Let's talk, teacher to teacher! How NOAA makes the most of educator conferences

Outreach coordinator Jeannine Montgomery shares what makes the NOAA booth a success.

Come along on a journey of how NOAA learned to connect educators with some of the newest scientific research at the National Science Teachers Association offsite link (NSTA).

A group of around 20 people stand in front of a large exhibit booth displaying the NOAA logo.
NOAA staff with Teacher at Sea Alumni and Climate Stewards at a national National Science Teacher Association annual conference. (NOAA)

NSTA is the largest organization in the world committed to promoting excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all. The conference is the perfect venue to share NOAA’s wealth of science education resources with teachers. The NOAA education community first accepted the challenge of connecting educators with some of the newest science in ways they could use in their classrooms about 25 years ago. The partnership has been a dynamic place to learn and grow.

At NSTA’s National Conference in Los Angeles this past March, the potential reach to science teachers was tremendous, with approximately 10,000 attendees from across the country. NSTA indicates that 40% of these attendees have never attended a national conference before, giving NOAA access to new audiences. It’s a great opportunity to interact with teachers and bring tools from NOAA sciences. The challenge has been to meet the needs of teachers in the face of rapidly changing technology in both science and content delivery.

Each year, NOAA has offered traditional delivery strategies, like an exhibit booth, science resources, educational content, and workshops. Visitors can also also chat with NOAA scientists and experts. However, as NOAA employees, we struggled to keep up with the continually changing landscape of learning standards and pedagogical methods. Our booth was a success, but we knew we could make it even more valuable if we could solve this problem. How could we meet these challenges and be of best service to our audience?

The solution was right before our eyes: teachers! Who better to talk about our resources and how they can be used in classrooms?

The solution was right before our eyes: teachers! Who better to talk about our resources and how they can be used in classrooms? Fortunately, NOAA works with many highly trained teachers through NOAA’s educator professional development programs. These educators have experienced NOAA science and services firsthand and can talk to other peers in the “teacher-speak” of pedagogy, adaptation, and resources.

By 2009, the NOAA Teacher at Sea Alumni worked inside the exhibit booth alongside NOAA scientists and education staff. Soon our Einstein Fellows began developing and presenting multiple sessions featuring data and resources from across the NOAA education community at each regional and the national conference. Further expansion of the teacher-to-teacher concept since 2012 has welcomed alumni from the Climate Stewards Education Program and the GLOBE Program into our booth as well.

NOAA staff at the 2015 National Science Teachers Association conference in Chicago, Illinois.
NOAA staff at the 2015 National Science Teachers Association conference in Chicago, Illinois. (NOAA)

This year in Los Angeles, after twelve years of development and refinement, the teacher engagement reached a new high point. Many of our teacher-alums have now participated in several of our teacher-research and professional development programs. They have used our science resources in their own classrooms and know ways to adapt them. Many of them mentor other teachers in their regions and work with NOAA personnel throughout the year.

From across the interior of the exhibit booth, I watched a teacher-alum beckon another alum to join the conversation with a teacher seeking assistance. They spent a lengthy time exchanging ideas and reviewing resources, sending the teacher on their way with a better understanding of how to incorporate NOAA materials. Such was the value-added experience and service provided this year. 

Consider this a standing invitation... the next time you visit the NOAA booth at NSTA, let’s talk, teacher to teacher. The partnership is a dynamic place to learn and grow!

NOAA Outreach Coordinator Jeannine Montgomery.
NOAA Outreach Coordinator Jeannine Montgomery. (NOAA)

Jeannine Montgomery is an outreach coordinator in NOAA’s Office of Education. She worked as an interpretive park ranger for the National Park Service and Indiana State Parks for 25 years before joining NOAA in 2006.