Curriculum Modules

Sanford Lab Education and Outreach (E&O) is pleased to offer curriculum units that are aligned with South Dakota's new K-12 Science Standards and feature the science of Sanford Lab.


Elementary (Grades K-2)

Creature Features: (Coming Soon) During this mini-unit, students will explore what animals and plants need to survive. They will also closely examine how certain adaptations support these needs. For the culminating activity, students create a creature mash up that represents the adaptations they believe would be best suited for the success of a scientist working nearly one mile below the surface at the Sanford Underground Research Facility.

Between a Rock and a Dark Place: (Coming Soon) Students investigate light and sound while engaging in a story about Jesse, a scientist working deep underground at the Sanford Underground Research Facility. They save Jesse from a sticky situation by designing and building a device she can use to communicate down long, dark drifts underground.


Elementary (Grades 3-5)

Exploring the Unseen: Students gather and use indirect evidence to reason about things too small to see, too remote to reach, and otherwise difficult to detect. Is an empty cup truly empty? How do we know? How do we know that atoms have even smaller subcomponents? Connections are drawn to the Sanford Underground Research Facility's world-leading search for a mysterious substance called dark matter, which has yet to be detected directly. The idea that dark matter exists is based entirely on indirect evidence. Request this module

May the Force Be With You: Students explore magnets and magnetic forces, permanent and temporary magnets, and rotational & linear motion induced by magnets. Connections are drawn to the Earth itself as a giant magnet, with north and south pole, and to the use of magnets within engineering applications. Electromagnets are central to the technology of sending a neutrino beam from Fermilab outside of Chicago to a detector at the Sanford Underground Research Facility. Request this module

There and Back Again: When scientific research happens nearly one mile underground, transporting people safely there and back again is critically important.  Students will use mathematical strategies to build 2D and 3D models of the Yates cage.  Then, they will investigate balanced and unbalanced forces to design a hoist system that can lift and lower a mass slowly from table to floor, similar to the hoist systems at the Sanford Underground Research Facility.

Middle School (Grades 6-8)

Seismic Science: Seismic waves are used in locating and studying earth movement, and for determining Earth’s interior structure. During this unit, students will discover the link between physics and geology by: investigating wave properties and characteristics, modeling seismic waves, analyzing data related to earth movement, and exploring rheology to learn about earth materials. Students will conclude by learning why, and how, rock movement is monitored at the Sanford Underground Research Facility. Request this module

The Search for Dark Matter: Students explore dark matter, a substance that interacts differently than the matter that makes the atoms of our everyday world. They explore scientific concepts around the topics of matter and its interactions, as well as the scientists and technologies that made new discoveries possible. Finally, they learn about current and future research at the Sanford Underground Research Facility, where scientists are searching for dark matter using very large detectors located nearly one mile underground. Request this module

Waterworks: Students will explore the water cycle, learn why water is so important for life as we know it, and investigate the fate of contaminants in a watershed.  Bioaccumulation, biomagnification, water quality testing and bioremediation are specifically addressed. The unit culminates in an investigation of the factors affecting microbial remediation of an environmental pollutant, and the use of bioremediation at the waste water treatment plant at the Sanford Underground Research Facility.

High School (Grades 9-12)

Perplexing Puddles: Students consider what attributes define life, and then use those ideas to hypothesize what life nearly one mile underground might be like, if it exists. Students gather information about the microenvironments in the Sanford Underground Research Facility and consider the likelihood of life in such extreme conditions. Students learn about extremophiles, culture an everyday biofilm, and observe biofilms to draw conclusions about the potential for life underground. Request this module

'We are All Made of Starstuff': Students take their understanding of the periodic table to a new dimension, through the topic of nucleosynthesis (formation of the elements). They explore the nuclear processes of radioactive decay, fusion and fission; they then delve into the processes that formed the elements. These topics introduce physical and earth/space science standards that are often not covered in the standard curriculum. Request this module

If you are interested in piloting one of our new units in your classroom, please contact