Joanna Snyder, OBIS Codirector
Since graduating from Colgate University with a BA in Biology in 1999, Joanna's career has been a dynamic mixture of ecological research, classroom teaching and informal education. She began by completing the Teton Science Schools (TSS) Professional Residency in Environmental Education, where with her classroom on her back, she taught students about the natural science and geology of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and later as an assistant scientist aboard the research schooners with Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA. Her overarching ambition was to integrate the effective learning opportunities these informal venues offered students into the formal classroom. Thus she returned to school to receive her Masters in Education and K-8 certification (science emphasis) from University of Michigan. She taught eighth grade science for three years in Hudson, MA, while spending her summers as a research assistant for the TSS Conservation Research Center. In 2006, she moved back to her beloved Jackson Hole to teach middle school science at a place-based independent school called The Journeys School. Throughout her formal teaching career, Joanna worked with the FOSS Project, piloting middle school science curriculum and spending summers learning from their Professional Development staff. She remembers fondly and vividly her energetic conversations with the FOSS directors about revitalizing OBIS and was thrilled to become a Lawrence Hall employee in July 2008. Joanna is now a curriculum specialist at the Lawrence Hall of Science, working primarily on outdoor initiatives for the FOSS Project and modernizing OBIS.
Erica Beck Spencer, OBIS Codirector
Prior to beginning her work in curriculum development, she spent ten years working with elementary students and teachers. Determined to become a classroom teacher she obtained an undergraduate degree in English from The University of New Hampshire and a graduate school degree in Elementary Education from Lesley University. Having always wanted to teach in an urban center, after three years in Cambridge, MA as a classroom teacher, she left to work in the Boston Public Schools as an elementary K-5 science specialist. Having accepted the job to get her foot in the door into the Boston Public Schools, she unexpectedly fell in love with teaching science to children and the study of science itself. She became a science teacher leader for the district and began teaching teachers throughout the district (and beyond as a consultant for Delta Education) how to teach the various adopted science modules. This led her to co-develop and co-teach a two-day teacher workshop on using the schoolyard to enhance the city’s science curriculum. This class, supported by the BPS Science Department and The Boston Schoolyard Initiative (a public private organization in Boston, Massachusetts) was originally designed for teachers using the FOSS and STC curriculum but accidentally transformed teachers who were not teaching science. The overwhelming response with teachers and their students around the impacts on student learning led to the creation of “Science in the Schoolyard” printed guides to further assist teachers in using the schoolyard to teach their curriculum. Believing in the urgent need to get children outdoors she is proud to be a part of the reemergence of OBIS and incorporating outdoor connections into the FOSS curriculum.