Exploratorium Science kicks off new year

By Laura Zimmerman

Fifty-five teachers gathered last week for the first Exploratorium Science cohort training session of the new school year. The session was taught by the Institute for Inquiry staff of the San Francisco Exploratorium along with members of the Inverness Research group.

The teachers who were trained have all worked with the Exploratorium Science program for a full year, and they are beginning their second year of teaching and professional development in science education. The agenda included the introduction of new lessons for the upcoming school year; teachers received their science lessons kits; and teachers learned about some new research opportunities in which teachers may now participate.

Exploratorium Science is in place at five local elementary schools – Prestwood, Sassarini, El Verano, Flowery and Dunbar – and teachers from each grade level at each school were in attendance.

The Sonoma Valley Unified School District is tracking student performance on science-based standardized tests and the results are positive. In the most recent STAR testing results, there was a sizeable improvement in fifth-grade science scores, according to Lynn Fitzpatrick, the district’s director of curriculum.

The Exploratorium Science program started several years ago with a pilot program at El Verano Elementary School. The goal of the program is to provide more hands-on, inquiry based, and dynamic science instruction in Sonoma public schools. Students, teachers and parents all report great results. Students embrace the more interactive, hands-on science lessons. Teachers thrive on the students’ enthusiasm and enjoy the professional development that is a key part of this program. And parents report that their children look forward to Exploratorium Science days in school.

The Exploratorium Science program is funded by the Vadasz Family Foundation in partnership with the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation and several local donors, including the Clay Foundation West. To contribute to the ongoing success of this program, the public can donate online at

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