By Gabrielle Gasser EBS STAFF
BIG SKY – Out of 427 applicants, 100 teachers were chosen as recipients of the STEM Research Grant, including Big Sky’s own Dr. Kate Eisele. The grant is from the Society for Science & the Public, which provides STEM research kits for students in underserved communities nationwide.
A biology teacher at Lone Peak High School, Eisele comes from a family of teachers—six generations back on her dad’s side, and three generations on her mom’s side. She earned her teaching credential 11 years ago and she now teaches a ninth-grade biology course, junior and senior level Diploma Program biology, and an International Baccalaureate class called Theory of Knowledge.
She applied for the grant earlier this year after seeing it posted in a social media group where people share resources for teachers. Winners were notified in the fall and asked to choose what specific supplies they would like to receive. The announcement of winners was kept under wraps to ensure that SSP had the inventory and time to send out all the kits. This December, the winners were made public.
According to their website, “The Society is a nonprofit whose vision is to promote the understanding and appreciation of science and the vital role it plays in human advancement.”
The grant offered by the society provides STEM research kits to middle and high school science educators from underserved communities to help students engage in scientific research outside of the classroom. The chosen recipients for 2020 hail from 38 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. They will each choose from a variety of kits and receive supplies equivalent to $1,000.
This year in particular, the STEM Research Grants program was adapted in order to provide teachers with the tools to support at-home learning. During the application process, priority consideration was given to teachers in schools that serve low-income areas or underrepresented students.
Eisele chose three spiker boxes, four foldscope kits, six animal cameras and three water quality test kits.
Foldscopes are small, portable microscopes that students can take home and attach to their phones to take pictures. Eisele hopes that these foldscopes will help students complete science fair projects at home or just allow them to explore.
“I selected [foldscopes] because I knew with COVID this year we were going to be restricted on what we’re going to be able to use in the lab and clean,” Eisele said. “I wanted to be able to give kids something that they could just use, and they didn’t have to share with anybody else.”
She also selected animal cameras as another resource for students for their science fair projects. The cameras will help students to observe the abundant wildlife in the area. Also included in the award are neuron spiker boxes. Students can place small organisms in these boxes to detect electrical impulses.
Last, but certainly not least, Eisele selected home water testing kits. She explained that she does a lot with the Gallatin River and its tributaries with her students.
“I tried to pick things that kids could take home and use on their own, and that we could either use in class, or they could use independently,” Eisele said. “That’s my motivation, it fit with curriculum things and it fit with something they could potentially use at home without a lot of help from me.”
With the hybrid learning model at LPHS and the growing population of English-language learners at the school, Eisele was a great candidate to receive this grant. She emphasized that she tried to choose kits that will supplement at-home learning and allow students to continue learning science hands-on largely without her help.
When asked about her affinity for science and teaching, Eisele expressed affection and dedication for her chosen career.
“I just love it,” she said. “I really enjoy learning new things with the kids and showing them what I know and trying to do as much hands-on science with them as I can. That’s kind of my philosophy, is safe and fun and hands-on learning.”