ARLINGTON, Va.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Shell Oil Company and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) today announced the grand prize winner and four national finalists in the seventh annual national 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 inquire, explore, construct, test and interpret observations are more likely to cultivate skills that could motivate them to pursue science disciplines,” said Dr. Frazier Wilson, Vice President Shell Oil Company Foundation and Director, Workforce Development and Diversity Outreach. “The Shell Science Lab Challenge provides school labs quality outcomes, especially for science teachers who create innovative experiences for students despite limited lab environments.”
“These science teachers have implemented truly remarkable science programs, providing quality lab experiences for their students with very little resources,” said Dr. David Evans, Executive Director, NSTA. “We commend the winners of the NSTA Shell Science Lab Challenge for their creativity, resourcefulness and commitment to their students.”
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
Betty Lewis, N.H. Pilate Middle School, Newton, Mississippi
Lewis’ current lab is a traditional classroom with desks and includes a limited number of working microscopes, a small amount of glassware, and very few other resources needed to operate a classroom lab properly. A laboratory upgrade would support students with an environment that is conducive to learning, where they can experience science by emulating the tasks of scientists by participating in inquiry-based activities and science and engineering practices. Lewis will use this grant as a platform to generate interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) in her district. She will collaborate with science, math and technology teachers to create a STEM developmental plan to assess the needs of her community. Then, Lewis will conduct research to gain knowledge about how to implement a STEM program that will begin with kindergarten learners and continue throughout high school and beyond to include dual-enrollment students.
As the grand prize winner, Lewis received 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 St. Louis, Missouri, April 11-14, 2019.
Amanda Walker, University Academy Middle School, Panama City, Florida
Walker’s teaching philosophy is that every student can learn and love science. Her strategies include capitalizing on students’ innate curiosity, and providing a safe space for them to explore questions in a collaborative, supportive classroom structure. Her current lab facilities consist of modular classrooms housed at the main campus building in Panama City, Florida. These rooms lack running water, have no sinks, and did not come with safe storage options for laboratory equipment. All of Walker’s current equipment was salvaged from the old school building following the devastating effects of Hurricane Michael. Walker plans to use the funds to help make her school whole again. Funds will also be used to further an awareness of STEM’s importance nationally, showing the benefits of student engagement with and interaction of STEM principles in their community specifically after catastrophic natural disasters.
Emily Cizmas, Lincoln Park High School, Lincoln Park, Michigan
Cizmas believes that students should learn science by doing science, not by receiving information secondhand. Whenever possible, she has students conduct investigations, collect and analyze data, and draw conclusions. This approach to learning science mimics the work of real scientists and addresses the three-dimensional nature of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Students not only learn the important concepts of physical science, but also key skills that can be transferred to other disciplines. The department shares two lab rooms, but both labs are heavily deteriorated due to their age and the lack of materials available. The NGSS require students to discover important relationships for themselves through investigation. However, fundamental concepts like Newton’s second law and conservation of momentum cannot be discovered precisely without modern sensors. Acquiring these sensors would allow Cizmas to advance from the conceptual and simulation-based investigations to more quantitative experiments.
Amanda Kowalczyk, Hoech Middle School, St. Ann, Missouri
Kowalczyk firmly believes that the energy level of the teacher is equivalent to the learning level of the students. She loves doing small-group instruction in class and tries to appeal to student interest as much as possible. Only a fraction of the students in her building are able to have an actual laboratory experience during their science classes. Most classrooms that are used to teach science do not have the proper equipment or materials needed to conduct labs. Because of this, science teachers in standard classrooms have to either omit activities or do them mainly as demonstrations. Adding another science lab in the building would greatly improve the teaching and learning experience for all.
Naomi Smith, Marvin Camras Children’s Engineering School, Chicago,
Smith is committed to helping students think about becoming future scientists and engineers by exposing them to a modern-day way of learning science, integrating the science and engineering practices defined by the NGSS. Her current science lab facility consists of a regular classroom with minimal to no science lab resources. Not having a proper science lab with the basic necessities makes it extremely difficult for Smith and her students to conduct science demonstrations/experiments. Having an updated laboratory with proper tools and materials would ensure that Smith has enough time to provide a quality learning experience for her students.
The four national finalists each received 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.
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 50,000 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.
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