Stormwater Pathways

storm drain

storm drain

Guest Contributor: Jenna Kulluson

When exploring the outdoor exhibits at the High Desert Museum in Bend, OR the coastal watershed connection isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind, but that was not the case in early February when fourteen Central Oregon educators went out in search of water. While the coast sees much more rain than communities in the high desert (North Bend averages 65 inches/year while Bend sees closer to 11 inches) communities across Oregon still must think about what to do with excess rainwater, or stormwater runoff.

The Oregon Coast Education Program (OCEP) has been providing field based professional development and curriculum to 3rd-12th grade teachers since 2009. With funding from the NOAA B-WET program, OCEP began as a partnership between four coastal institutions, offering teacher workshops in Coos Bay and Newport, and creating education modules focused on coastal ecosystems. Shortly thereafter, OCEP gained two inland partners with the High Desert Museum and Portland State University’s Center for Science Education and added coastal education trainings for teachers located in the Willamette Valley and east of the Cascades. This recent set of community workshops aims to focus on discovering human impacts to watersheds and infiltration processes while making connections to the incoming Next Generation Science Standards.



Armed with local maps, a few tools, and a good sense of curiosity, the group set out to discover how the museum manages their stormwater runoff in a developed setting much like that of nearby communities. Historically, the high desert had undeveloped, permeable surfaces that efficiently soaked up large amounts of rainwater from storms into groundwater systems or nearby streams. However, when impermeable surfaces like asphalt roads and buildings were added, the excess water had to go somewhere. The group devised an experiment to see how different variables could impact infiltration rates on the loIMG_5048cal grounds. After digging test pits and watching water soak into them, teachers engaged in lively discussions about how the plant community, recent burns, livestock grazing, nearby parking lots, and soil types could impact the infiltration rate.

With the infiltration exploration under their belts, the group set off in search of drains, ditches, and potential human impacts to the watershed. This is one workshop where a recent rainstorm provides the much-needed clues for reading the landscape and following the pathways. Following the water’IMG_5033s path helped participants recognize examples of non-point source pollution, and discover that contaminants picked up from developed areas can run off into nearby rivers and, ultimately, reach the ocean. Discussing ways that communities deal with related problems and ways that students could help solve these issues was inspiring for everyone involved.

The Oregon Coast STEM Hub is one of three STEM Hubs that are helping to sponsor this set of workshops this winter. OCEP will be returning to the coast on February 28th for the last Stormwater Pathways workshop and hoping for a big rainstorm the day before! While the facilitators are excited to get back to familiar territory, the lessons learned from working in new settings in urban Beaverton and the High Desert Museum will help connect all Oregon teachers to stormwater and the ocean, and help them bring students outside on a meaningful watershed experiences while integrating the science and engineering practices outlined in the Next Generation Science Standards. One thing is for sure, no one involved will ever look at a stormdrain again without wondering “where does it go from here?”


Jenna Kulluson is a coordinator for the Oregon Coast Education Program, as well as an educator at South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, Director of the Oregon Chapter of the Northwest Aquatic and Marine Educators, and a member of the Oregon Coast STEM Hub Communications Committee. OCEP is a collaborative effort involving several Oregon Coast STEM Hub partner institutions, as well as leaders from the Portland Metro STEM Partnership and the Central Oregon STEM Hub.

Another Grant: K-6 NGSS Instructional Specialists

Another grant from ODE will help support teachers in the Oregon Coast STEM Hub!  From Portland State University and the Portland Metro STEM Partnership:

Portland State University has received a 3-year $1 million grant from the Oregon Department of Education to deliver an innovative elementary teacher professional development in science.  The award entitle “Expansion of K-6 NGSS Instructional Specialists Program” was made from Oregon’s federally funded Title IIB Math Science Partnership Program.  The project will operate out of the Portland Metro STEM Partnership (PMSP), one of Oregon’s six regional science, technology engineering and mathematics (STEM) hubs.  Seventy elementary teachers will be trained to serve as instructional specialists during the implementation of Oregon’s Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).  It will also provide science content instruction to over 300 elementary teachers statewide.


…The PMSP will engage Dr. Okhee Lee from New York University (the NGSS Equity and Diversity Team Leader), science faculty from PSU, and K-12 partners from Hillsboro, Portland, Beaverton, Forest Grove, east Multnomah County, the Oregon Coast STEM Hub and the South Metro-Salem STEM Partnership.

Read the entire press release

Download an Overview

Apply by January 30



Award: $1m to Develop Elementary Mathematics Instructional Leaders in Oregon

The Teaching Research Institute (TRI) at Western Oregon University (WOU) has been awarded a $1 million grant by the Oregon Department of Education to recruit and educate 60 teachers to become Elementary Mathematics Instructional Leaders. Project DEMILO (Developing Elementary Mathematics Instructional Leaders in Oregon) is a collaboration between WOU, the Willamette Education Service District, and the Oregon Coast STEM Hub to address the need for increased mathematics content knowledge for elementary school teachers.

WOU is the first university in Oregon to offer an Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission (TSPC) approved program leading to an Elementary Mathematics Instructional Leader specialization According to Dr. Cheryl Beaver, the Project Director, “underachievement in math in elementary school becomes a barrier for students who wish to pursue STEM jobs or a STEM college major.”

Elementary Mathematics Instructional Leaders (EMIL) are teachers, teacher leaders or coaches who are responsible for supporting effective mathematics instruction and student learning in the classroom, school, district and/or state levels. Their specific roles will vary depending upon their school district, but all EMILs will act as a resource and provide leadership to their colleagues – a critical and timely role as the state fully implements the new Common Core State Standards in Mathematics

The strategies used in Project DEMILO to provide professional development for teachers in mathematics have been successfully used by the Oregon Coast STEM Hub to increase elementary students’ achievement in science. These strategies are an integral part of this project. “Given the time constraints of teachers and the distance challenges of living on the coast or in rural locations, using online and web-video conferencing for professional development is necessary,” noted Ruth McDonald, Partnerships Coordinator, Oregon Coast STEM Hub.

Over the course of three years, three cohorts of 20 teachers will complete the EMIL specialization and employ their instructional leadership to help elementary students succeed and to meet Oregon’s 40-40-20 goal. “For 40% of Oregon’s students to have some post-secondary education and another 40% to attain a bachelor’s degree, they will need to have a strong conceptual understanding of math,” stated Beaver. “The U.S. is predicted to need an additional 1 million STEM professionals by 2020. This project helps us contribute to closing that gap.”

The mission of the Teaching Research Institute (TRI) at Western Oregon University is to inform and facilitate change in educational and human service systems to improve the quality of life for individuals. In existence for over 50 years, TRI is guided by partnerships with consumers, families, and practitioners. TRI houses seven Centers focused conducting programs of research, developing evidence-based interventions that are provided through technical assistance and professional development, and increasing system capacity to effect change. TRI manages a yearly grants’ expenditures budget of $7–$7.5 million of extramural funds and houses 58 staff.

For more information contact:

Dr. Cheryl Beaver (503-838-8404,
Dr. Christina Reagle (503-838-8871,

Information about how Oregon Coast STEM Hub teachers can participate in Project DEMILO will be coming soon and shared through the Oregon Coast STEM Hub network.


Teachers Dive into STEM Using Underwater Robots

Guest Blogger:  Tracy Crews

WALDPORT —On a frigid Saturday morning on the Oregon Coast, a group of over thirty educators from across the state huddled around a pool, gazing with pride at the underwater contraptions they had just created. From Port Orford to Seaside, teachers braved the icy roads to participate in a day long workshop designed to provide them with the skills they would need to teach their own students how to build Remotely Operated Vehicles or ROVs.

Waldport High School was the scene of this unique training which was supported by the Oregon Coast STEM Hub and the Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Center. During the day-long workshop, participants learned about the growing field of Marine Technology and how ROVs are being used off the Oregon Coast to monitor Marine Protected Areas (MPS), lay cable and install instruments for the Ocean Observing Initiative (OOI), and conduct research on deep-sea hydrothermal vents. Teachers then worked in small gro Katie Sard and Kara Allen Teachers learn to build ROVsups with seasoned mentors and students from Lincoln County, who shared their expertise and encouragement, as the new crop of teachers learned how to splice wires and solder circuit boards. According to Kama Almasi, a 7th-12th grade teacher in Waldport, “The kid-teachers were fabulous and inspiring!”

In addition to the hands-on training, participants in Saturday’s workshop received ROV kits to take back to their classrooms and use with their own students. The goal of the workshop being to engage hundreds of 6th -12th grade students in designing and building their own underwater robots. Each teacher who participated in the workshop will have the opportunity to bring their top 1 or 2 student teams to the Oregon Regional MATE ROV competition which will be held on the Oregon Coast in April of 2015. This statewide competition is one of 23 regional contests supported by the MATE Center and numerous other partners. Qualifying participants will earn the chance to represent Oregon at MATE’s International ROV Competition which will take place at the end of June in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.

For more information contact Tracy Crews at

Testing ROVs in Pool

Floating Fish Challenge

“Look! They did it!” someone exclaimed, pointing to the center of the room. All eyes turned to see the blue floating fish hanging in mid-air, beaming its pleased paper smile and beginning its slow drift toward an adjacent table. After appreciative whoops and cheers from fellow teams, the room returned to its previous murmur of bustle, creativity and apparent chaos. Soon the blue fish would be joined by creations from other teams… a purple fish, a yellow fish, and a green fish… all floating and hovering around the classroom.

IMGP0798The Floating Fish Challenge was an activity put together by Tracy Crews and Clair Thomas of the Oregon Coast STEM Hub, and the participants in this case were Mentor Teachers from 10 different school districts. Tucked inside a STEM Hub kickoff day featuring speakers, networking, breakout sessions and planning, this hour was our chance to try out and reflect upon a student STEM activity that could be used in a classroom.

Tracy began the activity by talking about the presence and function of the gas-filled swim bladder structure in fish, which enables a fish to control its buoyancy so that it isn’t constantly having to use energy to swim up or down in the water column. Then she introduced the challenge: Working in a team of 3-4 people and using any of the materials provided in the back of the room, fashion a neutrally-buoyant and well-balanced “fish” out of a helium-filled balloon. That is, teams should design a fish that will hang in mid-air, and neither float to the ceiling as a typical untethered balloon is wont to do, nor fall to the floor under the burden of what has been attached to it. The fish should float right-side-up with its mouth and tail aligned on a horizontal plane, and not tipped to the side in a “dead fish” pose. With the challenge and constraints defined, the 21 participants leaped into action.IMGP0797

Not every team approached the challenge in the same way. Will the whole team get up to peruse and gather materials, or is one person sent to the back of the room while the others work on sketching a design on paper? Whose job is it to hold the balloon? To add paper fins? Who retrieves the balloon from the ceiling? Some groups used the provided diagrams of fish external anatomy in order to create a realistic fish and use scientifically accurate terms for the parts they were designing. How important is the color of the balloon or paper fins?

The room got loud. People were animated. One team engineered a tether to keep its fish-in-progress from floating away, and other teams took note and discussed whether or not to replicate the design at their own tables. Balloons were constantly undergoing testing and modifications. The facilitators joked among themselves that they’d never get the teachers back to where they would all sit quietly again and focus on the front of the room. But of course, they also recognized that the controlled chaos, energy and intrinsic motivation on display are the heart of STEM and authentic student learning experiences.

IMGP0810Soon each table encountered at least some measure of success. And, in fact, the teachers actually did sit back down again to reflect as a group.

“What could you teach with this challenge?” the teachers were asked. Their list of responses was long, and included: density, buoyancy, measurements, volume, planning ahead, teamwork, proportion, persistence, fluids, pressure, animal adaptations, art, taxonomy, collaboration, replication, appreciation for the diversity of possible solutions to a problem, and so on.

“How could you modify this challenge?”

  • Add or remove constraints such as what materials can be used in the design
  • Add a requirement to the challenge, such as assigning each team to create a different species of fish
  • Define/identify roles of team members and compare to how professional teams function
  • Connect this activity to other lessons, such as making an ROV neutrally-buoyant in water

Clair Thomas then explained that the Floating Fish Challenge was developed from an existing activity that he uses in Tillamook called “Neutrally Buoyant Balloon”. It’s a challenge found in one of many kits that he carts around in a trailer to STEM Family Nights and other learning events. Scaled for various age groups, the high school version challenges students to calculate and predict how much to blow up a balloon ONCE, tie it off, and have it hang in the air with out rising or falling. What parameters do you need to know to make that calculation? Once the calculations have been made, the students are invited to test their predictions.

“How is this STEM?”

Throughout the day, the Mentor Teachers, Satellite Coordinators, Lead Partners and other members involved in the the kick off had been working through various definitions and meanings of STEM. The Oregon Coast STEM Hub has been guided by the definition of STEM used by the Oregon Department of Education:

“An approach to teaching and lifelong learning that emphasizes the natural interconnectedness of the four separate STEM disciplines. The connections are made explicit through collaboration between educators resulting in real and appropriate context built into instruction, curriculum, and assessment. The common element of problem solving is emphasized across all STEM disciplines allowing students to discover, explore, and apply critical thinking skills as they learn.”

The keynote speaker for our kickoff, Mark Lewis, STEM Director for the Oregon Education Investment Board, offered another definition:

Applied curiosity: an insatiable desire to know and a drive to create.

Using these definitions, we were definitely able to identify how the Floating Fish Challenge is a STEM activity. The teams were curious, motivated to create their fish, meet the challenge, and learn from their experiences. The project touched on a several disciplines, including the science of fish anatomy and physics, the engineering of solutions to a proposed challenge and the mathematic calculations required to meet that challenge when limited iterations are permitted. And as for the “t” of STEM, I personally got to use technology as I learned through trial and error how to post and share a 6 second video of the Floating Fish activity to the Oregon Coast STEM Hub Facebook page. Watch it here!