Director of Professional Development
Liesl Chatman has served in significant leadership positions in university, school district, and museum settings. Currently, she is the Director of Professional Development at the Science Museum of Minnesota, a position she has held since 2005. Prior to her work with the Museum, she oversaw science for the Saint Paul Public Schools (SPPS) from 2003-2005 and served as the Executive Director of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Science & Health Education Partnership (SEP) from 1994-2003.
At the Science Museum of Minnesota, Liesl has initiated the Science House: A Resource Center for Educators, an extensive $1.5 million professional development and materials center for STEM educators; Nexus, a professional development program specifically designed for district level science coordinators; the National Science Foundation-funded Peer Alliance for Gender Equity (PAGE), a national pilot training program in gender equity; and the newly funded Materials and Understanding for STEM Educators (MUSE) in Minnesota, which is a K-12 statewide initiative with funding from the Minnesota State Legislature.
For over a decade, she led an extensive and nationally recognized partnership program at UCSF between biomedical scientists and San Francisco's public school teachers that was initiated by UCSF faculty members including Bruce Alberts, former President of the National Academy of Sciences; J. Micheal Bishop, UCSF Chancellor and Nobel Laureate; and Harold Varmus, former Director of the National Institutes of Health and Nobel Laureate. She has served as Principal Investigator or Co- Principal Investigator on major awards addressing professional development, partnership, and diversity issues from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), the California Science Project, 3M, and the Medtronic Foundation.
Before her work in professional development, Liesl taught elementary school in SPPS, coordinated educational programs at the Science Museum of Minnesota and the Bell Museum of Natural History, and apprenticed under the late Todd apJones, noted hand-lettering artist. A proud alumni of the University of Minnesota, Liesl has a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and a Minor in Linguistics. Liesl is also an inveterate graphic journaler and has been visually chronicling science education reform since the early 1990's.
Erin Villegas Strauss
Professional Development Project Leader
Erin Strauss joined the staff in 2007 as a Professional Development Project Lead at the Science Museum of Minnesota. Prior to this position, she was a Science Instructor at the Perpich Center for Arts Education where she taught Chemistry and Science in Society to 11th and 12th grade arts students. While at Perpich, Erin worked extensively on using Science Notebooks as an effective instructional and assessment tool and on incorporating a specific focus on ethics and social justice into the chemistry curriculum. Prior to her position at the Perpich Center, Erin was a Senior Academic Coordinator at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Science & Health Education Partnership (SEP). She was on the leadership team of the NSF-funded Local Systemic Change Initiative known as City Science and the NSF-funded gender equity program, Triad, and focused on the design of professional development and partnership programs involving scientists. In addition, she was a Co-Site Director for the California Science Project, was instrumental in the design of an effort funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) that combined professional development and content learning in biology for elementary teachers, and pioneered action research and Reflective Teaching Groups. Prior to coming to SEP in 1997, Erin coordinated science education programs at the Museum of Life and Science in North Carolina and worked as an elementary science coordinator in the Durham County Public Schools. She holds dual Masters Degrees in Analytical Chemistry and in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of California, Riverside.
Wren Walker Robbins, Ph.D.
Professional Development Project Lead
Wren joined our staff in February of 2010 as a Professional Development Project Lead. Prior to this she trained middle and early education teachers, and developed the Native Ways of Knowing Secondary Science Education Program at Turtle Mountain Community College in North Dakota. The vision of Native Ways of Knowing was to transform tribal school districts through the process of culturally responsive teaching.
Wren has spent most of her career as a college faculty member in science and education departments, working with students from a variety of different cultural backgrounds in New Mexico, New York and North Dakota. Her earliest work was in biomedical research, she holds a Ph.D. in Cell Biology from the University of New Mexico, and has completed research fellowships at Harvard Medical School and The University of New Mexico Medical School.
Wren is fascinated by the process and art of science education itself. She works to help teachers explore and conceptualize the role culture plays in science education in order to help teachers students from diverse backgrounds bridge the cultural borders that may separate them.
As a participant in the Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL) Leadership Initiative Wren worked with teams of faculty and administrators from campuses around the country to assess student learning to create and sustain robust STEM learning environments.
Wren is a two-spirit woman whose familial roots reside on both sides of the conquest of the Americas. Like many who are part of this legacy, her traditions, those of her great grandmother, a Kahnawake or Mohawk woman, pass down to her through a fragmented lens. What she discovers as she uncovers traditional knowing and synthesizes the diverse parts of her own identity has inspired her to rethink education; it offers a map to revitalize science education as it operates within diverse classrooms and in a world just beginning to recognize its many cultural traditions.
Nils C. Halker II
Professional Development Specialist
Nils Halker joined the Science Museum of Minnesota staff in 1996 and has worked extensively with teachers and students from Minnesota and Wisconsin. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Biology and music from the University of Minnesota and a Master of Science in ecotoxicology from the University of Durham, England. He has been a lead instructor in a multi-year collaboration, between the American Indian Society for Engineering and Science (AISES), Bemidji State University, and the Science Museum to support culturally competent science teaching and learning with Native American students. He has also worked extensively with the Minnesota Science Teachers Association and the Nexus program, and has designed and led a variety of levels of Inquiry Institutes for schools and districts. Prior to coming to the Museum, he taught science and math in the Special Education Department of Edina High School, and then became Director of Education at the Freshwater Foundation where he also was editor of a national journal published by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He is widely recognized as having the most extensive collection of plastic dinosaurs in the Museum.
Professional Development Specialist
Travis Sandland joined the Professional Development staff in 2006. Prior to this, he taught in the Earthscapes program of the National Center for Earth Surface Dynamics (NCED) and served as a program manager with the museum's Kitty Andersen Youth Science Center where he worked intensely with at-risk youth. He graduated with honors from Macalester College with a Bachelor of Science in Geology and a Physics minor and earned his Masters in Geological and Environmental Sciences from Stanford University. He has extensive experience in developing classroom materials and lessons that integrate NCED research, state and national standards, and inquiry-based teacher methods.
Lacey Prpić Hedtke
Lacey Prpić Hedtke joined the staff on Halloween of 2011. She holds a Bachelors of Fine Arts in photography from the Art Institute of Boston, and a Masters of Library and Information Science from St. Catherine University.
Prior to coming to Science House, Lacey worked with Planned Parenthood, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, MIT List Visual Arts Center, Mpls Photo Center, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and Minneapolis Community and Technical College.
Lacey has a strong interest in independent publishing. She is the Twin Cities Zinefest Coordinator, and has self-published several zines.
Lacey is interested in all forms of radical librarianship. In response to the 2008 Republican National Convention in Saint Paul, she co-founded the Twin Cities Radical Reference Collective.
She works in Civil War era photography processes and spent two years learning mediumship at The Greater Boston Church of Spiritualism.
Linda Green joined the Professional Development staff in 2009. She brings many years of accounting/financial experience from a variety of industries. After graduating from Bethel College (now Bethel University) with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration and an Accounting minor, she has worked in the travel industry, financial services industry, and at a production company.
Professional Development Coordinator
Babette Kelley joined the team in March of 2011 bringing a critical set of project planning and communications skills to our group. Her prior work includes video and meeting production, corporate communications, and presentation design. She graduated from Memphis State (now the University of Memphis) with a BA in Communications (film and video production), and has earned Business Writing & Project Management certificates from the University of Minnesota Continuing Education Department; and has completed a graduate level certificate in Instructional Design. She has a Short-Call MN Teaching License and has a passion for high expectations in Special Education classrooms.
Maximillian "Max" Rowntree
Science House Visitor Assistant
In the spring of 2011 Max volunteered at the museum, working in the Dinosaurs and Fossils Gallery as an interpreter during the week, and at Science House on Saturdays. In the spring of 2012 he become a staff member at Science House. Max loves to go fossil hunting over at Lilydale Regional Park and all over St. Paul. He lived in New Mexico until a few years ago; he worked for several years in the New Mexico State Senate as an assistant to the Senate Education Committee. Max was born with Spina Bifida, and it has made it so he thinks and learns in a different way. It has also made it so he understands what other people with disabilities go through.
Max loves his two jobs; they make it so he learns new things each and every day. Both jobs are very important to him. He's lucky getting to work with the most amazing team in both Science House and in Dinosaurs and Fossils. It makes him feel needed and a part of a team. He gets to show both visitors and teachers where things are, help the staff, and help teachers get their equipment to their cars.