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Continuing Advancement of Science Teachers 2011

Convention Addresses Innovation and Technology

story by Randy Henry

Combine more than 3,700 teachers and 250 exhibitors in three days, and get ready for what the Science Teachers Association of Texas (STAT) brought to the 2011 Continuing Advancement of Science Teachers (CAST) annual convention held at the Dallas Convention Center in Dallas on November 17-19.

The three-day convention focused on innovative and interactive technology used in classrooms across Texas, as well as the art of science and the way teachers approach lesson planning for their students. CAST has evolved into the second-fastest growing conference in the nation for overall attendance and the 11th nationally for exhibit growth, according to STAT.

"Over the last two years, we continue to grow by leaps and bounds, and that's great growth for the science teachers, exhibitors, and visitors at the conference in Dallas this year," said Frank Butcher, CAST Exhibits Manager based in Austin, Texas. "CAST is the largest state science education conference in the nation."

The USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) partnered with CAST in 2011, and brought educational materials targeting natural resources and conservation programs for teachers from grades K-12. They also provided hundreds of informative posters about pollinators and what is takes to replace one inch of top soil. The NRCS booth had more than 1,700 educators and visitors the first day, and nearly 1,100 dropped by the next two days.

"With some of the conversations among the teachers at our booth, it is apparent that NRCS is actively involved in many communities educating youth about conservation," said Mackenzie Moore, NRCS Rangeland Management Specialist in McKinney, Texas. "I have learned that modern day education delves more deeply into science at a younger grade level than it did 20 years ago."

NRCS addressed several conservation topics that teachers could bring back to the classroom to educate their students at all age levels, including pollinators, backyard conservation, water resources, living within a watershed, Web Soil Survey, and NRCS conservation programs.

"It's a great idea to help teachers with their lesson planning about agriculture," said Kalissa Garland, NRCS Soil Conservationist in McKinney. "Our guidance not only gives the teachers a solid foundation about conservation principles to teach their students, but also gets NRCS' name into their school system."

Agriculture really hit the mark at CAST 2011 and NRCS assisted hundreds of teachers with educating their students about conservation, as well as getting out more than 750 pollinator posters for classrooms across Texas.

"NRCS had the right materials and information for the teachers at our booth, especially pollinator posters that the educators were very happy to receive," Garland said. "Shows like CAST are very helpful to get conservation education into the classroom for students from elementary to high school levels."

Mackenzie Moore (right) with one of several hundred teachers that visited the NRCS Booth Skulls Unlimited

Mackenzie Moore (right) NRCS Rangeland Management Specialist in McKinney Texas, discusses the Hometown Clean Water Tour brochure with one of several hundred teachers visiting the NRCS booth at the Continuing Advancement of Science Teachers (CAST) held on Nov. 17-19 at the Dallas Convention Center in Dallas.

Of the 250 exhibitors at the CAST show in Dallas, many were very unique as these Hominid skulls from Skulls Unlimited show us looking at their eerie smiles to take them back to the classroom.

Teachers and booths Melissa Garland and posters

Every aisle and booth at the three-day CAST show was jammed with educators representing all student levels receiving informative materials about science, and how to apply them to their lesson plans at schools throughout Texas going into 2012.

All the educational materials at the NRCS booth rapidly went into the hands of visiting teachers at the CAST show, but none went faster than the pollinator posters. Kalissa Garland, NRCS Soil Conservationist in McKinney, Texas, found that out and rolled up several hundred for teachers wanting to get them into their science classrooms.