Science on the Grand

$200 per person

Download and share our Science on the Grand 2022 flyer!



Sessions and Presenters



Van Andel Institute for Education (VAI) honors the person and the profession!

We know teachers have the most important job in the world; that’s why we support the whole teacher. This conference was designed by experts and current classroom teachers to provide research-based, classroom-tested, and inquiry-oriented content that supports your classroom expectations, your content standards, and you as a person.

Join us in creating a classroom culture that supports STEAM instruction while also nurturing your own curiosity for personal growth and enjoyment. And during some very challenging times, you’ll see that you’re not alone with many networking opportunities for you to engage with other teachers by grade level and content area.

Because teachers deserve it!

  • Establish a classroom culture to support STEAM instruction
  • Explore standards-aligned lessons by grade level with STEAM integration
  • Network with like-minded educators in your grade and interest area
  • Nurture your own curiosity and personal growth
  • Celebrate the amazing work you do!

Registration includes:

  • Two days of inspiration, exploration, and practical takeaways
  • Opportunities to network with like-minded teachers
  • Breakfast, lunch, and VIP treatment—because YOU deserve it!

Bring a friend and share the experience! Plus, administrators can attend FREE!*

* With the paid registration of a staff member, an administrator from the same building may attend for free. To receive the free administrator offer, administrators must register by phone with the name of a paid registrant. Call 616-234-5528.

Please note: At this time, proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test is needed to attend this event.

Two days, two great keynotes!

Monday, July 11, 2022

Erin Gruwell
Educator & Catalyst for Social Change and New York Times Best-Selling Author of The Freedom Writers Diary

Keynote: Becoming a Catalyst for Change
Erin Gruwell helped 150 of her students—many of whom were written off by the education system—to use the power of education to write a book, graduate from high school and attend college. In her inspiring presentation, Gruwell tells the story of this extraordinary journey—from poverty and despair to hope and promise—with stops at Anne Frank’s House and Auschwitz and then on to Capitol Hill and Congress. She challenged her students to overcome the seemingly insurmountable problems of poverty, racism, and violence. Encouraging tolerance, respect, and cooperation, Gruwell teaches us all how we can become role models and “Catalysts for Change.”

About Erin Gruwell
Erin Gruwell is a teacher, an author, and the founder of the Freedom Writers Foundation. By fostering an educational philosophy that values and promotes diversity, Erin transformed her students’ lives. She encouraged them to re-think rigid beliefs about themselves and others, reconsider daily decisions, and ultimately re-chart their futures. Erin and her students captured their collective journey in The Freedom Writers Diary. Erin founded the Freedom Writers Foundation where she currently teaches educators around the world how to implement her innovative lesson plans into their own classrooms. She created the Freedom Writers Methodology, a progressive teaching philosophy and curricula designed to achieve excellence from all students. Erin continues to fight for equality in education and inspires teachers and students all over the world with her work.

For more information on Erin Gruwell, go to

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Matt Steensma, M.D.
Associate Professor, Skeletal Disease and Cancer Therapeutics

Keynote: Orthopaedics and Future Scientists
Join Dr. Matt Steensma—surgeon and scientific investigator in the Center for Skeletal Disease and Cancer Therapeutics at Van Andel Institute for Research—as he shares scientific insight around the surgical treatment of primary and metastatic tumors of the musculoskeletal system. Learn about the unique sub-specialty of orthopaedic oncology and the work being done to improve the lives of patients with bone, muscle, fat and nerve tumors. In this program, Dr. Steensma will also bring a scientific perspective on how educators can influence and inspire the next generation of scientists. Educators will gain insight into what it’s actually like to “think and act like a scientist.”

About Matt Steensma, M.D.
Dr. Matthew Steensma is one of the world’s leading orthopaedic experts in the study of surgical management of musculoskeletal tumors. Dr. Steensma is a graduate of the musculoskeletal surgical oncology fellowship at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. He is a surgeon-scientist with an interest in sarcoma biology and has faculty appointments with Van Andel Institute for Research and Michigan State University School of Human Medicine. In 2014, Dr. Steensma was named as one of the winners of the inaugural Francis S. Collins Scholars Program in Neurofibromatosis Clinical and Translational Research.

For more information on Dr. Matt Steensma, go to

Monday, July 11, 2022:

9:30 – 10:30 AM:

STEAM Like a PIRATE (Grade Level K–5)
Presenter: Paul Solarz
Set sail on a grand STEAM adventure in this session where participants learn how to make their teaching memorable, meaningful, and fun! Teachers will discover how to implement STEAM units & activities in a student-centered classroom that focuses on the six tenets of “Learn Like a PIRATE”. Examples from 4th and 5th grade will be provided.

Do You Want to Build a Snowman? Using Pop Culture to Increase Student Interest (Grade Level 6–8)
Presenter: Jeanine Wilson
Discover how to create engaging lesson plans with a pop culture twist! In this session, we’ll draw inspiration from movies, cartoons, and games to enhance existing lessons that meet your learning standards and content needs. Bring your science plan with you and leave with strategies to help your students excel!

Soil with Soul: Place-Based Learning in HS Science Education (Grade Level 9–12)
Presenter: Emily Umbarger
There is no better way to learn about the world around us than by actively engaging with our natural environment. Learn how students in one Agricultural Science class used the newly created, grant-funded, RB Annis Botanical Laboratory and community garden to explore regenerative agriculture. This session will demonstrate how students can dig deep, learn about soil, and so much more!

Two Keys to Student Engagement: Credibility and Relatedness (Grade Level K–12)
Presenter: Peter Grostic
Working to engage students is a career-long project for educators, but what if there was a way to make it a little easier? Join us as we learn about the two keys to student engagement and receive practical strategies that you can start implementing tomorrow!

10:45 – 11:45 AM:

Blended Learning: Incorporating Technology Into the Modern Day Classroom (Grade Level K–5)
Presenter: Betsy Weston
Do you struggle with incorporating technology into your everyday classroom? If so, this session is the one for you! Based on the four blended-learning models identified by The Christensen Institute, this session will help you find practical ways of providing students with meaningful AND engaging experiences using technology.

Building Engineering into your Curriculum! (Grade Level 6–8)
Presenters: Jon Oosterman and Randy Schregardus
Engineering can feel like a separate unit or idea you have to teach. But did you know engineering can help you engage your students, differentiate instruction, nurture scientific skills, all while integrating seamlessly into your current instruction? In this interactive session, you will explore a research-based engineering model that integrates a process of engineering design with a rich learning environment while nurturing scientific habits of mind. Be ready to think creatively and critically as you get hands-on with an engineering design challenge and leave with practical strategies and resources that work for you! Are you up for the challenge?

Water, Water, Everywhere, Nor Any Drop to Drink (Grade Level 9–12)
Presenter: Gregory Dykhouse
Can our students provide solutions to global challenges? In this session, we’ll explore how teachers and students can work together to understand the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. Participants will brainstorm ways to build connections between classrooms and the greater community. Then, they’ll consider ways to encourage student interest in public policy, and devise strategies for building a better, more confident classroom.

Science IN the Grand: Linking Biology, Chemistry, and Environmental Science to Real-World Learning (Grade Level K–12)
Presenters: Joseph Phillips & Eileen Boekestein
Looking to inspire students into becoming citizen scientists? In this session, we’ll discuss how to use free resources to gather data on local streams and watersheds and even upload these results for analysis by others. You’ll walk away with the knowledge to link chemistry and biology to student’s real-world learning!

1:00 – 2:00 PM:

Make It Matter: Using PBL to Make Learning Memorable, Meaningful, and Fun! (Grade Level K–5)
Presenter: Paul Solarz
Curious about how PBL might work in your classroom? Or, looking for some pro tips on how to up the PBL game with your students? You won’t want to miss this session! Get practical and engaging strategies through the lens of two different PBL units designed to put students at the center of their learning — all while making the world a better place.

STEM-gagement: Leveraging the Power of STEM in ANY Subject! (Grade Level 6–8)
Presenters: Jamie MacPherson & Ben Talsma
Teachers and students love STEM because of its power to engage students in hands-on, inquiry-based learning. In this session, you’ll discover practical, teacher-tested tips for using STEM principles to deepen student engagement in math, ELA, and social studies across the entire curriculum! Come ready for adventure, and leave with a basketful of ideas you’ll be excited to implement with your students.

Make it Phenomenal! (Grade Level 9–12)
Presenter: Sharifa Ned
Ready to let your students drive the lesson? Learn how you can use natural learning connections to help students own their learning. Join this session and be ready to teach phenomenonally with phenomenon!

What Were They Thinking! Strategies to Boost Student’s Critical and Creative Thinking Skills (Grade Level K–12)
Presenter: Terra Tarango
Unleash the creative problem-solver and the critical thinker in each of your students. Explore strategies that can be applied within the context of a lesson to deepen student understanding. Then discover activities that can be done at any time to enrich a thinking culture in the classroom. Leave with strategies and resources to use in your classroom right away.

2:15 – 3:15 PM:

STEAM for ALL Language Learners (Grade Level K–5)
Presenter: Michael Blayle
Have you ever wanted to learn how 3D design/printing and STEAM activities can empower students in the realm of language? In this session, we’ll cover how to model and apply both web-based and hands-on activities in a way that benefits language students of all levels. It’ll be the perfect stop for all things linguistic!

Middle School Engineering & Computer Science (Grade Level 6–8)
Presenter: Jeff Spisak
Uncover the joy of teaching Engineering and Computer Science to middle school students. Expose yourself to strategies with hands-on experience building and coding. Find out how to build simple and complex machines with VEX and how to code with ROBOTC and VEX Virtual Reality. Additionally, expand your teaching toolbox with ways to implement Microsoft micro:bit hardware and software into your classroom.

3D Modeling for the Life Sciences (Grade Level 9–12)
Presenter: Corey Kapolka
In this session, participants will learn how consumer-grade filament and resin 3D printers can be used to produce low-cost, high-quality models for Life Science classes. Browse through your choice of subjects including anatomical structures, proteins, and molecular models, as well as the processes for DNA translation and antibody-antigens.

Rest: Wonderful and Relational (Grade Level K–12)
Presenter: Graham Schultze
The last few years have been a wild ride for educators, and prioritizing weekly rest is now more important than ever. But how do we make time for ourselves in the midst of so many new challenges? And how do we strike a work-life balance that is both beneficial to our personal health and professional success? Join an important discussion and brainstorming session on how to build rest into our schedule in a way that enhances instruction and positively impacts our relationship with students.

Curiosity Hour 3:30 – 4:30 PM:

Van Andel Institute for Research Tour
Presenters: Marie Adams, Ph.D. & Rachael Sheridan, Ph.D
Ever wonder what a scientist does throughout their day? Are you interested in sharing those experiences with your students? Discover the ins and outs of life for a biomedical research scientist as you explore the inner workings of VARI, a research facility committed to determining the epigenetic, genetic, molecular, and cellular origins of cancer, Parkinson’s, and other diseases and translating those findings into effective therapies.

Exploring Grand Rapids: A STEAM Walk-About
Presenters: Jon Oosterman & Randy Schregardus
Bring your walking shoes to discover evidence of STEAM all around you with a downtown stroll of Grand Rapids. We’ll take you on an insider’s tour of downtown Grand Rapids’ hot spots.

Doodle Does It
Presenter: Terra Tarango
Whether you’re wanting to create a stunning piece of artwork or just give your mind a meditative rest, doodling just might be your new best friend. In this session, I’ll walk you through a simple process for creating doodle art. You can create a simple abstract or an intricate depiction of your favorite subject matter, the choice is yours. All skill levels welcome—really, EVERYONE can do it!

Tuesday, July 12, 2022:

9:30 – 10:30 AM:

Making Progress through the Pandemic: Using Real-Life Experiences to Reignite Learning (Grade Level K–5)
Presenter: Jean Maala
Need help navigating the shifting world of post-pandemic teaching? Join us for a session where we explore ways to create realistic learning experiences and foster student growth after years of virtual-only lessons. Explore fun and valuable insight into the future of education!

ROVe the Great Lakes (Grade Level 6–8)
Presenter: Joy Argones
Dive into the science and history of the Great Lakes! Your middle school students can experience the engineering process, learn about maritime history, and participate in underwater exploration all while designing and testing their own Remotely Operated Vehicles. Join us to learn how you can bring this ROV adventure to your own classroom and help protect our Great lakes.

Reflectional Assessment Strategies (Grade Level 9–12)
Presenters: Laura Foreback, Dave Piggott and Fred Hingst
This session will explore options for both formative and summative assessment in an inquiry-based secondary science classroom. High school science teachers will share their experiences with alternative models for assessment, including self and peer evaluation and standards-based assessments.

Leveraging Technology to Capture Student Thinking Processes (Grade Level K–12)
Presenter: Peter Grostic
In this session, participants will learn how technology can support student thinking and showcase the process of learning. This session will showcase technology tools that help students both organize their thinking (Jamboard and Google Drawing) and present their processes of thinking (Google Sites and Recording Tools). Where applicable, participants will leave with templates they can use right away.

10:45 – 11:45 AM:

Elementary Engineering: Using Environmental Issues to Teach Engineering Concepts (Grade Level K–5)
Presenter: Sara Syswerda
In this session, elementary teachers will think about how they can use local environmental issues as a catalyst to teach science content and engineering practices. Work through case studies of environmental engineering problems that align with the Michigan Science Standards and begin your plans for protecting the planet!

Inquiry and Enrichment at the Zoo…or In Your Own Classroom! (Grade Level 6–8)
Presenter: Chloe Becker
Discover how the John Ball Zoo keeps their animals physically and mentally active throughout the week. Participants will see how regular enrichment can encourage natural behaviors like swimming, climbing, and problem-solving. We’ll also showcase how animals respond through live animal demos paired with exciting pictures and videos.

Student-Driven PBL (Grade Level 9–12)
Presenter: Zach Ripley
During this session, participants will explore problem-based learning approaches to grow student ownership and creative problem-solving. Strategies will focus on students driving ideas and generating and sharing problems. These include using collaborative tools like Flipgrid and Google Slides/Jamboard for students to share and solve problems. Participants can expect an interactive session responsive to their teaching contexts.

The Science of Self-Discovery: Teaching Students Inquiry Skills in the Context of SEL (Grade Level K–12)
Presenter: Monica Hong-Steigner
SEL involves students engaging in science-driven metacognition. By opening their behavior and drives up to scientific inquiry, students can perceive metacognition as an integral part of their learning. Learn about the concept of metacognition within the context of SEL and explore effective tools and strategies educators can implement in the classroom.

1:00 – 2:00 PM:

Differentiate with Digital Choice Boards (Grade Level K–5)
Presenter: Wendy Bockstahler
Choice is a very powerful motivator. Using Universal Design for Learning, join us in learning about and creating choice boards to differentiate instruction and actively engage students in selecting an activity which displays their understanding of the content. This is one fun session you won’t want to miss!

Techtonic Shifts: Jumping into the EdTech World (Grade Level 6–8)
Presenter: Jeanine Wilson
Many of us aren’t tech savvy, but that doesn’t mean we can’t shift our teaching just a bit to incorporate easy to use EdTech tools! Students enjoy using technology to show learning and you can too! Join us for a collaborative session where we take on the basics of tech learning and how we can explore new tools alongside our students.

Make It Matter: Using PBL to Make Learning Memorable, Meaningful, and Fun! (Grade Level 9–12)
Presenter: Carl VanFaasen
In traditional Chemistry, lab experiences are shared with students after the concept has already been taught. A technique which simply confirms the concept they already knew. By employing the QPOEE Habit of Mind, flip a few traditional labs and use them as an exciting introduction to a new concept. Explore the concepts of Kinetics, Thermodyamics, and many more!

Argument Strategies in the Science Classroom (Grade Level K–12)
Presenter: Zach Ripley
Foster logic and rhetoric in your STEM lessons. Participants will explore strategies to engage students in collaborative debates and inquiry-focused arguments. Strategies will include Dave Stuart Jr.’s Pop-Up Debate, the Bracket Challenge, and more. The session will include adaptations for all grade levels.

2:15 – 3:15 PM:

STEAM It Up! Engage Your Students through Science and Engineering, and So Much More (Grade Level K–5)
Presenter: Shayla Fountain
Come collaborate with fellow educators over the latest hands-on project-based STEAM learning! This presentation will challenge attendees to think outside the box as they learn how to effectively implement objective-based teaching with their students. There will also be a demonstration on how to create content language objectives with elementary standards to engage students within an enriching learning environment.

Building Community through PBL (Grade Level 6–8)
Presenter: Grace Kelley
Building classroom community is one of the most important ways to engage students and encourage life-long learning. Join us as we learn how to incorporate project-based learning strategies and social-emotional lessons to build a lasting connection among students of all ages.

Girl Power: Powerful Ways to Motivate Girls in STEM (Grade Level 9–12)
Presenter: Dawn McCotter & Erin Williams, Ph.D
Although there have been strides to reduce the STEM gender gap over the last 50 years, progress has been slow, with women making up only 28% of the STEM workforce. Recent career assessments have found that female high school juniors and seniors have remarkably higher aptitude for STEM careers than interest in their pursuit. How do we boost their interest to mirror their aptitude? In this session, we will share practical strategies and ideas to inspire and empower our future female scientists, engineers, and mathematicians to make their mark in these much needed fields.

Say Goodbye to Teacher Burnout (Grade Level K–12)
Presenter: Juliann Frangella
Right now educators are struggling. The teacher shortage in the US is at an alarming low, and many of us are stressed and burnt out. However, we cannot help others until we first take time to help ourselves! This presentation will focus on teacher trauma and how to help ourselves be well. Take this opportunity to stop, rest, and recharge!

Bring a friend and share the experience! Plus, administrators can attend FREE!+

Registration includes…

  • Two days of inspiration, exploration, and practical take aways.
  • Opportunities to network with like-minded teachers.
  • Breakfast, lunch, and VIP treatment—because YOU deserve it!

Individual Tuition

  • $100 per person until May 15, 2022
  • $200 per person from May 16 – July 12, 2022

All prices per person. Registrations cannot be shared.

+With the paid registration of a staff member, an administrator from the same building/district may attend for FREE. Free administrator registrations are nontransferable. To receive the free administrator offer, administrators must register by phone with name of paid registrant. Call 616.234.5528.

Convince Your Administrator
Need help convincing your administrator? Use this sample Admin Request Letter that highlights all the great reasons you should attend Science on the Grand!

When & Where

Monday, July 11 – Tuesday, July 12, 2022
7:30 AM–3:30 pm

Van Andel Institute Campus
333 Bostwick Ave. NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

*Parking will be validated.

Discounted Hotels:

Homewood Suites

  • $159/night
  • To reserve a room, call (616) 451-2300 and mention Van Andel Institute for the discount or reserve online
  • Rooms available until 6/6/2022

Hyatt Place

  • $149/night
  • Call 800-233-1234 and mention the Van Andel Institute group code
  • Rooms available until 6/13/2022

Highlights from Science on the Grand 2019:
Dr. Andrew Pospisilik’s Keynote Address: