As a science teacher, one of the things I look forward to each year is the annual convention of the Hoosier Association of Science Teachers, Inc. (HASTI). It takes place at the Indiana Convention Center.
Back during my first round of teaching through the 1980s, I not only attended each year, but one year I was a presenter. During the preceding summer, I had traveled much of the state taking photos and videos of the geology of our state. Yes, there is much more to Indiana than cornfields. So I presented a video program to the group covering all the different aspects and features of Indiana’s varied geology. It was well received.
But over the past four years or so, since I got back into teaching, I’ve just been a spectator. Like most conventions, there are lots of vendors displaying their wares. Some of the science equipment so cool I wish I had it in my classroom. But with school budgets being what they are, I’ll have to be content to just look.
In addition to the main exhibits, there are always plenty of break-out sessions where science teachers, textbook publishers, or science supply houses can present hour-long programs that are specific to certain grade levels and subject areas. I especially enjoy the hands-on programs that use candy or other food items to demonstrate scientific principles.
Keynote speakers are always a part of the convention. Most are nationally known for one reason or another. Last year, for example, an author of a popular science textbook who was also one of the expert witnesses for the plaintiffs at the Dover, Pennsylvania court case pitting evolution against Intelligent Design was the keynote speaker. His topic was why it is important for science teachers not to shy away from teaching evolution at all grade levels. He was preaching to the choir with me there.
I also enjoy hobnobbing with others of my discipline from schools across the state. It is fun to see what familiar faces show up each year from schools I’ve taught at in the past.
One of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had at the convention was the year I went with a group on a field trip to the National Weather Service. Weather has always been an interest of mine. It was fascinating to see the real meteorologists and their high-tech equipment in action.
As a fan of the CSI television series, I enjoyed last year’s field trip to the Indianapolis Crime Lab. Some of the things they do are similar to the TV show, but there are far more differences than similarities.
In past years, I’ve enjoyed previews of what have become staples of learning in Indianapolis, including the planetarium at the children’s museum and the Indianapolis Zoo. We got to see it before it opened to the public.
We all rely on science every day, whether we realize it or not. Many of the things we take for granted, such as cell phones, television sets, computers, our cars, and the weather forecasts we rely on are all based on what was once pure research and scientific theory. Most people don’t care about how it works or whet it came from; they just want to know it will work when needed.
And that’s fine. The purpose of technology is to make scientific theories workable and transparent. It’s too bad, though, that science has always had to fight an uphill battle against those who enjoy and use the benefits but would rather quash the process.
I’m referring, of course, to the vocal minority who are opposed to embryonic stem cell research, cloning experiments, and the teaching of scientific theories such as evolution in school.