The Sanford Underground Research Facility (Sanford Lab) takes very seriously its mission to “…inspire and educate through science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)" using both informal and formal education.
Public outreach programs include Deep Talks and Neutrino Day, reaching more than 2,500 people annually. However, Sanford Lab’s education impacts are, perhaps, most keenly felt through the efforts of its Education and Outreach (E&O) team. Through a partnership between Black Hills State University and Sanford Lab, the E&O team has developed curriculum units, school assembly programs and field trips for K-12 students, leveraging the world-leading research hosted at Sanford Lab to inspire the next generation of STEM leaders.
“Through these programs, we use current and future experiments, as well as day-to-day operations at Sanford Lab, to engage students in doing science and acting as engineers to solve real problems,” said Deb Wolf, director of E&O.
The team reaches more than 10,000 K-12 students annually and since 2015 has touched the lives of more than 40,000 children throughout South Dakota.
The programs extend to teachers as well. The E&O team also hosts professional development workshops for K-12 teachers, hosting nearly 200 teachers over the past three years, both at Sanford Lab and online. The team teaches teachers how to incorporate the science happening at Sanford Lab into their classrooms.
“I like the big ideas—the connections to the lab, international research on a topic and the fundamental science ideas.”—Michelle Crane, Douglas High School science teacher.
The Sanford Lab Education and Outreach team reaches more than 10,000 K-12 children every year with its curriculum modules, assembly programs and field trips.
People attending events
Education and Outreach recognizes the diverse student populations that exist across our large and sparsely populated region, including urban, rural and tribal schools. Equity of science education opportunities varies greatly. Science education opportunities vary greatly. We are attempting to level the playing field—and increase equity in science education—by providing enriching activities for all student populations throughout our state and region.
“Our team believes that every student deserves high-quality science learning that gives them the opportunity to see themselves as having unlimited potential. In the large, often sparsely-populated region that encompasses South Dakota and surrounding states, providing equitable science learning opportunities for students is of highest priority.”—Deb Wolf, E&O Director
The number of students reached since 2015
Through its K-12 outreach efforts, Sanford Lab has touched the lives of thousands of students across the state of South Dakota and in surrounding states.
Teachers who receive professional development
Since 2016, more than 200 teachers have benefitted from on site and online professional development programs designed by the E&O team at Sanford Lab.
Sanford Lab understands that children learn by doing. Every curriculum unit, every classroom presentation and every field trip to Sanford Lab provides ample opportunities for children to channel their inner scientist.
“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.