NSTA Presentation of NOAA Program main content.

NSTA Presentation of NOAA Program

Monica Garcia
MONICA GARCIA Gottesman Center for Teaching and LearningAmerican Museum of Natural History

The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) http://www.nsta.org/, is the the largest organization in the world committed to promoting excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning. With the generous support of The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) http://www.noaa.gov/, three New York City teachers and educators from the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) facilitated a 90-minute workshop at the NSTA National Conference in March 2009 in New Orleans that showcased the activities of the NOAA Science Literacy for Grade 6 ELLs program, and highlighted the accomplishments and challenges of teaching science content and developing the language of science for English language learners.

Panel discussion on how multiple theories shaped English Language skills development for teachers and xELL students
Session Description Thursday, March 19 8:00-9:00 AMHow Multiple Theories Shaped an English Language Skills Development Program for Teachers and ELL Students

Learn how various theoretical perspectives (research on science learning, ELL strategies, and museum learning theories) informed development and evaluation of a sixth-grade earth science initiative in New York City. Presenter(s): Minna Palaquibay (American Museum of Natural History: New York, NY); Jay Holmes (American Museum of Natural History: New York, NY, Flora Padro, PS 226 (New York, NY); Norma Peek, M348: Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School (New York, NY); Maria Pineda, MS131 (Chinatown, New York, NY).



The NOAA program at the American Museum of Natural History was unique because it expanded the concept of how informal science institutions can play an active role in strengthening teachers' content knowledge and supporting the classroom curriculum. It is a successful example of how the Museum continues to grow and codify its extensive educational resources into comprehensive programs for teachers and students visiting the Museum. In particular, the Museum'sGottesman Center for Science Teaching and Learning has designed Museum Learning Experiences in four key areas to support School Group Visits.

  • Guided Field Trip Experiences
  • Focused Student Classes
  • Science Bulletin DVD Collection
  • Exhibition Resources for Educators

Each one of these components was integrated into the NOAA program's full-day assemblies which created not only a rich educational experience for ELL students, but also a focused field trip providing an authentic extension to the classroom curriculum.

Group of school children touching a relief globe

Guided Field Trip Explorations: These 45-minute, volunteer-led tours for visiting classes help teachers use the Museum to illustrate important scientific concepts and support the teaching of the New York City Department of Education's K to 8 Science and Social Studies Scope and Sequence. Each tour starts in one of the Museum's permanent halls and moves through a variety of exhibitions, focusing on an essential question specific to the curriculum, which comes from the AAAS Atlas of Science Literacy Strand maps and benchmarks.

A wide aerial photo facing the 81st Street entrance to the Museum shows yellow school buses queued outside the glass fa├žade of the Planetarium. To the left is Central Park.

Focused Student Classes: These 90-minute classes provide students in Grades 5 to 12 with opportunities to engage in hands-on Museum Learning Experiences, with a focus on grade level units aligned to the New York State Science Standards and Core Curriculum. Teachers and students discover how to link the Museum's world-renowned collections and exhibition halls to the classroom in classes that focus on landforms, weather, plate tectonics, adaptation, DNA isolation, and evolution, biodiversity, and ecosystems.

The covers of two Museum-produced DVDs on topics in the natural sciences.

Science Bulletin DVD Collection: AMNH educators are developing a digital DVD series for teachers utilizing Science Bulletins. These innovative digital resources make current science events and research accessible to the public. Science Bulletins present breaking news in the fields of astrophysics, human biology, Earth science, and biodiversity conservation, as well as presenting cutting-edge data visualizations of the Earth and the cosmos, and snapshots of the natural world. Each DVD contains a series of digital resources on specific topics in the natural sciences that can be adapted to augment teachers' content knowledge and facilitate inquiry-based instruction and investigation in the classroom. http://www.amnh.org/sciencebulletins


Exhibition Resources for Educators: Among the resources provided by AMNH to support effective science teaching and learning are the Educator Evenings, free working receptions for New York City educators as an introduction to each new exhibit at the Museum. These catered events are designed to familiarize educators with special exhibitions and planetarium shows that open at the Museum throughout the year. They feature introductory lectures by the exhibition's curators and the Museum education team; curriculum demonstrations; lesson plans and other educational materials and resources to support student field trips to the exhibitions.


One such resource is the Educator Guide, created by Museum educators for special exhibitions and selected permanent halls. These pamphlets (also available electronically to the public on the Museum's Web site) are designed to help teachers make effective use of their time with students in the exhibition and to foster active learning for students during the visit. The Educator Guides are correlated to national, state, and local educational standards. They include key concepts, connections to other Museum halls, pre-and post-visit lesson plans and classroom activities, and activity sheets to enhance students' experiences in the Museum, and are designed to foster curriculum-related teaching opportunities in and out of the classroom.


Teachers who participated in the NOAA Science Literacy for Grade 6 English Language Learners program took full advantage of these services and everything the Museum has to offer to support their teaching and their students' learning. The ongoing support and professional development they received in the program and their ability to pass on their learning to their peers on a national level provided ample evidence of the success of the NOAA initiative.