By Erin Broberg
“The best way to learn about science is simple, you have to let kids be scientists,” said Becky Bundy, science education specialist at Sanford Lab. And the best way to do that is to let them wrestle with the same problems scientists are wrestling with and come up with their own solutions.
Bundy is a member of Sanford Lab’s Education and Outreach team. For the past three years, the team has been developing K-12 curriculum units, presentations and field trips that are used in schools across the state. The units are driven by a desire for discovery, an innate curiosity about science. And that is the philosophy of the E&O team.
“Science is exploratory learning,” said June Apaza, director of Education and Outreach. “It’s solving a problem, designing a solution or developing an understanding of a phenomena.”
Through this exploratory approach, students seek solutions to problems. As students work toward answers, educators can infuse scientific facts and concepts that would otherwise be learned through rote memorization. Education and Outreach’s mission is to engage students in a compelling search for answers, while equipping teachers with the knowledge, resources and materials to teach exploratory science.
How does Education and Outreach support teachers across the region? Here’s our Education and Outreach program by the numbers.
13 Curriculum Units
Science shipped to your classroom! E&O creates complete curriculum units, designed with specific age groups and current science content standards in mind. These kits include every item needed to teach an exploratory science lesson, from detailed lesson plans to cavern models and colored pencils—it’s all included.
Curriculum units are free and have been tested in classrooms, making them simple to implement. There are now 13 options for educators, each with a specific learning goal.
“All the teacher support materials are included so teachers don’t have to scavenge for materials,” Apaza said. “It’s everything they need to get students actually doingscience.”
The newest curriculum unit, “As a Matter of Fact,” was designed for elementary students. Through it, young researchers learn that matter can be described and classified by its observable properties. They test a variety of materials, analyze data and compare the objects strengths and weaknesses. At the end of the unit, they make a recommendation to Sanford Lab engineers.
Do it yourself! How would you excavate 875,000 tons of rock from an underground drift to make space for a massive neutrino detector? What kind of life forms survive a mile underground? What untouchable matter holds the universe together?
Researchers at Sanford Lab face these problems daily. Why not pose these questions to the next generation of budding scientists? Through highly interactive activities, students are challenged to put the concepts they’ve explored to use.
“Our newest activity is the Cavern Excavation Challenge. It’s inspired by the challenges our engineers face in excavating the 4850 Level for DUNE. Students are given a model of the underground, and we explain the concepts of rock bolting and shotcrete. They incorporate those concepts in an excavation of their own—complete with an installation of their own neutrino detector.” — Becky Bundy
3 Walking Tours
Grab your hardhat and safety glasses! Sanford Lab field trips give students a first-hand look at engineering inside the hoistrooms, biology of the Waste Water Treatment Plant and a window into the science unfolding in the Surface Lab.
“We just added the Surface Lab as a walking tour option. It’s perfect for science-minded kids—say a group of AP physics students—to visually engage with science happening right before their eyes.” — June Apaza
6 School Presentations
Stepping into the classroom! Interactive presentations help us engage in-person with regional school districts.
“Is There Life in a Borehole?” is a presentation that explores the possibility for life nearly a mile underground. After examining core sample from boreholes, students contemplate how geology, water chemistry, biology and human activity all interact to determine the possibility for life in extreme environments.
"When we give a presentation about the science and engineering at Sanford Lab, we want to build awareness of the cutting-edge work being done here. We want the students to feel pride that this awesome work is happening so close to them!" — June Apaza
30,000 Students Reached
Since 2015, more than 30,000 students across the state of South Dakota participated in programs designed by the Education and Outreach team. That’s 30,000 opportunities for students to explore science through tangible, probing lessons.
"There is incredible, world-renown science happening at Sanford Lab, the E&O team is on a quest to share the excitement and mystery of that science with students all around the region! We hope to inspire those students to become the next scientist or engineer to work at the lab." — June Apaza
212 Teachers Trained
Get educated! How do you adopt an exploratory science philosophy in your classroom? How can you incorporate these units and field trips into current science content standards?
E&O holds educator trainings at Sanford Lab each summer and provides online training during each school year. Through these trainings, educators learn the concepts that drive students to pursue their own curiosity. At the summer trainings, we unpack the curriculum units, giving educators the opportunity to explore the lessons and materials.