Shell Oil Company and the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) announced the grand prize winners in the Shell Science Lab Regional Challenge. 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 grand prize winners. Their innovative approaches, creative ideas, and unwavering commitment to give their very best to their students—and to the community, as they engage and motivate the STEM leaders of tomorrow—is commendable and inspiring,” said Dr. Frazier Wilson, VP, Shell Oil Company Foundation Director, Workforce Development and 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 Shell Science Regional Challenge grand prize winners are model educators for teachers, both in their home state and across the country,” said Dr. Elizabeth Allan, NSTA Retiring President. “We are proud to honor them for their hard work, originality, dedication to the art of science teaching, and commitment to their students’ academic achievement.”
2021 Shell Science Lab Regional Challenge Grand Prize Winners
Elementary School Level: Anne Marie Wotkyns, Kittridge School for Advanced Studies, Van Nuys, California
Anne Marie Wotkyns’ science teaching philosophy embraces the idea that all children have an innate curiosity and desire to investigate the world around them, and her role is to foster that curiosity and lead students to make discoveries through hands-on investigations and activities. In her science lab, Wotkyns instills confidence and fosters a passion for learning by having students work in cooperative groups, with each student responsible for different jobs or tasks. Winning the Shell Science Regional Lab Challenge award has made a big difference in her STEM lab and in the way her students engage with science. Wotkyns purchased items for when students return to class full-time, but she also provided her current remote-learning students an opportunity to engage in hands-on science by purchasing supplies to send home, making baggies containing eye droppers, hand lenses, rock samples, meter tapes, seeds, small pots, magnets, and other small items. These supplies have allowed students to be actively engaged while learning from home. Wotkyns made creative decisions to best use the kits for distance learning while she taught the lessons. Having appropriate equipment to fully participate in inquiry-based learning develops the scientist in each child, building enthusiasm and interest that sets the stage for future learning.
Middle School Level: Melissa Story, Clark Shaw Magnet School, Mobile, Alabama
Melissa Story’s approach to teaching science is allowing students to discover scientific concepts through inquiry. Students must be able to work with others, collaborate, and share ideas in the future job market. Learning with hands-on activities, using the science and engineering design process, and relating content to real-world experiences are all important aspects of her teaching strategies. This year has proven extremely difficult for these types of activities, but it has been a year that showed that this type of collaboration has still been so important to keep students connected and engaged. Story took over for the original teacher that received this award and made an extraordinary effort to get guidance and assistance regarding the grant. Story teaches two STEM classes daily. Her classes need equipment to help model and investigate the watershed and show how the water cycle is a global process through experimentation. One of the most exciting STEM activities students have done is designing, building, and testing/racing dragsters. This project gets the students involved in the engineering process on many different levels. Story would love to purchase the consumable materials needed for learners to design, build, and test their own dragsters and gain experience using equipment such as the drill press and band saw. The school would be able to use this equipment in a makerspace lab where students will design, create, and test their prototypes. Having this equipment will enhance Story’s teaching abilities, greatly impact students’ learning.
High School Level: Tyler Dufrene and Cecelia Gillam, Hahnville High School, Boutte, Louisiana
Tyler Dufrene and Cecelia Gillam teach science through demonstrations, lectures, discussions, simulations, field trips, inquiry-based labs, and real-world projects. This affords students the opportunity for active learning, intellectual engagement, creativity, and personal accountability. Their class is currently collaborating on The Thirst Project—a non-profit organization that aims to bring safe drinking water to communities around the world. Relating the topic back to classes, students study and design effective filters to develop fresh drinking water. Dufrene and Gillam used the NSTA Shell grant to purchase several water test kits and accessories for students to conduct real-world investigations. Students researched and created their own water filters to purify water in a low-cost, effective manner. Students also met with a Thirst Project Ambassador, who explained the water crisis and how it affects many impoverished communities throughout the world. Students learned of ways that they could make a difference and then took on such challenges by engaging in hands-on experiments. Throughout these investigations, students met several NGSS standards while incorporating all aspects of STEAM—students became the “scientists.” Winning the NSTA Shell grant helped generate greater awareness of STEM/STEAM locally, nationally, and around the world. Participating in the Thirst Project afforded students the opportunity to become globally aware citizens with an understanding of the environmental issues impacting the world. Many students voiced how this project helped them decide which career they want to pursue.
In addition to the school science lab makeover support package—valued at $10,000 (for the elementary and middle level winners) and $15,000 (for the high school level winner)—each grand prize winning teacher will receive an additional $5,000 of support to attend a future NSTA National Conference on Science Education.
In lieu of the in-person event that typically takes place annually at the NSTA National Conference, the grand prize winners and their principals were formally recognized for their achievement during a virtual award ceremony that took place in May.
For more information about the Challenge, visit the competition web site.