Project Team


Lead Trainer


Tracy Harkins - Program Developer, Harkins Consulting, LLC

Tracy Harkins works nationally guiding educational change by providing service-learning professional development and resources to engage and motivate student learners.  Prior to starting her own consulting firm, she was the Executive Director of KIDS Consortium, a non-profit that developed an award-winning service-learning educational model. Tracy co-authored three books:  KIDS as Planners Guidebook, Working With KIDS: A Service-Learning Guide for Community Partners, and Integrating Scientific Practices and Service-Learning: Engaging Students in STEM.  


Development Team


Connect Science was developed by Tracy Harkins, Eileen Merritt, Sara Rimm-Kaufman and their team.


Sara Rimm-Kaufman - Program developer, University of Virginia

Sara Rimm-Kaufman is a Professor of Education at the University of Virginia. She has spent 20 years studying Social and Emotional Learning and teaching undergraduate and graduate students about learning and development. She is best known for leading research on the Responsive Classroom approach. Rimm-Kaufman’s research points to the many ways in which social and emotional skills can elevate the quality of instruction in the classroom. Connect Science represents the teams’ best efforts to create exciting and engaging instruction that leads to both academic and social learning.


Eileen Merritt - Program Developer, Arizona State University

Eileen Merritt is an Assistant Professor of Elementary Sustainability Science Education at Arizona State University. She leads science curriculum and measure development for Connect Science. Her research focuses on understanding effective pedagogies that help connect students and teachers to the natural world and develop their agency as environmental stewards. 


Joyce Tugel - STEM Education Consultant

Joyce Tugel is a K-12 Science Education Consultant. Her work primarily focuses on professional development in the areas of science curriculum, instruction and formative assessment, teacher leadership, and implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards. Joyce is a co-author of two books in the Uncovering Student Ideas in Science series (NSTA Press) and Science Curriculum Topic Study: Bridging the Gap Between Standards and Practice (2nd edition, Corwin/NSTA Press).


Candace Lapan - 2017-2018 Project Manager, University of Virginia

Candace Lapan is a Developmental Psychologist who received her PhD from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Her research merges social, cognitive, and educational psychology examined through a developmental lens. The goal of her research is to uncover developmental changes in self-perceptions and the underlying mechanisms responsible for these changes. Candace serves as the Project Manager for Connect Science. 


Rebecca McGregor - 2018-2019 Project Manager, University of Virginia

Rebecca McGregor received her M.Ed. in Educational Psychology: Applied Developmental Science from the University of Virginia in 2018 and worked on Connect Science as a graduate student, before shifting into a staff role. She is interested in understanding how knowledge of child development and student data can inform educational decision-making and especially enjoys partnering with schools and divisions to consider how this educational research can be applied to real-world school settings.


Julie Thomas - Social Development Lab ManageR, University of Virginia

Julie Thomas is the operations manager for Connect Science. Julie loves solving problems and is the energy that keeps the lights on and the wheels turning.


Ashley Hunt - IES Pre-doctoral fellow, University of Virginia

Ashley Hunt is an IES pre-doctoral fellow in the Educational Psychology: Applied Developmental Science program. Broadly, Ashley is interested in classroom-based interventions and teacher practices that integrate social-emotional learning (SEL) with content instruction. Ashley has been working to develop tools for measuring how teachers use the Connect Science curriculum, collecting feedback on the program from students and teachers, and investigating how students use social skills to facilitate discussions in science.


Nicole Bowers - Doctoral student, Arizona State University

Nicole Bowers is a doctoral student in the Learning, Literacies, and Technologies Ph.D. program at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University. Her current research interests focus on science education. Prior to entering the program, she worked as a high school and college biology teacher, and taught elementary school at Szczecin International School in Poland.

Connect Science was developed through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences (R305A150272) to the University of Virginia (PI: S. Rimm-Kaufman, co-PIs Eileen Merritt and Tracy Harkins).


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