How might we provide high-quality professional development to afterschool educators around the nation?


Science Action Club is a blended learning program that now serves 500+ educators in 15 U.S. states.

The California Academy of Sciences is a science museum that offers an afterschool program called Science Action Club (SAC).

1. The problem space

Many afterschool educators lack formal training in education and work multiple part-time jobs. They require curriculum and professional development to be effective at their role.

Science Action Club (SAC) is a professional development provider in the afterschool space. Based on a number of conversations and interviews, I came up with a list of characteristics common among SAC's educators.

new to tech

Many SAC educators are not comfortable or familiar with web and mobile technology.

wary of science

Many SAC educators haven't taken science since high school and are wary of science.

new to education

Many SAC educators are not formally trained as youth educators.

strained schedules

Many SAC educators take on SAC part-time to supplement other income.

Here are two sample personas of SAC educators.


New to the area. Trained as an actor and wants to teach drama at the local high school.

pain point

Spotty background in science.


Recently got laid off from his old job. In addition to SAC, works part-time as a carpenter.

pain point

No experience working with children.

2. Our Concept

My team created a blended learning program to train our educator network. Accordingly, each educator would go through an online training and an in-person workshop.

The service blueprint below builds out the specific exchanges of information and artifacts during SAC's training process.

SAC's online learning platform, the Educator Portal, lies at the heart of the service.

Product vs. Service

SAC needed to transition from a product to a service in order to provide an end-to-end experience for our users.

Most mature products are designed as services to create an end-to-end user experience. The Science Action Club service includes tangible products (such as an online learning course), multiple artifact-based touchpoints (including recruiting material and surveys), as well as a steady stream of communication.

3. Creating a Component System

I worked on establishing a design system for Science Action Club's online trainings. Here are some of the system's atoms and molecules.

4. Building a platform

I led the design and development of an online training platform, called the Educator Portal, to scale SAC's impact from 5 sites in the Bay Area to 500 sites across the U.S.

The landing page of the Educator Portal on a desktop.

Here is a sample flow showing the different sections of the Educator Portal.

Landing page

Module pages

Section pages

Inside a section

The online training module associated with the Bug Safari curriculum.

Part 4 of the Bug Safari online training.

Activity 8 within Part 4 of Bug Safari.

In addition to a website, the Educator Portal is also accessible via an iPad app.

A section page from the Bug Safari curriculum, on iPad.

An activity page from the Bug Safari curriculum, on iPad.

5. Responding to Users

We organized a user test with 25 educators and employed contextual observation as well as think alouds to capture our results.


Many educators had trouble summarizing the key takeaways from each section of the training.


We added summary slides at regular intervals to reinforce the most important information from each section.


The online training was too long for our educators to complete in one go.


We sprinkled Take a Break slides throughout the training to remind our educators to take regular breaks.


Many educators wanted the training to be more interactive so they could validate their progress.


We added knowledge checks throughout the training to allow our educators to test and augment their learning.

6. The Science Action Club Experience

Science Action Club now offers three curriculum modules via the Educator Portal. Each module includes a guidebook, a kit, access to the online training, and an invitation to an in-person workshop.

module 1

In the Bug Safari curriculum, students learn about arthropods and engage in citizen science by contributing to the iNaturalist database of observations. View a sample here.

module 2

In the Bird Scouts curriculum, students learn about birds and engage in citizen science by contributing to the eBird database of observations. View a sample here.

module 3

In the Cloud Quest curriculum, students learn about climate and engage in citizen science by contributing to the GLOBE database of observations. View a sample here.

Photo credit: California Academy of Sciences.

activity kit

Each SAC module includes a kit with supplies for hands-on activities.

Photo credit: California Academy of Sciences.

scientific tools

These petri dishes and magnifying lens are part of the Bug Safari kit. They are being used to photograph a small insect that will be added to iNaturalist's database.

Photo credit: Adrian Sanchez Gonzalez, Montana.

Blended learning

After the online training, all educators complete an in-person workshop with other SAC educators in their region.

7. Impact

Here's a map showing SAC's reach after our new blended learning model was implemented.

August 2016

August 2017

Here's a video we used to promote Science Action Club to our educator network.

Video credit: California Academy of Sciences.

    Check it out

    The Educator Portal is not publicly accessible, but you can view the publicity pages for our products here.

    Science Action Club

If we had more time...

We would conduct contextual interviews with our educators to understand more about their background and teaching style. We would also create well-defined buckets of users and personalize the online training to meet each group's needs.

As the product design lead, I led the design and development of SAC's online presence, which allowed SAC to expand to 15 states across the nation. The SAC team also included K. Levedahl, L. Herszenhorn, R. Panganiban, C. Martínez, and A. Collins.