This was my first year to attend and also to present at the annual Conference for the Advancement of Science Teaching (CAST). The conference is hosted by the Science Teachers Association of Texas (STAT) and is meant as a professional development and networking opportunity for science educators, informal educators, and science advocates.
Like anything in Texas, it was huge! Over 6,000 people descended upon the Fort Worth conference center and two nearby hotels, with over 600 workshops and sessions, all to do with science. The theme was “Exploring New Frontiers”. From virtual labs, chemistry and biology, to physics and astronomy, there was something for everyone. The Exhibits hall was wondrous; lab equipment, anatomical models, and a variety of technologies. I even got to carry a baby Kangaroo at one point! Oh, and hold a snake, courtesy of The Creature Teacher.
Our keynote speaker was science communicator Dianna Cowern, creator of the one-million-subscriber YouTube channel Physics Girl. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Physics from MIT. She spoke on how to communicate scientific concepts in the age of YouTube and gave demonstrations on stage. She described “the anatomy of a viral science video”. Some tips from her talk were: science is Instagram-able, and excitement is contagious!
My own session was a collaboration with a science teacher and recognized NASA Solar System Ambassador, who I met at the SEEC conference earlier this year (link to post). We combined forces to give a presentation on STEM and literacy collaborations with a Health Connections segment. Our attendees got to walk on a very large Mars map and had to solve scientific puzzles in order to unlock further clues in “Escape Room” style to escape Mars. The activity was based off of the book The Martian (the classroom edition). The map was provided courtesy of Buzz Aldrin’s Share Space Foundation. I then guided educators through an astronaut scenario to be solved as a classroom exercise, introducing them to the NIH Curriculum Supplements. I gave examples on how to connect different science topics, giving examples on various resources from NLM and the NIH. It was a great time of learning and sharing scientific information!