Three people stand on a sidewalk with a giant check

Staci Miller (left), director of the SURF Foundation, and Deb Wolf (right), director of Education and Outreach at Sanford Lab, receive a check from Beth Massa (middle), South Dakota Community Foundation's regional director for foundation relations. 

Photo by Matthew Kapust

Sanford Lab receives grant from SD Community Foundation

The grant will help transform K-12 STEM educational materials and professional development for teachers into virtual formats

The Sanford Underground Research Facility Foundation (SURF Foundation) recently received a $10,000 grant from the South Dakota Community Foundation (SDCF). The grant, one of 15 awarded by the funding agency, will be used to transform K-12 STEM educational materials and professional development for teachers into digital and virtual formats.

“The South Dakota Community Foundation is proud to award this grant to the Sanford Underground Research Facility to support delivering quality STEM curriculum to K-12 students and their teachers,” said Stephanie Judson, President and CEO of the SDCF.  “We commend their efforts to rapidly shift to a virtual model during the threat of COVID, ensuring students continue to have access to important programing and instruction.”

Dana Dykhouse, president of the SURF Foundation said, “It today’s world, it is absolutely essential we nurture an interest in the STEM fields. By linking world-class physics and scientific research teams with our K-12 students and educators, we have a terrific opportunity to engage and motivate our state’s youth. This will undoubtedly pay huge dividends as those young people continue their educations and eventually take their place in the scientific community.”

Sanford Lab’s Education and Outreach program is managed through Black Hills State University, with funding from the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority (SDSTA), which manages Sanford Lab. The E&O team develops curriculum modules, classroom presentations and field trip experiences—all built around the world-leading, unique science and engineering taking place at Sanford.

Historically, the team hosts field trips at Sanford Lab to provide students an engaging experience, presents interactive sessions to students in person and develops hands-on teacher development programs. However, the global pandemic changed everything. Today, most schools are closed to visitors, teachers are not able to attend live sessions and the E&O team is not traveling.

Deb Wolf, director of Education and Outreach, said that has not prevented the team from continuing its efforts to enhance learning in South Dakota. Like many teachers across the country, as COVID-19 began to spread, E&O moved its programs to a virtual format. Wolf said the advantage of the virtual format is that all students can visit—even those who live too far away. Still, it is challenging and requires specific resources to produce quality audio and video sessions for student presentations and teacher development.

“The Education and Outreach team is incredibly grateful to the South Dakota Community Foundation. This grant will allow us to purchase the resources we need to continue our efforts to bring unique, high-quality learning experiences to students and educators,” Wolf said. “In these very uncertain times, schools and teachers are working incredibly hard to meet the needs of all of their learners and the E&O team is also working hard to support teachers and students in learning during these uncertain times.”

Staci Miller, director of the SURF Foundation, said she is grateful to the SDCF for its generous contribution to the Sanford Lab and for its ongoing commitment to STEM education.

“Their gift allows the E&O team to continue to bring the science happening underground at Sanford Lab to students and teachers across South Dakota in an exciting virtual format that inspires wonder and curiosity,” Miller continued. “It’s a wonderful gift to students and educators.”

All told, the South Dakota Community Foundation awarded $204,500 in grants to organizations around the state. Learn more about SD Community Foundation grants.