Thirty-nine science teachers have been named regional winners in the second year of the Shell Science Lab Regional Challenge. Sponsored by Shell Oil Company and administered by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), the competition encouraged K-12 teachers 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 support package.

“We are extremely proud of this year’s regional winners. Their innovative approaches, creative ideas, and unwavering commitment to give their very best to their students—and to society, as they engage and motivate the STEM leaders of tomorrow—is commendable and inspiring,” said Dr. Frazier Wilson, Director, Shell Workforce Development & Diversity Outreach. “We are so pleased to have the opportunity to partner with teachers to help in furthering quality science education in the classroom.”

Sarah Perlitz

Sarah Perlitzs

Sarah Perlitz’s science teaching philosophy is that great scientists always ask questions, are not afraid to fail, and are always learning something new. Students must start with a foundation of facts and use the scientific method to learn more about the world around them. Her students have learned to be comfortable when they don’t know what will happen. The current classroom-size science lab has seen little renovation since the late 1970s. Equipment doesn’t work and there is a lack of consumables. An upgrade is needed to seat the students properly at functioning lab tables so that experiments may be performed with accuracy. An upgrade in supplies is needed because so many non-consumable samples and displays are outdated or falling apart. A new lab would allow Perlitz to provide authentic supplies and materials to accompany her lessons, instead of struggling to fit the constraints of an old, outdated lab. Instead of just talking about what an exploration might be like if they had the materials and resources, students would actually be able to do it!

Morgan Whittemore

Morgan Wittemore

Morgan Whittemore’s passion is for all her students to fall in love with science and learning. Her goal is to reach every student by making class interactive and engaging. She uses demonstrations, lab experiences, real-world connections and anything edible to engage students’ curiosity and help students make sense of the science concepts. Whittemore’s school is constructing a STEM/Innovation lab and an outdoor garden/greenhouse to use with science classes. Having enough resources to construct these new areas, including functional lab equipment, for an increasing student population is a challenge. The current STEM/Innovation labs houses CPO equipment but needs a facelift for students to utilize the area for innovation and creating. In the STEM room, teachers would like to add maker spaces, tools, as well as materials for students to build and learn from. In the atrium /outdoor area, they would like to provide students with the opportunities to grow plants outdoors as well as in a greenhouse. Using tactile methods of teaching would benefit students, especially struggling learners and English Language Learners.

Brandis Willis

Brandis Willis

Brandis Willis’s science teaching philosophy is that every student is a scientist in their own right, whether economically disadvantaged or dispassionate and uninspired. She connects subjects that may seem abstract, like Biology, to daily life experiences. When science is made relatable, students take ownership of the subject and become the teachers. The school has approximately 40 dissection kits but all are missing key parts and suffer from rusting. Due to construction/renovation, teachers have lost a majority of lab basic lab equipment such as glassware, graduated cylinders, and test tubes. Teachers are lacking hands-on practical application of science in a real-world lab setting. Having a growth light system for growing plants would also allow for transpiration labs with self-grown specimens as well measuring dissolved oxygen and carbon dioxide for transpiration/cellular energy labs. Techniques such as gram staining and dissections of different organisms for comparative anatomy will give students the cutting edge they need to delve deeper into science with the confidence of competence in the subject due to hands-on experience.

To enter the Shell Science Lab Regional Challenge, K-12 science teachers located in select school districts near Shell assets were asked to describe their school’s current laboratory resources, explain why laboratory upgrade support is needed, 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.

“These science teachers are model educators for teachers across the country,” said Dr. David Evans, NSTA Executive Director. “We are thrilled to honor all of them for their creativity, resourcefulness, and commitment to their students and quality science teaching.”

The regional winners each received a school science lab makeover support package valued at $10,000 (for the elementary and middle levels) and $15,000 (for the high school level). The winning teachers now advance to the national phase of the competition, where they will have a chance to win an additional $5,000 of support to attend the NSTA National Conference on Science Education in Boston, Massachusetts, April 2-5, 2020. The three grand prize winners and their principals will be honored at the Shell reception and Teachers Awards Gala, taking place during the conference.

To view the list of 2019 Shell Science Lab Regional Challenge Regional Winners and 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 50,000 science teachers, science supervisors, administrators, scientists, business representatives, and others involved in science education.

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