Quest 2023

hands holding phone over leaf on paper, teacher watching

1. Phenomenal Fusion: Energy and Climate Justice* FULL - WAITLIST ONLY AS OF 4/24/23

for STEM teachers in grades 6-12, July 17 - 21, 2023, 9AM-3PM at Princeton Plasma Physics Lab(link is external).

How often do you look up in your own classroom or school building and find relevant, real world phenomena for students to investigate? How did diverse voices in STEM contribute to the plasma science we know today? Every day, students enter classrooms filled with lights, and are often fascinated by the beauty of aurora borealis, lightning, and stars! Interesting phenomena inspire students to ask questions and wonder about the world around them. During QUEST, you will explore observable, relevant examples of plasma that can be explained using disciplinary core ideas related to matter, energy, magnetism, light waves, nuclear processes, reactions, and more from the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)!

Why is plasma an important concept? The Sun relies on burning plasmas to create a self-sustaining fusion reaction to generate energy. Cutting edge research is being conducted to recreate this source of energy here on earth. The implications of the research could be a powerful step towards solving climate change and achieving energy justice. 

We invite participants to engage with Phenomenal Fusion: Energy and Climate Justice at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab(link is external) to investigate the world around them through the lens of cycling matter and flowing energy as they deepen their understanding of the many science concepts connected to plasma and fusion. In this QUEST unit, participants will investigate different forms of plasma, learn about diverse scientists, engage in hands-on activities, reflect on innovative plasma-based solutions to global issues like climate change, and reflect on practical, NGSS-aligned ways to integrate their learning into the classroom.

This program will be facilitated by Shannon Greco, Science Education Senior Program Leader, Princeton Plasma Physics Lab along with Teacher Prep Alumna Barbara Fortunato, West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District. 

2. In Our Back Yards: Human Impacts on Pollinator and Plant Populations in Local Environments 

for STEM teachers in grades 3-12, July 23 - 28, 2023 (Sunday afternoon 7/23 online and on campus 9AM-3PM Monday 7/24 - Friday 7/28).

Prior to the discovery of DNA and DNA sequencing, scientists have used visual observations to understand life on Earth. Just as the study of DNA was transformed into Genomics, the study of images is giving rise to a new field, Imageomics. The role of technology in learning has increased drastically, but what is the role of learning in technology? Can computers “see” something in images that scientists are not yet able to? Indeed, Machine Learning has enabled computers to see the world in new ways and rapidly extract information about how evolution shapes phenotypes from one of the most abundant sources of information about life - photographic images. Computers dramatically speed up scientists' processing abilities and are helping make the invisible, visible. Machine Learning enables scientists to discover new biological relationships, ask new questions and answer them to better understand the rules of life. In a cyclical manner, computers are informing scientists and scientists are informing computers. A revolution in computational biology is underway.

One pressing environmental problem is quickly becoming a force that will likely negatively impact ecosystem functioning in ways that reduce biodiversity as well as food security: Why are pollinators declining? During QUEST, local educators will pose questions of their own making about the ways humans impact pollinators in local environments. They will explore varied human impacts that range from taming wild lands to domesticated properties to the styles of farming that produce our food (organic vs. conventional). In this mini-research experience, educators will venture outdoors to take pictures of plants and the insects that use them. They will then use images that characterize wild and domesticated habitats in terms of their diversity, distribution, size and connectivity in order to test hypotheses they generate about how such landscape features and other human impacts affect pollinators and the plants they rely on for survival and reproduction. By collaborating with peer educators, teachers will model the interactions that their students will use when engaging in their own experiential learning activities during the school year. We encourage educators to let their sense of wonder lead as they explore the process of scientific inquiry through images.

Join us for this summer’s six-day QUEST program beginning virtually on Sunday, July 23rd, and continuing on-campus Monday, July 24th through Friday, July 28th and follow your curiosities through experiential learning. Seminal readings and discussions with Princeton University’s Daniel Rubenstein, the Class of 1877 Professor of Zoology, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and a member of the Teacher Preparation Program’s advisory council and Dr. Leanna House, Associate Professor of Statistics at Virginia Tech will provide background information on the emerging new field of Imageomics. Teacher Prep Alumna Julianne Kleinknecht along with Lead Teacher Heidi Wachtin, West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District and Dr. Jessica Monaghan will guide you through the learning process and data collection that will culminate with the presentation of your research, giving you a chance to apply this learning experience to enhance your own practice.

3. Buried Secrets: The Geological Significance, Formation and History of Iron Ore Deposits in the NJ Highlands 

for STEM teachers in grades 3-12, July 24 - 28, 2023, 9AM-3PM on campus with a field trip to NJ Highlands on Tuesday, July 25th 8:30AM-5PM.

Iron mining in the New Jersey Highlands started in 1710 and by the mid-1800’s, over a hundred mines were in operation and New Jersey was a leading iron ore producer in the United States. This activity drove local economies, spurred settlement in the region, and helped fuel the industrial revolution in the United States. But by 1960, iron mining in New Jersey was over - although the remnants can still be seen today in our backyards.

The iron ore deposits are over a billion years old, older than the Appalachian Mountains, but why and how did they form? How and why has the historic, economic, and scientific significance of iron ore changed over time? How has human activity impacted the use and availability of natural resources of our own state?

Explore these questions and cutting-edge research in this week-long QUEST by:

  • Learning about New Jersey geology, making connections to global processes, and developing authentic interdisciplinary applications to bring back to the classroom.
  • Investigating the science behind the formation of New Jersey’s iron ore deposits using disciplinary core ideas such as plate tectonics, mountain-building, magmatism, and geochemistry.
  • Engaging in scientific practices during a field trip to the Highlands, as well as learning about on-going lab research conducted at the Princeton University campus.

This program will be facilitated by Prof. Blair Schoene, Princeton University Department of Geosciences, Laurel Goodell, Princeton University Department of Geosciences, and Lead Teacher, Martha Friend(link is external), Princeton Public Schools.

4. Climate Change: Exploring Solutions to a Complex Problem* FULL - WAITLIST ONLY AS OF 3/23/23

for STEM teachers in grades 5-12, August 14 - 18, 2023, 9AM-3PM on campus.

What is the role of human activity in the changing climate? How do we know if a proposed strategy or solution for minimizing CO2 in the atmosphere will be effective? Climate change is at the forefront of scientific and societal discourse, and its impacts on the planet are more evident each year. As educators we can empower the next generation to make informed choices when responding and adapting to the changing climate. In collaboration with Professor Laure Resplandy, who conducts research on the global carbon cycle and its influence on the Earth’s climate, STEM educators in grades 5-12 can take a deeper dive into the complexities of climate change during this five day QUEST unit. Participants will use climate models to deepen their understanding of climate change as well as assess and compare creative strategies to minimize climate change and global warming. They will collaborate with peers across the state for a hands-on and minds-on learning experience at Princeton University’s campus, including experiments to explore geoengineering solutions using plants to offset the CO2 increase in the atmosphere and solar radiation interaction with the Earth surface. Educators will have the opportunity to visit the supercomputer center used for climate research at Princeton University.  Throughout QUEST, educators will have the opportunity to work with cutting edge researchers in climate science and a lead teacher to reflect on their experience as learners and key “takeaways”. 

This program will be facilitated by Prof. Laure Resplandy, Princeton University Department of Geosciences and High Meadows Environmental Institute; Danielle Schmitt and Abigale Wyatt, Princeton University Department of Geosciences; Dr. Steve Carson, Princeton Public Schools and formerly with the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory; and Lead Teacher Mary Elizabeth Hughes, Hillsborough Township Public Schools. 

*offered at no charge 



before April 28th for a discounted rate. Fee schedule as follows:

  • Early Bird $250
  • Full Rate $300

Space is limited and we may not be able to accept all applications. Registration is required no later than June 16th.

In addition to 30 professional development hours, a $150 honorarium will be paid to all teachers upon the completion of each QUEST unit.

QUEST 2023 Sponsors

Thank you Shannon Greco and Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, Professor Rubenstein and the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Professor Leanna House, Virginia Tech Department of Statistics, Professor Blaire Schoene, Professor Laure Resplandy, the Department of Geosciences, High Meadows Environmental Institute, NSF, and NSF Career Award for their generous support of this year's QUEST programs! 

QUEST 2023 Partner and Sponsor logos


A small number of need-based Scholarships are available. Please apply for this opportunity if you are interested in attending and being an active participant at QUEST, but attendance would cause a financial burden.


We strive to host inclusive, accessible events that enable all individuals to engage fully. To request an accommodation for a disability (e.g. step free access, large print, etc.) or for inquiries about inclusive spaces (e.g. inclusive bathroom, meditation/prayer room, lactation room, etc.), please contact [email protected] or [email protected] at least one week prior to attending QUEST.