ARLINGTON, Va.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Shell Oil Company and the National Science Teachers Association today announced the grand prize winner and four national finalists in the fourth annual Shell Science Lab Challenge. The competition encouraged teachers (grades 6-12) in the U.S. and Canada, who have found innovative ways to deliver quality lab experiences with limited school and laboratory resources, to share their approaches for a chance to win a school science lab makeover valued at $20,000.
“Students with access to a safe lab environment to ask questions, explore, construct, test and interpret observations are more likely to cultivate skills that could motivate them to pursue science disciplines,” said Dr. Frazier Wilson, VP Shell Oil Company Foundation and Manager of Social Investment. “The Shell Lab Challenge seeks to better equip high schools labs for quality outcomes, especially for science teachers who create innovative experiences for students despite limited lab environments.”
“We’re honored to be able to reward dynamic and captivating teachers who, by their example, inform and inspire others,” said Dr. Juliana Texley, NSTA President. “We applaud the grand prize winner and national finalists of the Shell Science Lab Challenge for their hard work, creative ideas, and dedication to their students’ education.”
To enter the Shell Science Lab Challenge, science teachers of grades 6-12 in the U.S. and Canada were asked to describe their school’s current laboratory resources, explain why the school’s laboratory facilities might be classified as “limited” resources, and describe their approach to science education instruction utilizing their school’s current lab facilities. A panel of science educators then reviewed and selected the top entries.
Grand Prize Winner – Latiffe Amado: Alliance Environmental Science and Technology High School, Los Angeles, Calif.
Amado describes her school’s lab as “a hodgepodge of items collected
throughout the years, from DonorsChoose donations, laboratory
donations from technology companies, and our 99-cent-only store
purchases.” While she and her colleagues are able to teach scientific
skills, she says they can’t teach “the technology component” with the
materials they have.
If provided the essential scientific equipment and “the technology needed for uttermost success in college,” Amado contends that students will have numerous opportunities for real-world experimentation on campus and in the community, including monitoring a local river, analyzing soil on campus, and monitoring carbon monoxide at the train servicing station near the school.
National Finalist – H. Marie Lemon: Greenville Early College, Greenville, S.C.
Lemon takes an inquiry-based approach to build on the inquisitive
nature of her middle school students. By using their curiosity and
prior experiences to engage them, she is teaching them how to think
through problems and solutions while helping them realize that science
does not have to be intimidating—in fact, they often “do” science at
To make the most of what she does have, Lemon cycles students through stations and supplements her supplies with items purchased from her own funds. She brings in a variety of materials from home, including plants and science equipment to ensure her students have a variety of experiences to spark their interest in science.
National Finalist – Pamela Skinner: Maranatha Christian School, Williams Lake, British Columbia, Canada
- Skinner’s small private school was formerly an elementary school and has not been completely retrofitted as a K-12 school. Its science lab budget isn’t large enough to support the purchase of new equipment. The lab facilities are extremely limited and can only accommodate 14 students at a time. Storage, equipment, and supplies are at a premium, forcing the school to rely on online resources, common household supplies, and Skinner’s previous experience as a lab technician.
National Finalists – Steven Ward and Dave Yarmchuk: Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy, Washington, D.C.
Located in a former warehouse, the Cesar Chavez Public Charter School
for Public Policy has limited facilities. “With no sink nor drain, no
permanent storage space, no refrigerator, and very few electrical
outlets, Ward’s high school biology classroom can only barely be
called a laboratory space,” says Principal Zenada Mahon, adding the
biology dissection lab had to be relocated to a different part of the
building due to the biology classroom’s inadequacies.
Without storage space, Ward and his fellow science teachers have not been able to purchase supplies. Instead, they rely on dry labs, paper models, teacher demonstrations, and fieldwork as they challenge their students to think critically and often become the first in their families to go to college.
Ward says the “goal for each lesson is to re-connect students’ science education to the professional research of scientists and activities in the scientific community at large” while tying it to current events in students’ loves and communities.
National Finalist – Melissa Zwilling: St. Joseph’s High School, Westchester, Ill.
In a video highly praised by the judges, Zwilling detailed the
chemistry’s lab’s outdated and non-functioning equipment; lack of
appropriate chemical disposal options; lack of a gas source for Bunsen
burners; and shortage of consumables, glassware, and chemicals. “While
I do my best to emphasize the excitement that I feel is innate in
chemistry, some students benefit most from seeing the fascinating
reactions that occur during experiments,” she contends, noting that it
is not always possible with the lab in its current condition.
St. Joseph’s serves many minority students and those from low-income homes, Zwilling points out. “These are the very students we should be encouraging toward STEM careers,” she maintains, adding that an upgraded lab would allow teachers to conduct more exciting, engaging experiments that would increase students’ interest and their understanding of scientific concepts.
As the grand prize winner, Amado will receive a science lab makeover support package for her school valued at $20,000. The prize package includes an $8,000 Shell cash grant, $8,000 in donated lab equipment, $1,000 in NSTA prizes—to include an NSTA bookstore gift certificate and NSTA conference registrations, NSTA memberships and NSTA Learning Center subscriptions for two teachers. Amado also received an expense-paid trip to attend the 2015 NSTA National Conference on Science Education in Chicago last month.
The four national finalists will each receive a science lab makeover support package for their school valued at $8,500. The prize package includes a $3,000 Shell cash grant, $3,000 in donated lab equipment, $1,000 in NSTA prizes—to include an NSTA bookstore gift certificate and NSTA conference registrations, NSTA memberships and NSTA Learning Center subscriptions for two teachers. The national finalists also received an expense-paid trip to attend the 2015 NSTA National Conference.
Ward’s Science is also supporting the Shell Science Lab Challenge by providing equipment to the winners.
Recognizing that the laboratory experience is integral to science education and that many schools, especially schools in urban and rural areas, do not have the resources to invest in quality lab equipment, NSTA and Shell partnered on the Shell Science Lab Challenge to bring much needed lab materials and resources to school districts nationwide and in Canada.
For more information about the Challenge, visit the competition web site.
The Arlington, VA-based National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) is the largest professional organization in the world promoting excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all. NSTA's current membership includes approximately 55,000 science teachers, science supervisors, administrators, scientists, business and industry representatives, and others involved in science education.
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