What are Professional Development Seminars?

Are you seeking ways to enhance the science, technology and engineering content of your educational programs and exhibits? Could your offerings include more inquiry-based activities?

Our Professional Development Seminars are designed to meet the needs of informal educators, like you. Discover ways to strengthen your STEM content knowledge and leave with the skills and tools to develop compelling, hands-on, minds-on science lessons.

At our seminars, your staff and volunteers will connect with content expertise and like-minded educators. Our full-day seminars will get you thinking of unique ways to engage learners of all ages in your exhibits and programs. Explore authentic research during morning sessions, and strengthen your skills by turning the content into engaging hands-on, minds-on activities in the afternoon. Join us for an engaging seminar series, and expand your toolkit of inquiry-based activities to enhance science education at your institution!

What you’ll leave with:

  • Science, technology and engineering content knowledge to bolster your existing skills
  • Hands-on, minds-on activities to enrich your institution’s exhibits and school or public programs
  • Connections to school-based information and topics that teachers want to learn about

Check back later this fall for information on the upcoming 2020 Professional Development Seminar series!

Learn more about the presenters and topics that we featured during the 2019 Professional Development Seminar series. 

Thursday, January 31st: Making Connections with Science

Carbon, Climate and Consensus
Bob Chen, Professor, School for the Environment, and Director, Center for Coastal Environmental Sensing Network, UMASS Boston

Understanding the global carbon cycle and the human perturbation of this cycle on the global scale is critical to understanding past, present, and future climate change. Climate change is currently causing global, regional, and local impacts to our environment, society, and infrastructure. We will explore some of these current and future impacts as well as where there is uncertainty. Finally, we will explore the reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. The IPCC presents the data that leads to the scientific consensus that “Warming of climate system is unequivocal” and that “Human influence on the climate system is clear”.

Setting Up Seasonal Nature Journals:
Getting Students of All Ages Outdoors and Curious

Clare Walker Leslie, Author

Historically, scientists and explorers everywhere had to keep Nature Journal records, not having the digital equipment we have today to record their observations. With a growing interest in Phenology, Citizen Science, and Climate Change concerns, it has become increasingly important for the Science community to have ongoing records of plant and animal as well as seasonal and weather shifting. Clare will present methods for recording observations, in both word and image, as well as outdoor nature observation techniques. Clare will demonstrate how participants can use these skills in a variety of educational settings, providing a tool for place-based education. Participants will have a chance to begin their own Nature Journals, with special emphasis on how they can use them for their professional setting as well as personal pursuits. Clare is the author of 12 books on Nature Journaling.

Thursday, February 28th: Learning From Our Cities

Biodiversity is Everywhere:
Exploring the Ecology of Our Cities and Towns

Paige Warren, Professor, Department of Environmental Conservation, UMASS Amherst

Most people in the world now live in cities or suburbs and other surrounding settlements. Thus, most of us experience nature in the daily green spaces we encounter in our yards, parks, playgrounds, and in the trees along our streets. A surprising variety of wild animals and plants can be found in these urban places. Who are these creatures? What effect does urbanization have on them? And what effect does it have on us? What can we do to improve conditions for both wildlife and people in the city? During this  session, educators discussed what biodiversity is, and how the study of biodiversity can illustrate basic concepts in ecology and conservation.

Biodiversity is Everywhere!
Enhance Your Audience Engagement with Local Biodiversity

Marie Studer, Director of Encyclopedia of Life and Learning and Education Group, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University

Biodiversity is all around us! Learning about, and connecting with, our local biodiversity is important no matter if we live in urban settings, suburban environments or rural landscapes. Educators learned about interactive ways to engage audiences from both informal and formal settings in learning about native and invasive organisms, rare and threatened species and the everyday life around us. EOL Biodiversity Cards and the iNaturalist observation platform can be easily customized for any location and project. Participants learned how they can use this tool and resources in their institutions for both student and adult audiences. This was an interactive session during which educators used the EOL Biodiversity Card Maker, made observations using the iNaturalist app, and learned how to participate in the 2019 City Nature Challenge.

Thursday, March 21st: Science Story Tellers

New England and the Origins of American Environmentalism
Chad Montrie, Professor, College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, UMASS Lowell

During this session, educators explored how science, engineering and history are intertwined in the environmental movement which dates back to the 1800s. The birth of the Industrial Revolution in the early 19th-century brought with it manufacturing that transformed the landscape and introduced new environmental hazards.  Many people recognize New England as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution but are not aware that this “revolution” led to the first stirrings of environmental awareness. A public health movement was born, states passed laws to control pollution, and scientists pioneered methods for protecting people from water-and-airborne pathogens. Participants explored that history through the lives of Henry Ingersoll Bowditch, the first head of the Massachusetts State Board of Health, and Ellen Swallow Richards, the first woman to teach at MIT. Together, they laid the groundwork for establishing the Lawrence Experiment Station, where work that dramatically impacts the health of millions is still taking place today.

Integrating STEM and the Humanities:
A Role Playing Game

Kris Boudreau, Paris Fletcher Distinguished Professor, Department of Humanities and Arts, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Educators discovered how role-playing games can be an exciting tool for minds-on, hands-on, inquiry-based learning experiences at their institutions or in their classrooms. They participated in a role-playing game designed by WPI students and faculty that simulates a “wicked problem” from 19th-century Worcester, MA. Educators learned about and test a role-playing game that gives equal weight to science, engineering, and the humanities (history, theatre, philosophy, literature), creating a multi-disciplinary STEM experience. They spent some time on student learning outcomes and different assignments designed to teach information literacy, problem definition, negotiations, urban history, and engineering. Attendees gained access to the game for use in their teaching, and learned how they can use it as a model for developing a role-playing game specific to their teaching environment.

Thursday, April 25th: Science On the Brain (Full Day Seminar)

Minds On Brains: Making the Connection
Robert Payo, Teacher Professional Development Coordinator, Denver Museum of Nature & Science
Tim Blesse, Teacher Professional Development Coordinator, Denver Museum of Nature & Science

Understanding how children and adults learn can help educators create exciting, engaging inquiry programs for their audience. During this special full-day seminar, participants learned about teaching strategies and educational tools that are based research about how the brain works. Robert and Tim shared how to use these tools in planning student programs or professional development session for educators. Starting with a brief overview of brain function, educators explored topics that included working memory and retention, the importance of movement, and then explored other strategies that help to support learning. Reflecting on their own practice and personal experiences, educators identified best teaching practices through the lens of brain and cognitive research. Through this seminar, participants discovered more about how their brains work and function, and how they can apply this information in their teaching and programming development.