NCSE Teacher Ambassador Spotlight: Jeff Grant and a Climate of H.O.P.E

One of the best parts about working for the National Center for Science Education Supporting Teachers program is that our team gets to engage with master teachers nationwide. NCSE Science Education Specialist Blake Touchet and I recently traveled to Downers Grove, a suburb near Chicago, IL, to see one of our NCSE Teacher Ambassadors, Jeff Grant, in action.

Over the past five years, Grant has been an integral part of our program despite unexpected pivots like the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous curriculum redirections, and a new executive director. He has helped develop lessons, design activities, and contribute artistically by providing numerous sketches that were incorporated into our lesson sets. One of my favorite examples of his contributions is the video below, where Jeff passionately explains the power of NCSE’s lessons in the classroom.

During his time with NCSE, Grant has attended several leadership retreats hosted by the Supporting Teachers education team, traveled to speaking engagements that highlight NCSE, led NCSE-sponsored workshops at various state and national conferences, and served as a mentor during our two-year curriculum field study examining the effectiveness of our lessons in the classroom. Using many skills he gained during these opportunities, Grant recently organized and led a major two-day science event on March 1-2, 2024, in Illinois titled Climate of H.O.P.E (How Our Planet Evolves).

The event, developed in conjunction with NCSE and the Ice Drilling Program, was held at Grant’s high school, Downers Grove North, and brought together over 400 Chicago-area science teachers to explore the intersection of climate science, evolution, and inquiry. Teachers earned professional development credits while learning about authentic data and methods for studying climate science and solutions from scientists from around the country, including the Chicago Field Museum, the Fermi Lab, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s (NOAA) Education team, and many others. The goal was for these teachers to bring this expertise back to their students to share a message of urgency and hope in their classrooms.

I think one of the main reasons I wanted to be part of the development of this conference is because I noticed a disconcerting lack of professional development put together by teachers for teachers – especially PD focused specifically on science education. With the amazing help from NCSE and the Ice Drilling Program, we created a conference that was the first of its kind in the Chicago-land region. It was clear that the conference provided hope for our future and resources for teachers to implement changes in their own classrooms. It also gave me hope that we can possibly turn the tide on climate change.

NCSE Teacher Ambassador Jeff Grant

NCSE had a large presence at the Climate of H.O.P.E. conference. In addition to Grant coordinating the speakers, guests, and sessions, NCSE Executive Director Amanda L. Townley was a keynote speaker during the first day of the event. Science Education Specialist Blake Touchet and I also led two breakout sessions with the help of Grant and another Illinois-area Teacher Ambassador, Tom Foss. One session featured the scientifically correlated relationship between extreme weather events and climate change, while the second session focused on human evolution using 3D-printed skulls for participants to draw conclusions about the similarities and differences of hominids on the human family tree. The NCSE team also hosted a booth during an interactive lunch in which attendees learned about the different programs, supports, and resources provided by NCSE to assist teachers in teaching sound science in the classroom.

The following day, NCSE hosted a special half-day climate change workshop that focused on climate solutions and mitigation strategies. The workshop, titled Resolving Misconceptions in Climate Change, gave teachers tools and resources to help their students consider possibilities and maintain hope for the planet’s future. Additionally, we unveiled our Climate Change Story Short lessons for the first time. These short lessons complete with storylines, offer teachers an accessible, “choose your own adventure” way to meet the demands of the Next Generation Science Standards while still being flexible enough to allow teachers to fine-tune the activities to fit the needs of their specific time constraints and student interests.

The central theme of the Climate Change Story Short featured was Sustainable Climate Solutions, which uses the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals as a lens to learn about both the far-reaching, interconnected impacts of climate change as well as potential solutions that can be used to achieve net zero carbon emissions. Optional “NCSE Side Quests” allow students to explore the causes of climate change and methods of dealing with climate anxiety. Another Side Quest will enable students to use NCSE’s new DataWISE tool to evaluate data-based claims and sources. Almost 30 teachers signed up to attend the workshop. Along with NCSE staff, Grant and Foss participated as team leaders during the workshop.

NCSE Teacher Ambassadors are making a difference. Jeff Grant goes above and beyond in his classroom every day, but he also goes above and beyond as a teacher leader.

As director of the Supporting Teachers program, I’d like to express my sincere gratitude to Teacher Ambassador Jeff Grant for his hard work and dedication. Your involvement with NCSE has only strengthened our program. We appreciate you and everything you do!

Note: Special thanks to Blake Touchet for his feedback and contributions to this article.

NCSE Director of Teacher Support Lin Andrews
Short Bio

Lin Andrews is NCSE Director of Eduation.