Statewide math, science conference to be held in Juneau for first time

Organizers expect more than 700 participants; noted astronomer and other scientists to speak

Posted: Sunday, October 11, 2009

During a district-wide inservice this week, local teachers will have a chance to expand their horizons on the math and science forefront during a statewide conference that will be held in Southeast Alaska for the first time.

"It's really an opportunity to have a conference come to your doorstep instead of you having to spend the money and go to the conference," said Linda Frame, Science co-chair of the event.

Hosted by the Alaska Science Teachers Association and the Alaska Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the sixth Alaska Statewide Math and Science Conference will take place Wednesday through Saturday at varying locations, mainly Juneau-Douglas High School and the Baranof Hotel.

The theme, "Inquiry: Bridge to Understanding," was created to support investigative learning.

"We strongly feel that by letting kids do the investigation and do hands-on application type things in math and science is a much better way to learn," said Bev Smith, Math co-chair of the event. "We really want to roll out the red carpet."

Frame, who works as the Juneau School District's instructional services coordinator, said although the conference is open to all teachers, it is particularly applicable to elementary teachers, because they "teach everything."

"But there's a lot available, a lot to be learned by everyone," she said.

With three keynote speakers, nine guest speakers and a mix of local presenters, the conference will include more than 160 break-out sessions, presentations and even field trips geared toward broadening teachers' understanding of the math and sciences.

Smith expects close to 700 attendees.

"It's a much bigger base that we've had in Anchorage or Fairbanks, but here we already have 300 registered from outside the city alone," she said.

Because this was a first for Southeast, Frame and Smith wanted to kick it off with a public event that would help engage the community. So, because the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has dubbed this year as the "Year of Astronomy," Frame and Smith felt it fitting to invite noted astronomer Dr. Stephen Maran to speak during the conference kick-off at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Juneau-Douglas High School auditorium.

"He's really fun and just has a sparkly personality," Frame said of Maran. "He's really engaging and has a fun way of looking at what's out in the universe and communicating that back out."

Moran's lecture, "Galileo to Hubble and Beyond," is open to the public and will be followed by a dessert reception for conference participants. Two other keynote speakers include neuroscientist Ken Wesson, of San Jose, Calif., and oceanographer David Gallo, from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts.

"(Wesson) is able to talk about brain function and the application to classroom practice in a way that's really down-to-earth and very understandable," Frame said. "He helps you take a real look at what you're doing on a daily basis."

Frame also is excited that the president, executive director and a program director from the National Science Teachers Association will be in attendance.

"The NSTA is going to be here leading some conversations on professional development and science, which is a really great thing," she said.

All said and done, Frame hopes teachers and other participants come away from the conference "energized, with a renewed sense of instruction."

"I hope that from this conference they come away knowing how to identify what students think and how to help get students to learn at a higher level," Frame said. "(I hope we can) really turn them on to learning so that they can turn their students on to that learning piece."

• Contact Neighbors editor Kim Andree at 523-2272 or

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