K-12 teachers in an SJSU classroom for professional training

Teachers Try New Ways to Engage Students in the Earth Sciences at BAESI

teacher using a straw to move goldfish crackers from place to place

At BAESI, teachers work in groups to try classroom activities before their students do. In this simulated “fishing” game, teachers explore depletion of shared resources (photo by Elena Polanco).

By Pat Lopes Harris, Media Relations Director

Where do teachers go during the summer? SJSU!

More than 30 elementary, middle and high school teachers hit Duncan Hall July 26-28 for “Earth Science, Society, and Sustainability.”

The group also included educators from the California Academy of Sciences and Literacy for Environmental Justice.

SJSU’s Bay Area Earth Science Institute hosted the gathering, which was funded by a grant from Intel.

Now in its 21st year, BAESI offers a comprehensive, year-round professional development program for teachers of grades 4-12.

In reality, this means gathering in a college classroom surrounded by tools of the trade from globes to fossils to the periodic table to share the latest on all sorts of earth science topics from energy and water resources to climate change.

It’s a two-way conversation at all times, with workshop leaders setting the agenda, but participants taking the floor to discuss classroom experiences.

Los Gatos High School science teacher Roozbeh Nazari, now in his fifth summer of learning with BAESI, especially appreciates the opportunity to “pilot out” lesson plans, meaning teachers work in groups to try projects before their students do.

“This is super helpful to me,” Nazari said. “These workshops are a great source of background science knowledge, reinforcing what I know as well as sharing what’s new.”

After graduating from Humboldt State with a bachelor’s in environmental science, Nazari settled into a teaching career that this fall will include his first year instructing a sustainable agriculture class.

Labs include work in a campus garden growing veggies and ornamentals, making BAESI’s current emphasis on sustainability and climate science a big plus.

This summer’s workshop was offered in collaboration with Michigan-based Creative Change Education Solutions, a national leader in sustainability education.

Instructors include SJSU Professor of Geology Ellen Metzger and Professor of Meteorology and Climate Science Eugene Cordero.

What’s next for this dynamic duo? More BAESI workshops of course, plus a new pilot project involving the Green Ninja, a climate-action superhero who fights global warming by inspiring personal action.

Metzger, Cordero and colleagues recently received a $386,000 NASA grant for “Improving Sixth Grade Climate Literacy using New Media and Teacher Professional Development.”

The funds will be used to expand and publicize the Green Ninja series that Cordero created in collaboration with SJSU’s film and animation faculty and students.

Like BAESI, the Green Ninja aims to reach middle school students with news and info on climate change and sustainability.

So stay tuned, and check the Green Ninja website to follow the action!