Gearing up for an exciting 2019-2020 with NSELA

Posted: August 14, 2019

Greetings Science Leaders,

As many of you gear up for another academic year, I am honored and excited to take the helm of this amazing organization.  It can be quite intimidating taking over NSELA from such a long line of excellent leaders, but with the help of our executive director Don Knox, our managing company Civica, our amazing Board of Directors, committee chairs, and members, I have confidence that our organization is in good hands.  I may create a more focused post in the future - but for now, I wanted to take a moment and share my heart.  

In creating a “position statement” to run for president, I had the opportunity to sit down and rethink my philosophy of science teaching, the role and responsibility of NSELA in the profession, and my beliefs regarding science, technology, science leadership, and science education.  As I prepared to start this year, two years after writing this statement, I looked to my old application as a place to remind myself why I am doing this. I was pleasantly surprised at how well the nomination packet was not just platitudes, but actually reflected my heart. As a result, I plan to share a series of my thoughts, taking a few at a time, starting with, “My own leadership as K-12 science curriculum specialist is being challenged as I implement three-dimensional standards in my district towards that vision.”  

I am still stretched to be helpful and supportive to teachers and administrators of Lincoln Public Schools (LPS) while providing the appropriate push to meet the current reforms of science education.  My work in LPS is strengthened because of what I gain from NSELA membership. I share these insights - not as an endorsement of a certain individual, approach, or product - but because all that I share comes directly or indirectly from the NSELA member network, and I hope if you see something you might try or explore - you will become active in NSELA.  

  • LPS is beginning the fourth year of implementing various approaches to match NGSS and 3D instruction in all secondary science courses across middle and high school.  

    • We have created many aligned lessons using American Museum of Natural History 5 Tools Approach with teachers who have been immersed in training to lead this lesson development process. 

    • We have created and utilized many lessons from recent NSELA presenter -  Brett Moulding (pictured below) Gather Reason Communicate approach to lesson design #Going3D, also a regular visitor to Lincoln. 

We are starting to explore OpenSciEd and lessons from NGSS Sensemakers.  LPS experienced four days of professional learning for over 40 teachers this summer from the Sensemakers group from Northwestern University and schools across the U.S.  My teachers have never been so excited to enact some 3D-units they have experienced in this setting: 7th Grade Metabolism, Evolution in Biology, and Hot-Cold in Chemistry.

    • I have grown from an opportunity to work for NSTA to design and deliver professional learning institutes.  I greatly appreciate Ted Willard and Trisha Shelton for creating these opportunities for personal growth. As a result, the “sound storyline” enacted in LPS from NextGenStorylines was featured on the Office of Ed Tech STEM site as exemplifying collaboration in STEM.  Consider taking two minutes and appreciating the power of these approaches:
  • LPS 7th grade became a research site for Amplify Science Middle School Study funded by NSF, “Evaluating the Impact of Amplify Science Middle School Curriculum on Teaching and Learning”.  I am excited to see how professional curriculum materials impact our teaching and learning while we help the nation understand how curriculum impacts student learning.

  • I began a new adventure as Co-Chair of the newly formed Lincoln STEM Ecosystem.  We are starting a community wide movement to connect in- and out-of-school STEM rich learning environments to better connect students to their interests and future careers in STEM.  You can follow me @lnkse and as we undertake this challenge.

Thank you for taking the time to get to know me a little better.  All that I am in my professional role is deeply connected to NSELA.  I look forward to continued sharing through newsletters, webinars, and face to face professional development for NSELA and hearing more from you. 

In my next edition, I will discuss how, “...the challenges many of us face are also a great opportunity to make a difference in science education to impact more than ever before.  NSELA is uniquely poised to support the majority of our nations’ children who are in schools and non formal educational settings.”

I look forward to improving science education together.  NSELA is probably best known for its powerful professional learning and networking opportunities. As an affiliate of NSTA, leadership in science education has been our focus since 1959.  We have reflected this in our mission statement, encapsulated by three words: Advocate, Collaborate, and Educate. I feel a great sense of gratitude to our membership (you!) and our many partners who make NSELA possible: Amplify Science, Flinn Scientific, Kendell Hunt, Legends of Learning, Pascoe, Pearson, Texas Instruments, and Vernier.

I wish you the best for those of you heading back to school in the coming weeks.  Please feel free to contact me anytime to share your excitements and suggestions. How can NSELA serve you? 



James Blake, Ed.D.
2019-2020 NSELA President

James Blake, Ed.D. is the K-12 Science Curriculum Specialist at Lincoln Public Schools (LPS) in Lincoln, Nebraska.  He held multiple science state leadership roles as State Director of Science Education for the Nebraska Department of Education and Nebraska Director of Science Olympiad. Follow Dr. Blake on Twitter: @lpssci @drjblakesci @lnkse @nselascience or email: [email protected]