Passion for Inquiry... with Lisa Detloff

Passion for Inquiry provides exemplary hands-on science programs and curriculum development
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Educational Consulting –
Exemplary Science Programs

Passion for Inquiry’s Lisa Dettloff brings over thirty years of experience in inquiry-based science education to the design of her clients' programs.

She designs specialized science programs and curriculum for independent schools, private groups and families. She is currently on staff as a science specialist/consultant at two independent schools on the peninsula, in addition to working with several private groups.

Her program development expertise is built on a lifetime of experience, including over twenty years as a curriculum developer and presenter for Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California, Berkeley. She taught overseas in Guatemala and Nepal for several years both in international schools and village schoolhouses, returning to the US to work as a Science Specialist at The Nueva School. At Nueva she worked with colleague Fred Estes to develop an exemplary science program.

In 2009, Lisa founded Passion For Inquiry. For several years, she brought adventures in scientific inquiry to students in schools, community centers and homes. Her curriculum is custom designed to meet the needs and passions of each group of children, while providing experiences that strengthen the Science Practices in the National Science Framework. Her services include professional lesson plans, preparation and set-up of on-site science lab, workshop presentation, and private photo galleries for each workshop Her programs have serve over 5000 students in Portola Valley, Burlingame, Woodside, Menlo Park, Atherton, Corte Madera, Oakland, San Jose and Albany.

Currently, Lisa provides science education consulting for schools, private groups and after school programs, with specific expertise in working with gifted students. She also provides consulting in science curriculum development, educational tools and school program development.

For the last two years, Lisa has served as a consultant and science program designer for Phillips Brooks School in Menlo Park. This year, she acted as founding science program developer at Creekside Learning Lab School in Portola Valley.

What Children Experience:

One fifth-grader from a year-long program in a Portola Valley classroom writes: I'd always wished for science classes where you get to do experiments that you made up or you picked. Well, this year my wish came true. I couldn't have asked for more. I learned more about science this year than the last three years. For example, going into school last fall I knew nothing about ocean currents, how they worked, what dry ice is made of, and what pH is. Now, thanks to you and your brilliant classes I know all of that stuff plus much more. I also never knew science could be so much fun. I had the most fun time doing the dry ice and liquid nitrogen experiments.

What Parents Experience:

Linda Yates, parent and school program organizer in Portola Valley writes: Lisa Dettloff and the Passion for Inquiry team define what 21st century learning must be. Lisa creates authentic science experiences for kids that are engaging, creative, hands on, content-rich, purposeful and fun….She began Passion for Inquiry to address the “disconnect” between the need for creative, well-prepared science-minded students in the world today and the lack of authentic, engaging science education.… Her program helps any child develop the habits of mind and set of lenses to look at any problem or challenge and feel confident they can tackle it, take it apart, work with it and have fun doing so. Her labs are incredibly well prepared and allow for natural differentiation among students…Lisa is an amazing role model for girls and young women in the 21st century. She proves that as a girl, you can be cool and a scientist, that science, technology, engineering whatever scientific path you might choose is a way to help solve the challenges the world may face and she puts science in the context of the bigger picture. It is time to revolutionize science education in our country and Lisa is on the vanguard of that movement. Get her while you can!

School Science Program Design:

Creekside Learning Lab, Portola Valley, CA
August 2012 to present
Consultant /Science Specialist

  • Responsible for designing and delivering the science program for this unique institution dedicated to pushing the edges of best practice for a 21st century learning environment.

Phillips Brooks School, Menlo Park, CA
August 2011 to present
Consultant /Science Specialist

  • Responsible for designing revised science program for K-5
    Independent School.
  • Developed curriculum and wrote detailed lesson plans for yearlong
    science programs for grades K-5.
  • Refitted science lab to deliver new curriculum and managed equipment purchasing and budget.

The Nueva School, Hillsborough CA
September 2003 to June 2009
Science Specialist

  • Co-developed and delivered comprehensive inquiry-based science program for highly regarded independent school for gifted children.
  • Adapted curriculum, designed and created instructional materials for elementary grade levels.
  • Managed and lead yearly science overnight trips for 3rd and 4th grade students.
  • Developed Green Building Curriculum as part of LEED Gold award from US Green Building Council.
  • Worked on team with Nueva staff and advisors from the Stanford Institute of Design to create design lab onsite at the Nueva School as well as initial programming to teach design tools to students.

Curriculum Development Projects:

World Wide Telescope
As a consultant for Microsoft Next Media Research Lab, Lisa developed educatorís tools for the innovative World Wide Telescope. This innovative software is a virtual astronomy tool that offers the ability to interactively browse through a vast database of astronomy imagery data in multiple wavelengths and create interactive tours and animated presentations. Her package included tutorial tours, sample curriculum and written educator guides.

The Climate Project
Selected as a presenter for Al Gore’s Climate Project in 2007, Lisa was personally trained by Al Gore to present his material on Climate Change as a volunteer. Her free presentations to schools, community groups and educational institutions have inspired thousands of youth.

The Green Building Challenge
As part of the Nueva Schoolís LEED gold award from the US Green Building Council, Lisa developed the Green Building Challenge. This project-based curriculum uses design-thinking skills to teach children about the science of green building.

Educational Philosophy

Passion For Inquiry’s custom-designed science workshops enrich the scientific expertise and passion in elementary and middle school children through dynamic, exciting activities guided by thoughtful questions. The process is guided by the science practices in the new National Science Framework.

The workshops are lively, fun and carefully designed to provide the excitement, deep comprehension of science content, and the scientific thinking skills that children need to flourish in science. Through a sequence of dynamic science explorations, the children reach their own conclusions on science content. Research has shown this method of learning produces much higher retention and deeper comprehension. Key science process skills are built into the activities and explicitly described in the provided lesson plans. With students, we refine concepts after exploration and discovery, providing a deeper comprehension of the material than when students are simply told something. These insights always lead to new questions, an opportunity for further exploration. Children learn how to answer their own questions by doing experiments of their own design, using the Cycle of Inquiry.


Lisa Dettloff
Lisa Dettloff – Founder

Lisa Dettloff’s adventure in science education began when she entered UC Berkeley at age fifteen to study physics. At seventeen, she was hired to teach at the Lawrence Hall of Science, a science education research center at UC Berkeley. At LHS, she presented and developed planetarium shows and hands-on science workshops. Her twenty-one year career at Lawrence Hall added richness and depth to her exploration of inquiry-based science education.  She developed curriculum and presented workshops, large-group science shows and teacher workshops. A passion for adventure led her to ten years of international science education programs. She taught internationally for six months each year, in a variety of settings ranging from large international schools in capital cities to small village school houses and schools for street children, in Guatemala and Nepal. Back in the US, Lisa spent six years as Science Specialist for the Nueva School, an independent school for gifted children, where she developed an innovative science education program, in conjunction with colleague Fred Estes. Her traveling science lab brings inquiry-based science classes to an expanding group of private students from Silicon Valley to Marin County. She works as a presenter for AL Gore’s Climate Education Project and has consulted for Microsoft’s Next Media Research Lab. Passion for Inquiry’s special touch is based on a lifetime of experience and adventure in science education.


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