Science Practices and Techniques (SPAT) Teacher's Academy

The practices of science, and how scientists develop questions, create research, collect data, analyze data, and make arguments from that information are all critical skills that mirror what teachers can do in their own classrooms, and we can show you how. All activities are aligned with NGSS teaching standards.

SERC Staff can help you customize a teacher PD experience for a half-day or 1-2 day experience. We serve K-12 teachers, with an emphasis on 5th-8th. Programs are onsite but can be adapted for virtual. Each PD also can be accompanied by a field trip to SERC. Please note that program availability, and activities, may vary by season. Most require walking and standing, but please let us know if you need accommodations.


Data Literacy
Suggested for 2 days onsite, up to 20 teachers.
We have two unique datasets from SERC scientists available to teachers and students, one using GoPro images of reefs of the Chesapeake Bay and one using video footage of river otter and raccoon interactions caught on trail cameras. We’ll walk teachers through the datasets, how to ask good questions, what makes a reasonable study, the types of data to collect, and how to analyze data. Hands-on activities include seining and sorting through benthic oyster organisms or microscopy of river otter scat and learning how to use trail cameras for the classroom. We can customize your experience.

How to Teach Outdoors
Suggested for 1 or 2 days onsite, up to 20 teachers.
This PD focuses on helping teachers feel more comfortable leading outdoor programs for students, focusing on science. We will cover topics such as preparing to use the outdoors as a classroom, setting up outdoor spaces, leading a successful and safe trip, and conducting a biodiversity survey such as a bioblitz or “Life in One Square Foot” activity at your school or in your community. This can be combined with data literacy components, as well.

Teaching Climate Change Using Trees and Leaves
Suggested for 2 days but can be done in 1, up to 15 teachers.
We’ll start with the basics of climate change, and where to find climate data to use in the classroom. We’ll then talk about the relationship between climate and trees. We’ll practice hands-on techniques such as stomatal peels and predicting the climate in your schoolyard using leaf margins and edges. If there is time, we’ll also introduce an online or in-person activity for students using fossil leaves and predicting prehistoric climates.

Bay Science Immersion
Suggested for 1 day but could be done in 2, up to 20 teachers.
Let’s get into the water and hands dirty to learn! We’ll have you put on chest waders to do a nearshore sampling of fish like our Fisheries Conservation scientists, sort through oysters for mud crabs like our Marine Invasions scientists, use microscopes to look at plankton and epibenthic organisms, and take a marsh hike to explore SERC’s marsh science. If there is time, we will also go through our Oyster Habitat dataset, and how to use this in the classroom. We can also add activities, such as a hands-on activity about ecology and biology of blue crabs (with live blue crabs!) or an introduction to river otters of the Bay and microscopy of their scat.

Half-day Science Kit Training (using household objects)
These trainings are based on our Science to Go series of kits, made to be done with students either in the classroom or at home. We have videos (Spanish and English), how-to instructions, and a materials list. All materials are common household items you can gather easily. Kits are not provided, but we’ll do full demonstrations of each activity. These trainings can be virtual or in-person. Suggested for 3rd-6th grade.

  • Environmental DNA (eDNA), how scientists use it, and how to extract DNA from plant matter (applesauce) in your classroom.
  • Fungus and Plants, we’ll explore why mycorrhizal fungus is important, and the relationships of plants to fungus. Students will dissect a mushroom gill and fill a balloon with gasses from fermentation caused by yeast. We also have over 25 Orchid-gami foldable orchid templates students can do in conjunction with this activity.

Virtual Options
For each of the activities listed above there are virtual options available, please ask.


  • Onsite Programs at SERC: Flat rate of $100/hour, for half hours round up; up to 20 teachers. Ask if you have larger groups.
  • Virtual Programs: Flat rate of $75/hour, up to 30 students. Ask if you have larger groups.

Each full day is from 10:00am-2:30pm, but we can discuss if you need a modified schedule.
Our address is 647 Contees Wharf Rd. Edgewater, MD 21037.

For more information, please contact Karen McDonald ( at (443) 482-2216.