QUEST institutes have been held each summer for over 30 years and are designed to enhance teachers' knowledge of science and mathematics through laboratory experiments and experiences aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards. The program made an enthusiastic return to campus this summer led by cutting edge professors, researchers, and lead teachers. During this summer’s QUEST summer institute, we featured 4 teacher institutes:
Phenomenal Fusion: Energy and Climate Justice
Fourteen teachers from 7 suburban and 2 urban districts, as well as 2 private schools in NJ joined Shannon Greco, Science Education Senior Program Leader, PPPL and lead teacher Barbara Fortunato (West-Windsor-Plainsboro School District) at Princeton Plasma Physics Lab for, “Phenomenal Fusion: Energy and Climate Justice”. Teachers spent a phenomenal week learning about using plasma and fusion as phenomena in the classroom through hands-on experiments, taking a deep dive into energy resources, discovering diverse voices in STEM, and reflecting on their practice as educators. These incredible teachers also toured the National Spherical Torus Experiment-Upgrade (NSTX-U) to see the primary fusion experiment at PPPL. Beyond learning about the science, educators were able to design their own plasma experiments with Remote Control Glow Discharge (RGDX) under the guidance of Arturo Dominguez. Throughout the week teachers worked with Lead Teacher, Barbara Fortunato to reflect on implications for classroom practice and spend time developing their own ideas (and materials!) to bring back to their students. Teachers were invigorated by this exciting five day learning experience!
In Our Backyards: Human Impacts on Pollinator and Plant Populations in Local Environments
Local STEM teachers went out in the field for a week with Prof. Dan Rubenstein to investigate their own questions through satellite image analysis during QUEST 2023, “In Our Backyards: Human Impacts on Pollinator and Plant Populations in Local Environments”. Starting with curiosities about pollinators and plants, the teachers looked for patterns in nature and captured images to develop a structured data set. Once the images were turned into data points of organisms, locations, and populations they used image analysis software to make the invisible become visible! Participants were able to visit dozens of field sites in the local area to collect data on plants and pollinators in a variety of environmental settings. With the help of lead teachers, Heidi Wachtin (West Windsor-Plainsboro Schools) and Julianne Kleinknecht, along with image analysis software developed under Prof. Leanna House (Virginia Tech), participants were able to gain valuable insight on pollinator behavior in our environment–from urban landscapes, farmland, school pollinator gardens, and even our own backyards!
Buried Secrets: The Geological Significance, Formation and History of Iron Ore Deposits in the NJ Highlands
Local NJ educators from 3 urban and 4 suburban public school districts as well as 2 private schools came to campus for a week for “Buried Secrets: The Geological Significance, Formation, and History of Iron Ore Deposits in the NJ Highlands''. Professor Blair Schoene, Lab Manager Laurel Goodell ‘83 and Research Specialist Isabel Koran ’22 from Geosciences facilitated the engaging week with the support of lead teacher Martha Friend (Princeton Regional School District) to help connect the learning back to the classroom. Teachers participated in hands-on activities and field work to deepen their understanding of New Jersey geology, plate tectonics, and the formation of rocks and minerals. Guest speaker, Dr. Pierre Lecombe (retired) of the USGS and New Jersey Water Science Center, provided context on mining and ore transportation to prepare the teachers for their exploratory field trip to a former mining complex in northern New Jersey. Teachers were exposed to technologies and lab spaces to better understand the innovative geoscience research being conducted. Martha Friend guided the participants to reflect on ways their geoscience knowledge could further enhance their teaching
Climate Change: Exploring Solutions to a Complex Problem
Fifteen public school teachers from 7 different districts throughout NJ joined Prof. Laure Resplandy, Danielle Schmitt, & Abigale Wyatt for, "Climate Change: Exploring Solutions to a Complex Problem". The week on campus included learning about the causes and effects of climate change, hands-on labs, evaluating current mitigation strategies and innovative geoengineering solutions, while acting as stakeholders in an En-Roads simulation. These incredible teachers also toured the PICSciE Supercomputer Center to see the supercomputing power and systems that create the climate models they explored. Beyond learning about the science, educators were exposed to a podcast project on mineral extraction for developing renewables by Guest Speaker and post-doc, Nate Otjen, to better understand connections between climate science and the humanities. Throughout the week teachers worked with Lead Teacher, Mary Beth Hughes (Hillsborough Township Schools) to reflect on implications for classroom practice. It was a very full and exciting five day learning experience for everyone involved, with plenty of takeaways as teachers gear up for the school year.