Environmental Literacy in CA
History of Environmental Literacy in California
California has a long history of expecting instruction to include the relationship between humans and the environment. Since 1976, schools in California were required to adopt instructional materials that portray humanity as part of the ecological system and explain the necessity of protecting the environment. In 2004, the State Board of Education approved the CA Environmental Principles and Concepts (EP&Cs) which are required to be in textbook adoption criteria for science, history-social science, mathematics, and English language arts. A Blueprint for Environmental Literacy was published in 2015, strengthening the need for local, environmentally relevant instruction. This need was highlighted and further supported by the 2018 passing of Senate Bill 720 which encouraged school boards to support environmental literacy learning experiences that should be available on an equitable basis to all students in California.
Two-page summary of the EP&Cs (PDF)
EP&C Grade Level Progression Matrix (PDF)
Definition of Environmental Literacy
The CA Blueprint for Environmental Literacy defines an environmentally literate person as one who “has the capacity to act individually and with others to support ecologically sound, economically prosperous, and equitable communities for present and future generations. Through lived experiences and education programs that include classroom-based lessons, experiential education, and outdoor learning, students will become environmentally literate, developing the knowledge, skills, and understanding of environmental principles to analyze environmental issues and make informed decisions.”
Central Themes for Environmental Literacy
- Climate change
- Environmental justice
- Environmental sustainability
- Fish and wildlife resources
- Integrated pest management
- Pollution prevention
- Public health and the environment
- Resource conservation, waste reduction, and recycling
- Toxics and hazardous waste
Environmental Literacy Phenomena Summits
Overview and Goals of the Environmental Literacy Summit
Each Phenomena Summit is a two-day experience designed to bring classroom teachers, out-of-school educators, and university scientists together to build understanding of environmentally-focused phenomena and their role in NGSS aligned science instruction.
In addition to learning sessions, participants work in collaborative teams to build out an instructional resource that:
- identifies a useful, environmentally-focused phenomenon
- highlights resources for building teacher understanding of the phenomenon
- identifies possible student activities which emphasize the Science and Engineering Practices of the NGSS
- provides a grade-level appropriate student explanation that incorporates Disciplinary Core Ideas and Crosscutting Concepts
- makes explicit connections to the Environmental Principles and Concepts (EP&Cs)
Summit Design Structure
- Science Learning
- Phenomena Resources
CA Environmental Literacy Summit Locations and Regions
- Region 9, held in San Diego, October 25-26, 2018
- Region 4, held in Berkeley, March 26-27, 2019
- Region 3, held in Woodland, April 2-3, 2019
- Region 10, held in Rancho Cucamonga, May 7-8, 2019;
- Region 5, held in Santa Cruz, Fall 2019
This project is funded through Budget Act of 2017, Item 6100-488-0001, Provision 6
Region 9 Summit
October 25-26, 2018 / San Diego, California
Focus on Oceans and Climate Change
Summit Lead Educators, Scientists, and Community Experts
Jenni Brandon recently finished her PhD in Biological Oceanography at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD. Both her graduate and undergraduate research focused on ways humans negatively alter our world’s ecosystems. Her PhD research was on marine debris, specifically marine microplastics and how they affect North Pacific Ocean ecosystems. She developed better ways to quantify and identify the smallest microplastics in the ocean, and looked for microplastic ingestion inside plankton at the base of the food web. Through her studies on pollution, she gained an understanding of the dire need for better communication and education to the public about such pressing issues. She is passionate about spending her post-PhD career communicating and advocating for science; to that end she is now doing a postdoctoral fellowship at Birch Aquarium at Scripps, focusing on science outreach and communication.
Megan has a Masters of Science in Marine Science and a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and Policy. Megan worked at the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries as a contracted Research Assistant. She became well versed in the research studies being conducted in sanctuaries, including the chief pressures on marine resources, the research required to strengthen sanctuaries Science Needs Assessments, and new and innovative technologies being used to conduct research. Her breadth of knowledge on the sanctuaries marine resources led me to work as a graduate assistant on the Marine Biodiversity Observation Network (MBON). Megan has since applied her knowledge of marine resource management and the Magnuson-Stevens Act to help design a model that indicates the status and trends of biodiversity and environmental variables in a sanctuary to improve our capacity for science-based decision-making. Currently, Megan is the Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing System (SCCOOS) Program Coordinator, where she works to help collect, integrate, and deliver coastal and ocean observations in order to improve safety, enhance the economy, and protect the environment.
Liz was born and raised in New York City. She earned a B.S. in Marine Biology from the College of Charleston. After college, Liz taught high school chemistry in New York and then moved to San Diego, where she interned at Southwest Fisheries Science Center. Here, Liz developed her research interest in marine food webs and feeding interactions between species. In 2010, Liz began graduate school at the University of San Diego, where she received my M.S. in Marine and Environmental Science and worked on an project with the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission focused on food web dynamics in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. Liz then went to UC San Diego for her PhD in Ecology and in 2019 will begin a postdoctoral research position at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Her research is broadly focused in marine ecology, where Liz answers questions about the diets of different organisms (from plankton to fish, turtles, and whales), their roles in marine food webs, and why this information is important for understanding ecosystem functioning and protecting marine resources.
Julie Kalanksy is a climate researcher at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. She is also the operations manager for the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes and the the program Manager for CNAP, the California Nevada Application Program. Julie’s research interests stem from trying to understand weather and climate in order to better prepare for extreme events and future conditions. These efforts include using historical observations to understand historical weather variability in the Western US and the impacts associated with this variability as well as future projections of climate variability. She is actively involved with the California 4th Climate Assessment with a focus in sea level projections and the regional application of the information that is coming out of the effort. Julie engages with regional stakeholders to better understand how this climate and weather information can be applied in decision making.
Currently a Postdoctoral Scholar at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO), Katherine is a physical oceanographer whose research focus is the structure and variability of the California Current System. She is an SIO alumna, having recently defended her Ph.D. in August 2018. Prior to graduate school, Katherine worked as a Physical Sciences Analyst at Applied Operations Research, Inc. in Solana Beach, CA and as an Undergraduate Student Researcher for Theiss Research’s Zanzibar Project in Zanzibar, Tanzania. She obtained two Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degrees – one in Applied Mathematics and the second in Atmospheric, Oceanic and Environmental Sciences – from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 2010.
Kimberly Allard is a TK-5 science enrichment teacher at both Vista Grande and Tierrasanta Elementary in San Diego Unified School District. She has been teaching for 19 years and the last 12 of those years have been in science education. Kimberly holds a multiple subject teaching credential, a single subject credential in general science, and a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction from San Diego State University. A prime focus for student learning in her classroom is to connect to Earth, the environment, and to instill a sense of stewardship for the future.
Michelle Armenta obtained her master’s degree in Cross Cultural Teaching and is currently pursuing her doctoral degree in Educational Leadership. Michelle Armenta is an Education Specialist serving students in grades kindergarten through second grade in Vista Unified School District. Before teaching special education, Michelle was a general education teacher. She has been teaching elementary students for twelve years. Currently, she serves on her site’s leadership team representing the special education department. In addition, she is a Core Teacher Leader with the Next Generation Science Standards Early Implementers. She joined the NGSS team as a teacher leader to ensure that all students engage in three-dimensional science education.
Ann is the Program Manager at the Resource Conservation District of Greater San Diego (RCD). She has been with the RCD for 6 years and develops and oversees the organization’s education and gardening programs.
The RCD’s core education program focuses on watershed health. Ann and her team provide in-class, hands-on presentations to elementary school students that teach about watersheds, how our waterways become polluted, and what individuals can do to make a difference. She has also developed and delivered school garden training programs for educators, and is working on rolling out new environmental stewardship programs for high school students. Ann strongly believes that the natural world provides an ideal setting for learning. Giving kids the tools and space to explore is a great way to bring classroom concepts to life and to foster a sense of connection to the environment.
Ann has a BA in Psychology from UC Davis and a Master’s degree in Environmental Psychology from the University of Surrey (UK). Environmental Psychology focuses on the person-place connection – how our surroundings influence us, and how we in turn interact with the world around us. It is proven that the natural environment has many positive effects on humans, but we as citizens need to take action to protect it! Learning about and interacting with nature can help students appreciate the world around them and understand the positive impacts they can make.
Bill received his Bachelor of Science in Cell Physiology from the University of Arizona. Prior to teaching he worked as a Consumer Safety Officer with the US Food and Drug Administration promoting and protecting public health here in San Diego, working at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry. Bill received my teaching credential from San Diego State University, and is currently completing coursework towards my Masters in Math and Science Education. Bill has taught Biology, Chemistry, and Physics at Madison High School. He is a lifelong advocate for the environment, born and raised in New Jersey, and has seen the impact of human influenced climate change has had on the barrier islands and coastal wetlands of his home state. Environmental science literacy is critically important if humans are going to understand the changes necessary to ensure the safety of our planet and species.
Shelley Glenn Lee
Shelley Glenn Lee has been a science educator in San Diego County for more than 20 years, having worked at Birch Aquarium at Scripps, the San Diego Natural History Museum, UC San Diego, and High Tech High. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and a Masters degree in Science Education, both from San Diego State University. She currently teaches Science at High Tech Elementary North County (K-5.) In this project-based setting, Shelley connects and collaborates with community partners to engage students in local ecology and environmental science. Her students have worked on native bees and invasive ants with researchers at UCSD, conducted biological surveys and published books for Cabrillo National Monument, studied tidepools and held teaching exhibitions at Birch Aquarium, and worked as citizen scientists with several local parks and conservancies. Shelley was recognized by the EPA in 2017 as a recipient of a Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators. She is on the Board of Directors for the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy and the Education Advisory Committee of the Escondido Creek Conservancy.
Kim currently teaches 7th and 8th grade science at Tierra del Sol Middle School in Lakeside, CA. Originally from Chicago, she moved to San Diego in order to enjoy the outdoors. This is Kim’s eighth year teaching. She has a Masters in Teaching and became interested in environmental education while working toward her second Masters degree in Biology at Miami University, Project Dragonfly. The Global Field Program (GFP) brings master’s degree candidates, scientists, educators, community leaders, and others together at conservation hotspots in Africa, Asia, Australia, and the Americas for firsthand experience with inquiry-driven education, environmental stewardship, and global understanding.
“If we are going to save environmentalism and the environment, we must also save an endangered indicator species: the child in nature.”
― Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder
Kari Koch is a 6th grade science teacher at Tierra del Sol Middle School in Lakeside, California. She has been teaching middle school for 22 years. Kari graduated with a BA in Exercise Science in 1997 from Fort Lewis College in Durango Colorado. In 2012, she earned a Masters of Teaching degree with emphasis on Educational Technology from National University. Kari is also a NOYCE Master Teaching Fellow through San Diego State University’s Project LEARN. Kari hopes to lead students through experiences that will shape their future and make them better inhabitants of the Earth.
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It's not.”
― Dr. Seuss, The Lorax
Jennifer McCluan has been fortunate to learn and teach with students in middle school, high school, and college science classes throughout the country as a Navy spouse. Jennifer earned a Bachelor's degree in Chemistry from Rollins College and a Master's in Science Education from Wake Forest University. Her interest in environmental education began in junior high school, where she attend Springdale High School in Pennsylvania, across the street from Rachel Carson's homestead, and picked up a copy of Silent Spring. Jennifer's experiences during undergraduate study abroad programs in the Dominican Republic led to an interest in water quality in rural communities, which she infused into her science classrooms upon embarking in a career in science education. She now serves as San Dieguito Union High School District's Science Teacher on Special Assignment, and supports 7th - 12th grade science teachers through their district's NGSS transition.
Jon is a physics teacher at Mira Mesa High School in the San Diego Unified School District. He is in his fifth year as a science educator. Jon has a B.S. in Economics from the University of Mary Washington (VA), and obtained his teaching credential from SDSU with a focus on Geosciences and Physics. Jon has a passion for inspiring enthusiasm for science in students through engaging lessons and experiences. In addition, he strive to promote scientific and environmental literacy so that his students can make informed decisions regarding their future and the future of our planet.
Andrea Pino Antl
Andrea Pino Antl is a High School Biology Teacher and Department Chair at the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts in San Diego Unified School District. She graduated from Point Loma Nazarene University with a Bachelor Degree in Liberal Studies and a Masters of Arts Degree in Teaching and Learning. Her passion for the environment began as a child from gardening with my Grandma and long camping trips in the Eastern Sierra Nevadas with her family. Her goal as an educator is to spread knowledge of the environment to her students to improve their ability to make choices about our quickly changing world.
Rachel has a BA in Marine Biology and in BA Environmental Studies. She has a MEd Curriculum and Instruction. Rachel has put her education to use in her 20 Years of teaching 6th through 8th grade. Throughout the years she has supported environmental education by serving for several summers as Nature Director at a BSA Camp, serving as an interpretive ranger in Yosemite National Park, acting as the teacher liaison for 4 years for the Girls in Science Program with the San Diego Zoo and spending several summers sharing conservation information by leading tours at the San Diego Zoo.
Rachael Tarshes has a bachelors in Biology and a Masters in Secondary Teaching. She is also a National Board Certified Teacher in Early Adolescence/Science. She taught in Seattle, New York City, Australia and China before landing in San Diego in 2008. She has taught high school biology and chemistry, middle school grades 7 and 8 and is now a TK-5 Science Enrichment teacher at an elementary site in San Diego Unified. While earning her doctorate in Instructional Leadership, Rachael started an environmental education program at her site where the teachers moved beyond just teaching about saving the planet in April and established a schoolwide recycling program and lessons focused on climate change, global warming, and human impacts. While new at her current site, she has plans to establish a campus garden and develop environmental literacy units for the elementary level.
Dave Tupper is the NGSS Early Implementation Initiative Project Director for Lakeside Union School District, an SDSU NOYCE Master Teacher Fellow, and currently serves on the Board of the Lakeside River Park Conservancy. Dave is a former elementary and middle school science teacher, and currently teaches secondary science methods courses at SDSU. Prior to his current position as a TOSA, he most recently worked as a 7th Grade science teacher at Tierra del Sol Middle School in Lakeside, as well as being the Project Director for a California Math Science Partnership Grant servicing three districts near Lakeside. Additionally, Dave served on the 2015 California Framework Content Committee for the California Science Framework .
Region 4 Summit
March 27-28, 2019 / East Bay, California
Focus on Fish & Wildlife Resources and Climate Change
|Grade, Grade Level, Course||Performance Expectations||Phenomenon||Region|
|Grade 3||3-LS4-3, 3-LS4-4||Salmon living in floodplains grow larger than salmon living in deep channels||4|
|Grade 3||3-LS2-1||Human activity impacts mountain lion behavior||4|
|Grade 7||MS-LS2-4||Human activity affects mountain lion behavior||4|
|Grade 4||4-LS1-1||Frogs have moist skin||4|
|High School Biology||HS-LS4-4, HS-LS4-5||Frogs and salamanders are dying of a skin fungus||4|
|High School Biology||HS-LS2-7, HS-LS4-6||Deforestation reduces salmon egg survival rates||4|
|Grade 6||MS-LS1-4, MS-ESS3-5||Beach Peas are pollinated by Silver Bees||4|
|Grade 3||3-LS1-1||Beach Peas are pollinated by Silver Bees||4|
|High School Biology||HS-LS2-2||Abiotic factors affect flowering in California||4|
Summit Lead Educators, Scientists, and Community Experts
Brian Kastl is a stream ecologist and outdoor educator. He conducts research on endangered coho salmon and inspires students to dive into aquatic conservation. As a PhD student at the University of California, Berkeley, Brian uses microchips implanted into juvenile salmon to track their migration to the Pacific Ocean. Working with conservation organizations, he develops solutions to increase salmon population resilience, in the face of receding streamflows. Brian has been an outdoor educator since 2007 and teaches field-based conservation for National Geographic Student Expeditions in Belize and Alaska. Brian believes that environmental progress is best achieved through empowerment of local communities to utilize scientific advancements. From 2012 through 2014, he led river and fisheries conservation projects in Cambodia, Fiji, and Barbados. His work in Micronesia contributed to a ridge-to-reef conservation policy that protects native fish species. Kastl is a Fulbright Scholar, United Nations Environmental Program grantee, National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, and National Geographic Explorer.
Claudio Vargas B. is an educational consultant with the Sci-Lingual Group, which provides science professional learning to districts and schools with a focus on language and literacy development. Until 2018, Mr. Vargas was the Coordinator of K-12 Science Programs at the Oakland Unified School District. In this capacity he directed and supported the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards in the district, working with Teacher Leaders, principals, and schools. Before joining OUSD, Mr. Vargas served as the Director of the Bay Area Science Project (BASP) at UC Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science (LHS). Mr. Vargas has led numerous professional development programs throughout the Bay Area, Los Angeles, Texas, and Central America. He has designed and implemented K-8 professional development programs that focus on developing teachers’ science content knowledge and expanding their teaching strategies, with particular emphasis on strategies that provide English Language Learners with access to the core curriculum and acceleration of language learning.
In addition to his duties as the Wildlife Program Manager with the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD), Doug is an Adjunct Professor of Biology at California State University, Sacramento, and a Research Associate in the Department of Mammalogy and Ornithology at the California Academy of Sciences. Doug holds a B.A. in Zoology from Humboldt State University, a Diplom-Biologie from the University of Muenster, Germany, and Ph.D. in Zoology from U.C. Berkeley. His research interests range from avian systematics and population genetics to conservation biology. He has been engaged in a long term studies of golden eagles, prairie falcons and other raptors in California with an emphasis on assessing impacts from anthropogenic activities, especially renewable energy development, and finding ways to lessen those impacts. Doug is past president of the San Francisco Bay Chapter of the Wildlife Society and the Western Section of the Wildlife Society.
Jenny Hartigan has been teaching in elementary and secondary education for 19 years. She is intensely curious about the world around her, and passionate about teaching science to second language learners. As a NOAA Teacher at Sea, she enjoys bringing scientists and real world data into her classroom. During the past 4 years, Jenny involved her environmental science classes in ocean stewardship with a NOAA Ocean Guardian project, and currently sponsors the Ocean Club. You will find Jenny teaching sixth, seventh and eighth grade science at Lincoln Middle School in Alameda, California.
Jeri Johnstone completed a BS in Biology at Illinois State University, specializing in Entomology. As Associate Director of Science at Lakeview Museum in Peoria, Illinois, she developed an outreach education program called The Bug Lady, teaching scientific observation skills using live insects. Jeri taught in Oakland Unified School District for seven years, and served on the Core Leadership Team of the NGSS Early Implementers grant partnering with West Ed and K12 Alliance. She is currently completing a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction for STEAM Integration through Concordia University of Portland.
Kate Gallagher taught elementary science in the Oakland Unified School District for a total of 20 years. As a Science Core Leadership Team member, Lead Science Teacher, and NGSS Early Implementer, she helped Oakland teachers and schools deliver 3-dimensional science instruction. She continues to support elementary science through her work with FOSS, CSTA and environmental education programs.
Luz has been an elementary science educator in a Spanish immersion program at Melrose Leadership Academy since 2011. She Strongly believes that science offers a unique context for language learning, and language acquisition. She currently supports the implementation of NGSS at Melrose Leadership Academy, and over the years she has mentored new teachers in science education. She is an adjunct professor in the Bilingual Authorization Program at the University of San Francisco.
Mark Spencer is a 5th grade teacher at International Community School in Oakland. Prior to taking up his dream job, Mark was an Environmental Scientist focused on addressing human impacts on climate change. His dissertation focused on the spatial components of community level competition in redwood/tanoak ecosystems.
Obed obtained his bachelors degree from Texas Tech University and his PhD from Purdue University. Currently, he is a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley. Obed’s research focuses on studying the microbial ecology of host-associated microbial communities of amphibians. Infectious diseases have been attributed to the decline of amphibians worldwide, and amphibian microbial symbionts may play a key role in pathogen defense mechanisms. Obed applies a diverse set of genetic and microbiological techniques to holistically evaluate interactions between amphibian hosts, their microbial symbionts, and pathogens. He seeks to understand what host factors contribute to the assembly of microbiomes, identify microbial symbionts associated with immunity, and determine how environmental change affects key associations between hosts and beneficial microbes. This line of research has the potential to benefit the fields of conservation, agriculture, and biomedicine.
Rachael Oliff Yang
Rachael L. Olliff Yang is a PhD Candidate at UC Berkeley, with research focusing on how climate change will affect plant communities and plant-animal interactions in California grasslands. She studies the shifts in timing of plant life cycles with climate change, how these shifts alter interactions between species, and how we can effectively conserve and manage our landscapes as climate change continues.
Sara Rusché received her B.A. in biology from Swarthmore College, PA. She spent the next 10 years of her life working as a sailor on both ocean going sailing tall-ships and research ships. She then moved ashore permanently and began her teaching career as a 5th grade teacher for Oakland Unified School District. During her time working for Oakland Unified, she also worked as a science prep teacher, an engineering prep teacher, and as a coach for the science department. In addition, she worked as a coach for the CAL:BLAST grant, a program through the Lawrence Hall of Science and the University of California, Berkeley to help OUSD elementary teachers increase their science literacy and incorporate ELD strategies into science learning. She is currently teaching Foundational Science at Biology at Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland where she has been for the past three years.
Sarah Pipping is the Project Director of the CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative at the Oakland Unified School District and works as part of team to lead the implementation of NGSS across the 87 schools in the district. Previously, Sarah worked as the High School Science Specialist for Oakland Unified and as a High School Biology teacher and 8th grade science teacher in the district. Sarah holds undergraduate degrees in Biology and Spanish from the University of Wisconsin Madison and a Single Subject Teaching Credential and Masters in Urban Education from Loyola Marymount University. Sarah's love for science and math started with her playing with her cousins at her grandparents farm and making change selling goods at the farmers market with her grandparents in Wisconsin. She is passionate about merging outdoor education, field experiences, and citizen science with high quality classroom learning for students in Oakland. She loves to travel, chat with her book club, hike in the East Bay Parks and attend nerdy events around the Bay Area.
Suzy Arena is a 5th grade teacher at Amelia Earhart Elementary School in Alameda, California. The school is situated directly on the shore of the San Francisco Bay estuary. She devotes one half of a day of every school week to teaching outdoor science in the areas of life science, physical science and earth science. Her students leave 5th grade as accomplished ecologists.
A carnivore biologist and quantitative ecologist by training, Veronica’s work broadly focuses on human-wildlife interactions, mountain lion-livestock conflict mitigation in particular. She conducted her graduate work in Environmental Studies at UC Santa Cruz, which addressed anthropogenic impacts on various components of mountain lion behavior and ecology. Currently a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at UC Berkeley, her work focuses on helping livestock producers manage their operations in ways that keep livestock and carnivores safe. Veronica also spends part of each summer teaching an undergraduate field course on large mammal ecology, policy, conservation, and management in and around Yellowstone National Park.
Nancy Wright is an elementary science specialist in Hayward Unified School District, teaching first through sixth grade students for the past seven years. She currently teaches third through sixth grade science at Lorin Eden Elementary School and serves as the Science Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA), leading the implementation of the Next Generation Science
Standards (NGSS) for her district. Nancy earned a B.A. in human development from California State University, East Bay. She is certified to teach multiple subjects to elementary students, teach integrated science to students in kindergarten through ninth grade, and teach biological sciences up to 12th grade. She was awarded the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching in 2016. In the classroom, Nancy increases students’ wonder for science using hands-on activities and utilizing student academic discourse. As the district’s TOSA, Nancy supports science teachers through one-on-one coaching and writing sample curriculum. Nancy plans and delivers science professional development for K-12 science teachers in her district.
Region 10 Summit
May 7-8, 2019 / Rancho Cucamonga, California
Focus on Energy and Urban Planning
Summit Lead Educators, Scientists, and Community Experts
Colleen Duncan is currently teaching Science 8 and Advanced STEM at Moore Middle School in Redlands.This is her 31st year in the teaching profession. She is a founding coach for her school’s Science Olympiad team and serves as the Division B & C Event Supervisor on the Inland Empire Regional Science Olympiad Planning Committee. Colleen has served as the Redlands Unified District Science Fair Coordinator for over two decades. She has mentored students as they prepare their projects for district, county, and state levels of competition. She has also helped students qualify for Intel’s International Science Fair for ten years. Colleen works with the County Offices of Education in Region 10 as a presenter and trainer for NGSS Rollouts. She also works with the Inland Area Science Project conducting NGSS workshops at UCR, and other professional development workshops for science teachers in her district and region.
Dana Baron is a K-12 Teacher on Special Assignment for STEM in the Corona Norco Unified School District. Dana has been involved in science education for 14 years. This is her fourth year as a TOSA. Previous to being a TOSA, she taught high school science and agriculture science for 11 years. Dana holds multiple single subject teaching credentials in science, and a Master’s in Educational Administration from Concordia University, Irvine . A prime focus for her current position is helping teachers implement NGSS and find engaging local phenomena.
David received his M.S. and B.S. degrees in Anthropology and Biology from The University of New Mexico. As a teacher in Coachella Valley Unified School District, David was selected as the 2017 Bureau of Land Management’s Teacher on the Public Lands (TPL). As the 2017 TPL grant recipient, David was tasked with excavating dinosaur bones and identifying dinosaur footprints & trackways found within the Canyon Country District while he was stationed in the Moab Field Office. During this time David also created the first national Girl Scout Paleontology Patch. This patch is available to all Girl Scouts and only requires the completion of paleontology lessons that teach site stewardship, monitoring, and site-based science. David believes that through proper education and instruction, we can begin to raise a generation of youth that both understands and appreciates our past and present natural environments.
Debbie Gordon is a TK-5 Science Coordinator at Palm Springs Unified School District. She is also co-Project Director for the K12 Alliance Early Implementer Initiative in Palm Springs Unified and supports the rollout of NGSS in her district and statewide. Prior to her coordinator position, Debbie taught grades 1-5 for 18 years with most of her teaching years in primary. She is a Regional Director on the California Science Teacher Association Board of Directors and enjoys helping teachers embrace the shifts of NGSS leading students wonder and inquiry around phenomena in their world.
Dion is a doctoral student at UC Riverside pursuing a degree in Plant Biology with a focus in ecology. Dion graduated with a B.S. in environmental science from Humboldt State University in 2014 and in 2016 graduated from Indiana University in Bloomington with an M.S. in environmental science. In the past, Dion has collaborated on research with NASA, the United States Geological Survey, and the United States Forest Service. Today, Dion focuses on understanding the functioning of urban ecosystems. Cities derive tremendous benefits (ecosystem services) from urban plants, however, these benefits are reduced when plants become stressed. In cities, social drivers such as income or education can have as great or a greater impact on the structuring of ecosystem processes than the meteorological or soil conditions that structure natural ecosystems. Understanding the factors that structure urban plant productivity at different spatial scales would provide a direct benefit to managers to be able to enhance the delivery of ecosystem services.
Erin Questad is an Associate Professor of Biology at Cal Poly Pomona University in Pomona, CA. Prior to working at Cal Poly Pomona, she was a Research Ecologist for the Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry in Hilo, HI, part of the USDA Forest Service. Her current areas of research include vegetation mapping, restoration and plant community ecology, invasive species, and the re-introduction of endangered plant species; with field sites in Southern California and Hawaii. Several current projects focus on using remote sensing data to better understand plant communities and plan restoration and conservation programs, with scientific collaborators from the USDA Forest Service, NASA Jet Propulsion Lab, and several non-profit conservation organizations. Over the last eight years, she and her collaborators have developed a landscape modeling tool to aid in outplanting programs for native plant restoration and reintroduction programs. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Penn State University in 1997 and a doctoral degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Kansas in 2008.
Io attended Citrus College in the 1980’s where he obtained an A.S. Degree. In the 1990’s, Io attended California State University, Los Angeles where he graduated with a B.S. in Biology, before pursuing a Master’s Degree in Education at National University. Io has been teaching science for 21 years. He enjoys teaching all disciplines of science, but especially Environmental Science. Io strongly believes that we need to understand more about our environment and how to protect it; for our own benefit and survival.
Jackie Gardner is the Next Generation Science Standards Teacher on Special Assignment for the San Jacinto Unified School District. Jackie received her degrees from Humboldt State University; a BA in Liberal Studies Elementary Education and an MA in Education. While working as a classroom teacher she specialized in science and environmental education, working as a multiple subject and then single subject teacher for 4th and 6th-10th grades. Jackie's passions are in conservation and environmental education and she has previously presented on the benefits of classroom gardens and aquaponics. She continues this work with teachers in the school district who are enthusiastic about aquaponics and teaching students about green technologies.
John is a Professor of Entomology at the University of California, Riverside. He has been studying parasitic wasps for more than 40 years. Although he works on a diverse array of wasps, the scientific love of his life are an unusual family of ant-parasitic wasps. His research involves the study of their taxonomy, behavior and evolutionary history, especially as it relates to how they have evolved to attack specific groups of ants. To conduct his research he has travelled worldwide to over 30 different countries. Prior to arriving in California, he has held positions at the University of Guelph, Texas A&M University, the Canadian National Collection of Insects, and the Smithsonian Institution.
Julia Smith has loved being a science teacher for the last 30 years. Julia obtained her Bachelor’s in Biochemistry and Cell Biology from UC San Diego, teaching credential from UC Riverside, and Master’s in Biology from CSU San Bernardino. Teaching middle, high, and community college science courses throughout her career, Julia continues to enjoy learning and honing her craft. There are still so many wonderful and fascinating things to learn about our world and how it works.
Kenneth Hall is currently a kindergarten teacher at Chapman Heights Elementary in Yucaipa, CA. Kenneth has taught for 22 years at the elementary levels. He has a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Redlands. In addition to teaching kindergarten, Kenneth is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Redlands, teaching in the Teacher Preparation Programs. After participating in the Monterey Bay Aquarium Splash Zone Teacher Institutes 1 and 2, Kenneth became passionate about science education in elementary school.
Leslie McGhee is currently a High School Biology teacher for Oak Hills High School in Hesperia, CA. She has been teaching for 16 years, beginning with both Math and Science and exclusively science for the last 12 years. She was the academic coach for her district for K12 with a science focus. She has been worked with the California Dept of Ed, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties as a presenter for the NGSS Rollout #1-4. Leslie holds a multiple subject teaching credential, a single subject credential in Life Sciences. She obtained her credential from Cal State San Bernardino. Leslie feels that as science educators we should show our students the importance of all sciences in our community and our everyday lives.
Pam Johnson has over 30 years of experience working in the area of environmental education. Currently the Director of Educational Partnerships for Emerald Cove Outdoor Science (ECOS) Institute, she works to expand partnerships among public and private schools, as well as regional organizations. Previously an Administrator for Orange County Department of Education’s Inside the Outdoors hands-on science programs, reaching over 150,000 students, teachers, parents, and community members annually through four programs: Outdoor Science School, Field Trips, Traveling Scientist, and Community Programs. She holds an MS in administrative services from Pepperdine University, a BA in liberal studies from Westmont College, and administrative and multiple subject teaching credentials.
Philip Hudec has been finding ways to empower youth through science education for the past 10 years. Currently, Philip is a project director for the CA NGSS Early Implementer Initiative for Palm Springs USD. He holds a Master of Arts in Education: Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Spatial Literacy. As a Science/STEM Curriculum Specialist, Philip is interested in ways to incorporate physical computing and data science into the traditional science classroom, in order to enhance the understanding of core ideas across disciplines. He has been fortunate to collaborate with scientists from both the University of California and California State University systems as well as other agencies to bring professional learning opportunities to science teachers and school districts across the state. Philip believes that everyone has the right to learn science and is a proponent of getting kids outside into the wilds of their community to ask questions, question answers, and understand their world.
Reginald Thomas has been teaching Special Education for 13 years. He has had the opportunity to teach Science within both Specialized Academic Instruction and Special Day Class. Learning to identify phenomena and write about phenomena helps his students be able to make connections between science standards and their everyday lives. Reginald believes this application of science will bridge the gap between how people view science fiction and everyday real science.
Sara Yeh is a long time science teacher who began her career with the intent to become a high school counselor but fell in love with middle school science. She earned her Masters of Educational Administration in 2014 from CSUSB. Go Coyotes! She obtained a Foundational Level Credential in Science and spends her days in the organized chaos of middle school labs, analysis and drawing conclusions. She loves to host guest speakers, take her students on field trips and challenge students with real world debates around scientifically based topics such as "Should parents be allowed to genetically alter the genes of their unborn babies for cosmetic purposes" She took this opportunity to develop phenomenon based units with like-minded colleagues to further the vision of NGSS in her region and to make connections with others doing this crazy fun work.
Sharyl Fleeman has taught for 22 years at Cucamonga Elementary School in the Cucamonga School District. She has taught multiple grades at the elementary level and is currently teaching fourth grade. Sharyl graduated with a Liberal Arts Bachelor Degree from Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, MI in 1993. Her studies centered on elementary education with minors in English, math and science. She spent four years teaching both elementary and alternative ed in Michigan before moving to California. Sharyl has been an induction mentor teacher for 5 years and will begin her fourth year as the site science coach supporting TK-5 teachers in the implementation of NGSS and best practices in science education. Her goal for the youth of today is that they will develop a lifelong curiosity about the world around them and a desire to become stewards of our environment.
Shauna Jackson currently teaches 5th grade in the San Jacinto Unified School District. She serves on the Guiding Coalition at her school site where she helps develop resources, and works with the leadership team to strengthen strategies for student success. Shauna earned her Bachelors of Science in Sociology from the University of California, Riverside and her Masters of Arts in Learning and Teaching from the University of Redlands. In her 5 years at San Jacinto, Shauna has focused her work on building innovative lessons that are designed to empower students and get them excited about science.
Tali Hammond earned her bachelor’s and doctorate degrees in Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, where she was a National Science Foundation graduate fellow. Her dissertation research focused on behavioral and physiological differences between two California chipmunk species that showed divergent responses to the past century of climate change. After graduating, Tali began as an NSF postdoctoral fellow in the Richards-Zawacki lab at the University of Pittsburgh, where she studied relationships between chytrid infection and behavior and physiology in multiple Pennsylvania frog species. Tali is now a postdoctoral fellow hosted by the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, where she works to research and conserve endangered mountain yellow-legged frogs in southern California. In the past she has worked with western bluebirds, stomatopods, cuttlefish, California ground squirrels, and tuco-tucos.
Vidal is a teacher at Urbita Elementary School in the San Bernardino City Unified School District. He has been teaching for over 6 years. He currently teaches a Dual Immersion 5th grade class, where he teaches students in English half of the time and in Spanish the other half. He has a Bachelor's degree in Sociology and a BCLAD credential. He also earned a M.S. degree in S.T.E.M. with a concentration on K-8 Mathematics. He enjoys finding different activities that will inspire students to pursue S.T.E.M. careers.
Region 3 Summit
April 2-3, 2019 / Woodland, California
Focus on Water and Air
Ajith is a Professional Research Scientist at the Air Quality Research Center of the University of California-Davis. He holds a B.Sc. in Chemistry/Mathematics and a Ph.D. in Chemical Physics. His research interests are generally in the broad subject area of atmospheric chemistry and physics. One of his current research interests relevant to the Phenomena Summit is the use of low-cost sensors for air quality measurements. He promotes STEM education through indoor/outdoor air quality measurements at schools. Ajith believes that science teachers are the first-line of scientists especially in socioeconomically disadvantaged communities and community scientists should organize around local schools. High on his Bucket List is building a California-wide school-based air-quality measurement network using low-cost sensors.
Anya Pierre is a 6th grade teacher at River Oaks Elementary in Galt, California. She is in her fifth year teaching and her fourth year as an NGSS early implementer. She graduated from Sonoma State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies and then received her multi subject teaching credential from Sacramento State University. Anya's passion for science and environmental education came from a young age when she got to experience outdoor education as a student. As an educator Anya strives to engage her sixth graders in critical thinking and 21st century skills.
Dr. Carson Jeffres is a research ecologist with the UC Davis Center for Watershed Science specializing in better understanding how physical processes and management actions influence aquatic food webs and fish habitat. He has been studying the physical processes and ecology of floodplains in California’s Central Valley for 16 years. In addition to projects in the Central Valley, he has been studying spring-fed systems in the southern Cascades. One of the themes of his research is using rigorous scientific research to help guide management questions.
Deborah Young has inspired students at Foothill High School, Sacramento, CA, as a Chemistry, Biology, Earth science and AP Environmental Science teacher for the past 19 years. She became a teacher following a career as a Clinical Laboratory Scientist for Roche Biomedical Labs. Deborah was recruited by a close science teacher/friend to become a teacher of science, who understands what scientists do in their particular fields. She completed a Masters in Education and is currently the Science Department chair. As a teacher/ biochemist and integrated science advocate, NGSS leadership team member for Twin Rivers Unified School District, Deborah has embraced the interconnections between grade levels, content areas, engineering, and environmental concerns.
Diana studied at UC Davis and then received her Bachelor of Arts in Biological Science with a concentration in zoology and pre-med from CSU, Sacramento and her Master of Arts in Secondary Education, concentrating in science. Prior to teaching high school, she worked as an Environmental Toxicologist for over 20 years specializing in U.S EPA Superfund programs, Navy, Air Force BRAC, Army Corps of Engineers, Environmental Engineering and Consulting Firm programs. Diana has collaborated with SMUD, writing curriculum for the Solar Sunflower program, the SB70 grant, teaming with Beutler Air to create curriculum emphasizing their Solar panel program. As an environmental Toxicologist, Diana witnessed the detrimental effects that man has on the environment and the long term effects it has on the world in general, and she feels it is imperative the environmental literacy becomes an integral component of our children’s education from kindergarten to twelve grade.
Elaine teaches in her hometown in Galt, CA. She is currently a 5th Grade at Valley Oaks Elementary School in Galt. She has been teaching for 13 years. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Brigham Young University-Idaho and a CA Multiple Teaching Credential. Elaine has been an NGSS early implementer for Galt Joint Union Elementary School District for the past 4 years. This past year she was a Core Teacher Leader with the Next Generation Science Standards Early Implementers. She joined the NGSS team as a teacher leader to ensure that all students engage in three-dimensional science education. She was one of many facilitators at Galt’s 2018 NGSS Summer Institute. She will also be one of the facilitators at the 2019 Cosumnes River Floodplain Ecology Institute to develop awareness of environmental water issues in the local area.
Emily received her bachelor of arts in Environmental Studies and Biology from University of California- Santa Cruz. After graduating she worked as a seasonal research technician and gained experience in botany, resource management, and wildlife research. She then received her master of science in Range and Wildlife Management from Texas A&M Kingsville through the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute. Her thesis research including investigating winter habitat selection and movement ecology of sandhill cranes along the Texas coast and forecasting habitat suitability using current land change trends. Currently, she is the Conservation Program Manager for Conservation Farms and Ranches on Staten Island, CA. Her current work includes managing agricultural fields to provide the best wintering habitat for the large variety of waterbirds which use the Sacramento Delta. She coordinates research on the island including habitat condition surveys and surveys in the winter for sandhill cranes, large waterbirds, and shorebirds.
Mr. Hunter Merritt is a Social Scientist, Water Resources Planner and Public Involvement Specialist in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Sacramento District. Since 2009, he has focused on flood risk communication, public participation and engagement, and plan formulation for flood risk studies. He is the district’s deputy lead for Silver Jackets programs in California, Nevada and Utah. His primary goal is to increase public awareness of flood exposure through outreach and education, in collaboration with other Federal agencies and state, local, and tribal partners. He is a trainer for all levels of the district’s Leadership Development Program (LDP), and a graduate of the South Pacific Division Regional LDP Level III (2014), where he addressed enterprise-wide issues of Knowledge Management and Knowledge Transfer within USACE. He is also a part-time lecturer in the Department of Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Administration at California State University Sacramento, where he teaches undergraduate courses in leadership and group development and a graduate course in recreation policy. He is currently an Associate Board member of the American River Natural History Association (ARNHA), which manages the Effie Yeaw Nature Center in Carmichael, California. Mr. Merritt received a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia and a Master of Science in Recreation Administration from California State University Sacramento.
Jeanette is a current sixth grade math and science teacher at Westlake Charter School who has taught in both primary and middle school. She received her Bachelors of Arts in Liberal Studies from CSU, Sacramento. She is a life long learner who is certified in Project Learning Tree, Project Wet, Project Wild, Project Wild Aquatic, and is working toward her California Naturalist certification. Known for her out-of-the-box thinking, she has integrates hands-on learning on a daily basis in her classroom. She strives daily to bring in authentic and engaging problems for her middle school students to grapple with. She has a passion for science notebooks and building curriculum based off real world phenomena.
Kitty currently teaches 5th grade at Greer Elementary School in Galt, CA. She has been teaching for over 20 years. She holds a BA from California State University Sacramento and her multiple subject teaching credential from National University. She has been an NGSS early implementer for Galt Joint Union Elementary School District for the past 4 years. She was the 5th grade Cadre leader at Galt’s NGSS Summer Institute 2018. She will be involved in facilitating the Cosumnes River Floodplain Ecology Institute to develop awareness of environmental water issues in our area. She hopes that her efforts in science education will spark future generations of science lovers.
Lisa Hegdahl began teaching in 1991 in the Galt Joint Union Elementary School District (GJUESD). Along with teaching 8th grade science, Lisa is a Core Lead Teacher for the CA NGSS Early Implementer Initiative of which GJUESD is a participant. She is a Past President of the California Science Teachers Association and served on their Board of Directors from 2011 to 2019. Lisa was one of the 21 members of the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee which advised the writers and editors of the 2016 Science Framework for California Public Schools. She has also been a Co-Writer and Lead Presenter for the CA NGSS Rollouts. Lisa received her Bachelor of Science degree and Science Clear Credential from the University of California at Davis. She also has a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential. Lisa recently started an Environmental Club for students that focuses on service learning and education at the local Cosumnes River Preserve.
Megan White has been an educator for nearly 15 years. She has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Liberal Studies and a Master of Arts Degree in Teaching from UC Davis. She started her career in elementary and has been a middle school science teacher in West Sacramento for a decade. She has experience with AVID, Sacramento Area Science Project, and PLTW. She believes authentic phenomena is essential to making meaningful connections to the world now and into the future.
Miranda was born in Missouri and has been living in California for the last decade or more. She recently graduated with her M.S in ecology at the University of California-Davis and is currently a researcher at the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC Davis. Her research has been focused on floodplains in the Central Valley of California and to better understand the long term benefits these ephemeral habitats can provide for juvenile fish, such as Chinook Salmon. To better understand these long term benefits, she has helped in the development of an isotopic signature, a chemical fingerprint, that is unique to floodplain habitats and uses fish eye lenses to track floodplain rearing of individuals. When she isn’t looking at fish eyes, she is passionate about science outreach and developing tools to teach students about the amazing floodplains in their backyards.
Nate Manley grew up in rural northern California in the shadow of active volcanoes and along the banks of the Sacramento River where he developed his lifelong appreciation for landscapes, natural history, and understanding the dynamics of Earth’s structure and constantly shifting topography. With a background in wilderness guiding, Nate attended Humboldt State University earning his B.S. in geology in 2001 and earned his M.S. in structural geology from Sacramento State in 2007. Professionally, Nate is a state licensed geologist with experience in environmental work in groundwater contaminant remediation and geotechnical engineering with an emphasis on slope stability and rock fall hazard mitigation. His current interests are in elementary education where he works with students in a pilot program designed to help build observational skills of natural phenomena in the local area. As a resident of the Sacramento region, Nate has also spent a considerable amount of time learning about the ecology and hydrology of endangered vernal pool habitats and has worked extensively with local conservation groups to help protect these resources and effectively manage new housing development pressures around them.
Nina McGroarty is a 7th grade science teacher at McCaffrey Middle School in Galt. She has been teaching 7th grade science since 1999. The Galt Joint Elementary School District is an NGSS Early Implementer. Nina has been an NGSS Core Lead Teacher since 2013. She has a B.S. in Wildlife Management from Humboldt State University and has worked for Redwood National Park, the Sacramento Science Center, and as a Registered Veterinary Technician prior to becoming a teacher.
Rebecca Mackin is a science teacher at Encina Preparatory High School in the Arden-Arcade area of Sacramento. Rebecca has taught Anatomy and Physiology, Biology, and SDAIE Biology, and 6th grade Earth Science at Encina. She has been teaching for 5 years and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree In Biological Sciences. Rebecca has been interested in curriculum and instruction development since the beginning of her teaching career, wanting to create rigorous but relevant materials for all students. She is currently a member of the San Juan Unified School Districts NGSS Implementation Team and was a participant of Northwestern University’s Learning While Teaching project in partnership with the UC Davis Model Based Biology (MBER) curriculum.
Sarah Caves is a 7th grade science teacher at Stonegate Elementary in West Sacramento. She has been teaching middle school for 11 years, and has worked with the Sacramento Area Science Project to present at the Science in the River City and Summer Institutes. She is also a CSTA conference presenter and full time nerd.
Sarah Pitfield has a bachelors in Biological Sciences from UC Santa Barbara and a Masters in Medicinal Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology from Purdue University. She earned her single subject teaching credential from the Impact Intern program. She has taught both 7th and 8th grade science at Douglass Middle School in Woodland, California and is currently the Science Department Chair. She enjoys running in the great outdoors and coaches anything from 5k beginning running classes to Full Marathon classes, so the cleaner the air and environment the better.
Sher Raquel has been teaching elementary students for 24 years. She currently teaches 1st grade at Lake Canyon School in Galt. She has a BS in Biology and worked for 10 years as a Wine Chemist before going back to school to get her teaching credential. She and her husband, a retired biologist, enjoy improving habitat on their cattle ranches in northern California. Her passion for nature has made her an advocate for NGSS and Environmental Literacy.
Tova Hensley is a science teacher at Laguna Creek High School in the Elk Grove Unified School District, where she teaches Biology and General Science. She earned her teaching credential and Masters of Education from UC Davis. Her Masters in Education research focused on helping students reflect on their learning to improve outcomes. Tova also earned a Masters of Science in Geology from UC Davis. Her Masters research in Geology focused on understanding relationships among a group of marine invertebrates and tracking changes in their morphology through geologic time. In addition to her high school teaching experience, she has also taught several Geology courses at community colleges in Sacramento.
Region 5 Summit
October 3-4, 2019 / Santa Cruz, California
Focus on the Ocean and Water
Summit Lead Educators, Scientists, and Community Experts
Kathryn (Kat) Beheshti is a PhD Candidate in the Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Department at UC Santa Cruz. Kat has spent the last 7 years working in Elkhorn Slough, an estuary located in Monterey Bay, CA. Kat studies how crabs affect the salt marsh habitats they live in and she conducts seagrass restoration projects in the estuary where seagrass has been slow to recover from widespread lost seen in the 1930s. Kat has immersed herself in science communication and public outreach through her own platform, justsloughit.com where she and the team of undergraduates she mentors generate content through blogs and videos sharing their research and various experiences as scientists. Kat has also designed and implemented a science program, Science is F.U.N. (For Understanding Nature) where K-8 students get to be scientists for a day and conduct mini-experiments. Kat is committed to conducting research that helps protect and better understand our coastal watersheds. She is also emerging as a local leader in science communication and public outreach programs.
Sarah Kienle is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she is studying the foraging ecology and physiology of leopard seals, a poorly studied top predator in Antarctica, to understand how the species will adapt to a rapidly changing environment. Her research broadly focuses on understanding the foraging ecology and life history of marine predators. She is interested in understanding and predicting how animals will cope and respond to environmental change. She recently received her PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where her dissertation investigated flexibility in the foraging strategies of pinnipeds (seals, sea lions, and walruses). She received a MS in Biology from San Diego State University, where her thesis focused on the relationship between form and function in the evolution of pinniped feeding strategies. Sarah is a former middle school and high school teacher, and she is passionate about sharing the results of her research and her enthusiasm for science with both the scientific community and the general public.
Cristina Riani is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Environmental Studies at UC Santa Cruz. She grew up in Oakland, CA and then spent four years in Corvallis at Oregon State University. Cristina has an Honors Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and wrote her Undergraduate Honors Thesis on bryophyte water adsorption and retention. During her undergraduate program, Cristina studied abroad in Costa Rica through CIEE’s Tropical Ecology and Conservation program. While there, she completed an independent research project on bryophytes in the Monteverde cloud forest. She is now happy to be back in California, studying fog and redwoods at UCSC. Cristina is excited to explore new scientific questions about the unique connection between the coastal fog and redwood forests. She is also passionate about environmental education and wants to continue seeking out ways to collaborate with educators and develop her science communication skills.
June Shrestha is a marine scientist at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories. She is passionate about marine community ecology and exploring the dynamic interactions within California's kelp forest ecosystems. For her M.S. degree, June studied fish pee! She found that fishes supply a "hidden" nutrient source to California's kelp forests via their pee, and it may be an especially important source under future climatic conditions and human impact. In addition to her research, June is an avid SCUBA diver - you can catch her leading the underwater feeding show at the Monterey Bay Aquarium a couple of times a month.
Adina Paytan’s principal research interests lie in the fields of biogeochemistry, chemical oceanography and paleoceanography. The goal of her research is to use the chemical and isotopic records enclosed in a wide range of earth materials to study present and past biogeochemical processes. Adina was born and raised in Israel, and after two years of mandatory military service she traveled to India and Nepal and hiked the Himalayas for another two years. She obtained her B.Sc. double major in Biology and Geology from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and pursued a M.S. degree in science education at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot. In 1989 Adina moved to San Diego to take part in the Ph.D. program at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography.She spent 8 years as a professor in the department of Geological and Environmental Sciences at Stanford. Currently, Adina is a Research Scientist at the Institute of Marine Sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Jessica Soukoulis is the K-8 Science Curriculum Coach at Pajaro Valley Unified School District. In this role, she supports teachers in implementing the Next Generation Science Standards and in using local phenomena to deepen students' environmental literacy. This work earned her an Innovator of the Year award in PVUSD for the 2018-2019 school year. Prior to becoming a coach, Jess taught first through fifth grade science for six years. She received her Bachelor of Science in Biology from University of California, Santa Cruz, and she holds both a single-subject science credential and a multiple-subject credential that she obtained from Santa Clara University. Jess is currently working on her Masters in Curriculum and Instruction, with a dual concentration in Leadership and Environmental Education, from Concordia University, Portland.
Elizabeth Svensson teaches at-risk high school youth in Alternative Education with the Santa Cruz County Office of Education. She holds a Bachelor's degree from the University of Redlands, a Master's Degree in Teaching from Fresno State University, and a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from California State University Monterey Bay. Elizabeth has a passionate heart for social justice and conservation, and structures her classes and curriculum with a lens of environmental literacy and youth empowerment.
Jennifer Poodry has been teaching in elementary education for over 20 years. She has worked as a classroom teacher, bilingual resource teacher, and gifted education specialist in the Pajaro Valley Unified School District. She is currently teaching third grade. Jennifer has been heavily influenced by the stunning natural environment in Santa Cruz, California, where she grew up as the daughter of a UCSC Biology professor. She is passionate about teaching children to think scientifically and hone both their inquiry and observation skills. Jennifer has collaborated with science teachers and leaders on the PVUSD Science Leadership Team and with the Santa Cruz County Science Leadership Institute. She is enthusiastic about NGSS and teaching science through exploration and making meaning of the natural phenomena we encounter everyday.
Patty Hayes is currently is the 4th and 5th grade science teacher at Boulder Creek Elementary School in Boulder Creek, CA and a science lead for the San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District. She is also working with the Baysci District team and the NGSS Teacher Leadership Institute through the Santa Cruz County Office of Education. Patty is a former middle school and college teacher. She has a bachelors in Chemistry from Cal Poly, SLO and a Physical Science credential. Patty’s goal as an educator is to be constantly improving her own practice and to support K-5 teachers in their expertise and practice of NGSS and environmental literacy. She has a love for outdoor adventures and fun such as hiking, biking, kayaking and gardening.
Dorothee Ledbetter has a P.D. in biology and is a resource specialist at AFE (Alternative Family Education), a Santa Cruz City Schools K-12 independent study program. She is excited that science education is embracing more phenomena-based, experiential learning that also includes scientists and community groups. Dorothee has been fortunate to become a part of the NGSS Science Leads team in 2018, and has participated in and led several countywide NGSS training events. She is holding NGSS-aligned science nights at AFE with the topic “Climate Change,” and working on making FOSS materials accessible for independent study.
Spencer Klinefelter is an environmental educator with a decade of experience teaching students of all ages both in the field and in formal classroom settings. As an Education Coordinator for the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History he develops and leads a variety of programs across the county for K-12 students and has been a participant and facilitator of various Teacher Leadership Institutes, promoting environmental literacy and science education through inquiry-driven, phenomena-based curriculum. As an avid naturalist and graduate of UC Santa Cruz with a degree in Environmental Studies, Spencer firmly believes in place-based, experiential education and getting students outside and practicing science as much as possible.
Whitney Cohen is a teacher, trainer, and author with tremendous commitment to, and expertise in, inquiry- and place-based education; strategies for engaging diverse learners; school gardens; and the intersection between environmental and food education and public schools. As the Education Director of Life Lab, a national leader in garden-based education, Cohen presents hands-on workshops to approximately 1,000 educators annually, and leads a national leadership institute for school garden support organizations. She has also written activity guides, including The Book of Gardening Projects for Kids, Food Corps’ Sprout Scouts, and The American Heart Association’s Teaching Garden Guide. Cohen is a former middle school science teacher and currently teaches “Teaching Environmental Education” at UC Santa Cruz. She received a BA from Vassar College in Sustainable Community Development and an MA from UC Santa Cruz in Education.
Pauline Seales earned her Physics degree in the UK. After spending over 20 years as an engineer in the Silicon Valley industry, Pauline began her teaching career. She earned her teaching credential San Jose State and spent 20 years as a high school science teacher. Since retirement, Pauline has been a volunteer docent in Santa Cruz and a Climate activist.
Laura Arnow grew up on the east coast but migrated to California to attend UC Santa Cruz, where she studied Environmental Studies and planned to save the world. After several other careers as a wildlife biologist, editor, tall ship sailor, recycling coordinator, and park ranger, she settled down to teach elementary school--first in the Bay Area, then in Laos, and finally in Monterey Bay. Laura coaches the Green Team at her school, and has also coached underwater robotics and gardening. She and her students have participated in the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Ocean Plastic Pollution Summit for the past 5 years, and in the Algalita Plastic Ocean Pollution Summit in 2019, and she has created Ocean Guardian school programs at her current site (Calabasas Elementary in Watsonville) and at Soquel Elementary School. Known as the Field Trip Queen at her school, she is happiest outdoors hiking and sketching in her nature journal with kids or without.
Virginia Guhin is the Education Coordinator at the Elkhorn Slough Reserve and an Interpreter II with the Department of Fish and Wildlife. She has 20 years of coastal and marine science education and outreach experience in the Monterey Bay area. Virginia’s work at the Reserve focuses on K-College education curriculum design, developing new teacher professional development workshops, managing an after school program, overseeing the annual Reserve Open House and other outreach events. She also develops partnerships with other informal education organizations. Virginia is committed to developing exciting and engaging education programs for all students and teachers, which ignite curiosity and caring for the environment.
Stew Jenkins has been teaching about the environment for more than twenty years. After graduating from Stanford in 1990, Stew earned his teaching credential at the College of the Holy Names in Oakland, California. He taught high school and middle school mathematics in Oakland and Berkeley for three years. When he moved to the Monterey Bay, Stew began teaching for the Santa Cruz Outdoor Science School in Corralitos. Stew has worked for the Monterey Bay Aquarium, LifeLab Science Program, coordinated the Green Schools Program of Santa Cruz County, and worked as a watershed educator at the Coastal Watershed Council. He sees environmental education as a manual for living in the world. In 2014, Stew was awarded a climate change fellowship by EE Capacity for his pioneering efforts to teach 5th, 6th and 7th graders about climate change in the public schools. In 2016, Stew founded the Monterey Bay Center for Environmental Literacy to spread environmental literacy throughout the Monterey Bay.
Tara McCullough has been teaching for 19 years at Starlight Elementary School in Watsonville California. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from UCSC and a second BA in Education from the University of New Mexico. Although she has taught all elementary grades she is now focusing on teaching science to 4th and 5th graders. Tara has enjoyed shifting her instruction to NGSS and loves to engage students in learning about ways they can positively impact the natural world. One way she has done this is by guiding all 220 students that she teaches in litter reduction projects that qualified Starlight as an Ocean Guardian school. She also supports her school as a science lead teacher at Pajaro Valley Unified School District.
Jessica teaches Biology and Environmental Science to high school students at Soquel High School in Santa Cruz County. She lucky to teach on the coast of Monterey Bay, rich with diverse and unique ecosystems, and strives to connect her students to the natural phenomena in their communities whenever possible. Jessica is passionate about engaging students in meaningful sense-making and inquiry learning that enables students to develop skills necessary for 21st century problem solving. Through her science teaching, she hopes to foster students' curiosity about the natural world and empower learners to become active citizens when they leave her classroom. Jessica received her BA in Environmental Studies from UC Santa Cruz and her science teaching credential from CSU Fullerton. She is in her fourth year of teaching and isn't looking back!
Rachel Hitchcock has been a teacher at Amesti Elementary School for 19 years, and for the past 9 years she has been the 4th and 5th grade science teacher there. She graduated with her teaching credential and masters in education from University of California Santa Cruz. Prior to that she was an outdoor educator for 10 years, which was the perfect job for someone who has always loved science and being outdoors. She strives to foster that same love for science and nature in her students, and works to inspire them to never stop wondering and learning.
Jennifer Schmida teaches second grade and is in her fourth year as the science coach for Live Oak School District. She has been teaching for 25 years. Jennifer holds a multiple subject teaching credential and has a Master’s of Education from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is a teacher leader with the Santa Cruz County Science Teacher Leadership Institute. A prime focus for student learning in her classroom is to connect students with their environment, particularly the natural history of Santa Cruz, and to instill a sense of stewardship for the future.