There's a better way to engage students in STEM.


We produce K-8 science curricula that adhere to research on the way students learn:  By integrating reading, writing, talking, and "doing" science in every lesson.  In our curricula, ideas connect from lesson to lesson, and unit to unit across science strands and grade levels.  Students connect what they learn in class with their out-of-class experiences - investigating chemical reactions first hand, then explaining how fireworks work or explaining what happens inside their bodies as they drink a soda.  Instead of amassing science information, students apply their understanding to new situations that require them to think critically, reason intelligently, and make sense of science as they engage in practices such as developing models, explaining phenomena, and using evidence to argue in support of their claims.

Better teaching and learning start with these 4 foundational beliefs:

1.  Research-based curriculum works.

Research indicates that achievement happens when students are interested and motivated to learn, thus only activities and readings that truly engage them foster deep learning.  Our curricula actively engage students in hands-on investigations of phenomena and extensive opportunities to read, write, and talk to "make sense" in every lesson.  Students experience the "Aha!" moments of science as they learn to explain everyday events such as how the odor of what's cooking reaches their noses, or why onions make people cry.  Teachers get to teach science the way they've always wanted to:  in ways that excite them and their students.

2.  Science is for all students.

For too long, science education has left behind those students who need to talk to make sense of their experiences, who learn best collaboratively, or who are challenged by language issues or reading.  Our curricula engage students with phenomena that they touch, talk about, think about, write about, read about, and make sense of together.  The reading materials link-in-class science to students' lives outside the classroom.  Differentiation ideas provide strategies for students to extend and apply their understandings, providing all students with opportunities for meaningful learning.

3.  Passionate teachers transform student learning.

Our curricula support novice teachers, as well as experienced teachers called upon to teach a new content area or grade level. A Teacher Preparation section before each lesson, and videos that show equipment set-ups and that delve into content, ensure teachers' confident approach to curriculum content. Equipped with deep understanding of the material, teachers are able to foster a classroom culture wherein answering each unit’s Driving Question is a unit-long project, and students’ own, original questions are an equally important pursuit. With materials in place, passion for science is all that is needed to transform both teaching and learning! 

4.  Digital learning should empower both teachers and students.

A PDF file on the web is just an online textbook; it doesn't transform learning.  Our Interactive Digital Edition (IDE) immerses students in a wholly interactive environment, including digital journals in which students record questions and data for use as evidence to support their explanations.  The IDE stores all student-generated models and written work, allowing students to submit responses electronically, so their teachers can monitor their progress toward learning goals.  Embedded videos, simulations, and audio recordings of reading support comprehension, retention, and science content learning for a wide range of learners.

Our Team

Eric Johnson

Eric Johnson has been involved in educational technology for over 20 years. He has held various leadership positions at Apple Computer, Sagebrush Corporation, Palm, PASCO Scientific and Texas Instruments. He is passionate about using technology to improve learning and has led innovative groups throughout much of the revolutionary change in this arena. He believes that STEM education is truly critical to our nation’s and to the world’s future. He holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree from St. Olaf College and an MBA from the University of St. Thomas.

LeeAnn (Sutherland) Adams, Ph.D.
Chief Academic Officer

LeeAnn Adams has been an educator since 1980, beginning her career as a high school teacher, joining the faculty of the University of Michigan’s School of Literature, Science, and the Arts in 1991, and UM's School of Education faculty in 2002. LeeAnn’s expertise is disciplinary literacy, focusing on curriculum, pedagogies, and practices that support all students in learning science content, and in learning the multiple Discourses required to be lifelong learners. LeeAnn was a Principal Investigator of the NSF grant and a member of the team that developed Activate Learning's IQWST (Investigating and Questioning our World through Science and Technology) middle school curriculum, as well as an NSF grant to develop an interactive, digital version of IQWST based on principles of Universal Design for Learning. She continues to play an active role in K-12 curriculum development, and in conducting PD related to science learning. LeeAnn holds a PhD in Literacy, Language, and Culture from the University of Michigan, in addition to degrees from Aquinas College and Alma College. 

Tom Pence
EXECUTIVE Vice President, Sales & Marketing

Tom Pence brings over 15 years of experience in Sales Management and Marketing in the Inquiry Science Market.  With experience in product development, materials procurement, and product implementation, Tom has enjoyed a wealth of sales success in the K-8 market.  He has helped implement Inquiry Science solutions in over 100 school districts across the US.  Some of these communities include: Chicago IL, St Louis MO, Detroit MI, Grand Blanc MI, Clarkston MI,  Columbus OH, Cleveland OH, Carmel IN, South Bend IN, Wauwatosa WI, Ritenour MO, Madison WI, Eau Claire WI, Stamford CT, Louisville Ky, Norman OK, Arlington Heights IL, Aurora IL, Naperville IL and Newark, NJ.

David robertshaw
Chief Product officer

David Robertshaw has over 20 years of experience in education publishing, including sales, product management, project management, marketing, QA and technical support. He has published scores of products in the education space, including the development of print, digital and SaaS products. David manages the full product life-cycle, working closely with engineering, sales, and customers to ensure stakeholder satisfaction. For the past 5 years, David was VP of Product and Project Management at Conceptua Math, a SaaS-based math curriculum for K-5. David has also managed the development of curriculum adaptation tools for students with disabilities and presented at national and international disability conferences. A graduate of UCLA, David has been a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) since 2001 and has an MBA in International Business.

Benjamin Reynolds
manager of operations and PRODUCT MANAGEMENT

Benjamin Reynolds has over 10 years of experience with Educational Kit Operations, which began with "ground-up" warehouse operations with Newton Learning, an SAS kit-based educational service provider. Benjamin manages the material supply chain for Activate Learning, from overseas-import to end-user delivery and customer service, as well as vendor relations for print, chemical, and warehouse. Benjamin developed the kit and packaging design for both the Active Science and IQWST curriculum, and continues to improve Activate Learning's product lines for customer convenience and experience. He has a passion for science and science education, and holds a Bachelors in Business Administration from Southern Nazarene University in Bethany, OK.

Marilyn Schmidt
lead facilitator, Professional Development

Marilyn Schmidt is an award-winning instructor with over 30 years of teaching experience in grades 6-12. She is Past President of the Colorado Biology Teachers Association, a recipient of Colorado’s Outstanding Biology Teacher Award, and recently received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Colorado Biology Teachers Association. Marilyn focuses on helping teachers to develop their students into learners who gather and analyze data,think critically, and build understanding. In addition to facilitating PD with teachers implementing IQWST and Active Science, Marilyn leads inquiry-based workshops and presentations at national and local conferences, including NSTA and NABT.

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joy reynolds
senior curriculum specialist

Joy Reynolds joins Activate Learning with 25+ years as a Detroit Public Schools science teacher and administrator. She was Director of the Detroit Mathematics and Science Center as part of the Michigan Mathematics and Science Center Network, serving also on the Michigan Science Content Review Committee and as an assessment writer for the MDOE. Joy participated in a University of Michigan and Detroit Public Schools partnership to develop standards-based curriculum, thus she has many years of curriculum development experience. She began her career as a Registered Nurse, then earned an MAT in K-8 education, with additional graduate coursework focused on Curriculum and Technology. Joy was an IQWST pilot teacher, and has taught several IQWST units since.

Heather milo
Curriculum and Instruction Specialist

Heather Milo is a former middle school science teacher with 10 years of experience in both formal and informal science education spaces. She has worked in public and private middle school classrooms, serviced urban and rural school communities, and taught advanced science classes at Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth summer program. Heather earned her Master of Science in Science Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, during which she mentored preservice teachers and researched practicing teachers in IQWST classrooms. Her research on teacher learning, and authentic and meaningful science pedagogy continues to drive her work at Activate Learning as the Professional Development Manager and Curriculum and Instruction Specialist. 


Debbi Downs has over 20 years of broad technology experience including building computers, supporting software, and network administration.  She owned her own computer repair business in St. Charles, MO and worked in the IT support industry for companies such as Boeing.  She has also enjoyed building websites for the past 27 years.  Debbi comes from a long line of teachers and was actively involved in creating educational booklets for preschool children, titled "Me, Here, & Now."  She brings her passion for education, technology and customer service to Activate Learning in her role as Product Support Specialist.

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Manager of Finance & HR Administration

Amy Barnes has over 20 years of experience in a broad range of Finance and Accounting roles. She began her career in internal audit later moving into corporate accounting and finance roles. Amy joined Activate Learning from Perficient, Inc., which grew from a startup to a leading, global digital transformation consulting firm during her tenure. Amy brings extensive knowledge and experience in business process development, finance operations, system implementations, and mergers & acquisitions to Activate Learning.  She has a passion for science and technology education and holds a BA in Accounting from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN.