Workshop Announcement

Our Changing Climate: Secondary School STEM Teacher Training Workshop 

August 8 – 12, 2022

At the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Geosciences

Past Climate Informs New England’s Future: Bring climate science into your classroom through the use of hands-on climate proxies, such as lake sediments and tree rings.

The sophisticated models that predict future climate change in our greenhouse world are tested and improved through their ability to reproduce what climate change has occurred in the past. This week-long training workshop for secondary school teachers will focus on lake sediment and tree ring analyses and how they document New England’s environmental and climate history. You will learn about some of the latest climate science and how to bring climate science into your classroom through the use of hands-on activities, some of which will be developed during the workshop. This workshop will focus on how climate archives such as lake sediments (mud), microfossil composition and tree rings are recorders of climate and environmental change and how knowledge of past climates can help inform our understanding of present and future climates. Teaching activities developed during this workshop will increase student appreciation for concepts of “paleoclimatology,” the cause and rhythm of climate change, and how the recent geologic record of climate change is unique.

DATES: August 8 – 12, 2022 (5 days, Monday through Friday; mainly 9-5)

LOCATION: The workshop will be held at the University of Massachusetts (Amherst, MA) in the Department of Geological Sciences with some field excursions to lakes in the area.



We will provide week-long training for secondary school science teachers to gain hands-on field and laboratory experience, as well as insights into the latest developments in climate and environmental research.  We will develop and test classroom modules aimed at environmental systems at both local and global scales. The lessons will also address core elements of the MA Department of Education science standards. Participants will leave the workshop with numerous classroom activities that are ready to go and that can be adapted to suit a variety of grade levels.


 This workshop will consist of a mixture of the following:

  • Lectures to provide background information on climate science and inform participants of latest developments.
  • Field activities including collecting samples from lakes and trees.
  • Laboratory analyses to demonstrate how these archives are used to inform about climate or environmental change.
  • Development of simple analytical procedures for the classroom that includes the use of spreadsheets and graphs.
  • Working as a group to think creatively and develop teaching modules from these experiences.



Participants will work collaboratively to produce classroom-ready hands-on experiments and activities using real materials and data. These activities, including all supporting material (worksheets, presentations, answer keys, etc) will be made on the UMass Amherst Geosciences Department website and will be contributed to the National Association of Geoscience Teachers “On the Cutting Edge” classroom materials online collection and the National Earth Science Teachers Association (NESTA).



Tom Johnson:

Tom Johnson is a Regents Professor Emeritus at the University of Minnesota and an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Geosciences at UMass Amherst.  Trained as a geological oceanographer, his research focus migrated from the deep sea to the great lakes of the world, using oceanographic techniques to map the geology underlying the lake basins and to recover and analyze sediment cores for past climate change.

Isla Castañeda:

Isla Castañeda is an associate professor with a joint position between the Department of Geosciences and Commonwealth Honors College. Her main research focus is on understanding past climate and environmental change though using ancient lipids from plants and microbes that are preserved in lake and ocean sediments. She teaches introductory honors courses including Oceanography and The Earth at UMass.

Mark Goldner:

Mark Goldner teaches middle school science at the Heath School in Brookline, MA, and he has also taught high school physics, biology and chemistry. Mark has participated in several polar research experiences at both poles, most recently in 2021 with UMASS professor Dr. Julie Brigham-Grette studying glaciers in Svalbard, Norway. He has taught workshops and classes for science teachers and is the co-author of the 2017 book “The Stories of Science”



Thank to support from the National Science Foundation, all participants will receive:  

•    Stipend of $75 per day

•   Reimbursement for mileage & a UMass parking pass

•    Tree ring borer kit and other supplies and materials for hands-on classroom activities

•    New ideas for teaching climate and environmental systems via lakes and trees

•    Connections to UMass faculty, post-doctoral scholars and graduate students, who are available for classroom visits or remote interactions (e.g. Zoom conversations with your class) during the academic year



We offer this workshop as an optional 3-credit professional development course through University Without Walls (UWW) at UMass Amherst at cost, for those who are interested.  After participant selections are made, instructions will be given how to enroll.  The course is listed as GeoSci-591LC “Lakes in a Changing Climate”.



As educators we are happy to make ourselves available this coming school year for in person or virtual visits to your classrooms to discuss the exercises and career options and opportunities in the Earth and environmental sciences.



To apply, please fill out this Google Form by May 31, 2022. Because travel funds are limited, preference will be given to teachers within 100 miles of Amherst (MA). Workshop enrollment is currently limited to 10 teachers. Notifications of workshop acceptance will be sent out in mid- to late May.