ICEF Teachers Resources Blog

Save the Date: 2024 National Summit on K-12 School Safety and Security – September 25-26

For the third year in a row, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) will host the National Summit on K-12 School Safety and Security. This virtual event brings together K-12 school leaders and practitioners to discuss and share actionable recommendations that enhance safe and supportive learning environments.

The 2024 Summit will feature panel discussions, sessions and keynote speakers covering topics such as understanding and preventing youth violence, protecting K-12 networks, youth online safety, supporting student mental health, emergency planning and physical security, and restorative and intervention practices.

This free event is open to anyone with a passion for improving school safety but will be of particular interest to K-12 school and district administrators; principals and superintendents; school-based law enforcement; teachers and school staff; mental health practitioners; first responders; federal, state, local, tribal and territorial government partners; and other school safety and security professionals.

The 2024 Summit will be held on September 25 and 26. Registration will open in late July. For more information, please visit:


A Journey of Enrichment and Inspiration: My 13-Year Quest with the You Be The Chemist Challenge®

For the past 13 years, my life as an educator has been intertwined with a remarkable journey: the You Be The Chemist Challenge. This challenge has not only enriched my students' lives but has also transformed my teaching approach and brought the world of STEM closer to young minds.

When I started participating in the Challenge over a decade ago, little did I know the profound impact it would have on both my students and me. The Challenge provided a unique opportunity to equip my students with vital skills they would need as they stepped into the professional world. It wasn't just about science facts; it was about instilling skills like critical thinking, collaboration, time management, and effective communication—skills that transcend textbooks and are essential for success in any career.

When the Challenge transitioned from an individual to a team-based structure several years ago, a whole new group of students found their gateway to STEM education. The collaborative nature of the challenge allowed these students to shine. The video-making aspect, in particular, was a hit among my creative students. It wasn't just about science; it was about merging creativity and knowledge. Through this process, they learned to work with others, manage their time efficiently, acknowledge and celebrate each other's strengths, and connect with the community around them.

Witnessing my students compete as a team was an absolute joy. Their personalities illuminated the room as they answered questions and worked together to solve challenges. The excitement they exuded was contagious; it was a vivid reminder of why I chose to be an educator in the first place. There's something magical about seeing young minds excited about science—it's a testament to the fact that learning can be both enriching and fun.

Participating in the Challenge also opened doors to a world of STEM careers for my students. The volunteers who support the challenge are passionate STEM professionals who willingly share their journeys and encourage our students every step of the way. Knowing that there are professionals outside of the classroom who genuinely care about their growth and development is incredibly powerful for my students. It broadens their horizons and gives them a glimpse of the opportunities that await them beyond their school years.

However, the benefits of this journey extend beyond my students—it has also enriched my professional life. Through the Challenge, I've had the privilege of connecting with fellow educators from across the country. The struggles we face are universal, and through networking and collaboration, we've found innovative ways to overcome them. This sense of community is invaluable, reminding me that I'm not alone in this mission to educate and inspire.

As I reflect on the past 13 years, I'm filled with gratitude for the You Be The Chemist Challenge and the impact it has had on my students, my teaching approach, and my professional growth. It has ignited a passion for STEM in my students before they reach the crossroads of choosing their career paths. It has shown me that teaching goes beyond textbooks—it's about fostering skills, sparking curiosity, and creating lifelong learners.

To all the educators out there, I encourage you to seek out opportunities like the You Be The Chemist Challenge. The journey might start with your students, but it will undoubtedly lead to growth, inspiration, and lasting connections for you as well.

The Challenge's impact on me led to my transition this summer from the classroom to support CEF's programs. As a member of the team, I’m eager to support other educators with the necessary tools to empower their students the way my involvement with the Challenge has inspired me.

To learn more about the challenge go to:

To see the Challenge in action, go to:

Reach out to [email protected] if you have any questions.

Nicole Domingues, CEF Program Manager

Illinois EPA Invites 5th & 6th Grade Student Writers and Artists to Compete in Annual Poster, Poetry, and Prose Contest
November 2, 2023

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is inviting fifth and sixth grade writers and artists from around Illinois to participate in this year’s Annual Poster, Poetry, and Prose Contest. The contest theme for the 2024 awards is “Where Does Rain Go? How Can We Slow the Flow?” focusing on understanding how rain moves through the landscape, the effects of droughts and floods, and how we can adapt to help protect our water resources. 

Educators are encouraged to introduce students to topics such as watersheds and the water cycle, how the amount of rain (frequency and duration) impacts water pollution and the landscape in droughts and floods, and how we can apply conservation practices (slow the flow) to help protect our water resources. Conservation practices can reduce stormwater runoff (nonpoint source pollution) and flooding impacts on our rivers and lakes and even our city’s sewer systems.

Informational resources are available on the Illinois EPA’s Poster, Poetry, and Prose Contest webpage. Students are then asked to create posters or written works for the contests related to the theme’s focus. Teachers may then display the submissions for voting and submit final entries to the Illinois EPA for further judging. Teachers may submit up to eight entries per school to the Illinois EPA by February 1, 2024.

The creation of posters and written works gives students an opportunity to express and share what they have learned. The contest also draws attention to important environmental issues. The students whose works are chosen for the exhibit will receive a certificate and ribbon. The top twelve entries will be given special recognition at an awards ceremony to be held in Springfield in the spring of 2024 and displayed on the Illinois EPA website.

Additional information for educators and students can be found at: Other questions can be directed to Kristi Morris, Environmental Education Coordinator for the Illinois EPA, at 217-5587198, or by email at [email protected].


ICEF Teachers' Resources


July 2023


15 Free STEM Tools and Resources for Teachers



Recommended STEM Tools for Teachers


  1. Campus TiesCampus Ties offers micro-courses and built-in tests devised by trusted professionals. Micro-certificates are also given to learners who have completed a course.
  2. CLEANThis website offers a collection of more than 600 free resources created and verified by esteemed scientists and teachers.
  3. Energy.govFeatured in this US government-based website are free energy literacy videos that educators can pull out and show their students. For more videos, you can also check out their Youtube channel.
  4. Exxon Mobil: Exxon Mobil offers a variety of programs and information particularly related to maths and sciences, as well as real-world applications. It also includes useful tools for STEM teachers.
  5. MIT BlossomsMIT Blossoms offers math and science videos for high school learners.
  6. NASA Digital Learning NetworkThey aren’t only discovering new planets and galaxies.NASA’s free-for-all digital learning network offers premium lessons about space technology and other STEM-related careers. They feature only the most capable experts and guest speakers for their lessons.
  7. National Science BoardThe National Science Board is a government-backed website that offers standardized action plans and regularly updated STEM educational opportunities.
  8. National Science Digital LibraryThe National Science Digital Library is an extensive collection of educational materials for educators and learners of all levels, including STEM. These materials are curated by teaching experts that serve as digital librarians.
  9. PhETThis free interactive website is filled with fun and enjoyable simulations that pertain to the four core subjects of STEM education. It has delivered over 360 million simulations since it started in the year 2002.
  10. PlanetariumThis website lets you explore the heavenly bodies in your browser. You can also add this as an extension for Google Chrome users.
  11. Save on EnergySave on Energy is a fun and free way to make your students learn about the science of electricity. It features animated infographics that demonstratethe principles and movements of electricity.
  12. Science Fair ProjectsThis website is a treasure chest of ideas for science experiments and projects.
  13. Space SchoolSpace School is a Canadian educational initiative that aims to provide premium online training for students in the following key areas–STEM, Coding, Space Technology, Robotics, and Problem Solving.
  14. Teacher ChallengeThis website contains a list of more than 20 STEM educational tools that teachers may find helpful and interesting.
  15. TinkercadA website that offers free 3D models for printing and teaching.


November 2022

Department Launches “YOU Belong in STEM” Initiative to Enhance STEM Education for All Young People

The U.S. Department of Education (Department) launched "YOU Belong in STEM," an initiative to galvanize the broad STEM education ecosystem to implement and scale equitable and high-quality STEM education for all young people from Pre-K to higher education. U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education Cindy Marten discussed the initiative today at the STEMconnector and Million Women Mentors Summit in Washington, D.C.

"With the YOU Belong in STEM initiative, we are helping districts and schools redesign systems and learning spaces to ensure students get the well-rounded education they need," said Deputy Secretary Marten. "We are also challenging narratives about who belongs in STEM learning and careers that, over generations, left out millions of girls and young women, students of color, students living in poverty, Native American and Alaska Native students, students with disabilities, and other marginalized students. Every student, no matter their background or zip code can meet and exceed their unique potential to learn and thrive in STEM education."

YOU Belong in STEM will focus on improving student outcomes by promoting positive conditions for STEM learning and development. Research shows a direct correlation between a sense of belonging in the classroom and a student's focus and academic content retention. Through the new initiative the Department seeks to show both teachers and students that they have a place in the STEM field and in the pathways to long-term success that STEM has to offer in a 21st century economy.

In the coming weeks, the Department will provide guidance and other technical assistance to elevate STEM teaching and learning, convene STEM partners and thought leaders, elevate bright spots and evidenced-based practices that engender belonging in STEM, and partner with public and private entities to leverage our best efforts and reach.

Email us at [email protected] to get involved!



October 2022

Dept. of Homeland Security - Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)

CISA’s K – 12 Cybersecurity Education Training Assistance Program (CETAP) and CYBER.ORG: Through CISA’s CETAP grantee, CYBER.ORG, CISA offers K-12 teachers with cybersecurity curricula and education tools. CYBER.ORG develops and distributes free cybersecurity, STEM, and computer science curricula to K-12 educators across the country. Below are upcoming training events through CYBER.ORG.

October 27- Elementary and Middle Schoolers

Cybersecurity Awareness for Elementary and Middle School (Virtual Event): In this 60-minute workshop, dive into age-appropriate cybersecurity activities that can be integrated into any classroom. These simple lessons help students understand basic cybersecurity concepts such as privacy policies, digital footprints, website credibility, encryption, and more. Learn how to facilitate conversations that will empower students to navigate in the digital age. No prior experience or knowledge is necessary! To learn more or sign up, visit or contact us at