Professional Development

Teachers on the Blue Heron

Teachers are students too! Great Lakes Aquarium is a classroom, a laboratory, a thinking space, and a portal to the natural world.

Check out the Teacher Resource Center for activities and resources from past workshops and events.

Science Institute for Educators

We offer workshops and field experiences that can connect directly to your work. From Lake Superior Food Webs 101 to using inquiry in the classroom to taking students into the field, our staff and network of collaborators provide educators from both formal and non-formal settings the opportunity to dig in and enhance their understanding.

The next SIE workshop season begins in September 2016; descriptions, dates and presenter listings are preliminary and subject to change.  

Science Institute: Tuesday Series

Monthly Workshop

Join us for a monthly, 2-hour weekday edition of professional development focused on Next Generation Science Standards to bring active learning to your students. Each month we will dive into a different topic, demonstrate a full lesson, and explore the science behind it:

  • Participate in the inquiry-based standards-aligned lesson
  • Access free teaching kits, equipment, and materials that can be checked out from our Teacher Resource Center.
  • Network with local educators
  • Earn up to 2 CEUs per session

Dates: The last Tuesday of the month October through February (Oct. 25, Nov. 29, Dec 20, Jan 31, Feb 28).

Time: 4:00-6:00 pm

Cost: Free!

Registration will open in September.

Contact Samantha Smingler at (218) 740-2027 or with any questions.


SciGirls Presents:

SciGirls STEM Professional Training at Great Lakes Aquarium

October 15, 9am – 4pm

SciGirls is an Emmy-award winning PBS KIDS television series and website dedicated to changing the way millions of girls think about STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Local educators are invited to participate in a hands-on, minds-on Professional Development Training facilitated by Lauren Borer (Twin Cities Environmental Education Consulting, LLC) and hosted by the Great Lakes Aquarium. We welcome you to practice proven strategies for engaging girls in STEM while participating in hands-on STEM activities!

Participants attending this workshop will:

  • Learn the latest research for exciting and engaging girls (and boys!) in STEM
  • Experience hands-on STEM activities
  • Leave with curriculum that puts a creative twist on teaching STEM.
  • Learn how to modify activities to engage students in STEM using the SciGirls Seven
  • Discover additional online resources that enhance teaching and learning experiences for all kids.

7 CEUs available

Cost: Free (please plan to bring your own lunch)

Register through the SciGirls website.

Teaching with Lake Superior Conference: Integrating STEM.

November 12, 9am – 4pm

This full day conference is designed to offer sessions for pre-K – 12th grade educators in formal and non-formal settings.  The focus for the November conference will be on integrating science, technology, engineering, and math into real world problem solving with a local flare.  We again look forward to hosting a variety of local expert scientist and educators to share their best practices and tools for engaging students in STEM. Sessions include:

  • Minnesota Zoo – Engineering by Animals, Engineering From Animals, and Engineering For Animals
  • SciGirls: (an Emmy-award winning PBS KIDS television series dedicated to changing the way millions of girls think about STEM)
    • Citizen Science (K-5): Phenology and Butterflies
    • Citizen Science (6-12): Clouds and Climate Change, Birds in Minnesota
    • Physical Science (5-12): Friction and Heat Transfer Challenge in Minnesota Winters
  • Take your Daily Weather Study Outside! (Pre-K and K-5 sessions)
  • Becoming an Environmental Engineer (6-12)
  • UMD Swenson College of Science and Engineering will bring 5 different sides of engineering to life.
  • Great Lakes Aquarium Behind the Scenes Tours: Explore the STEM behind running the Aquarium
  • Computer Programming: computer networking and cyber security; getting your students hooked into technology
  • Food Science: the water chemistry of Lake Superior makes everything better!

6 CEUs available

Cost: $15

Registration will open in September.

Contact Samantha Smingler at (218) 740-2027 or with any questions.


Project WET Training

December 10, 8am – 4pm

Project WET (Water Education for Teachers) is an international, interdisciplinary, water science and education program for formal and non-formal educators of k-12 students. This workshop will train you in using Project WET’s hands-on, interactive lessons that focus on water and encourage critical thinking.  Many of the materials need to use the activities from the Project WET curriculum and many more are available for free check-out from the Great Lakes Aquarium Teacher Resource Center.

Facilitators: Samantha Smingler and Emily Wartman

Cost: $50 (includes new Project WET curriculum guide, coffee, lunch, light snacks, Aquarium admission and parking)

Winter Field Day

January 21, 9am – 4pm

Join us for a day of inquiry that you can replicate in your school yard to connect learners with the abundance of life in winter. Field day experience will connect you with local scientific research and provide engaging place-based lessons that incorporate real-time data and reporting focused on Lake Superior and the surrounding watershed. We will spend time inside and outside this day, so please plan to dress in layers.

Topics and details coming soon!

Cost: $15 reserves your spot and includes: Aquarium admission, parking, coffee and light snacks. Please plan to bring your own lunch. Scholarships are available; contact Samantha Smingler at (218) 740.2027 of ssmingler for more information.

Teaching with Lake Superior Conference: What’s in the News?!

February 11, 9am – 4pm

This full day conference is designed to offer sessions for pre-K – 12th grade educators in formal and non-formal settings.  During our February conference we want to help you turn stories from the news and questions from students into meaningful teaching moments. Sessions will include:

  • Will we Have a Snow Day? Join a meteorologist from the National Weather Service to understand the science behind lake effect and snow.
  • How Does Solar Power Work? Join experts from MN Power to discover what’s new in the world of renewable energy and how it works.
  • What Kind of Rock is This? Meet a geologist from the University of Wisconsin – Superior to uncover the unique geology of the Lake Superior region.
  • Why do Forest Fires Happen? What Happens to the Animals that Live There? Experts from the US Forest Service will help you answer these questions and many more.
  • More topics and presenters to be listed soon!

6 CEUs available

Cost: $15 (includes Aquarium admission, parking, coffee and snacks). Scholarships are available, please contact Samantha Smingler at (218) 740.2027 of ssmingler for more information.

Registration opens in September.


NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration presents:

Deep Sea Discoveries

March 18, time to be determined

NOAA’s Ocean Exploration and Research office will share their newest curriculum to help you make oceanic research come alive!

Details and registration instructions forthcoming.