Professional Development


The incorporation of inquiry-based instruction and active learning helps students develop cognitive skills, critical thinking, independent learning, and responsibility for the stewardship of our planet. The scientific process is a practice implemented everyday by working scientists, and it has several aspects that can be incorporated into the teaching and learning of science. The best way for students and teachers to learn these practices is to engage in the process itself. However in order for practices to translate to the science classroom, teachers need rigorous, high quality, continuous professional development. In this way educators can develop a clear understanding about inquiry, the nature of science, how to link scientific knowledge and the nature of science knowledge, and develop the necessary pedagogical skills to improve their teaching and, ultimately, student learning.

The objectives of these professional development opportunities are, first to keep teachers updated by reviewing and developing school curricula under the light of new scientific, cognitive, and pedagogical advances. The second objective is to promote the study of science in its natural habitat by formulating ways to bring and connect students to natural settings. The course is offered to teachers of different levels (middle and high school) to promote collaboration across teachers of different grades such that instruction follows learning progressions for our students. The value of having teachers from middle and high school participating together is that even though the resulting curricula will target different groups of students, it will have continuity. Teachers will become aware of the different levels of understanding of the same phenomenon. Since ideas in science mature with time and iteration, each time the student revisits the concept, understanding is deepened. The participating teacher, with the input of our educational coaches, can then differentiate his or her teaching according to specific grade level, objectives, learning differences, context, and constraints.

The goal of these courses is to produce, as a team of educators, lesson plans and by the end of the course a curriculum that the teachers can incorporate into their teaching. These meetings are geared toward the common goal of producing the most effective instructional materials for classroom use, on three fronts:

  1. Alignment to the Next Generation Science Standards, Bloom’s taxonomy, and constructivist list of student’s abilities and skills.
  2. Attention to curricular and pedagogical practices that maximize student learning. For example, Understanding By Design (UBD), Problem Based Learning (PBL), and other inquiry teaching approaches.
  3. Considerations and practical advice about cognition and learning theory that should be incorporated into teaching to improve students’ learning.

The proposed courses focus on the 6-12 curriculum in accordance to the “Conceptual Framework for K-12 Science education” put forward by the National Academy of Sciences. The key concepts are: (a) learning as a development progression from K-12 grades, (b) limited number of core ideas to promote depth, and (c) integration of knowledge in science and engineering (application of science knowledge). The first course will focus on studying the living environment.

There are two modalities:  Hybrid courses with on-line and on-site components held at the Plainsboro Preserve in NJ or Columbia University in NY.  The second modality is online courses using the owlet website.

The design of the hybrid courses development course seeks to promote the participant’s learning and growth as educators. The interactive nature of the on-line forums and the on-site events will promote group collaboration, learning form the peers, and encouragement to continue learning. Our goal is to promote and help our teachers to become better teachers for their future success as well as that of their pupils.

Course logistics: This is a hybrid course. The on-line component consists of open forums using the website. The on-site component will take place in the Plainsboro Preserve in New Jersey or at Columbia University  in New York. The course will run for six weeks, and is offered several times in the year.

On-line events:

  1. Weekly materials to read and prompts, questions, and topics to think about will be posted on-line every Thursday or Friday evening depending on the on-site location.
  2. There will be an asynchronous on-line forum open for 2-3 days before the on-site class, where participants can login at their convenience, ask questions, post comments, and interact with a scientist and educator as well as the other participants.

On-site events:

The week will culminate with an on-site meeting on Tuesday or Wednesday afternoons after school for 2.5 hours, Teachers will collaborate to discuss cutting-edge science content around a specific subject, work through a guided-inquiry science lesson, and critique and adapt the lesson for ready-use in his or her classroom.

  1. The participants will have read the material sent the week before, including readings and few questions or prompts pertaining to the topic. The meeting starts by acknowledging the on-line discussions and addressing questions, issues, and curiosities.
  2. The participants work through the lesson, directed by the science coaches.
  3. The instructors review the alignment to the standards and introduce curriculum and instructional practices and the aspects of nature of science (NOS) included in the lesson plan.
  4. Teachers work to modify, add, and change the lesson plan to fit their class needs.
  5. Teachers present and discuss group ideas with input from peers and coaches.
  6. The resultant lesson plan will be posted in the owlet for member use.


On-line Courses:

  1. Weekly materials to read as well as prompts, questions, and topics to think about will be posted on-line every Thursday or Friday evening.
  2. The mini lectures will be posted every week and it will be available to ALL owlet subscribers.
  3. There will be an asynchronous on-line forum open for two weeks where participants can login at their convenience, ask questions, post comments, and interact with a scientist and educator as well as the other participants.
  4. The outcome of each week interaction is a lesson plan incorporating the topic of the week, a pedagogical technique, and alignment to NGSS.


To register go to forums: Professional Development:

The Nature of Science & Science in Nature – Plainsboro NJ

The Nature of Science & Science in Nature – NYC

Second Professional Development Course: Plainsboro Preserve