Teachers! Collaborate At SciFri’s Educator Phenomena Forum

On July 21-22, Science Friday is hosting a phenomena-based learning sessions specially designed for K-12 STEM teachers. PD and cool science!

science friday's educator phenomena forum, with illustrated images of science topics including astronauts, buried skulls, and stars

Science Friday’s Educator Phenomena Forum

July 21-22, 2021

Science Friday’s Educator Phenomena Forum was a free summer professional development for K-12 educators on phenomena facilitated by STEM educators and researchers. Scroll to learn more!


The Educator Phenomena Forum is a professional development series from Science Friday that connects classroom phenomena-focused practice with contemporary STEM research. Check out the resources created for our sessions from July 2021, with four outstanding STEM researchers and educators!

Summer 2021 Sessions

Web Building 101: Some spiders don’t just build their webs and hope for the best. Join biology researcher Sarah Han and engineering and physics teacher Jose Rivas as they explore some dynamic web use by spiders.

Click below to view Jose and Sarah’s student investigation!

Spider Webs: A Tangled Spring Of Force And Energy

The Olive’s Place in Food Sustainability: Foods like olives, walnuts, and avocados may seem small, but their environmental impact can be large. Food scientist Selina Wang and science teacher Autumn Rivera explore how we can plan for foods like olive—and their byproducts—to increase sustainability.

Click below to view Autumn and Selina’s student investigation!

Why Your Skin And Streets Need Antioxidants

The Ecological Data of Shark-Tooth Tools: Aquatic ecologist Joshua Drew and special education teacher Randy Otaka explore how tools and artifacts from Pacific Islander nations are helping us correct ecological histories.

Click below to view Randy and Joshua’s student investigation!

What Can Hawaiian Shark-Toothed Weapons Tell Us About Ecological History?

Developing Microplastic Pollution Solutions: When we find microplastics at the top of Mt. Everest and below our local soil, how can we begin to design solutions? Timnit Kefela, PhD candidate in environmental science, and Chenille Williams, environmental educator, explore how we can design our build environment with microplastics (and our health) in mind.

Click below to view Chenille and Timnit’s student investigation!

How Do We Keep Microplastics Out Of The Ocean? Filtration, Naturally.


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Educator Phenomena Forum FAQ

What is the Educator Phenomena Forum?

Science Friday’s Educator Phenomena Forum is a professional development series that connects classroom phenomena-focused practice with contemporary STEM research. In July 2021, we’re kicked off the Educator Phenomena Forum off with four, 60-minute sessions for K-12 teachers. During these sessions, educators:

  • Learned about fascinating STEM research—brimming with phenomena to explore—directly from outstanding STEM experts;
  • Explored a new education resource created about the research;
  • Shared strategies for engaging STEM learners in a variety of settings using phenomena;
  • Made connections with fellow educators to debrief and discuss;
  • Earned professional development certificates with every session attended!

These sessions are completely free for teachers! Participants can attend any session they are interested in or all four sessions of this summer’s Forum series.

How and when will the Educator Phenomena Forum meet virtually?
This summer event series will run from July 21-22, 2021. Each day will feature two sessions, and each session will run for about one hour. Teachers and informal educators can attend all 4 sessions or select sessions.

We will be using Zoom to meet for this event series. All those who sign up to receive more information will be sent detailed instructions on how to participate, so you can arrive at each session ready to collaborate!

What will it look and feel like?
Each day will have two scheduled collaborative sessions. At the start of each session, a STEM Expert will tell educators the story of their work, including a Q&A section, and the Educator Facilitator will review the classroom resource created and published on Science Friday’s website. Then, educators will move into breakout rooms to discuss the research, published resources, and brainstorm further applications for this work in their learning spaces. Before the end of the session, all attendees will come back together for a final Q&A with the STEM Researcher and Educator Facilitator.

In order to receive a professional development certificate, teachers will be required to complete a quick follow-up survey after each session they attend.

Sounds great, I’m in! How can I register?
The Educator Phenomena Forum is completely free, but you have to register to attend!

Sign up to attend and the SciFri team will send you all the information you need, including links in advance of every session.

I’m a scientist, engineer, or researcher and I’d like to participate!
We would love to have you for future Phenomena Forums! Please email educate@sciencefriday.com with the subject line “Phenomena Forum – STEM Expert Interest” and we will schedule a time to chat about your participation.

How can I stay up-to-date about the Forum?
Sign up for our Educator Phenomena Forum email newsletter—you’ll be the first to hear about updates.


About Our July 2021 STEM Researchers and Educators

Joshua Drew is an assistant professor at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. Originally from upstate NY, he has spent almost 15 years working on aquatic conservation issues from the Arctic to the Tropical Pacific. His students are exploring similar themes within and beyond New York’s waterways, with current projects in the Oswego River watershed and throughout Fiji.

Sarah Han is originally from California, where she got my BS in Entomology from UC Davis. She now studies spiders at the University of Akron in Ohio. Sarah’s research focuses on web-based hunting techniques, and more broadly on web kinematics. She hopes to someday find a career that combines her love of art and science.

Timnit Kefela is a PhD candidate at the University of California, Santa Barbara’s Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, where she is focused on understanding the sources, pathways and fates of plastics in soil and marine environments.

Randy Otaka is an elementary school Special Education teacher and robotics coach with a passion for STEM.

Jose Rivas left the engineering world 17 years ago to pursue a career in education, and now teaches physics and engineering to grades 11–12 at Lennox Mathematics, Science, and Technology Academy.  Jose received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching in 2017.

Autumn Rivera is currently a sixth grade science teacher at Glenwood Springs Middle School in Glenwood Springs, CO and also teaches at Colorado Mountain College in their Education Department. She holds a BA in Biology from The Colorado College, an MAT in Secondary Science from The Colorado College, and an MA in Educational Leadership from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs.

Selina Wang is the research director of the Olive Center at University of California in Davis, and a Cooperative Extension Specialist in Fruit and Vegetable Processing at the Department of Food Science and Technology. Some of the current research projects at the Olive Center include studying the purity and quality, as well as byproducts management, of olives and olive oil.

Chenille Williams has worked as an environmental educator for nine years and is currently the Education Program Coordinator for Richland County Stormwater Management where she conducts education and public participation programs for students, professionals, teachers, and homeowners that focus on water quality and pollution prevention. She’s also Vice President of the Environmental Education Association of South Carolina.

Meet the Writer

About Xochitl Garcia

Xochitl Garcia is Science Friday’s K-12 education program manager. She is a former teacher who spends her time cooking, playing board games, and designing science investigations from odds and ends she’s stockpiled in the office (an in various drawers at home).

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