Associate Professor, Department of Earth & Space Sciences, University of Washington

Endowed Professor for the College of the Environment in Earth Systems










Lab Field Trip program for K-12 classes

Since spring 2014, Kate's research group, IsoLab, and students and colleagues at the University of Washington have hosted 75-150 high school students per year (most from underrepresented groups, including disability and English language learner accommodations) for all day hands-on laboratory activities integrated with the high school science curriculum. Our main goals are to support high school science curriculum, science literacy, college readiness and diversity in STEM. Students learn about research methods through hands-on activity stations, and researchers practice explaining their science to a broad audience. Visits to the campus and labs include small group mentorship Q&A sessions led by undergraduate science majors from diverse backgrounds, to help change the perceptions of minority high school students who had not previously considered higher education, never mind science careers. Most of the students who participate in this program come from high schools with 90% non-white students, over 77% of whom are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch (OSPI Washington State Report Card statistics, 2016). Assessments show that this program has positively impacted STEM literacy and student perceptions of higher education, science careers and scientists.

Want to learn more or start your own Lab Tour or Lab Field Trip program?

See detailed description and download materials at SERC [here].

Also archived at EarthRef.org [here].

Our Lab Field Trip program has been supported by NSF grants EAR-1156134, EAR-0955309 and EAR-1252064 to Huntington, NASA grant NNX16AB86A to the University of Washington, and dozens of volunteers from the Department of Earth and Space Sciences, IsoLab and other units at the University of Washington.

Teacher Externship program

Since 2013, Kate and her research group have hosted high school teachers for summer “Externships” in which teachers earn continuing education clock hours and/or stipends to participate in fieldwork, laboratory activities, and curriculum development. Teachers have collected research samples and made observations in the field (see photo above of teachers from Highline School District, WA, examining an outcrop in the Palouse region of eastern Washington with Kate and our research team), prepared and analyzed samples in the lab, and/or designed laboratory field trip activities, projects and assignments for students that integrate research with the high school curriculum. Teachers participating in our first Externship opportunity in 2013 had the idea of expanding our basic Lab Tour activities into a comprehensive Lab Field Trip program described above.

Want to learn more or start your own Teacher Externshop program?

See detailed description and download materials at SERC [here].

Also archived at EarthRef.org [here].

Our recent Teacher Externships have been supported by NSF grants EAR-1252064 and EAR-0955309 to Huntington, and recruiting support from Highline School District and UW in the High School staff.

Rockin' Out - UW Earth & Space Sciences outreach

Rockin' Out brings hands-on geology learning to K-12 students across the state of Washington. Organized by ESS graduate students, volunteers teach hands-on activities in the classroom to introduce science in an energetic and entertaining way to help students learn by seeing and doing.

Website here: https://rockinoutuw.wixsite.com/home

Kate and her students have contributed to the Rockin' Out curriculum, and graduate students from the group volunteer regularly and hold leadership roles in the program. This is a great place to get started with outreach!

Our recent curriculum development activities have been supported by NSF grant EAR-1349279 to Huntington.

Download lesson plans and complete materials at EarthRef.org for

K-12 Topographic Maps and Hydrology Lesson 1: How to Read and Use Topographic Maps [here]  

K-12 Topographic Maps and Hydrology Lesson 2: Using Topography and an Augmented Reality Sandbox to Desgin Solutions to a Dam Break Problem [here]

Sparks for Change - NSF GOLD program


Our outreach efforts focus on educational enrichment for K-12 students, teacher professional development, and broadening participation in science activities.

Read on to learn about educational outreach programs Kate and her research group have developed or participated in since she joined the UW faculty in 2008. See links below to download educational materials to use and adapt (with attribution).


                                        - Lab Tours for everyone (2008-present)

                                        - Lab Field Trip program integrated with K-12 courses (2014-2016)

                                        - Teacher Externship program (2013-present)

                                        - Rockin' Out (Dept. of Earth and Space Sciences program, 2008-present)

                                        - UW in the High School teacher professional development (2010-2014)

                                        - Sparks for Change sponsor (NSF GOLD program, 2017-present)

Many of the activities described here seek to broaden participation of underrepresented groups by targeting high schools with large minority populations. We develop sustainable partnerships with K-12 science educators in these schools to provide professional development for high school science teachers and strengthen K-12 science curriculum.

See Resources for information about women and diversity in science higher education & research.

Amplify your impact

Past project: UW in the High School (UWHS)

Kate's CAREER project (NSF EAR-0955309) supported teacher professional development opportunities and student registration costs to expand the UW in the High School (UWHS) Earth Science course (ESS 101) to majority-minority serving schools in economically disadvantaged areas in Washington state. ESS 101 is one of the courses offered through UWHS, a concurrent enrollment program that enables high school students to earn both high school and college credit.

The program supported 5 teachers and their classes for three years before Kate's work with high school teachers evolved into the Teacher Externship and Lab Field Trip programs described above. 44 to 85% of the student populations in the targeted schools came from underrepresented groups (ethnic or racial minorities). Teacher training materials are archived online [here].

Special thanks to UW faculty colleagues Liz Nesbitt and Terry Swanson for sharing the ESS 101 course content and including teachers in field trips.  Thanks to Rockin' Out volunteers for bringing activities to the classroom. Special thanks to Tim Stetter of UW in the High School for collaboration on this project and logistical support

Kate is a "sponsor" in the Sparks for Change program to promote institutional change and broadening participation in the geosciences. The goal of Sparks for Change is to build a network of leaders in broadening participation, a collection of tested strategies for improving departmental support for broadening participation efforts, and a growing number of geoscience departments that are better equipped to attract and retain faculty and students from underrepresented groups, ultimately leading to a more diverse geoscience workforce.