Science Education Institute

Science Education Institute

The Science Education Institute supports K-12 educators in teaching science more effectively by providing long-term professional development to individual teachers and school districts with the goal of improving K-12 science education in New Jersey and across the nation.

Current Focus
We support New Jersey schools with the implementation of the revised New Jersey Students Learning Standards in Science (NJSLS-S), which are based on the national Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). We provide a series of one-day workshops during the school year and a week-long Institute during the summer at Raritan Valley Community College. We also work with school districts to develop a long-term professional development plan consisting of 3-5 in-district workshops spread out over one to two years.
In addition to our work with New Jersey schools, we support teachers and schools in other states as we have been working with districts and teachers from the states of Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, and Maryland.

NGSS Workshops

The Vision Behind the NGSS
The vision behind the New Jersey Students Learning Standards in Science (NJSLS-S) and the national Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) is to provide students with the knowledge and skills to use and apply the science they learn in school to make sense of the natural world outside the classroom. Standards-aligned lessons are driven by phenomena, observable events that can be explained using science. Students learn how to use Crosscutting Concepts to guide their thinking about these phenomena. They engage in Science Practices and use Core Ideas to investigate how and why these natural phenomena occur and support their explanations with arguments. In addition, the standards include Engineering Practices and Core Ideas so that students learn to define engineering problems and develop, test, and optimize solutions for them.

What You Should Know About Our Professional Development
All workshops follow recommendations of the latest National Academies Reports on “Science and Engineering in Pre-School through Elementary Grades” and "Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center". In addition, we continue to incorporate what we are learning about standards implementation through our work with thousands of teachers in New Jersey and across the nation.

More information about our professional development offerings such as descriptions, dates, fees, and how to register can be found here.

Workshops Cancellation Policy
If you are unable to attend a workshop for which you are registered, we ask that you let us know as soon as possible – but within five (5) business days. Cancellations received within less than five (5) business days from the date of the workshop will not be eligible for a credit or refund and will be billed. We appreciate your cooperation and understanding.

Starlab Training and Rental Program


Starlab is the perfect tool to make science come to life for students. It supports teachers with the implementation of the New Jersey Students Learning Standards in Science (NJSLS-S) and the national Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) by allowing students to make observations, collect and analyze data, and construct explanations  and arguments for natural phenomena in astronomy, earth science, and biology. Astronomical phenomena such as the daily and yearly motions of the Sun, Moon, planets, stars, and constellations are easily observed with Starlab. Data from these observations presents students with the evidence to develop models and construct explanations and arguments for these phenomena. Starlab also includes projection cylinders related to Earth Science concepts (Ocean Currents and Plate Tectonics),  Biology concepts (Biological Cell), and Social Studies topics (Latitude and Longitude on Earth, and Lewis and Clark Celestial Navigation).

At the Starlab Training, participants will learn how to set up, maintain, and repack the Starlab system and become more familiar with the night sky and the many Starlab cylinders that are available.

More information about our Starlab Training such as descriptions, dates, fees, and how to register can be found here.

The Starlab Training certifies K-12 teachers to rent one of our Starlab Portable planetariums.

Starlab Rentals

Our portable planetarium can bring the stars down to the Earth - and to your school!

Starlab is a portable planetarium made of fabric, which is inflated by a fan and capable of accommodating approximately 25 students. A star projector recreates the sky, including the Sun, Moon and Planet positions on the dome, for any time or place on Earth. Starlab is compact enough to fit into a small car and is easily set up in 15 minutes. It requires a clean floor space of 20' x 22' and a 12' ceiling.

Any teacher who has attended an RVCC Starlab certification training is eligible to rent a Starlab.

More information about our Starlab Rentals such as descriptions, fees, and how to submit a Starlab Rental Request register can be found here.

NGSS Teacher Leader Program


The NGSS Teacher Leader Program prepares educators to take a leadership role in implementation of the New Jersey Students Learning Standards in Science (NJSLS-S) and the national Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). This is done by engaging Teacher Leaders in a variety of professional development experiences with colleagues from other districts. Through participation in this program, Teacher Leaders deepen their understanding of the vision behind these standards while developing collaborative and leadership skills, with the ultimate goal of supporting  implementation in their district. The program which began in 2014, is a collaboration between the Science Education Institute at Raritan Valley Community College (RVCC), the Rider University Science Education and Literacy Center (SELECT), the Princeton University Teacher Preparation Program, and Leadership in Science, LLC.

The vision behind the NJSLS-S/NGSS is changing how science is taught and learned, creating opportunities for students to build deep understanding of science over time. Effective implementation requires that teachers make significant shifts in the content and manner in which they teach. This will require that everyone involved in the education system – teachers, administrators, and parents – thoroughly understand these shifts. To be successful, teachers will need significant and long-term support to embrace novel instructional strategies that support student learning in science.

Through their involvement with the program, Teacher Leaders are provided with multiple opportunities to co-facilitate the consortium’s professional development programs. These include the NGSS Summer Institute and the NGSS Professional Development Workshop Series at RVCC, the CONNECT-ED program and an NGSS Workshop Series at Rider University, a variety of in-district NGSS and leadership workshops provided by Leadership in Science LLC, and the QUEST Program at Princeton University. This opportunity for Teacher Leaders to collaborate with higher education experts will build their capacity to support colleagues in their own school district.

Teacher Leaders facilitate the learning of workshop participants and provide feedback on workshop designs. They share their own experiences implementing the vision behind the standards and assist workshop participants as they plan science and engineering investigations. To support their co-facilitation responsibilities, Teacher Leaders are provided with workshop designs and resources as well as mentoring and other supports.

Currently the NGSS Teacher Leader Program consists of more than seventy K-12 educators from over forty school districts. These educators were selected based on the following criteria:

  • Prior professional development experiences with the vision behind the NGSS,
  • Experience with implementing these standards in their classroom,
  • Ability to work well with colleagues from all grade levels,
  • Support from school and district administration for participation as well as implementation of lessons learned in their district.

For a list of current teacher leaders click here.

Frequently Asked Questions about the NGSS Teacher Leader Program

  1. How do I become a Teacher Leader?
    Participation in the program is by invitation. Teacher Leaders are identified based on the selection criteria outlined in the program description. Anyone who is interested in becoming a Teacher Leader is encouraged to submit a Letter of Interest to describing their prior NGSS professional learning experiences and classroom implementation efforts, and arrange for a separate Letter of Support from a district administrator.
  2. What is the time commitment for participation in the NGSS Teacher Leader Program?
    The requirement is that Teacher Leaders participate in at least two workshops per school year (September 1 – June 30). They should expect to be out of the classroom a minimum of two days during the school year – or more if they choose. Teacher Leaders should discuss this with their school and district administrators. Most of our Teacher Leaders are out of the classrooms between two and four days per school year. There are also additional workshop opportunities during the summer.
  3. What is the Teacher Leader's home district's commitment in terms of release time during the school year and other resources?
    The district is responsible for providing classroom coverage for when a Teacher Leader is out of the classroom (a minimum of two days per school year). There are no other costs or fees for the district. The regular workshop fees (typically $150 per day) are waived for Teacher Leaders.
  4. Do Teacher Leaders receive a stipend for participation in the program?
    Teachers Leaders will be paid a stipend of $50 per workshop during the school year for preparation. For workshops during school holidays or vacations (including the summer break) the stipend is $100 per day including preparation time.
  5. What is the duration of participation in the NGSS Teacher Leader Program?
    Teacher Leaders may participate in the program for as long as they are able and for as long as funding for the program is available; the program is not limited to one school year.
  6. Can more than one teacher per school district participate?
    We are currently expanding the program to include multiple teachers for larger school districts.
  7. Are science supervisors or principals eligible to participate in the NGSS Teacher Leader Program?
    The program is for classroom teachers. If a Teacher Leader accepts an administrator position after joining the program she/he will be able to remain in the program.
  8. How is the NGSS Teacher Leader Program funded?
    Since its inception, the NGSS Teacher Leader Program has received funding from the 3M Corporation, the Investors Bank, the PSE&G Corporation, and the Sanofi North America Corporate Social Responsibility.

Next Generation Science Standards

“It is essential that all students have access to a high-quality science education that provides them with the skills and knowledge they need to be well-informed citizens, to be prepared for college and careers, and to understand and appreciate the scientific enterprise.” The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) made this statement in its recent endorsement of a new set of science education standards – the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).  The NGSS are based on what we now know about teaching and learning science and the needs of the 21st century. The NGSS include several important innovations

  1. Focus on deep exploration of Core Ideas
    The NGSS move away from a science curriculum that is “a mile wide and an inch deep” to focus more on a limited number of Core Ideas.  This allows students to develop a deeper understanding of important science concepts that can be used to explain natural phenomena (observable events) and solve engineering problems.
  2. Focus on Science and Engineering Practices and Crosscutting Concepts
    Science and Engineering Practices and concepts that cut across all sciences, such as patterns or matter and energy, are critical tools for scientists and engineers. Research has shown that engaging students in these same Practices and Crosscutting Concepts develops an integrated and deeper understanding of science. In addition, students develop skills that are critical in the 21st century, such as working collaboratively in groups; analyzing data and developing and using models; and developing critical thinking, a skill which has been shown to increase academic achievement across the board.
  3. Inclusion of engineering and applications of science
    Many of us may have wondered why we need to learn the science that is presented to us in school. The NGSS are the first standards that integrate science and engineering from kindergarten through grade 12 and go far beyond the typical egg drops, robotics classes, or even current STEM classes. They are intended for ALL students and not a selected few. Not only will this help prepare our students at a time that most jobs require a background in science and engineering, it will also provide a motivation for why we have to learn the science in the first place.

For more information about and resources for the NGSS see:

Our Education Partners


To support New Jersey school districts with the implementation of the New Jersey Students Learning Standards in Science (NJSLS-S) and the national Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) a consortium of higher education institutions and educational organizations has been established that includes Science Education Institute at Raritan Valley Community College, Leadership in Science, LLC,  the Rider University Select Program, and the Princeton University Teacher Preparation Program. Together, we have been supporting implementation of Science Standards state wide and have designed a number of professional opportunities to support teachers' success.

For a list of current school district partners click here.



Dr. Wil van der Veen is the director for the Science Education Institute since 2006. He has a Ph.D. in Astrophysics from the University of Leiden (The Netherlands). He has done research in astronomy for 20 years and has been involved in education since 1996.


Donna Frasca-Brady is the manager of the science education institute. She has spent the majority of her life in education as a teacher in grades prek -8 and a director of an early childhood facility. Prior to this role, Donna’s most recent position was as the school coordinator on a pediatric oncology/hematology unit where she advocated for patients so they can continue their education throughout their illness.

Latest News From Campus

News Releases Students Receive National Honors with United States President’s Volunteer Service Award Posted Monday, April 15, 2024
Read More
Link to Students Receive National Honors with United States President’s Volunteer Service Award
News Releases RVCC to Receive Sapling from Original Tree Mentioned in Anne Frank’s Diary Posted Friday, March 29, 2024
Read More
Link to RVCC to Receive Sapling from Original Tree Mentioned in Anne Frank’s Diary
News Releases “Giving Day” Raises over $154,000 for Students, Athletic Teams, Centers, Critical Programs Posted Thursday, March 28, 2024
Read More
Link to “Giving Day” Raises over $154,000 for Students, Athletic Teams, Centers, Critical Programs