With the 75th anniversary conference quickly approaching, I decided to reflect on some of my own history with NABT. The first NABT conference I attended was the conference in Denver, Colorado, 1992 and was one of those “transforming experiences” for me as an educator. I attended because a fellow Biology teacher at my school, Richard Borinsky was an NABT member and encouraged me to attend. During the twenty-mile drive into downtown Denver, Rich and I decided which sessions we would attend. Our approach was to “divide and conquer.” We would split up to go to different sessions because there is always more than one session going on at the same time that we wanted to see. Rich and I traveled to many more NABT conferences together and always used the “divide and conquer” strategy to see as many different sessions as possible.
That first Denver Conference was so important to me, and made such an impression on me that over twenty years later; I still have some of the original handouts. Some of the sessions I attended were “How to turn cookbook labs into more inquiry labs,” Double Entry Notes (a version of Cornell notes) and “How to use cartoons in the science classroom.” I started using the double entry notes and cartoons in my classes’ right after the conference. NABT was on the forefront of introducing inquiry into the biology classroom, and you still see sessions about changing a cookbook type of lab into an inquiry experience for students. Being able to provide students with more inquiry opportunities is a component of Next Generation of Science Standards, AP Biology, AP Environmental Science (when it is revised in two years) and Vision and Change. One of handouts also provided me a side benefit outside my classroom. I turned the Double Entry Notes idea into a research project during my masters at the University of Denver, comparing the grades of students that used Double Entry Notes to those who did not use double entry notes.
NABT is about forming relationships. As educators, we all know that it is important to form relationships with colleagues, and students alike as well as our subject matter. The NABT Conference is jammed full of content and network opportunities for everyone and every attendee needs to take advantage of these opportunities to the fullest. The one constant about all the NABT conferences I have attended is that I come back to school to my classroom more excited than ever about teaching. Attending conference recharges my batteries and gets me excited about teaching my students and the profession in general. Many of the secondary and higher education educators I have met and worked with over the years have influenced my teaching in many positive ways. I feel very fortunate to have met and observed many magnificent biology educators who want to make biology education better and accessible to all.
Going through the exhibit hall is another extraordinary opportunity and experience. You can visit with exhibitors such as publishers, science supply companies, and learn about summer opportunities and trips for teachers and students alike. Walking through the exhibit hall provides all teachers a chance to ask exhibitors about products related to new and updated curriculum such as AP Biology and form relationships with their local or national representatives. It is always helpful to be able to put a name with a face when working with a company. You can also find information about Graduate Programs for Biology and opportunities such as Fulbright Exchange Program.
I also encourage all high school and 2-year attendees to learn about the NABT BioClub. NABT BioClub is the vision of long-standing NABT member George Sellers and has the support of Carolina Biological Supply Company. BioClub’s mission is to nurture and promote interest in the biological sciences for a variety of academic and personal reasons. This club can provide for your students outreach, research, and the opportunity to hear about technical and career training opportunities. All it takes is to be an NABT member to be the BioClub Advisor. In addition, students can wear a BioClub cords when they are seniors at graduation.
In closing, from our mission statement and our website: “The National Association of Biology Teachers empowers educator to provide the best biology and life science education for all students.” We all need to be empowered. Attending the NABT conference does this by allowing you to “share experiences and expertise with colleagues from around the world, keep up with trends and developments in the field, and grow professionally.”
I am looking forward to seeing you in Atlanta.