Inflatable Planetariums, Jellyfish, and Bottle Biology at NSTA

By Liana Loewus — March 12, 2015 1 min read
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At 11 a.m., Thursday, the exhibit hall at NSTA officially opened for business, letting in the hundreds of teachers who were waiting eagerly outside the entrance.

If you’ve been to many conferences, you probably know that this is not normal conference behavior. In most cases, the exhibit hall—where vendors hawk their products and services—is a place to stroll through between sessions, grab some candy and keychains, and maybe purchase an item to bring home. But the science teachers here approached the throng of booths (about 300 of them) with unrestrained enthusiasm.

After a few minutes in there myself, I began to see why. Here are the types of things you can find among the NSTA exhibits.

An inflatable planetarium. Somewhere between a moonbounce and a tent, this blow-up planetarium can seat about 35 young students (we got about 10 adults in there comfortably). Two different companies were selling them. The fellow from Discovery Dome told me they cost $26,500, and that often museums buy them and rent them out to schools.

A jellyfish aquarium. I spoke with a 5th grade teacher who has been writing curriculum and piloting lessons for the company Jellyfish Art. He’s been using the classroom pets to teach about marine biology. The company also touts their use for lessons on the nitrogen cycle, water chemistry, and climate change. The tanks and jellyfish are also just really pretty. The entire setup runs about $350.

An ecosystem in a bottle. The Carolina Biological Supply Company had a big presence at the exhibit hall and, among other things, showed mini-ecosystems that students can build on their own. The company sells all sorts of kits for lab experiments as well as preserved specimens, living organisms, and chemicals.

And while I didn’t see this last one on my own, I’ll certainly be looking for it before I leave.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.