Dr. Megan Bang

Principal Investigator

Northwestern University

Megan Bang is a Professor of the Learning Sciences and Psychology at Northwestern University and is currently serving as the Senior Vice President at the Spencer Foundation. Dr. Bang’s research focuses on understanding culture, learning, and development broadly with a specific focus on the complexities of navigating multiple meaning systems in creating and implementing more effective learning environments in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics education. Megan approaches her work through rigorous mixed methods – utilizing experimental design in her foundational cognition and development studies, to community based participatory design work in which she co-designs learning and teaching with communities, families, and youth as well as engages in the collaborative study of such environments. She conducts research in both schools and informal settings. She has taught in and conducted research in teacher education as well as leadership preparation programs. Dr. Bang has won several awards including the AERA early career award in Indigenous Education as well as the Division K early career award in Teaching and Teacher Education. She has published in leading outlets such as Cognition & Instruction, Science Education, and Educational Psychologist. She is currently serving on the Board of Science Education at the National Academy of Sciences and the editorial boards of several top journals.

Dr. Carrie Tzou

University of Washington Bothell

Co-Principal Investigator

Dr. Carrie Tzou is an associate professor in science education in the School of Educational Studies and a PI in the Goodlad Institute. She holds a PhD in Learning Sciences from Northwestern University and an M.S. in Teaching and Learning with a concentration in science education from Vanderbilt University.
Her research has three major components, all connected with an interest in addressing issues of culture, identity, and equity in science and environmental science learning:
1) ethnographic work to understand how youth and their communities are positioned and position themselves through place-based education,
2) design-based research to design curricula to bring youths’ out of school science and cultural practices into science and environmental science teaching and learning, and
3) research and design of elementary and secondary preservice teacher education that explores how to orient preservice teachers to the sophisticated learning and identities that their students construct both in and out of school in order to make science more accessible to all of their students.

Sharon Siehl

Tilth Alliance

Co-Principal Investigator

Sharon Siehl joined Seattle Tilth (now Tilth Alliance) in July 2013, after completing her Master’s in Public Policy and Administration from Northwestern University. She is a Program Director working with Youth Education, and has held several leadership roles around Garden and Adult Education.  She co-facilitates the School Learning Garden Network with Seattle Public Schools and is co-leader in the Washington Farm to School Network. Sharon is an informal outdoor educator working with children, students, teachers, parents and community members in school gardens and outdoor spaces in Columbus, OH, Houston, TX and Seattle for 14 years.  She is passionate about creating a just food system through food policy and community work, and is a co-founder of the Houston Food Policy Workgroup. She, her husband, and two sons enjoy planting, eating, traveling, reading and local adventures.

Headshot of Leah Bricker

Leah Bricker

Spencer Foundation

Research Scientist

Leah Bricker is a Research Associate Professor at Northwestern University and the Spencer Foundation.  She is a science educator and a learning scientist who studies children and youths’ science-related learning trajectories in schools and in other learning environments, such as museums, gardens, and zoos. She is really interested in connections between language (verbal and nonverbal communication) and science learning. Leah also uses design-based research to design science curricula in partnership with youths, families, and teachers, and then studies the curricula in action. Leah’s undergraduate and Master’s degrees are in the biological sciences (from the University of Arizona and Purdue University, respectively), and her PhD is in the learning sciences from the University of Washington. She was a middle school science teacher in Indianapolis, IN before working on issues related to science education policy at the Indiana Department of Education and at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Project 2061. Bricker has also helped preservice science teachers learn to teach science, and has designed and facilitated professional development experiences with and for practicing science teachers.

Nat Mengist

University of Washington

Research Study Lab Coordinator 2

Nat completed a Master’s in Education Policy at the UW College of Education in 2016, one year after receiving a Bachelors of Arts in Comparative History of Ideas, also at UW. He is also currently the Outreach Coordinator for the Comparative History of Ideas Department at UW and the Board President of The Common Acre, a 501(c)(3) organization that creates space for science and stories across cultures. Nat comes to Learning in Places after coordinating children’s gardens for Tilth Alliance, and his research interests include facilitation design, posthuman learning, and plant consciousness.

Charlene Montaño Nolan

University of Washington

Research Assistant

I am a doctoral student in Learning Sciences and Human Development. My research interests are in early childhood science learning and family/community leadership and engagement. Utilizing participatory design research methods, I am interested in co-creating equitable spaces for families, communities, educators, and researchers to design and implement (and re-design) early learning environments that foster expansive forms of science education. I am a research assistant on the Family Leadership Design Collaborative project and the Learning in Places project. I am also a mom of two vibrant, amazing girls.

Priya Pugh

University of Washington

Research Assistant

I am a PhD candidate in Learning Sciences and Human Development. I completed my Master’s in Education at the UW in 2012, with a certificate in Education for Environment and Community from IslandWood in 2011. I have been an educator in both formal and informal learning settings as a naturalist and field instructor. I have also directed and designed environmental education and outdoor-based STEAM learning programs here in Seattle. My research focuses on how people learn about science when they are outside. More specifically, I am interested in how youth, adults, and families understand and actively make sense of complex ecological phenomena, and the social and cultural influences on this sense making.

Maren Neldam

Maren Neldam

Tilth Alliance

Youth Education Program Manager

Maren Neldam is the Youth Education Program Manager at Tilth Alliance. She has been working in place-based environmental and food systems education for 10 years, and previously worked in sustainable agriculture and river restoration. In her roles at Tilth, she has worked with people of all ages to steward land, grow food, and cook in community. This includes leading science-based outdoor education in school gardens and public green spaces, facilitating workshops for teachers and families on sustainable school garden program development and outdoor education, and supporting design and development of school and community gardens. She is passionate to learn about complex systems and participate in community driven solutions to environmental and food issues.

Jordan Sherry-Wagner

Jordan Sherry-Wagner

University of Washington

Research Assistant

Jordan Sherry-Wagner is a doctoral student in Learning Sciences and Human Development. His research interests revolve around science education, philosophical discourse, identity development, and everyday learning in early childhood. He is particularly interested in how meaning is co-constructed through discursive practices and how educators can open up spaces for relational ways of knowing that align with emerging understandings of complex socio-ecological systems. He received his M.Ed. in Learning Science and Human Development from the University of Washington in 2015 and is also the Director of a local Early Learning Center where he contributes to axiological change in early learning from another vantage point.

Alice Tsoodle

University of Washington

Research Lab Coordinator

Alice Tsoodle is a proud mom of three amazing children. She comes from the Kiowa people of Oklahoma and is also descendent of Irish settlers. Her interests and experiences include walking with and learning from children as they reclaim their relationships with lands, waters and more than human relatives. She holds a masters degree in education (UW), a bachelors in environmental studies (UWB) and certificates in education for environment and community (IW), restoration ecology (UW), and permaculture (OSU). Her work specializes in community outreach, program development, outdoor environmental education, curriculum design, and learning sciences research.

Anna Johnson

Anna Johnson

Tilth Alliance

Research and Education Associate

Anna Johnson is a Research and Education Associate for Tilth Alliance. Before becoming an informal educator, she received a Bachelor of Science in Biology with a Minor in French from Calvin College in 2012. She has worked with community members of all ages around growing and cooking food. For four years, she served as a community partner on a research project around food access and food security in Michigan. In 2017, she returned to the Pacific Northwest and continued her work in informal education with Pacific Science Center and now with Tilth Alliance. She enjoys learning about the natural world through place-based science investigations.  

Elizabeth Starks

University of Washington Bothell

Research Scientist

Elizabeth Starks (Zuni/Navajo) is a cultural technologist whose design work focuses on creating and using new technological tools for empowerment of communities and individuals. She holds a Master’s degree in Software-Driven Systems Design, a Graduate Certificate in Museum Studies, and a Bachelor’s degree in Studio Art.

Nikki McDaid-Morgan

Project Alum

Nikki McDaid-Morgan (Shoshone-Bannock) is a doctoral student in Learning Sciences at Northwestern University. She is interested in designing land-based learning environments in formal and informal contexts for Indigenous youth. She also is exploring the relationship between how youth conceptualize agency of more-than-humans and youth beliefs and decisions regarding the natural world. Nikki earned her M.A. in Teaching from Pacific University and her B.S. in Sociology from Northeastern University prior to attending Northwestern. She also has experience as a middle school and high school classroom teacher and has two young children of her own.

Michelle Salgado

Michelle Salgado

Research Assistant

Project Alum

Michelle Salgado is a doctoral student in Curriculum and Instruction. Her research interests focus on children in primary grades engaged in authentic and collaborative inquiry practices within interdisciplinary science learning opportunities. She focuses on co-designing equitable learning environments with teachers and which include family engagement with science concepts to support and elevate a diversity of student participation. She is a National Board Certified Teacher and has taught elementary school for close to a decade. She has also worked as science curriculum developer, professional development provider, and instructional coach.

Rebecca Holbert

Tilth Alliance

Project Alum

Rebecca Holbert holds a M.A. of Education specializing in science education from the University of Washington, and a certificate in Education for Environment and Community from IslandWood. She loves working alongside children as they bring out her own inner child and curiosity. Rebecca has been teaching in classrooms and outdoor settings for over 10 years and has found that learning happens best when it’s fun! To stay connected to her own sense of fun- Rebecca enjoys spending time outside, reading, writing, and cuddling with her dog. Currently, Rebecca works in education leadership as a supervisor and mentor at SEED Early Childhood School- collaborating with children, teachers, and families to create sustainable learning communities for life-affirming education.

photograph of strawberry blossoms

Community Based Organizations

Photograph of Laura Barker looking at the camera through a sea shell

Laura Barker

Creative Kids Learning Center at Viewlands Elementary

 Creative Kids was recently featured in the Washington Post as one of the first educational centers to participate in the Seattle Public Preschool Program. We have a second preschool location at the Carkeek Park Environmental Learning Center. During summers, I work with preschool through fifth grade students implementing and participating in their outdoor summer daycamp adventures. 
The Viewlands students and their families help us maintain the garden and outdoor learning areas each summer at the school. We harvest berries and apples at Carkeek Park and use them in our classroom. At Creative Kids we explore ways to eat and make better-tasting, fresher and healthier foods while learning about science and the environment.

Photograph of Kate Bedient smiling in front of a tree

Kate Bedient

Director of Urban School Programs, IslandWood

Kate’s formative years were spent on the ancestral land of the Oneida people of Upstate New York, collecting fireflies and cooking up batches of mud soup. These experiences, coupled with a life-long interest in scientific and nature-based inquiry, eventually led Kate to the National Park Service, The Pacific Science Center and The North Cascades Institute. On becoming a land-owner in Seattle, Kate’s focus within the field of environmental education shifted. This pivotal life moment lead her down the path of exploring the many layers and complexities of urban environments (both built and natural) and the systems of inequities that continue to affect how (and by whom) land is used in cities. At IslandWood (where she has worked since 2010), Kate leads our Urban School Programs team and is honored to work with a rock star group of individuals who are committed to up-ending the dominant narrative and addressing the inequities in both the environmental and education fields. Kate is also a mother, an experience that has solidly reinforced her views on the importance of empathy, compassion, and mindfulness in learning environments. If asked what single food item she would bring with her to a deserted island, there would be no question that the answer would be a jug of Grade A Dark Maple Syrup from the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains. 

Photograph of Cheri Bloom standing in front of a tree

Cheri Bloom

Les Dames d’Escoffier Green Tables

Cheri Bloom’s expertise is in horticulture education and delivering agriculturally focused curriculum to the classroom.  Her award winning Greenhouse and Sustainability Program at Montlake Elementary School provided K-5thgrade children with the essentials for a healthy diet and sustainable gardening education for over sixteen years.  Presently Cheri is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier Green Tables which supports projects centered around funding programs focused on education on all aspects of growing, sourcing and preparing nutritious food.

Belinda Chin

Seattle Parks and Rec

Gretchen DeDecke

Seattle Public Schools

Sean McManus

Seattle Public Schools

Sahar Arbab

WA Green Schools

Valerie Segrest

Muckleshoot Tribe

Advisory Board

The advisory board includes national leaders in science education, ecological cognition, design research, and learning gardens.

Douglas Medin

Professor, Cognitive Science and Learning Sciences, Northwestern University

Douglas Medin has expertise in culture, ecosystems cognition, and science education.

Heidi Carlone

Associate Professor, Teacher Education and Higher Education, University of North Carolina Greensboro

Heidi Carlone has expertise in science learning and identity and a focus on outdoor environment science learning.

Dilafruz Williams

Professor, Educational Leadership and Policy at Portland State University (PSU)

She has served as Chair of the Board of the Council of the Great City Schools, Director of Community-University Partnerships at PSU and is cofounder of Portland school district’s Environmental Middle School and Leadership for Sustainability Education at PSU, where she established a master’s level academic program, and initiated, designed, and supported Learning Gardens at several schools addressing local farm-to-school food and nutrition issues and integration into major curricular goals.