STEMtastic News - March 2021

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NC Department of Public Instruction

March 2021


Home of STEMtastic News




The STEM Schools of Distinction program was developed to identify and recognize exemplary STEM schools and STEM programs. The application process rubric is built around overarching principles which describe characteristics of a high-quality STEM school.


More Than a Recognition Program


The STEM Schools Progress Rubric is a strategic planning document that is valuable for any school or program within a school that wants to improve STEM teaching and learning.


To get the most out of the STEM rubric, consider the following:

  • The rubric is an instrument to be used by the whole school rather than an individual. It requires the input and perspective of various stakeholders within the school as well as outside such as parents, business partners, and community members.
  • Successful applicants for the School of Distinction have spent a minimum of six months gathering artifacts and data and soliciting input from stakeholders.
  • After all the evidence has been gathered, it's usually best if no more than one or two people complete the application. At least one person inside the school and one person outside the school should review the final application before submission. 
  • There is no specific number of artifacts that should be submitted. The best guidance is to consider whether a reviewer will have enough information to determine that the school is meeting the metrics of the rubric.

Schools interested in the opportunity to submit an application providing narrative and artifactual evidence of their distinguished STEM approaches to leading and learning should obtain a copy of the STEM Schools Progress Rubric. Schools should self-assess their performance across the five Overarching Principles and the Key Elements within and engage purposefully within their school improvement process. Applications for the 2021-2022 school year will be available this Fall.


Only One Day Remains!

Applications are being accepted for virtual summer NIEHS STaRS Experience

Applicants for the 2020 STaRS program automatically will be considered for the 2021 program.

Middle and high school science teachers and community college instructors are encouraged to apply for the 2021 NIEHS Science, Teachers and Research Summer (STaRS) Experience. STaRS 2021 is a virtual one-week professional development (PD) program, designed and conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).  

The goals of the PD are:

  • To enhance participants’ understanding of basic research in environmental/biomedical sciences; and
  • To enable participants to transfer knowledge received from this program into classroom applications and better support their students, including those from underserved populations.

The 2021 virtual STaRS Experience will be held online by NIEHS and will be a one-week program. The program will contain many interactive lessons and activities with special topics relating to COVID-19. The first offering is scheduled for Monday, July 12, through Friday, July 16, from 8:15 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. The second offering is scheduled from Monday, August 2, through Friday, August 6, from 8:15 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Participants will be assigned to one of the two week-long program options. STaRS participants will receive a $1,000 stipend to offset costs to cover their time spent during the program.


  • Applicants must currently teach science in a North Carolina middle school, high school or community college; and
  • Applicants must be available and fully engaged for the full one-week program (July 12-16 or August 2-6).

Women and individuals of underrepresented groups are encouraged to apply.

Apply Now

Applications are due by 11:59 p.m. on Friday, March 5, 2021.

Biotech in Action

Judges Needed for the 2021 NC Science and Engineering Virtual Fair!


Click here to register as a judge during the days of the 2021 NCSEF Virtual!  The link will take you to the NCSEF STEM Wizard page. Once there, go to the “Registration” link at the top of the page and then select “Judge”.


Competition dates are: March 27- Senior Division, April 17- Junior Division, & April 24 - Elementary Division.  Sign up for a single date or for several!

Please see this flyer for more detailed information: 

Volunteer flyer 2021.pdf


This message is being sent on behalf of Theresa Gibson, Executive Director of the North Carolina Science Fair Foundation.  For more information contact Theresa at or (919) 408-7146.


Living with Nature 


North Carolina Zoo’s free distance learning event



Available to schools and home school groups. this event will be broadcast live on Zoom, highlighting Zoo experts, and will include an activity to promote interaction between the participants and the presenters.

What do you need to know about the event?

  • The event has been designed with the North Carolina Standard Course of Study in mind for grades 6th -12th.
  • The event is at 10:00 am (EST) and is  30-minutes in length. Participate live or watch the recording at a later date.
  • There are pre- and post- activities related to the event available for teachers to use in their classes.
  • You must preregister for the event. This year we are using Zoom for registration.

To Register:

Hope to see you there!  


This announcement is being sent on behalf of Leslie Wilhoit.  If you have any further questions please contact Leslie Wilhoit at 336.879.7718 or email:

NC DNA Day Logo



Would you like a scientist from one of NC’s leading research institutions to talk with your high school science classroom?


Each year, NC DNA Day sends over 150 scientists to classrooms across NC. This year those visits will be virtual due to the pandemic.  Scientists can meet with your class for 30 minutes, 45 minutes, or 60 minutes.  They can give your class a virtual tour of the research space they work in, or talk with them about research taking place in NC to improve life for those who are sick or healthy.  Visiting scientists can also present a slide show aligned with NC’s science standards that will reinforce what you are teaching in the classroom.


Have a scientist speak with your high school classroom and present an engaging module covering a topic related to genetics and genomics!  This year's topics include these exciting, hand-on lessons:  The Science of Vaping, Personalized Medicine (Pharmacogenomics), and Forensics.


What Teachers are Saying...

“DNA Day has been a wonderful addition to my classroom for the past 3 years...   My students love it when they have "real life scientists" come talk to them.  It helps the students see that science is "real" and can be fun and interesting and is truly part of their actual life."  


 “The presentation was fantastic, and my students thoroughly enjoyed themselves and were motivated and engaged!”


"This presentation completely supplemented what we've been doing in my classes this year.  It gave the students something to think about and demonstrated the relevance of what we're learning."


What Students are Saying...

"I forgot how much one could do with a background in science. It opens doors that I can't wait to discover."


"The ideas/concepts were presented in a colorful way yet understandable way to both teach us and keep our attention."


"Today I realized that there were many more career options in science than I realized before."


For more information about NC DNA Day and to sign up, visit our website:


This announcement is being sent on behalf of Patrick Brandt.  If you have any further questions please contact Patrick Brandt at: 919-843-9342 or

Greetings from the NCSciFest Team!


You’re invited to our first-ever virtual science expo! Sign up today to meet UNC scientists from around the world as they share what it’s like to try to answer Science’s toughest questions. We’ll meet shark researchers, ecologists, public health experts, physicists and more! Registered teachers will receive pre-event and post event support materials and resources to share with your students.


Each program will have a limited number of featured classrooms where the teacher and students can ask questions directly to the presenters – if you’d like to be one of those classes, sign up here.

Programming includes events like this:


10am – Elementary School Program: Marti the Hammerhead and Shark Conservation

Shark researcher Alex Hearn of the Galapagos Science Center will read the exciting story of Marti the Hammerhead and answer your questions about shark research.


11am – All ages: Live Physics Demonstration Hour

UNC physics faculty will present phenomenal physics demonstrations that will surprise and excite curious minds. Come prepared to make predictions and ask questions about physics experiments that are seriously phun!


1pm – High school and adults -- Environmental Justice at Home

Dr. Rebecca Fry will introduce this important topic and how it relates to people and places in North Carolina. Student researchers from the Department will show you how to use sophisticated online mapping tools to answer relevant questions about environmental justice in our state.


3pm – Middle grades – Hammerhead Sharks, Epic Migrations, and Island Conservation

Shark researcher Alex Hearn dives deeper into the world of shark conversation as he reads from the Galapagos Conservation Trust’s first ever educational book: Marti the Hammerhead Shark; and answers your questions about sharks, SCUBA diving, science and more!

5pm – High school and Adults: UNC and the Galapagos Science Center

Three researchers from the Center will discuss what it’s like to walk in the footsteps of Charles Darwin as they work across social, terrestrial and marine subsystems to help tackle threats to island sustainability. Amanda Thompson will focus on public health and nutrition. Diego Riveros-Iregui will focus on water and land dynamics. Adrian Marchetti will talk about marine ecology and biological productivity in Galapagos.


Click here to see the full lineup and to learn more!


This message is being sent on behalf of Kim Moore, Program Assistant for the North Carolina Science Festival.  For more information contact Kim at or (919) 602-6272.



Updated Math Options Chart on Behalf of the K-12 Math Section

The Math Options Charts have been updated on the NCDPI website and on the K-12 Mathematics Google Site


There have been a few major changes to the format and layout of the Math Options Charts.

  • The Math Options Charts are now based on the students’ entry year into high school. There are three Math Options Charts now available:

    • Students who entered high school prior to the 2020-21 school year

    • Students who entered high school during the 2020-21 school year

    • Students who will enter high school during the 2021-22 school year

  • The Math Options Charts now contain three charts instead of four, as the Community College and Career after High School Charts are combined into one chart.

On the K-12 Mathematics Google Site, you will find the Math Options Charts Web Page. On this webpage you can find:

  • Support videos:

    • Using the Math Options Charts

    • Updates to all Math Options Charts for February 2021

  • Math Options Charts

  • Contact Information for Questions

Summary of Course Changes for the coming school year

  • AP44 Horticulture II Landscaping has been added as a new option that is available for all students.
  • Interior Design Changes:

    • FI51 Interior Design I, F152 Interior Design II, and FI153 Interior Design Applications courses will become disabled starting the 2021-22 school year, except for students completing credit recovery. Students who have earned credit in FI51 or FI52 can still use those courses to meet the mathematics graduation requirements.

    • The Interior Design courses have been given new course codes and titles. 

Disabled Interior Design Courses New Interior Design Courses
F151 Interior Design I F121 Interior Design Fundamentals
F152 Interior Design II F122 Interior Design Studio
F153 Interior Design Applications F123 Interior Design Technology


    • Due to the new courses having less math content, only one pair of the new courses will now earn a math credit for graduation. This new paired course option will be immediately available to all students. 
      • FI21 Interior Design Fundamentals AND FI23 Interior Design Technology

    • See Memo from CTE.

  • Further guidance is provided for the use of Introductory Mathematics, Alternate Mathematics I, and Alternate Mathematics II for students who have been identified with a learning disability in mathematics and whose IEP team determines the students cannot master the content of NC Math 1.

NC DPI STEM Consultant

Howard Ginsburg


If you are currently not subscribed and would like to receive future releases of STEMtastic News, please visit the NCDPI Subscriptions webpage and register for the NCDPI STEM newsletter. You will first be prompted to enter your email to create an account. Once your account is created, return to the NCDPI Subscriptions webpage to choose your interests.