Saint Martin of Tours School
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Kate Falk, NSTA
Shell Science Lab Challenge Announces 2017 Grand Prize Winner and National Finalists
ARLINGTON, Va.—March 20, 2017—Shell Oil Company and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) today announced the grand prize winner and four national finalists in the sixth 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 proud to support and recognize these educators who work tirelessly every day to engage and motivate their students,” said Dr. David Evans, NSTA executive director. “Congratulations to the grand prize winner and national finalists for their hard work, dedication, and innovative ideas.”
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 reviewed and selected the top entries.
Grand Prize Winner
Aja Brown, science teacher, The Metropolitan Soundview High School in Bronx, New York
Brown’s teaching philosophy is that you learn science best by experiencing it through conducting investigations. Her current science lab equipment is limited and outdated, while the technological resources are restricted to a shared, grade-level computer cart. This school year Brown had to borrow dissecting tools from her college instructor so that her students could dissect a fetal pig. Brown wants to provide her students with these learning opportunities consistently and not be concerned with how to obtain the materials. She wants to acquire project-based kits that incorporate inquiry-based activities and critical-thinking skills to create a strong foundation for active learning.
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:
Nicole Anthony, science teacher, John Polanyi Collegiate Institute, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Anthony believes that her role is to harness and nurture students’ natural sense of curiosity about the world. With the exception of a few microscopes, data collection devices, and old chemistry apparatus, the science department is greatly lacking in equipment necessary to provide engaging, inquiry-based learning. While the use of virtual simulations can meet curriculum expectations for some lab-based components, the school’s information technology infrastructure is limited. A lab upgrade would support Anthony’s ability to enhance the learning experience in an interdisciplinary STEM course that she teaches.
Maria-Rose Cain, science teacher, St. Martin’s School, Gaithersburg, Maryland
Even with limited equipment and resources, Cain provides her students with multiple inquiry activities for each topic to engage them in the discovery of science. When there is not enough lab equipment, she increases the size of the lab teams, creates team demos, or has students rotate through a lab station in small groups. Funding for renovation of the room would allow the school to purchase lab stations, which are much more conducive for lab work than desks and gives students space for labs. Also, having enough equipment for teams of two students is preferable to the current larger groups and engages more students in discovery.
Rene Corrales, science teacher, STAR Academic Center, Tucson, Arizona
Instilling curiosity is the key to helping young students develop the desire to connect with science. Corrales motivates her students to be curious by first exposing them to hands-on experiences from which they then create inquiry questions, as opposed to setting up the questions for them beforehand. This opens up student minds to curiosity instead of students simply expecting a science connection to reality. A previous award has provided some updates, but the classroom still needs new lab stools, more sinks, a safety shower, and proper exhaust hoods.
Kassie Cusachs, science teacher, Kenner Discovery Health Sciences Academy, Metairie, Louisiana
Cusachs is a founding faculty member of Kenner Discovery Health Sciences Academy, which provides a rigorous learning environment where students achieve academically, develop intellectual curiosity, and practice environmental responsibility while exploring health science topics and careers. When Cusachs plans a lesson for her students, she includes three main strategies: a real-world connection to objectives, a literacy activity, and an opportunity for students to investigate objectives through hands-on inquiry. With additional funding the school would be able to build a biology/health sciences laboratory, which would allow the laboratories to become more content specific. Having this additional lab space to specifically cultivate these programs is essential to the mission and vision of the school.
The four national finalists will each receive a science lab makeover support package for their school valued at $8,500. The prize package includes:
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 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.