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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

The Education and Outreach program is a collaborative venture between Sanford Underground Research Facility and Black Hills State University. Our purpose is to use the excitement and promise of deep underground science and engineering to inspire and engage students, educators and the wider community.

Education and Outreach staff have developed an array of original K-12 education resources— including phenomena-based curriculum units, school presentations, field trip experiences, and teacher professional development opportunities that showcase SURF and its experiments. By making connections, and learning with and from each other, we believe that we can advance equity and excellence in STEM education for all students.

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

Everyone loves a good mystery

And there's plenty of mystery at Sanford Lab. Nearly one mile underground researchers explore some of the most challenging questions facing 21st century physics, such as: the nature of dark matter, the properties of neutrinos, and the formation of elements in the universe. The facility also hosts experiments seeking to better understand microbial life forms that dwell deep below Earth's surface, working to improve geothermal technologies, and implementing innovative engineering solutions. 

Our phenomena-based curriculum units leverage the research being conducted underground at Sanford Lab and provide engaging learning opportunities that will get students thinking (and talking) about science at a deeper level than ever before. 

Children determined to solve a problem.

Bring science to life

Our Education and Outreach staff have created a variety of lively presentations for students in grades K-12 that introduce the unique world of Sanford Lab. While learning about the cutting-edge science and engineering taking place students may find themselves donning personal protective equipment (PPE), simulating a particle accelerator, or traveling down a borehole. Each presentation provides opportunities for students to connect personally with a presenter who can answer their questions and share real-life experiences.

Students at the waste water treatment plant.

Scratching the surface

The best way to experience our story is to visit us. Discover the amazing engineering that went into designing our hoist system and work as a team to build your own, see first-hand the spectacular geology of the Black Hills, or explore the properties of cosmic rays. We offer a variety of tours, presentations and hands-on activities for students. Let our knowledgeable team of educators work with you to design a fun and educational experience.

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. 

Professional Development Resources

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.”