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Focus speakers are highly regarded scientists and education experts who present one-hour, in-depth sessions on subjects relevant to science teaching. The Focus speaker series allows you to expand your understanding in a wide range of critical topics. Focus speaker sessions are included with your conference registration.

Focus Speaker Schedule:

Friday, October 2, 2015

11:00 am - 12:00 pm: Crystallized Climate in Sierra Nevada Caves:
Reconstructing Past Mega-Drought Episodes in California

by Isabel Montañez, Professor, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of California, Davis.

Learn how geoscientists use deposits from caves throughout the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, along with climate models, to reconstruct past rainfall and temperature patterns in California during past periods of global warming, with implications for our future climate and water resources.

Meet Isabel Montañez


1:00 pm - 2:00 pm: Science and Writing: Research-Based Approach That Enhances Learning in Both Domains

by Betsy Rupp Fulwiler, Science Education Consultant

This presentation will introduce a research-based approach (developed, in part with NSF funding) in which teachers use scaffolding and modeling to help elementary students learn how to think, talk, and write as scientists do. The focus of instruction in this approach is not literacy but science, which determines the forms of thinking and communication students need to learn. Through student notebook entries and a video of a classroom in which a teacher is implementing the approach, the session will present strategies that conference participants can use immediately in their own classrooms.

Meet Betsy Rupp Fulwiler


2:30 pm - 3:30 pm: Bringing Deep-sea Science and Data into the Classrooms

by Dr. George Matsumoto, Senior Education and Research Specialist, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

The Ocean covers 70% of the surface of our planet and provides more than 95% of the available living space. Much of what lives and happens in the Ocean is still a mystery to researchers. This presentation will focus on some of the latest developments and discoveries from the depths of Monterey Bay (and other locations) with an emphasis on how the data can be used in the classroom. Specific topics may include the bizarre whale worm communities whale falls, incredible maternal care by different species, new species, new behaviors, and the new technologies being used to explore and research the ocean.

Meet George Matsumoto


4:00 pm - 5:00 pm: Discovering Teacher’s Nonverbal Patterns and How They Influence Student Learning

by Kendall Zoller, President, Sierra Training Associates, Inc.

In an engaging and inquiry driven session, participants are introduced to nonverbal patterns found in the model of Communicative Intelligence through the viewing of videos from the Third International Math and Science Study (TIMSS). They will practice patterns supporting credibility, approachability, rapport, listening, and responding. There are over 50 nonverbal patterns teachers use that influence learning. This session will explore about eight to ten of the patterns.

Meet Kendall Zoller

Saturday, October 3, 2015


9:30 am – 10:30 am: Putting Literacy into Science Teaching: Meeting the Challenges of NGSS

by Dr. Jonathan Osborne, Professor, Stanford University,Graduate School of Education, Kamalachari Professorship in Science Education

In this presentation, I will explore why building students’ literacy has to be a central part of teaching science and what it might mean for science teaching. Science is often characterized by its empirical nature but really teachers of science are teachers of ideas – many of which would seem to be, at least at first site – crazy ideas. Building students understanding of such ideas means helping them to read, write, talk and model scientific ideas. All of these literate activities are very much central to the practices that are now a feature of NGSS. In this talk, I shall explore what the new emphasis on literacy might mean for the teaching of science.

Meet Jonathan Osborne

11:00 am - 12:00 pm: Science in the Early Years - A Strength-Based Approach

by Ellen Blinderman, Early Childhood Education Coordinator at Lawrence Hall of Science

Science in the early years builds a basis for future scientific understanding and develops important school readiness skills. Yet early childhood teachers typically devote less time to science compared to other areas of the curriculum and many feel less prepared to teach science than other subjects. To overcome these obstacles, we need to approach early science education from a strength-based approach in which science is viewed as a process for exploring the natural world, and children's innate curiosity is nurtured and cherished.

Meet Ellen Blinderman

12:30 pm - 1:30 pm: The Power of Social Justice in Science Classrooms

by Dr. Sumer Seiki, Assistant Professor, Teacher Education, STEM Specialist, University of San Francisco

Why is social justice an important issue for science educators? In this session, we will explore the history and context that has led us to our current situation. Learn about the research being done nationally and internationally about social justice in and through science content. Finally translate theory into practice through simple application steps for focusing lessons on social justice issues affecting your students.


Meet Sumer Seiki

3:15 pm - 4:15 pm: Enlisting Middle and High School Students in the Search for ZomBees
by Dr.John Hafernik , Professor of Biololgy, San Francisco State University

ZomBees are real! They are honey bees, the most important pollinator of agricultural and backyard crops in North America, infected by the zombie fly. The zombie fly is a small, native insect that parasitizes native bees and yellow jacket wasps, eventually causing death to the bee. ZomBee Watch is a citizen science project whose goals are to determine where in North America the zombie fly is parasitizing honey bees. Participation in ZomBee Watch offers students the opportunity to make significant contributions to knowledge about honey bees, to learn about scientific research and the importance of bees and other pollinators to human and natural systems and to become better observers of nature. This presentation will detail ways that students can sample for infected honey bees, construct light traps, organize their data and experience firsthand the excitement of scientific inquiry.

Meet John Hafernik

4:30 pm - 5:30 pm: Everyone Can Engineer: Why All Kids Should Study Engineering – Even Before They Can Spell It
by Christine Cunningham, Ph.D, Founder & Director Engineering is Elementary, Vice President Museum of Science

State and national science standards increasingly emphasize engineering concepts and skills as part of K-12 STEM instruction. This presentation shows what engineering look like when elementary students are doing it, using a striking collection of candid short videos from classrooms around the country to illustrate how engaging in classroom engineering develops habits of mind that can support young students’ academic success in other subjects. Pedagogical strategies that teachers can use to support the development of robust engineering experiences for children will also be presented, along with research results showing that classroom engineering activities successfully engage diverse students in science and engineering learning.

Meet Christine Cunningham