Shell Science Lab Challenge Announces 2018 Grand Prize Winner and National Finalists

ARLINGTON, Va.--()--Shell Oil Company and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) today announced the grand prize winner and four national finalists in the seventh 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 take tremendous pride in these educators who are dedicated, passionate about science, and deeply committed to engaging, motivating, and inspiring their students,” said Dr. David Evans, Executive Director, NSTA. “Congratulations to the grand prize winner and national finalists for their hard work and innovative ideas.”

To enter the Shell Science Lab Challenge, 6–12 grade science teachers 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 instruction utilizing their school’s current lab facilities. A panel of science educators reviewed and selected the top entries.

Grand Prize Winner

Lauren Brown, Madison Park Academy, Oakland, California

Brown is often faced with the challenge of motivating and inspiring students to engage in academics. She uses inquiry-based lesson plans that encourage her students to unleash their creativity. However, she cannot fully engage students in science investigations without access to high-quality classroom materials. The majority of science labs in Brown’s school do not have sinks and teachers share limited materials among eight teachers and 950 students. Some teachers ask students to bring resources from home, and many teachers often purchase materials with their own money for students who lack the ability to secure them.

With the Shell cash grant, Brown will be able to help her students develop the skills they need in the science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) fields. Updated lab materials will help engage her students in inquiry learning experiences and promote their pursuit of a STEAM-related education or career. Brown also plans to create a webinar and ‘YouTube’ channel to support both teachers and students in their STEAM journeys, and build community awareness of them through local news coverage and podcasts.

As the grand prize winner, Brown will receive a science lab makeover support package for her school valued at $20,000. The prize package includes:

  • $5,000 Shell cash grant to purchase science/lab equipment and science education resources;
  • $5,000 gift certificate outfitted by Carolina Biological Supply Company, to purchase science/lab equipment and science education resource books through their company;
  • $1,000 in NSTA prizes, including an NSTA science store gift certificate and NSTA conference registration, NSTA memberships and NSTA Learning Center subscriptions for two teachers; and
  • Expense-paid trip to attend the NSTA National Conference on Science Education, in Atlanta, March 15-18, 2018.

National Finalists

Rebecca Grella, Jennifer Costa, and Jacob Mulderig, Brentwood Sonderling High School, Brentwood, New York

Grella, Costa, and Mulderig are true believers in hands-on learning and are passionate about environmental issues. Global environmental issues are a cornerstone of their teaching and research efforts, and their enthusiasm for ecology, engineering, and environmental research is a catalyst that drives their students to ask important scientific questions.

With grant money, the teachers will collaborate with the school’s technology teachers to broaden the scope and impact of the research lab and offer students the ability to solve engineering problems. Specifically, Grella, Costa, and Mulderig would like to provide students with the ability to design and build systems that solve problems related to water use. The teachers envision making upgrades to the laboratory library, equipment, and probes, and incorporating this technology into a district-wide hydroponic grow initiative. The high school lab would serve as the training ground for all elementary and high school educators, as well as students involved in the project. The space will serve as a control center for the district’s STEAM needs, encourage collaboration among older and younger students, and provide much-needed equipment for all to use.

Melissa Altemose, W.A. Pattillo Middle School, Tarboro, North Carolina

Altemose works hard to create opportunities for her students to experience science concepts and ideas. She teaches in a rural school district with many priorities and needs that often restrict investment in science materials and curriculum that foster inquiry. Grant money will help her address some of these needs and also provide professional development for teachers and expose them to models of inquiry-based instruction available in the community.

Her current lab supplies are scarce, so Altemose supplements them by personally purchasing the materials or seeking grants. Additional support will provide upgraded lab equipment so her students can learn the techniques they need to succeed in future STEM courses and careers. Altemose will use this grant to create a classroom environment that can serve as a model for rigorous, inquiry-based science instruction in rural communities nationwide, and help to eliminate some of the inequalities that exist between rural and urban schools and students.

Paula Labbe, Deep Creek Middle School, Chesapeake, Virginia

Labbe’s students love science because it is hands on. She can’t imagine teaching science without labs because the experiences help students make connections with the content they are learning. Her current lab facilities, unfortunately, are limited. When school lab equipment breaks, it is often not replaced and the majority of the budget is used to purchase consumables that have to be replaced each year. Labbe’s school has been unable to purchase much-needed durable equipment so she has purchased and repaired equipment at her own expense, and borrowed materials from larger schools. She also invites guest speakers who bring materials to conduct activities with the students.

The enrollment in Labbe’s school is expected to skyrocket, and she is concerned about how to support the increase in students with her current budget. Grant money will help her upgrade her lab and allow more students to participate. It will help her make labs an integral part of the science curriculum and help to build her students’ knowledge and skills in science and better prepare them as they progress in their education or enter the workforce.

Toni Cascioli and Stacy Weiss, Phoenix Day School for the Deaf, Phoenix, Arizona

Middle school teachers Cascioli and Weiss spend a lot of time modifying and adapting laboratory activities to meet their students’ needs while also ensuring safety—often a challenge with the limited equipment that is available to them. The middle school department does not have an official science lab and their classroom lacks the equipment needed for a science laboratory. The classroom lacks a sink, the chemical supply is limited, and 15-year-old triple beam balances, graduated cylinders, glass beakers, and microscopes must be shared with the high school science teacher. A majority of the resources used are recycled materials that are donated.

Cascioli and Weiss know that middle school is where students develop interests that often lead them on their career path. They want to help their students be successful members of the scientific community and role models for their deaf peers. This grant will enable them to upgrade the laboratory and help students expand their current science knowledge through higher-level, hands-on activities and experiments.

The four national finalists will each receive a science lab makeover support package for their school valued at $8,500. The prize package includes:

  • $3,000 Shell cash grant to purchase science/lab equipment and science education resources;
  • $3,000 gift certificate outfitted by Carolina Biological Supply Company, to purchase science/lab equipment and science education resource books through their company;
  • $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; and
  • Expense-paid trip to attend the NSTA National Conference on Science Education.

Recognizing that the laboratory experience is integral to science education and that many schools, especially those 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.

About NSTA

The Arlington, VA-based National Science Teachers Association is the largest professional organization in the world promoting excellence in science teaching and learning, preschool through college. NSTA’s membership includes approximately 55,000 science teachers, science supervisors, administrators, scientists, business representatives, and others involved in science education.

About Shell Oil Company

Shell Oil Company is an affiliate of the Royal Dutch Shell plc, a global group of energy and petrochemical companies with operations in more than 70 countries. In the U.S., Shell operates in 50 states and employs more than 20,000 people working to help tackle the challenges of the new energy future.


Kate Falk, 703-312-9211

Release Summary

Shell and NSTA announced the grand prize winner and four national finalists in the Shell Science Lab Challenge.



Kate Falk, 703-312-9211