Regional Math and Science Center

Teacher Opportunities

Hot Topics - Cool Science
for teachers of grades 8-12


Join us at the Regional Math and Science Center (RMSC) at Grand Valley State University (GVSU) for a winter/spring series of workshops called "Hot Topics-Cool Science".  Each workshop in this series will feature a different "hot" science topic and presenters from GVSU's biology and biomedical faculty. 

This series has been specifically designed to help teachers increase the rigor and relevance of their classroom science content by incorporating topics of significance and of high interest for students.  The biological topics that will be discussed will help teachers improve their subject content knowledge and pedagogy to enhance classroom instruction and student achievement.  The instructors will help teachers bring real world issues into your classroom, improve student confidence, and meet some of the new High School Content Expectations (HSCE) of the Michigan Merit Curriculum in biology.


Date: February 6, 2007
Title: Ecosystem Services: How much is an ecosystem worth?
Instructor: Erik Nordman, Assistant Professor, Biology

Description: Students may be familiar with the ways human activities impact ecosystems. However, they may be less familiar with the tangible ways ecosystems affect and support human well-being. Ecosystem services are the end products of nature that yield human well-being and serve as a bridge between ecology and economics. Upon completing this workshop, educators will understand how a discussion of ecosystem services complements lessons on human impact on the environment. Educators will also receive an article on ecosystem services suitable for high school students and a lesson plan with activity handouts.

Date: February 13, 2007
Title: Do our genes make us fat?
Instructor: Steve Nizielski, Associate Professor, Biomedical and Health Sciences

Description: This workshop will explore how environmental and genetic factors interact with physiological and cellular processes to influence our ability to maintain an appropriate body weight. The concept of energy balance will be reviewed, and the factors that influence individual susceptibility to weight gain will be discussed. Lastly, we will examine how endocrine signals produced by fat cells affect numerous body systems, thereby increasing the risk of various chronic diseases and decreasing longevity.

Date: February 27, 2007
Title: Biotechnology; Human Impact
Instructor: Margaret Dietrich, Assistant Professor, Biology Department and Cell and Molecular Biology Program

Description: It is common to hear reference in the popular press to biotechnology and the use of genetically modified organisms.  There are many examples of the application of biotechnology which have been beneficial to society at large with which few would argue.  However, there are also controversial aspects to biotechnology, particularly with those applications that require genetically modified organisms to be grown outside of the laboratory.  This workshop will review the various ways in which humans have manipulated organisms for human benefit historically (classical biotechnology), as well as the modern biotechnology methods involving recombinant DNA.  The discussion will raise a number of topics for classroom discussion/investigation regarding the pros/cons of biotechnology.  The workshop will also involve the isolation of DNA, the molecule underlying all biotechnology, from different fruits.

Date: March 27, 2007
Title: Teaching evolution: who's afraid of natural selection?
Instructor: Jodee Hunt, Associate Professor, Biology Department

Description: Despite nationwide controversy about teaching evolution and natural selection in the classroom, Michigan's new High School Content Expectations in Biology are founded on the assumption that evolution is a fact brought about by the mechanism of natural selection.  In this workshop, you'll learn what evolution really means, how natural selection and other mechanisms lead to evolutionary changes in populations, and what biologists mean by evolutionary "fitness."  Workshop participants will explore how ecological processes like competition, concepts students should master in earlier grade levels, link to natural selection, and how environmental factors and evolution link to changes in genetic variation in populations.  This workshop is especially recommended for science teachers lacking previous course work in evolutionary biology.

Date: April 19, 2007
Title: Causes and Significance of the Biodiversity Crisis.
Instructor: Gary Greer, Associate Professor, Biology

Description: At least five major episodes of mass extinction have occurred in the past with substantial consequences to the evolution of life as well as biogeochemical attributes of the biosphere.  Human-activity, particularly since the industrial age, has triggered a sixth mass extinction, the details and consequences of which are not fully understood, but will unquestionably affect future generations.  This workshop will review the causes of the current mass extinction, how extinction is studied, its consequences to the biosphere, and present a schematic (lecture and lab components) for teaching high school students about this topic.


MEECS Workshop Opportunities

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), is offering programs in environmental education for teachers, known as Michigan Environment Education Curriculum Support (MEECS). MEECS is aligned with science and social studies content standards and MEAP assessment.   

Professional Development Programs

  • Air Quality
  • Biodiversity and Ecosystems
  • Energy Resources
  • Land Use
  • Water Quality

Each workshop includes teacher training on the topics, unit lesson notebook and a classroom kit.  All workshops and MEECS materials are free through December 2006.  Visit the DEQ website at for workshop sites.

Pierce Cedar Creek Institute MEECS Workshops
The Ecosystems & Biodiversity workshop will take place on October 7 and Water Quality on November 18.  Materials are provided free upon completion. Participants can receive SB-CEU credits. Participants can receive SB-CEU credits. For more information contact Carolyn Miller at (269) 721-4473 or email her at   or


Annual Programs

Sam Rhine Genetic Update Conference

On Monday, September 25, 2006 the Regional Math and Science center will host the Genetic Update Conference featuring the internationally known lecturer, Dr. Sam Rhine.

Dr. Rhine's subjects for discussion this year will be:

  1. Genetics of "H5N1 - the Bird Flu virus"
  2. Micro RNA in Gene Control and Gene Therapy
  3. Happy Anniversary!

    • 10 Year Anniversary of Mammalian Cloning
      Past achievements and Future Possibilities
    • 25 Year Anniversary of Embryonic Stem Cell Research
      Past Achievements and Future Possibilities
  4. Can Stem Cells cause Cancer?


 Student/Parent Programs


Teacher/Student Opportunities

Page last modified August 5, 2013