Monday, March 30, 2020

For Immediate Release

Berkshire Educator
Makes Community Connections for Science Learning

Quincy, MA & Great Barrington, MA – In the Berkshires of Massachusetts, one parent became concerned about the scarcity of STEM resources for K-12 students and her own child’s ability to make connections between science concepts. She sought resources within the community to supplement her child’s STEM education. That path led her to become an educator herself and to take on the role of Executive Director of the educational nonprofit and Wade Institute for Science Education partner, Flying Cloud Institute (FCI). By developing community and statewide partnerships, FCI’s Executive Director Maria Rundle has provided hands-on, minds-on professional development for teachers in the Berkshires through week-long institutes and in-school, customized learning opportunities.

Flying Cloud Institute’s Executive Director, Maria Rundle (center), poses with educators at the 2019 Berkshire Region Summer Professional Development Institute

Maria’s involvement in Berkshire region K-12 education began through her volunteer activism on her city’s school committee. As a parent and committee member, Maria fully understood the importance of public schools and local partnerships for learning. She recognized a need for integrated, hands-on, authentic, experiential, and transformational learning experiences to help students think like scientists. When her own child needed extra assistance making connections to understand science concepts, Maria discovered FCI’s dynamic educational programs and resources. Her interest in the organization remained so piqued that she took on the role of Executive Director when the position opened in 2017 and began steering the course of their educational services.

FCI exists to “inspire young people and educators through dynamic science and art experiences that ignite creativity.” As Executive Director, Maria works to expand the breadth of FCI’s programming by developing and maintaining partnerships and collaborations. FCI’s STEM and STEAM programs include in-school, after school and summer courses for children, a youth summit, and professional development opportunities for educators. Through a state-funded partnership with Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) and through partnerships with local school districts, Maria has supported rural schools in implementing the 2016 Science and Technology/Engineering Curriculum Frameworks by providing on-site professional development that empowers teachers by engaging them in hands-on, minds-on learning and connects them to a greater peer learning community. These sessions with schools provide teachers with the time to develop new or adapted lessons and to encourage each other to take risks in their science classrooms. One outcome of Maria’s work with schools is that more educators are attempting to shift their instruction towards student-driven and inquiry-based learning.

When Maria heard about the Wade Institute’s inquiry-based, hands-on, minds-on professional development for K-12 teachers and informal educators, she immediately recognized an alignment to her own organizations’ mission and programming. She got involved with Summer Professional Development Institutes as a presenter and subsequently decided to partner and lead the week-long 2018 Berkshire region institute. Maria was excited to help her local educators connect to new resources, enhance their inquiry-based pedagogy and refine their understanding of the Science and Engineering Practices. Plus, “We were going out to a new site every day,” she says. “That was a really special experience.”

Maria engages educators in inquiry-based learning.

A few years later, Maria expanded FCI’s work with the Wade Institute by joining them to deliver some of their Customized Professional Learning Services — in-school, inquiry-based professional development tailored to the needs of teachers in a school district. Maria was already familiar with on-site professional development outreach, since FCI is a provider of in-school dynamic modeling of standards-aligned, inquiry learning for educators. “Reaching teachers in their schools within the school year is a powerful model,” says Maria. “It became a really wonderful portal for experts to reach teachers in our community.”

 Maria works with educators during a Summer Professional Development Institute

One of the greatest take-aways that Maria is glad to provide to teachers during professional development programs is the time for planning. “The biggest resource is time,” she says, “Teachers are so strapped for time to do the bare minimum to be a responsible educator. Planning gets pushed down the to-do list. Serendipitous moments that happen when educators come together provide collaboration time through a safe and friendly environment to actually do the work of planning and sourcing resources. As soon as you give people the space and time, they’ll develop resources, test them and reflect on their success.”

At this time, Maria is one of many nonprofit Executive Directors responding to educators’ needs in her community. She also remained tapped into K-12 education as a parent, now homeschooling and working full time during the coronavirus pandemic of 2020. If there is one thing that can be said about Maria, it is that anyone with the motivation and drive to succeed as an educator can do so. With the right resources and a community-centric approach, Maria Rundle not only connected her own child to science but extended learning opportunities to the greater Berkshires. The Wade Institute is honored to be working with Maria for another year, both through a special literacy-focused 2020 Berkshire Region Summer Professional Development Institute for elementary educators and by bringing inquiry-based learning into teachers’ classrooms through Customized Professional Learning Services!


The Wade Institute for Science Education specializes in providing inquiry-based, hands-on, minds-on, science, technology and engineering professional development for K-12 teachers and informal educators.  For more information, visit or call 617-328-1515.

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