with students annually to follow specific protocols for data collection for multiple years. We offer a $300 stipend for attendance. Additional funds are available to support travel and lodging, or virtual attendance is an option. More details available here.  Apply Now!

National STEM Forum & Expo, July 12 – 14, Orlando, FL

The 6th Annual STEM Forum & Expo, hosted by NSTA, is a unique, focused event that brings together (informal and formal) educators and representatives from exhibiting companies who are interested in, and who have tools and resources to share that will ensure successful implementation of STEM education into our schools and communities.


It is intended to provide resources for educators and organizations seeking to learn more about STEM education, associated outreach programs, partnerships, schools, and curriculum. The keynote speakers is Derek Muller who is best known for the You Tube science channel Veritassium, featuring cool demos and experiments. For more information visit this site.


Biotechnology/Microbiology for Teachers in the Classroom, July 17-21 and July 24-28, St. Paul

The BioTIC Institute brings middle- and high-school biology teachers together to talk teaching and to get up to speed on the rapid advancements in biotech research, careers, applications, and issues. BioTIC also provides a review and enrichment of inquiry-based practices and curriculum enrichment that support the Minnesota science standards related to cell structure, disease, genetics, and biotechnology.

The Institute provides a two-week summer workshop, two Saturday follow-up session during the school year, a stipend, four graduate credits, board and room for outstate participants and teacher-focused training. For more information and to apply online visit this site.

*GLOBE Workshop in NW MN, July 27 – August 2, Grand Forks ND

This blended learning event, taught by GLOBE (Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment) will focus on training K-12 teachers to use several of the GLOBE environmental measurement protocols and hands-on learning activities related to three interdisciplinary components of the earth system: atmosphere, soil, and plant life.

The training and written materials, developed and refined over 20 years by an international group of science educators, are focused on grade levels 6-12, although the materials can be scaled for K-5. During the trainings, teachers will be asked to participate through practicing the detailed instrument measurement protocols and learning activities during 12 face-to-face hours and 3 associated online training hours. Once certified, GLOBE-trained teachers will join the collaborative international network of science teachers and scientists.

E-training begins Thursday July 27th.  Face-to-face instruction, Monday July 31st - Tues Aug 1st. Registration and details are at this site.

WaterWorks! A Drinking Water Institute for Educators, August 7-9, Lakeville

Enrich your water-related curriculum, investigate drinking water quality and chemistry, learn about inquiry-based models for your classroom, and find resources within your community. This three-day, hands-on workshop allows grade 4-10 science teachers to gather information from expert presenters about how safe, reliable drinking water is delivered to your community, as well as drinking water issues facing Minnesota.

Meals and resource binder provided. Choose between two graduate credits or stipend. Join the ranks of over 350 teachers that have participated in WaterWorks! throughout Minnesota over the last 16 years. Funded by the Minnesota Dept. of Health and the American Waterworks Association. Application and information at this link.

Online Earth Science Course

Are you interested in a refresher course in earth science?  Earth Science Essentials through Minnesota State University Moorhead is a rigorous self-guided course, also available as an ebook, for science teachers wanting to expand or renew their understanding of the fundamentals of earth science.  Russ Colson, co-author of NSTA Press book Learning to Read the Earth and Sky is offering this course for science teachers. You can get more information at this site.  

Science House Professional Development – Summer Institutes & Programs

Join our nationally recognized community in St. Paul this summer during one or more of the following professional development institutes or programs. Our cutting edge professional development approach empowers formal and informal education professionals to create inclusive environments, eliminate disparities, and broaden participation in STEM. Please note, these workshops are fee based and will need to be covered by the participant.  For more information, go to this site.

  • Addressing Disparities in STEM Education: PAGE District Leadership Program July 10 – 14, plus 3 follow-ups
  • The Race Institute for School-Based Teams July 31-Aug 4, & Aug 7-11 (repeated)
  • STEM Equity in the Classroom, Aug 14-18,  
  • Student Engagement in the Elementary Classroom Jun 19-23

Minnesota Zoo Math and Science (ZOOMS) Program, Apple Valley

In ZOOMS, students and teachers discover what it takes to engineer a modern zoo. Through topics such as Engineering FOR Animals (exhibit design), Engineering FROM Animals (biomimicry), and Engineering BY Animals (animals as engineers), teachers and students are challenged to consider and tackle the complexities in both the natural world and constructed environments. The ZOOMS program supports teachers with integrating standards-based ZOOMS resources, design challenges, and field trips into their curriculum to better equip students with the STEM skills to engineer and problem solve just like zookeepers, exhibit designers and conservationists at the Minnesota Zoo!  More information at this site.

  • ZOOMS Teacher Institute, August 7-9
  • Zooms Institute 2.0 August 10
  • Many customized programs, classes, design challenges, and field trips are available


*Plan ahead: 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! Information about the conference will be posted at this site. Share your good instructional ideas by sending in a presentation proposal by September 15


Teacher and School Awards and Opportunities

*Earth Science Simulations Study

WestEd, a not-for-profit educational research agency, is conducting a research project, SimScientists Crosscutting Concepts: Progressions in Earth Systems (REAL), during the 2017-18 school year. This project aims to use technology to give your students ways to explore and express their science knowledge through computer simulations of science systems 

Participating teachers will receive a live online webinar orientation and training (up to 4 hours), stipends up to $1,500 for their involvement in the study, as well as access to simulation-based computer formative assessments. They must cover Geology (i.e., erosion, weathering, and plate tectonics), Climate & Weather, and Ecosystems topics during the 2017-18 school year.

Please see the “SimScientists Earth Science Strand” for more information on these topics.  For answers to frequently asked questions about participating in a SimScientists study, please see our FAQs. If you are interested in participating in this research opportunity, please complete the online intake survey

Give your used books a second life, in Africa When John Olson, MDE Science Specialist, went to Liberia last year, he found that library of his school had many books with Minnesota school stamps. He planned his biology lessons with a textbook from Verndale High School and read Jurassic Park from Anderson Open School. These had been sent to Africa by a St. Paul based organization, Books for Africa (BFA).


BFA collects, ships and distributes books to students of all ages in Africa. They are the largest shipper of donated text and library books to the African continent. They collect all types of books appropriate for African students. Children’s books, math and science textbooks and dictionaries as especially needed. As a general guideline, books should be less than fifteen years old. You can drop off books at their St. Paul warehouse or ship them to the Atlanta workshop. For details, contact the BFA website


School Programs and Grants

*School Garden Planting Resources

Schoolyard Garden Planting Week is May 22-26. The MN Green Schools Coalition encourages you to register your project with the Green Apple Day of Service and check with them for resources including compost, fertilizers, volunteers and promotion. Also check the ideas and grants from the Jeffers Foundation.

*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.

Physics and Science Days at Valleyfair, May, 15, 16 & 17

The principles of physics come to life as Valleyfair, in partnership with GO4ST8 Physics, offers Physics and Science Days.  Students will gain a better understanding of advanced physics and engineering or basic physical science concepts while having fun at the Upper Midwest's largest amusement park. For information visit this site.


Engineering Day at Valleyfair, May 31, Chanhassen

For the first time, Valleyfair is holding Engineering Day featuring our newest attraction, North Star! Students will gain a greater understanding in the field of engineering and get a behind-the-scenes perspective of the creative and mechanical side of Valleyfair. 

Engineering Day includes a special seminar from one of the park’s experts, Project Superintendent, Mindy Lawrence as well as a local expert, the Senior Structural Engineer, from Barr Engineering Co. in Minneapolis. After the program the students will be able to skip the line and experience what they just learned while riding North Star!

Student Programs, Awards and Competitions

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 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 Science Page: