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FOSS Consultant Highlight: Kristen Moorhead

Diana Vélez, FOSS Professional and Leadership Developer, The Lawrence Hall of Science
September 21, 2016 | Professional Development

[Kristen Moorhead and son]

Kristen enjoys the mountain air in Colorado with her son.

Ever wonder who those awesome people are who show up at your district to share their knowledge, experience, and enthusiasm for teaching FOSS? I caught up with one of those shining stars at a recent meeting for FOSS consultants to find out what makes her special. Kristen Moorhead lives in Mesa, Arizona, and often works with Richard Pacheco, the Delta Education Sales Manager for parts of California, Arizona, and Nevada.

Diana: How do you see your role as a FOSS consultant?

Kristen: I want to make sure every teacher feels not just prepared, but excited about teaching FOSS. Many of the elementary teachers we encounter have never taught hands-on science and can be somewhat apprehensive. I've heard responses such as, "These boxes landed in my room and I don't know what to do with them," or "I don't really like teaching science because I'm worried I don't know the answers to the students' questions." It can be challenging, but we find that most teachers are thrilled to roll up their sleeves and dive into inquiry.

Diana: What motivates you to do this type of work?

Kristen: I enjoy the opportunity to think through the science with other teachers. It's great when teachers are able to take the time to be curious, to wonder, and then experience the power of constructing their own understanding. I gained content knowledge through teaching FOSS, and I want others to obtain that same confidence in their own science teaching.

Diana: What challenges do you face?

Kristen: I'm always looking for ways to get teachers to interact with the FOSS program so they understand the richness built into it. For example, I was doing a training on Soils, Rocks, and Landforms, and at the end, a teacher wrote, "I used to think teaching about rocks was boring, now I think it's interesting!" I love when people can see ordinary things (like soil) in a new light.

Diana: Tell me about your background.

Kristen: I've always been involved in science education. I majored in elementary education and then did graduate work with an emphasis in secondary science. After college, I worked for the Peace Corps on the Caribbean island of Dominica. My assignment was to support K–8 teachers doing hands-on science in a one-room schoolhouse. This experience gave me a lot of insights about the interconnectedness of culture and nature. For example, in their agriculture-based society home vegetable and flower gardens are part of the culture, but classroom science experiences were disconnected from this cultural practice. So, I worked with teachers to shift their practices from lecturing about flower structure and function to investigating flower structure and function in the schoolyard.

Diana: Wow! That sounds very challenging. What was your take away from this experience?

Kristen: I learned that in order to support change you have to pursue opportunities to share new ideas. You need to meet people where they are at their comfort level and figure out how to take advantage of the momentum towards change when those sparks of interest are ignited.

Diana: How did you come to be a FOSS consultant?

Kristen: After returning from the Peace Corps, I taught elementary school in Denver, Colorado, and then middle school in the Madison Elementary School District in Phoenix, Arizona. I was determined to do inquiry-based science with my students, so I pulled from different resources to make it happen. When the opportunity to pilot the FOSS Mixtures and Solutions Module came my way, I knew immediately that this is what I wanted to teach. During the training we were told, don't answer the students' questions. Let them discover. And, sure enough they did. When MSD chose to adopt FOSS, I signed up right away to support the implementation process.

Diana: What prepared you to be such an effective professional learning provider?

Kristen: I've had great mentors like Becky Bogert and Brownie Lindner and leadership training from Northern Arizona University's Center for Science Teaching and Learning. I was also inspired by the ideas of Michael Fullan in supporting educators in bringing about change and engagement in deeper learning. My relationship with FOSS grew through my involvement in grant-funded projects that were using FOSS for professional development.

Diana: What does a typical FOSS training assignment look like?

Kristen: It starts with a discussion with Richard Pacheco about the teacher learning needs and context of the district. Then, I have a dialogue with the district contact to understand the district science teaching and learning goals. I use this information to craft teacher learning goals for the district and then refine these goals with the district contact. The last step is to secure a team of FOSS consultants and we collaboratively design the workshop to reach the teacher learning goals.

Diana: What other science professional learning projects are you involved with?

Kristen: I also do independent contracting through Professional Learning Innovations, LLC. Currently, I'm providing science pedagogy professional development through a CAMSP grant with Riverside Unified School District where they are using FOSS to understand how to teach science as envisioned in the Next Generation Science Standards.

Diana: When you're not designing amazing FOSS trainings, what do you enjoy doing?

Kristen: I love being outdoors, spending time with my family. My favorite activities are skiing, scuba diving, and boating.

Kristen is a firm believer in collaboration and regularly forms and participates in study groups to think about ways to engage students in deeper learning. See Kristen's "Top 10 Resources" in our Resource Roundup article.