TEACHERS BUILD SKILLS
Flagstaff Academy hosts its first Sciencefest for faculty
Students had the day off, but Friday saw teachers and faculty filling the halls of Longmont’s Flagstaff Academy Charter School for an interactive morning of professional development at the first annual Sciencefest.
For five years, Flagstaff Academy’s professional development day was Techfest, aimed at helping teachers integrate technology into classrooms. Techfest continued through the pandemic with virtual meetings, but the theme was changed this year by the school’s leadership team to promote a complimentary focus area.
“Both science and technology are part of the mission of our school,” said Katie Gustafson, executive principal. “I think there’s a lot of room for us to build our confidence in science across grade levels.”
As a former social studies teacher, Gustafson said she recognizes science can be an intimidating topic for educators outside the field. She hopes by celebrating science and making it fun for all teachers, students will also embrace opportunities to see things through a scientific lens.
“I love that there are realworld, practical ways we can think about science,” she said. “That’s the point that we’re trying to bring across to staff today.”
The morning kicked off with a talk by keynote speaker Gianna Sullivan, coordinator of science programming for the University of Colorado Boulder’s Museum of Natural History. Sullivan is also the director of education for the Mobile Earth and Space Observatory, a mobile lab that brings scientific equipment to rural communities beyond the Front Range.
“I’m thrilled at what you’re doing with this Sciencefest,” Sullivan told the crowd. “When I look across the landscape of what elementary and K-8 schools are doing, I don’t see a lot of this, so I think you guys are ahead of the curve.”
Sullivan spoke on the importance of including a variety of voices in the science community and of helping young students develop their own “science identities.”
“Ultimately, it matters who ends up in science,” she said.
“It’s so important to think about who’s in science and who feels like they belong there.”
After Sullivan’s talk, the roughly 100 Flagstaff faculty participated in the Science Sandbox session with stations designed around four types of science: physical, earth, life and environmental. Held in a few of the school’s classrooms, each station featured hands-on science activities that teachers of all subjects could share with their students.
“Science doesn’t need to be something you invest a lot of money into,” said sixth grade science teacher Jake Masterson, who demonstrated a way to teach kids about air pressure by dunking warm soda cans into cold water. “This doesn’t cost anything.”
Aparna Palmer, biologist and vice president of Front Range Community College, facilitated a microscope station in the environmental science room where people could view tiny tardigrades. Palmer said she was happy to be a part of the inaugural Sciencefest and advocates for students getting exposed to scientific processes from an early age.
“We’re enabling kids to understand that when they ask questions about the world, they are scientists,” she said.