Making Waves: Engaging teachers as scientists transitioning to the Next Generation Science Standards

To teachers, “professional development” in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) too often means sitting silently all day, watching someone narrate a PowerPoint presentation.  In partnership with Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO), the San Diego Science Project (SDSP) at CREATE aimed to bring together a group of science teachers in a self-designed PD experience in order to engage them as scientists — and enrich their work as teachers.  The work is part of the collective CREATE STEM Success Initiative (CSSI), an effort to harness the resources available at UC San Diego to positively impact K-12 students and teachers.

Six San Diego County Physics teachers representing Guajome Park Academy, The Preuss School, Garfield High School, Chula Vista High School and Olympian High School are participating in a learning experience with SIO professor Ken Melville and his principal development engineer, Luc Lenain.  Supported by Melanie Villanueva of the SDSP and SIO’s Cheryl Peach, Director of Scripps Educational Alliances, these teachers are undertaking three full days of work at SIO.  Leveraging another San Diego connection, teachers will produce a useful artifact to be made available to other teachers via the San Diego County Office of Education Next Generation Science Standards resources website created by Science Coordinator John Spiegel.

Interactive presentations by Dr. Melville are providing background on his work on breaking waves and the air/sea interface (  The teachers engaged with Dr. Melville in a range of discussions, from his use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to collect data to how dimensional analysis can allow for more efficient data collection.  The group then explored one of his labs at SIO, interacting with instrumentation and talking with Luc Lenain about collecting data at the ocean’s surface.


The group spent time in the Hydraulics Laboratory at SIO making observations and learning about acoustic data collection using the 33-meter wave tank.


The teachers’ next step was to begin translating such UC San Diego work to their own Physics classrooms.

“Physics students love engaging in studying phenomena that are ‘big and visible’ like explosions and crashes,” said one teacher.  “Breaking waves are inherently interesting because students have experienced waves but may not understand how much information can be gained by studying them.  It really is fascinating and applicable classroom science.”

During the afternoon teachers discussed Dr. Melville’s research, took an in-depth look at the Next Generation Science Standards, and planned for implementing related science and engineering practices in their own classrooms.  Future sessions will include the development of classroom materials linked to Dr. Melville’s research and a final debriefing and reflection session aimed at informing and shaping future UC San Diego-teacher PD experiences.


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