Jul. 10  —  Jul. 11, 2023

Science on the Grand 2023

Science on the Grand 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!

Download Flyer

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, VIP treatment, and more!
  • Free parking in the GRCC Parking Ramp within walking distance from Van Andel Institute

Individual Tuition

  • Early Bird: $100 per person until May 15, 2023
  • $200 per person from May 16 – July 11, 2023

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 10 – Tuesday, July 11, 2023
7:00 AM–3:30 PM

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

Parking in the GRCC lot will be validated.

Where to Stay:

Hyatt Place Grand Rapids/Downtown (0.4 miles)
Rate: $169/night
Book by Friday, June 9, 2023 to receive special pricing.
Make Reservation or call 1-800-233-1234 (reference Van Andel Institute room block)

Additional Nearby Hotels:

Homewood Suites by Hilton Grand Rapids Downtown (0.4 miles)
City Flats Hotel (0.5 miles)
Amway Grand Plaza (0.6 miles)
JW Marriott (0.6 miles)
Residence Inn by Marriott Grand Rapids Downtown (0.6 miles)
Hampton Inn & Suites Grand Rapids Downtown (0.7 miles)

5 reasons why you should attend Science on the Grand!

1. You will learn SOOOO MUCH.

Spark your curiosity with 32+ sessions dedicated to research-based and classroom-tested STEAM content strategies at every grade level. You’ll walk away with practical ideas you can share with your students this fall. There’s even opportunities to tour Van Andel Institute, take a STEAM walk in downtown Grand Rapids, or unwind with a therapeutic art activity.

2. Two days, two inspiring keynotes.

At Science on the Grand, you’ll start each day with our engaging keynotes. This year’s speakers — Dr. John Spencer and Dr. Stephanie Grainger — will explore what it means to spark curiosity in your classroom, and how to inspire students to be future problem solvers.

3. Network with like-minded educators.

You’ll become part of a community of educators who value STEAM education and authentic learning. The support, idea-sharing, and camaraderie you’ll find is sure to re-energize you and infuse new inspiration into your work.

4. Stay fueled all day long.

We’ll feed you a substantive breakfast, lunch, beverages, and snacks on both days so you’ll be well-fueled throughout the conference. On Monday afternoon, we’ll treat you to a cocktail reception with Van Andel Institute’s exclusive catering company.

5. Experience Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The conference is located in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids’ medical mile, within walking distance of the Grand Rapids Art Museum, Grand Rapids Public Museum, Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, Van Andel Arena, and a vast array of unique restaurants. Frederick Meijer Gardens and John Ball Zoo are also nearby.

Two days, two great keynotes!

Monday, July 10, 2023

Dr. John Spencer, Ed.D
Educator, Thought Leader in Design-Thinking, and Best-Selling Author of Empower

Keynote: The Curious Classroom

Too often students leave school less curious than when they arrived. However, many teachers cultivate a mindset of curiosity. Their classrooms are bastions of creativity and wonder. These teachers empower students to ask questions, seek out information, and design solutions built on empathy. In this keynote, we explore what it means to spark ongoing curiosity through inquiry-based learning.

About John Spencer

Dr. John Spencer is a former middle school teacher and current college professor who is passionate about seeing kids reach their creative potential. John is on a mission to see teachers unleash the creative potential in all of their students so that kids can be makers, designers, artists, and engineers. He regularly explores research, interviews educators, deconstructs systems, and studies real-world examples of design thinking in action. He shares these insights in books, blog posts, journal articles, free resources, animated videos, and podcasts. In Spencer’s second year of teaching, he used design thinking  for our student-centered documentary project. Everything changed. He spent the next decade on a journey to empower my students to become creative thinkers and problem-solvers. This meant mural projects, service learning projects, designing STEM camps, and creating coding projects. He also helped design his school district’s STEM courses and digital journalism course.  Along the way, he helped develop the student-friendly LAUNCH Cycle, a design thinking framework for K-12 students. He is the co-author of the bestselling books Launch and Empower.

For more information on Dr. John Spencer, go to spencerauthor.com.


Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Dr. Stephanie Grainger, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Cell Biology at Van Andel Institute

Keynote: From Fish to Dish: How a Little Fish Can Help Cure Cancer
Can a tiny fish frequently found in kids’ aquariums help us cure cancer? The answer might surprise you. VAI’s Dr. Stephanie Grainger explores how zebrafish help scientists better understand cancer and fuel new insights that one day could lead to powerful new treatments. Dr. Grainger 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 Stephanie Grainger, Ph.D.
Dr. Stephanie Grainger is an authority on the biological underpinnings of how stem cells develop, and how these processes can go awry during cancer. She earned her Ph.D. in Cellular and Molecular Medicine from the University of Ottawa, where she investigated the role of Cdx transcription factors in intestinal development. She then completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the labs of Dr. David Traver and Dr. Karl Willert at University of California, San Diego. Her research during this time sought to understand the role of Wnt signaling in hematopoietic stem cell development — work that she continued as an assistant professor at San Diego State University. During this time, she discovered a novel stage of hematopoietic stem cell development, which is driven by a specific Wnt cue. Furthermore, she discovered a novel mechanism of Wnt signal regulation. In 2021, Dr. Grainger joined Van Andel Institute’s Department of Cell Biology.

For more information on Dr. Stephanie Grainger, go to the Grainger Laboratory.

Our schedule is still in progress. Keep checking back as we continue adding sessions and session descriptions.

Monday, July 10, 2023

7:00 AM - 8:00 AM Breakfast

8:00 AM - 9:00 AM Keynote


The Curious Classroom

Dr. John Spencer, Ed.D

Too often students leave school less curious than when they arrived. However, many teachers cultivate a mindset of curiosity. Their classrooms are bastions of creativity and wonder. These teachers empower students to ask questions, seek out information, and design solutions built on empathy. In this keynote, we explore what it means to spark ongoing curiosity through inquiry-based learning.

9:30 AM - 10:30 AM Sessions


Science Seekers

(Grades K-5)

Stephanie Twombly

Classroom Management with Gen Z/A

(Grades 6-8)

Jordan Angelle

Design Thinking

(Grades K-12)

Dr. John Spencer, Ed.D

10:45 AM – 11:45 AM Sessions


STEM through Literacy

(Grades K-5)

Laura Reinert

Let’s Get Cooking with NGSS-Aligned Science

(Grades 9-12)

Grace Boersma

Learn like a PIRATE

(Grades K-12)

Paul Solarz

11:45 AM – 1:00 PM: Lunch

1:00 PM – 2:00 PM Sessions


STEAM on a Shoestring

(Grades K-5)

Chris Blackstock

ELL in the Science Classroom

(Grades 6-8)

Kevin Knack

PBL in the Science Classroom

(Grades 9-12)

Dan Lubin

2:15 PM – 3:15 PM Sessions


Let’s Get Outside! Increasing Engagement through the Outdoors

(Grades K-5)

Jenna Rykse

Integrating Virtual Reality into Secondary Science Education

(Grades 9-12)

Michael Grieb

Creating Community through Task-Based Learning

(Grades K-12)

Grace Kelley

3:30 PM – 4:30 PM Curiosity Hour


Exploring Grand Rapids: A STEAM Walkabout

Cory Kavanagh
Cory Kavanagh
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.


Van Andel Institute for Research Tour

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.


Torn Paper Collage

Terra Tarango

Learn how to create distinctive images using torn pieces of magazine paper. Choose from sample ideas or create your own design. All materials provided, and no artistic experience necessary! Come with a willingness to try something new; leave with a card or wall-hanging you’ll love!

4:00 PM - 6:00 PM Happy Hour Reception

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

7:00 AM – 8:00 AM: Breakfast

8:00 AM – 9:00 AM Keynote


From Fish to Dish: How a Little Fish Can Help Cure Cancer

Dr. Stephanie Grainger, Ph.D

Can a tiny fish frequently found in kids’ aquariums help us cure cancer? The answer might surprise you. VAI’s Dr. Stephanie Grainger explores how zebrafish help scientists better understand cancer and fuel new insights that one day could lead to powerful new treatments. Dr. Grainger 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.”

9:30 AM – 10:30 AM Sessions


The Games Animals Play

(Grades K-5)

Hillary Gutierrez

Seeing Science through a Multicultural Lens

(Grades 6-8)

Jeanine Wilson

Fruit Flies Like a Journal Club

(Grades 9-12)

Ellen Holst
Cory Kavanagh
Cory Kavanagh

Lessons from the Lab

(Grades K-12)

Randy Schregardus
Terra Tarango

10:45 AM – 11:45 AM Sessions


Crafting Creativity: Integration During Science

(Grades K-5)

Cynthia Michelini

Escape Room, Drone Edition

(Grades 6-8)

Chad Majeske

Classroom Sturgeon Program

(Grades 9-12)

Ann Douglas

11:45 AM – 1:00 PM: Lunch

1:00 PM – 2:00 PM Sessions


Integration of Science and Literacy in Elementary Education

(Grades K-5)

Sara Syswerda

Outdoor Education within Your District

(Grades 6-8)

Amy Klopf

2 Keys to Student Engagement: Credibility and Relatedness

(Grades K-12)

Peter Grostic

2:15 PM – 3:15 PM Sessions


Why Water Matters

(Grades K-5)

Carol Trembath

3 Cs or Engineering Roller Coasters

(Grades 9-12)

Dawn McCotter

Getting Out and Giving Back: PBL and Service-Based Learning

(Grades K-12)

Avril Wiers

Chris is in his second year running the Elementary STEAM lab for East China School District in St. Clair County. Prior to that he spent 23 years as a teacher in Macomb County. He has his Bachelor’s Degree from Eastern Michigan and a Master’s from Oakland University and has also been a consultant and trainer for Delta Education with their FOSS Science Curriculum.

Grace Boersma studied Chemistry and Sociology at Hope College before attending the University of Michigan through the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship, where she completed a Master’s in education, while student teaching in Detroit, in a single year. She has spent her eight year career teaching at Godwin Heights High School in Grand Rapids, primarily teaching Chemistry. Working with the University of Colorado Boulder, Grace has become a leader of inquiry based learning being brought into science classrooms. She is a lead facilitator of their iHub curriculum, teaching courses to educators nationwide. For these efforts, Grace was recently named the 2023 Michigan Science Teacher of the year by MSTA. This year she created a new course designed to engage students in chemistry taking place in the kitchen, the Science of Foods.

Ann grew up in Grand Rapids graduating from East Grand Rapids High School. She went on to earn her bachelor’s degree from CMU, then a Master’s Degree from GVSU. Currently Ann lives in Cheboygan MI with her husband and is the STEAM teacher for Cheboygan Area Schools. In her free time, Ann is the handbell director for 2 local churches in Cheboygan.

Pete is the Director of Professional Learning for Communications by Design. He received his PhD in Educational Leadership from Western Michigan University. His expertise include project-based learning, student engagement, and educational equity. Pete received his certification as a mindfulness instructor from Mindful Schools and has taught mindfulness to students since 2020. Previously, he taught middle and high school mathematics in Kentwood Public Schools.

Hillary Gutierrez is an elementary science specialist in Dixon, California, where she loves getting messy in the classroom. She’s a firm believer that hands-on learning activities are key to the educational experience. She’s been teaching for eighteen years. Hillary holds both multiple subject and single subject credentials along with several special education certifications, and a Masters in STEAM Education. Outside the classroom, Hillary enjoys spending time with her husband, four kids, and numerous pets.

Ellen Holste is the Community Program Manager at Pierce Cedar Creek Institute in Hastings, Michigan. As an informal educator, she provides a wide range of science and nature hands-on learning experiences to students, families, and adults. Ellen holds a Masters of Science in Forestry and dual PhD degrees in Forestry and Ecology from Michigan State University. She also is certified as an interpretive guide through the National Association for Interpretation.

Cory Kavanagh’s passion for education and helping others learn is obvious in his role as Instructional Specialist at VAI. Cory has worked in laboratory settings for over 13 years, lending his knowledge and skill to a variety of scientific organizations. As a key member of the Student Programs team, Cory strives to deliver engaging STEM content for students of all ages.

My name is Debi Kilmartin. I am a retired teacher with experience at the elementary, intermediate, and middle school levels. I received a Bachelor degree from Western Michigan University and a Masters degree from Michigan State University. My educational emphasis was on math and science, but I have also received training over the years in integrated curriculum and teaching writing. Since retiring, I have spent time at Pierce Cedar Creek Institute volunteering in their education department, and also working at my grandson’s elementary school.

Amy Klopf is currently the 6th grade Science and Language Arts teacher for Coleman Community Schools. She has been teaching for 21 years. Amy prides herself in continuing her education as well as expanding her teaching pedagogy. In the summer of 2022, she participated in the MiSTAR Modeling workshop as well as continuing her PBL2 work with the Belle Isle Institute and Dow Innovative Teacher Fellowship. Amy has focused the last couple of years on becoming an outdoor educator. Amy Klopf believes that middle school is the time to reach and expand students’ interests. Where foundational skills should be second nature and now students and teachers are diving deeper into how they fit in the world. Outdoor education allows for students to start making connections to the real world and being introduced to the experts that can answer their “whys.”

Kevin Knack is a practicing middle school science teacher with 19 years of experience in urban, Title 1 schools. He has an MA in Teaching Practices from WMU and an MS in Applied Engineering Education from MTU. He is a NOYCE fellow and Mi-STAR PLF and has extensive experience with designing and implementing supplementary STEM/STEAM experiences for students. He loves disc golf and playing video games with the kids.

Dan Lubin is a passionate educator with extensive experience in project-based learning (PBL). He currently teaches STEAM at NexTech High School in Grand Rapids and previously taught science at Gateway to Success Academy. As a Project-Based Learning Coach with Magnify Learning, Dan provided customized coaching and professional development to over 100 teachers annually. Dan’s expertise in instructional design and educational technology ensures curricula align with state and national standards and create engaging and collaborative learning environments.

Jamie MacPherson has 13 years of experience teaching developmental kindergarten, kindergarten, and fourth grade. During her time as an educator, Jamie worked closely with VAI as her school transformed their science program to better meet the needs of 21st century learners. Inspired by the way inquiry-based instruction positivly impacted her students, Jamie was eager join VAI as a Learning Solutions Specialist and become a part of their mission to foster curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking in classrooms everywhere.

Dawn McCotter is a passionate educator with over 20 years in the profession. Before joining the Van Andel team, Dawn devoted her time and talents to the high school science classroom. She truly believes that creating a rich learning environment is the key to unlocking student potential and success. As Teacher Programs Manager at Van Andel Institute for Education, Dawn provides professional development and support to teachers across the country through inquiry-based instruction and authentic learning practices.

Elementary Educator since 2003, experiences as the K-6 ELA Department Chairperson and the K-5 Science Department Chairperson. M.Ed in Educational Leadership and Supervision, and a Certificate in Curriculum and Instruction. Children’s book author and illustrator, (Cynthia Anne author name). Currently interested in promoting creativity and wonder through an integrated approach on a daily basis in the elementary school classroom.

Kawther Mohammed received a bachelors in English Linguistics from Eastern Michigan University and a Master’s in TESOL from Western Michigan University. As the lead middle school ESL teacher at Milwood Magnet School, she teaches language through four content areas. She collaborates with content teachers to give students rich language and content experiences. She views students, teachers, and parents as the most important stakeholders in K-12 education, and she uses their collective feedback to drive the resources she brings into the classroom.

Jon Oosterman spent six years teaching middle school science while also serving as the head coach of Science Olympiad. In addition to teaching, he helped his school transition to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) as a way to create a broader and more comprehensive understanding of STEM. As a VAI Instructional Specialist, Jon endeavors to create learning experiences that are fun, dynamic, and memorable for all students.

Recently completed my 9th year teaching working as an Integrated Technology Coach in a K-8 district. Previously supported students as a Teacher-Librarian in a K-5 setting and started as a Fourth Grade teacher. I have my Masters in Instructional Technology and my Technology Specialist and Library Information Science endorsements.

Jenna currently serves as the Field School Outreach Coordinator for Northview Public Schools. Prior to this role, Jenna spent four years teaching K-2 multiage outdoor classes. She has worked as a reading specialist, ELL teacher, and instructional coach. Jenna studied Integrated Science for Elementary Education at Hope College and has a Master’s of Social Work degree from Western Michigan University. Jenna’s main passion is creating student-centered learning experiences in the outdoors that help students develop a sense of place.

Randy Schregardus is a veteran educator with 34 years of experience teaching across multiple grade levels and subjects. An early adopter of inquiry-based education methods, Randy was instrumental in introducing science teaching reform where he assisted and trained teachers in the latest learning technologies. As the Student Programs Manager for VAI, Randy works to foster a culture of success both within and beyond the classroom.

Retired 4th & 5th grade teacher of 20+ years, Author of “Learn Like a PIRATE: Empower your students to collaborate, lead and succeed,” Top 50 Global Teacher Prize Finalist (Varkey), Illinois Educator of the Year (ICE/IDEA), Teacher of Excellence Award (Van Andel Institute for Education), Blue Apple co-author of “Take a Stand” and “State of Sustainability.”

Sara has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Cornell University and a dual PhD in Crops and Soil Science and Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, and Behavior from Michigan State University. Sara has worked with preK-12 students and teachers for the past 20 years, and she has worked at Pierce Cedar Creek Institute for the past 9 years.

Ben Talsma has spread a love of learning to students of all ages over the course of 15 fabulous years in education. In addition to teaching, he has built a STEAM program to cultivate a new generation of innovators, while also supporting a plethora of afterschool activities. Ben is thrilled to be working with VAI as a Learning Solution Specialist to help teachers around the world improve the lives of their students.

Terra Tarango is an accomplished executive in the education industry with more than 15 years of experience in educational publishing and services. Prior to joining VAI, Terra served as president of SDE, one of the largest providers of professional development for pre-K through 12th grade educators in the U.S. Before that, she developed award-winning print and digital curriculum with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, the largest educational publisher in the nation. She is an expert in instructional climate and culture and has devoted her career to increasing curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking in the classroom.

Carol Trembath is an educator, author, and environmental speaker. She was awarded a BA from WMU, MA from WSU in Library and Information Science, and a MA in Educational Technology from MSU. Carol taught in the Plymouth School District and later as a media specialist in the Allen Park Public Schools and the Walled Lake Consolidated Schools. She is the author of seven award-winning books including the heroic environmental “Water Walkers Series”. Website: caroltrembath.com

I bring 30 years of professional experience and am currently a 4th grade teacher in Kimberly, Wisconsin. UW-La Crosse and UW-Stevens Point were the start of my educational journey. My mission is to ignite curiosity, choice, and drive to equip our youth with the skills and strategies they will need for the world of tomorrow! I will see you all at Science on the Grand in July!

While researching at the University of Michigan Biological Station, I fell in love with field research and teaching, which inspired me to earn my MS in Outdoor and Environmental Education from Alaska Pacific University. After seven years teaching in school gardens in the Last Frontier, I was hired at Careerline Tech Center to create the Environmental Field Studies program. Through project- and service-based learning, I inspire the next generation of outdoor leaders.

I love being a teacher. I’ve now taught for 25 years! I’ve taught in Detroit Michigan for DPS for 16 years. I have also taught in Florida for 4 years and Las Vegas for one. I’ve been a presenter and also a mentor teacher. I’ve taught k-12 too! I am passionate about students having joy at school while learning. All lessons will not be fun, (I tell them that often) but when you do science, especially investigations you can make it a joyful experience for your students. I am also passionate about helping students in urban settings be successful.

Become a Sponsor

VAI’s Science on the Grand, A STEAM Conference for Inquiry-based Educators, is an event like no other! And, you’re invited to join us as a sponsor in supporting K-12 science teachers and administrators as they learn skills and discover resources that help create classroom cultures that support STEAM instruction.

Download Sponsorship Flyer


Event Schedule:

Monday, July 10 – Tuesday, July 11, 2023, 7:00 AM-3:30 PM 

Exhibiting Schedule:

Set Up

  • Friday, July 7th (10:00 AM-2:00 PM) or Monday, July 10th (6:30 AM-7:30 AM) 


  • Monday, July 10th (9:00 AM-3:30 PM)
  • Tuesday, July 11th (9:00 AM-1:00 PM) 

Tear Down 

  • Tuesday, July 11th (1:00 PM-3:00 PM) 

Sponsorship Levels:

All sponsors will get their name and logo included on our Science on the Grand website, inclusion in our conference program guide, and the option to provide conference attendees with a coupon in our 2023 coupon book. See the sponsorship levels below to learn additional benefits of each level:

Platinum Centrifuge Sponsor

Be our exclusive event sponsor with the opportunity to reach hundreds of K-12 marketers. 


  • Entire event co-branded with VAI 
  • Social media posts 
  • Dedicated slide in keynote presentation 
  • Exhibiting table for 2 days 
  • Name and logo listed in our conference program guide 
  • Cost: $5000 
  • Limit: 1 

Gold Bunsen Burner Sponsor

Be a conference Happy Hour sponsor on Monday, July 10th from 4–6 PM.


  • Exhibiting table for 2 days
  • Name and logo listed in our conference program guide
  • Your logo shown and sponsorship announced at Happy Hour
  • Social media posts
  • Dedicated slide in Keynote presentation 
  • Cost: $1000
  • Limit: 5

Silver Beaker Sponsor

Your logo will be strategically placed during all meal services…that is breakfasts, lunches, and snacks for each event day.


  • Your logo is shown throughout breakfasts, lunches, and snacks.
  • Exhibiting table for 2 days
  • Name and logo listed in our conference program guide
  • Cost: $500
  • Limit: 10

Bronze Pipette Sponsor


  • Your name and logo are listed in our conference program guide.
  • Cost: $100
  • Limit: none


To become a sponsor, contact Robin Dhaseleer via email or call 616-234-5484. 


Sign Up to Become a Sponsor

Event Details

Venue: Van Andel Institute 333 Bostwick Ave. NE Grand Rapids