Van Andel Institute to sponsor K-12 STEM education conference

GRAND RAPIDS—The Van Andel Institute for Education announced that it would host “Science on the Grand: A STEAM conference for inquiry-based instruction” for the third year, on July 13 and 14 in Grand Rapids.

This conference equips K–12 educators with the skills, resources, confidence, and competence they need to create a classroom culture which supports STEAM integration, as well as specific STEAM content strategies and lessons.

In addition, all registered teachers can elect to participate in ‘VAI’s Pitch Tank’—a fun competition intended to encourage creativity in the classroom where participants will have an opportunity to receive up to $5,000 to transform their classroom.

VAI is proud to announce that this year’s keynote addresses will feature Erin Gruwell and Dr. Matt Steensma:

Gruwell is an award-winning educator and advocate best known for her work with The Freedom Writers Foundation, an organization dedicated to training educators and bringing hope to students around the globe. Gruwell’s keynote will focus on how teachers can become catalysts for change by encouraging tolerance, cooperation, and respect within the classroom.

Steensma received his M.D. from Wayne State University School of Medicine and joined Van Andel Institute in 2010 as an associate scientific investigator in the Center for Skeletal Disease Research. In his keynote address, Steensma will share his insights on the scientific process and discuss how educators can influence and inspire the next generation of great thinkers.

Other features of the event will include:

  • More than 40 sessions dedicated to research-based and classroom-tested STEAM content strategies.
  • A lineup of practicing teachers and speakers covering topics such as project-based learning, critical thinking, student engagement, literacy and the science connection, classroom management, collaboration, social and emotional learning, and STEAM integration.
  • Exciting opportunities to network with other dedicated educators.
  • A chance to win up to $5,000 in classroom improvement funding.

“My hope is that teachers walk away from Science on the Grand with practical strategies they can actually use, and with a rekindled passion for science and teaching.” said Terra Tarango, Director of Van Andel Institute for Education. “But mostly, I hope they feel honored and respected for the amazing job they do on a daily basis.”

To learn more about Science on the Grand 2020 and VAI’s Pitch Tank Competition, go to:

Registration is $100.

Van Andel Institute is a biomedical research and education organization that collaborates around the world to advance biomedicine and education. With a staff of more than 400 and a growing network of partners, VAI studies the origins of cancer, Parkinson’s and other diseases and translates its findings into prevention and treatment strategies to improve human health. The Graduate School at VAI offers a Ph.D. in molecular and cellular biology through a research-intensive, interdisciplinary program that prepares students for successful careers as independent investigators. More at

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