Graham Sustainability Institute

Creating an Alliance of Scientists and Educators in Virginia

Project Photo


This project addressed two barriers to the advancement of public understanding of science. First, there is a need for more K-12 teaching resources and professional development designed to help teachers demonstrate scientific research practices and teach critical thinking skills. Second, while the best source of authentic, current, and topical research is scientists themselves, research scientists are not often trained to communicate their science to a broad audience. This project sought to address these challenges by the following:

  • Enhancing K-12 science curricula by providing teachers with resources that offer authentic examples of the research process and how science is applied to solve problems.
  • Enhancing graduate students’ science communication skills by providing formal training and an opportunity to translate their research into activities for secondary classrooms.


The Virginia Scientists and Educators Alliance project successfully supported the transfer of graduate student science to K-12 educators in Virginia, bolstering graduate students’ communication skills and the educational resources available to teachers.

  • Graduate students cited improved outreach and communication skills and lesson plan development as benefits of their involvement in the project, and believed the lesson plans would be useful to them in future endeavors.
  • Ninety-eight percent of educators found the alliance’s Lesson Plan Expo, held in April 2017, to be a valuable experience, noting effective communication by graduate students and the usefulness of having access to lesson plans developed directly from current scientific research. Seventy-five percent of educators said they would use four or more lesson plans in their classrooms.
  • Project staff, students, and teachers have shared Virginia Scientists and Educators Alliance lesson plans in a variety of other ways, including at professional conferences, teacher training workshops, and community outreach programs. This has allowed the program to reach a much wider audience than the initial 55 teachers who attended the Lesson Plan Expo—an unanticipated benefit of the project.


Fifteen environmental and marine science lesson plans for K-12 students, created by the Virginia Scientists and Educators Alliance, were published online and are publicly available for educators

Project lead and contact

Sarah Nuss, Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Virginia, Email:

To learn more, view the project factsheet (PDF).