Carol Voight, Judith Janes and Barry Smith, science teachers at Deer Park High School Norht Campus, Fairmont Jr. High School and Deepwater Elementary School, respectively of Deer Park Independent School District are regional winners in 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 science 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. Voight, Janes and Smith are three of 39 regional winners named, from which three grand prize winners will be selected.

Two women holding banners
Carol Voight of Deer Park High School North Campus accepts certificate from Shell Deer Park HR Manager Renee Guckenburg

Carol Voight’s philosophy is that every child, regardless of background, becomes a scientist with the ability to develop and analyze questions they formulate about the physical or biological world. To achieve this goal in her classroom, she uses multiple approaches including strategies such as critical writing, collaboration, and inquiry-based learning. During recent construction, much of the school’s science equipment, models, specimens, and supplies were demolished. The majority of what was lost was never replaced and as a result, teachers are still trying to do quality instruction with supplies obtained on a small budget.

To reach economically disadvantaged students, more modern and active methods of instruction must be used to teach concepts necessary for success on STAAR Exams required for graduation. Teaching science using design thinking requires electronics, probes, interfaces, tools, and advanced materials so students can study and experiment without limitations to solve problems using true scientific methods. Students in this environment would not only be engaged in tested science content but would also be working to study and solve many of the world’s most challenging difficulties.

Two women holding NSTA banners
Deer Park HR Manager Renee Guckenburg

Judi Janes’s instructional philosophy is that students need to be actively engaged and eager to learn once they come into the classroom. Her students engage with attention-grabbing demos, explore with self-discovery hands-on activities, explain results with partners or groups, and elaborate with higher-level questioning. Her after-school STEM program has benefited the “At Risk” students by instilling confidence, feelings of success, and a passion for science.

The science lab has areas that need updated equipment and resources. Due to a lack of resources, many experiments are unsuccessful. With technology being the core of the 21st century, it is essential to obtain updated state-of-the-art microscopes and lab equipment. There are so many advanced pieces of equipment that would enhance the success of students, such as microscopes, water-testing equipment, probes, a variety of glassware, watershed models, student whiteboards, and thermometers. When students are getting accurate, precise results from the equipment, it follows that learning will be more successful.

Two person holdng banners
Barry Smith of Deepwater Elementary School accepts certificate from Shell Deer Park HR Manager Renee Guckenburg

Barry Smith’s role as a teacher is to ask guided questions that help students develop critical-thinking skills and to provide real-world examples in which students can relate. To give students greater ownership of the knowledge they encounter, he uses cooperative and active learning strategies in his classroom to develop both analytical and critical thinking and provide opportunities for creative application.

Most of the school’s lab equipment is over 10 years old and does not function properly, so teachers constantly scavenge for parts trying to piece together equipment, resources, and tools to complete simple inquiry investigations. Having a fully equipped lab would help students make connections and solidify science concepts and understanding; make preparing for labs much easier; and give Title 1 students the opportunity to test their hypotheses, collect and analyze data, and form viable conclusions. This grant would allow the school to equip the science lab and help create a STEAM lab where students can participate in inquiry-based learning.

“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.”

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. 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).

“These science teachers have implemented truly remarkable science programs, providing high-quality lab experiences for their students with very little resources, often using their own funds to acquire them,” said Dr. David Evans, NSTA Executive Director. “We commend all of the regional winners for their creativity, resourcefulness and commitment to their students.”

Voight, Janes and Smith 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 St. Louis, Missouri, April 11-14, 2019. 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 2018 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 55,000 science teachers, science supervisors, administrators, scientists, business representatives, and others involved in science education.

About Shell Oil Company

Shell’s commitment to community and social responsibility has been in place for more than 50 years. During this time, we have contributed more than a billion dollars to support community, health and welfare, environmental, arts and cultural activities, various educational initiatives, including minority education, and diversity and inclusiveness programs in Houston and the U.S.

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