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Education and Outreach

K-12 STEM education

Based on South Dakota's science standards, our education specialists work to create and advance innovative educational programming at the local, state and national levels.
Kids building a hoist in an E&O activity

Sanford Lab’s commitment to education goes back to its earliest years when the State of South Dakota and philanthropist T. Denny Sanford teamed up to develop their vision for an education program that would inspire K-12 students across the state. Since 2008, thousands of students have been reached. With the development and introduction in 2015 of several assembly programs and curriculum units, the numbers have grown dramatically. These programs get students excited about STEM and provide additional teaching tools to science educators.

Three boys attempt to submerge a paper towel in a tub of water without getting it wet.

Children love a good mystery

And there's plenty of mystery at Sanford Lab. Nearly a mile underground scientists explore fundamental mysteries about our universe, search for extreme lifeforms and deepen their knowledge of the earth. In partnership with Black Hills State University, Sanford Lab’s science education specialists take that world-leading science into classrooms with hands-on curriculum units that feature dark matter, neutrinos, geology and biology. The curriculum units, developed by our Education and Outreach team, include 10-20 hours of classroom instruction and everything a teacher needs to challenge students and encourage them to consider careers in STEM fields. Each unit addresses the South Dakota Science Standards.

Children determined to solve a problem.

Bringing science to life

During our classroom presentations, the science at Sanford Underground Research Facility comes to life in your classroom. Students may spin marbles to model particle accelerators, explore the bending of light in gravitational fields, or learn about the science of boreholes. Elementary students may even dress like scientists and imagine themselves working nearly a mile underground. Both teachers and students enjoy the dynamic, engaging presentations delivered by the Education and Outreach Team.

Students at the waste water treatment plant.

Scratching the surface

Students learn by doing. Field trips at the Sanford Underground Research Facility include tours of our waste water treatment plant and hoistroom in concert with engaging hands-on activities that challenge and fire the imagination. Students might design a hoist, explore the properties of cosmic rays, see first-hand the spectacular geology of the Black Hills, or participate in a variety of other activities. For those unable to visit the facility, our education specialists deliver engaging presentations about Sanford Lab science directly to school classrooms.

Teachers measure the distance between levitating magnets.

Teacher professional development

Excitement is contagious. When teachers are passionate about a subject, they pass that excitement along to their students. Our education specialists help transform the teaching of K-12 science in South Dakota through professional development workshops that directly connect teachers to the innovative science at Sanford Lab. Teachers then bring these real-world, place-based educational experiences into the classroom, inspiring the next generation of scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians. 

Education and Outreach team display their award.

Award-winning team

Recently, E&O’s efforts were recognized when the team received the 2017 Friend of Science Award from the South Dakota Science Teachers Association. The award is given annually to organizations that help facilitate the efforts of regional science educators and their students in enhancing science literacy.  “Through their work in developing hands-on lessons, the Sanford Lab education team has helped improved classroom teaching and learning,” said Liz McMillan, president of the association. “Many of our students and future scientists are more interested in science and research because of the opportunities and experiences provided by and at the Sanford Underground Research Facility.”