The 2018 Professional Development Seminar Series is designed for staff, volunteers and other professionals from science, environmental, natural history, technology, art, history and other cultural institutions and centers in New England. Typically, each seminar is a full day, split into two sessions. The mornings are spent exploring STEM content areas with scientists and policy makers. Afternoon sessions are skill-based, focusing on turning real-life science into exciting, inquiry-based, hands-on, minds-on lessons and activities for your programs with K-12 students and teachers, or other youth programs. The seminars are designed as professional development opportunities to provide content and teaching resources for your staff as well as networking opportunities for professionals in informal education settings. Teachers, science coordinators and other formal educators are also welcome to attend these seminars.

This year we are offering four seminars – join us on January 24th, February 14th and April 24th for seminars in the traditional morning/afternoon format, and on March 28th for a special full-day session. All four seminars promise to provide an exciting, hands-on professional development opportunity for you and your staff!

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Wednesday, January 24th

Extreme Events and Climate Change: What We Know and Some Ideas About What to Do About It
Ellen Marie Douglas, Associate Professor of Hydrology, School for the Environment, University of Massachusetts Boston
Climate science tells us three truths about what we can expect from climate change. The first: small changes in an average value, such as average global temperatures, will have bigger effects on the extremes. We have seen this truth play out in the extreme weather events that have wrought havoc across New England and the nation over the last decade or more. Record-breaking events will always occur, but the time between these events should increase. Under climate change, records are getting broken in…well, record time! The second truth: our history of CO2 emissions has embedded a certain amount of change into the climate system, which we will need to adapt to. And the third truth: if we don’t account for our changing climate in planning and designing, our plans and designs will be wrong. In this seminar, Dr. Douglas will present observations of our changing climate, what changes may be in our future here in New England and some plans for how to adapt to these changes.

How We Know What We Know: Using Real-World Data to Explore Key Climate Concepts
Jeremy D. Shakun, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Earth & Environmental Sciences, Boston College
How can you put scientific data to use in your school or public programs? In this seminar, work with a group to compare real-world results to your expectations based on a climate change hypothesis. Use a model to show how random year-to-year weather variations can change how a trend is perceived, and consider how climate change will evolve over time. Calculate how the likelihood of an extreme weather event changes with a warming climate. Come away with ideas for incorporating science and engineering practices like analyzing data and arguing from evidence into programs and exhibits at your institution.


Wednesday, February 14th

Developing a Taste for Molecular Biology
Lindsay Mehrmanesh, Biology Teaching Lab Supervisor, Brandeis University
DNA, RNA, Central Dogma, genes, polypeptides, ribosomes…are these topics outside your wheelhouse? Come engage in a conversation about why humans and other organisms exhibit the traits we do, and how you can weave this important topic into your institution’s programs. Learn more about how DNA functions as the blueprint of all organisms, from plants and animals to fungi and bacteria, and how that blueprint gets translated into observable traits. Dr. Mehrmanesh will illustrate with models how a change in your DNA code can lead to a difference in your sense of taste, and lead you in an activity that might identify you as a “super-taster”. Lindsay will also discuss how she developed this activity as part of the The Discovery Museums’ Science & Engineering Communication Fellowship and share ways you can find and utilize resources from industry and academia in the development of your own programming.

Sharing Science: Connecting Scientists and Engineers with the Public
Denise LeBlanc, Director of Learning Experiences, The Discovery Museums, Acton, MA
Elizabeth Leahy, Assistant Director of Learning Experiences, The Discovery Museums, Acton, MA
Now more than ever, connecting the public with the talented, dedicated and diverse men and women who do science and engineering is vitally important to promote appreciation and understanding of science and technology. In this seminar, The Discovery Museums will share their Science & Engineering Communication Fellowship program, part of the national Portal to the Public network. Through the Fellowship program, museum staff work with engineers to help them build effective communication strategies and develop hands-on activities, with the goal of sharing their current work and research with museum visitors. In this seminar, you will engage in sample professional development activities that museum staff lead with fellowship participants and learn about some of the unique and successful programs developed by former Communication Fellows from a wide range of fields – from neuroscience to biology to condensed matter physics. Come away with ideas for fostering one-on-one interactions between science/engineering professionals and your visitors/school programs at your own institution to inspire a public full of curious, confident and enthusiastic science learners.


Wednesday, March 28th

Dig In: Strengthening Sustainability Learning Through Farm-to-School Connections
Ryan Morra, Professional Learning Coordinator, Shelburne Farms & Vermont FEED
Simca Horwitz, Director, Massachusetts Farm to School Project
Sustainability can be an abstract concept for students. To bring this concept down to earth, Massachusetts Farm to School promotes experiential and hands-on learning using the food system as a lens to explore local and global issues. In this full-day seminar, you will be introduced to interdisciplinary connections between our food system and climate change, watershed health, community land use, hunger and more. Participate in activities that will help you incorporate farm-to-school connections into your institution’s programs. By analyzing data about global, industrial agriculture, you will see evidence of the consequences of large-scale production. Learn more about the science behind sustainable farming practices and new technologies that are helping small farms revitalize and provide local, high-quality food in an economically sustainable way. Join Vermont FEED (Food Education Every Day) and Massachusetts Farm to School  to find out how to develop sustainability programs that offer a tangible, integrative and relevant learning experience through deep exploration of the interconnected food system.


Tuesday, April 24th

The Technology, Data and People Behind Forecasting in the National Weather Service
Glenn Field, Warning Coordination Meteorologist, NOAA/National Weather Service, Boston, MA
The weather forecasting process begins with a large network of observations across a range of locations, from satellites 23,000 miles up in space to trained spotters on the ground. Peek behind the scenes to see how technologies like weather balloons, buoys, automated sensors and Doppler radar are integrated into the forecasting process. Sophisticated numerical models, which take into account the laws of physics and thermodynamics, use collected data to simulate and predict the location and intensity of weather systems. Learn more about how meteorologists at the National Weather Service interpret the models’ predictions and apply their own local expertise to fine-tune the information and produce “weather grids” for Southern New England. The information is then disseminated to the public via television and radio meteorologists, the NWS website, social media and other private weather services. Explore the variety of New England weather phenomena and take a look back at evidence of some of he big storms that have had an impact in our area. After all, it’s been 64 years since we have been hit by a major (Category 3) hurricane!

Engaging Students with Weather & Climate Through Media
Jake Foster, Director, STEM Curriculum and Instruction, WGBH
It never rains when you want it to! Unpredictable conditions and the scale of weather and climate phenomena can make it difficult to engage participants in direct observations of these phenomena. In this resource-filled seminar, you will experience strategies for using media to engage students in learning about weather and climate concepts. Different types of media, including imagery, videos to support observation or explanation and data visualizations are effective ways to bring weather and climate phenomena to students. You will explore different media types and consider pedagogical strategies that encourage science practices through media use and will walk away with an appreciation for how the Next Generation Science Standards sequence weather and climate expectations across grades K-12.


Dates: January 24th, February 14th, March 28th and April 24th
Time: 9:30 am – 3:30 pm
Location: Higgins University Center, Clark University, Worcester, MA
Cost: $40 per seminar (discounted fees of $108 are offered for attending 3 seminars or $140 for attending all 4 seminars)
Certificates of participation are available for each seminar. PDPs are available for those participating in 2 or more seminar dates.
A buffet-style lunch is included with your registration fee.

Register Online

Download a Brochure