Daniella Duran, a Valencia High School chemistry and honors nanoscience teacher, was one of 40 teachers to attend EinsteinPlus, a one-week intensive workshop focused on modern physics.
The annual program brings together participants from across Canada and around the world to study the latest developments in physics from expert researchers, take lab tours and learn more about concepts like special relativity and cosmology.
“It all was so fantastic,” Duran said. “The biggest part of it was that it was an international program and that’s what I liked the most, you got to hear what science was like from all around the world.”
From July 9 to July 15, teachers from countries like Canada, the U.S., South Africa and the Netherlands worked together at the world’s largest theoretical physical hub, the Perimeter Institute, in Waterloo, Ontario.
They focused on creative approaches to teaching challenging physics concepts and learned about topics like black holes, gravitational waves, quantum computing, dark matter, Planck’s constant and more.
“They brought in some of their professors to speak to us so we got an idea of what is on the cutting-edge in terms of theoretical physics,” Duran said. “Personally, it was fantastic to see was how many women and young women were involved in being a faculty member there and being a part of the program, which for me is really important so female students know they can work in these fields.”
Duran first learned about the summer session through her work as a teacher facilitator at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) California nanoSystems Institute.
She was selected to attend the program because of her work with nanoscience and was financially supported by the non-profit group, Environmental Resources Advocacy.
From 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day, Duran and her fellow teachers studied theoretical physics and the process of scientific thinking in small groups.
“It was a lot of modeling, processing and emphasizing that importance of working in groups,” Duran said. That was a big, big part because that’s what scientists do and you have to work with each other.”
During EinsteinPlus, teachers also went on field trips to places like the Institute for Quantum Computing and Niagara Falls and received materials to take back to their classrooms.
Duran said the lessons and classroom teaching models she learned during the summer workshop will fit well into both her science courses.
“Right now science is transitioning to the Next Generation Science Standards so a big focus of that is teaching kids to think like real scientists and be authentic in terms of critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration… and that’s what EinsteinPlus is all about,” Duran said.
For Duran, the experience was inspirational and life changing, and something she would recommend to any science teachers around the world.
“It really makes you want to not just love physics again, but also be amazed at the work that our scientists are doing all around the world,” she said. “That it really is a unifying experience to answer the big questions about the world.”
On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_