Focus Workshops are multi-day professional learning opportunities that provide a deep dive into content and inquiry investigations focusing on one STEM discipline. Read on to learn more about our current Focus Workshops, or visit our Past Focus Workshops page to learn more about past offerings!

Rise to the Challenge Focus Workshop Series

Get ready to Rise to the Challenge in this Focus Workshop series based on our Massachusetts STEM Week Challenges. From extreme weather to deserted islands and zoo makeovers, there’s a challenge for everyone! In each workshop you’ll experience a variety of hands-on, inquiry-based STEM activities designed to support your students in using the Science and Engineering Practices. You’ll also explore how phenomena can spark curiosity, drive investigation, and make the learning relevant for students. The challenges are designed for middle school students but are easily adaptable to upper elementary or high school settings. You have the option to take one, two, or all three workshops. At the conclusion of each workshop you’ll receive a curriculum packet and materials kit to implement the challenge in your classroom. PDPs and optional Graduate Credits are offered for all 3 workshops.

Hurricane Heroes

Challenge: A category 4 hurricane has hit fictional Storm City, Massachusetts. The city faces several problems that can only be solved by your engineering team.

Investigations include evacuating citizens, building shelter, moving floodwaters, and designing alternative energy sources. The challenge culminates in a redesign of the city’s resources to prevent future disaster. During the workshop you will participate in all elements of the challenge and have the opportunity to collaborate and reflect with instructors and fellow attendees.

Dates: Friday, November 3rd and Saturday, November 4th, 2023 (8:30 AM – 3:30 PM ET)
Location: Massasoit Community College, Canton, MA
Collaborating Partners: Lloyd Center for the Environment; Buttonwood Park Zoo

Survivor Island Challenge

Challenge: You have been stranded on a deserted island and while you’ve found a safe place to build a rustic encampment, your team still must figure out how to survive. Activities include moving and filtering water from a fresh water resource using materials washed up onto the island. 

You will work with solar panels, water pumps, windmills and other alternative energy sources as you design and build a system for moving and filtering water from a fresh water resource to your encampment.  Throughout the challenge students keep a survivor’s logbook to document their ideas and results. You’ll participate in all elements of the challenge and have the opportunity to collaborate and reflect with instructors and fellow attendees.

Dates: Friday, February 9th and Saturday, February 10th, 2024 (8:30AM – 3:30 PM ET)
Location: Massasoit Community College, Canton, MA
Collaborating Partners: Lloyd Center for the Environment; Buttonwood Park Zoo

Extreme Zoo Makeover

Challenge: Your local Zoo wants a makeover! As we learn more about animals’ needs, we’ve realized the Zoo’s old habitats are no longer adequate and it’s up to you and your engineering team to redesign them. You must find a way to 1) design habitats that meet the specific needs of the animals for which you are designing them, 2) engineer an enrichment item for your animal species that will stimulate natural behaviors, and 3) create an interpretive sign and interactive features that will engage the public in your animal habitat.

Investigations include designing habitats that meet the specific needs of different animals, engineering an enrichment item, and creating an interpretive sign with interactive features. The challenge culminates in the design, construction, and presentation of a model zoo habitat for a chosen animal. During this workshop, you’ll participate in all elements of the challenge, explore how the Buttonwood Park Zoo supports the animals in their care, and have the opportunity to collaborate and reflect with instructors and fellow attendees.

Dates: Friday, March 8th and Saturday, March 9th 2024 (8:30 AM – 3:30 PM ET)
Location: Buttonwood Park Zoo, New Bedford, MA
Collaborating Partners: Lloyd Center for the Environment; Buttonwood Park Zoo

Rise to the Challenge Registration Information

Registration Cost: $250 per workshop
PDPs and Optional Graduate Credit for Each Workshop: 14 PDPs available without graduate credit. 22.5 PDPs and 1 graduate credit from Cambridge College available for $75. Additional work is required for graduate credit.

Register Online

Thank you to the following organizations who helped fund
the Rise to the Challenge Focus Workshop Series:

Brabson Family Foundation

The Dorr Foundation

Esther B. Kahn Charitable Foundation

Visit our OAPL Courses page to learn more about MA DESE approved Accelerating Science: Open Access Professional Learning Focus Workshops!

Visit our Past Focus Workshops page to learn more about past offerings!