2015 STEM Grants
MISF awarded STEM Grants totaling more than $113,000 to 22 MISF member schools for projects to be implemented during the 2015-16 school year. Following is a list of the Innovation, Starter, and Sustainability Grant awardees and their projects.
Academy of Holy Angels
Biotechnology and Bioengineering
The STEM Innovation grant will enable students to learn lab skills including fixing, staining, mounting, micropipetting, and plating. They will also engage with basic concepts behind bacterial transformation and gene cloning, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), DNA fingerprinting, and gel electrophoresis. Students will also investigate the bioethical issues surrounding these technologies and the human/environmental implications. We will vertically align the biotechnology and bioengineering content in our biology curriculum between Pre-AP Biology and AP Biology.
Building our biotechnology curriculum will not only enable us to increase our students’ knowledge for future careers in the field, but it will also give students the tools to be informed citizens of a global community. Knowing how current biotechnologies work and the possible implications of these new technologies will allow students to make informed decisions regarding healthcare, food, and many more aspects of their lives.
Academy of Whole Learning
St. Louis Park
The Growing Project
Through The Growing Project, we will provide our learners with hands-on experiences that demonstrate the concepts of STEM through the use of a school greenhouse. We chose this project idea because it will provide our students with experiences they need in order to be successful in learning and in life. Academy of Whole Learning focuses on providing students with differentiated learning paths. Through this project we can meet the individual needs of each of our students.
Depending on student age and academic level, students will learn various skills and concepts related to life science and engineering. Students will observe life cycles of plants and test how outside factors, such as water and pollution, affect plant life. Students will also be able to simulate different habitats in order to understand how physical factors and climate relate to plant type and growth. As students gain more knowledge and understanding of plant growth, they will be able to learn how plants carry out photosynthesis as well as identify roles various plant parts play in growth, reproduction, and survival. Students will be able to work together to interpret data they have collected and come to conclusions based on their research and experiment results. Not only will this project teach students the important concepts of life science through STEM infused learning, it will allow students to apply important life skills, such as patience, observation, critical thinking skills, being able to follow directions and completing important tasks.
St. Louis Park
Water Quality in the Minnehaha Creek Watershed
One of the major units within the BSM Ecology & Environmental class includes an in-depth look at water quality in the community. Students explore several aspects of the biological, chemical, and physical health of streams and lakes in the Minnehaha Creek watershed. In the field, students will collect and identify macro invertebrates from Twin Lakes, Cedar Lake, and the Minnehaha Creek in order to analyze habitat health. Students will also collect water samples to look for chemical imbalances in nitrates, phosphates, dissolved oxygen, acidity, and other markers of water health. In the lab, students will design stream table scenarios to mimic healthy water flow and erosion patterns and then transfer that knowledge to an analysis of the Minnehaha Creek watershed. Students will discuss the mechanisms of human impact on water quality and explore ways in which we positively and negatively affect water. As a final service to the community, students will design and implement mitigation strategies for the health of the watershed.
This water quality project gives students an authentic experience that allows them to solve complex problems in a real context. Students will design and implement experiments, mitigation techniques, and perform simulation modeling. Each of these has the likely potential for “failure,” where students must assess their efforts and try again. This project fosters the development of non-cognitive skills and attitudes such as persistence, metacognition, self-efficacy, and a growth mindset for learning. All four areas of STEM are present in significant ways. Students will be able to use the tools of real scientists both in the field and in the lab.
9 Mile Creek Water Shed Salinity Monitoring
When it snows, people and businesses, organizations and households often put down salt to try to melt the snow on roads, parking lots and sidewalks. Little thought is given to what happens to that salt after the snow melts and the salt is finally all washed away. Unfortunately most of that salt ends up in our lakes and waterways. Is all that salt a problem? If it is, how is it affecting the health of our biological community? Is salt even necessary? Are there alternatives? This is the main focus of our project.
From older elementary and through upper school science classes, we will be examining the outcomes of putting salt on our parking lots here at school. We will examine its affect on the soil immediately surrounding the parking lot. We will also look at the salinity of the run-off from our parking lot, the salinity levels and other factors affecting the water quality in the retention pond recently built in front of our school to collect much of the run-off from our parking lot, and the salinity and water quality on our watershed tracing the water from our parking lot until it reaches the Minnesota River. We will be working with the 9 Mile Creek Watershed District to monitor our run-off and to test water along the path of the watershed. They have also offered to connect us with Barr Engineering, who perform the water quality testing in this watershed, so that our students can see how they test the water and compare our results with their results.
Water Quality Testing
Concordia students will be conducting water quality testing for two marshes of the Harriet Alexander Nature Center in the city of Roseville, MN. They will write a research plan outlining the tests they plan to perform to accomplish the following:
- Students will learn biological and chemical tests performed on water to indicate its quality and how the results of these tests are connected to the biological activity in the marsh water.
- Students will learn the qualities of a healthy and unhealthy marsh ecosystem.
- Students will explore natural and human induced situations that may lead to an unhealthy marsh ecosystem such as fertilizer run off, road salt run off, and impacts of a nearby leaf recycling center.
- Students will also specifically be analyzing if the marsh located by a leaf recycling center has different measurements than the marsh at another location and determine if any differences are related to the presence of the leaf recycling center.
- Students will summarize their finding in a report that describes the problem, hypothesis, materials, methods, results, analysis, conclusion, and future recommendations.
Highland Catholic School
Seeds to Soup
The “Seeds to Soup” Project will involve three major components: STEM training for 17 teachers and paraprofessionals, increased student involvement in our school gardens, and a partnership between our senior parishioners with students in the garden and in a celebratory luncheon at harvest time. Teachers will prepare for this instruction by attending 30 hours of STEM curriculum development training provided by St. Catherine University. During the course, teachers will prepare lessons that support STEM leaning which will be implemented immediately.
Students will engage in hands-on work in our school garden beds, potato bins, butterfly garden and standing gardens. Lessons will incorporate STEM elements with ties to the Minnesota Framework and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Science Standards. Our new science curriculum was selected in 2014 for its strong STEM focus.
Computer Aided Drafting and Building a 3D Printer
Students will be building their own 3D printers and then learning to use Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) software to design parts to be printed. In this course, students will be expected to employ a wide variety of STEM concepts to successfully solve real world problems they encounter. In constructing their printer the students will be challenged to interpret technical drawings in order to properly construct pieces for their printer. Then, once the printers are constructed, students will be working within the Arduino programming environment to fine-tune the settings of the printer. In the second half of the course, students will be presented with real world problems they can solve with their printer. For instance, students will be given a broken caster from a piece of luggage and asked to design and print a replacement. One of the biggest goals of the course will be for students to recognize problems in their own lives and community and work to create and refine solutions.
In addition to this course, we are hoping to offer a course in which students learn to use a CNC router, a laser cutter, as well as a 3D printer. In this project-based course, students will be given tasks that are drawn from real life and are relevant to the students. These tasks will require a thoughtful approach to the design and fabrication of a solution to the problem. The nature of each project will require a different approach and/or tool be employed, thus challenging the students to reshape their problem solving strategies.
Mayer Lutheran High School
No Child Left Inside®: Establishing an Outdoor Classroom Using Pollinator Habitat and Prairie Restoration
One of the greatest challenges facing current and future generations is to build a more sustainable, energy-efficient world. By teaching students through this project about the role of the environment as an important natural and national resource, we can prepare them to take on critical issues such as energy conservation, air pollution, climate change, and wildlife protection
Our school owns two land areas that could provide our students with fantastic out-of-doors educational activities if properly developed. Our efforts will be directed toward a 2.6 acre parcel of grass/alfalfa that is bounded by an existing constructed cattail wetland, a waterway and a state highway. The wetland and waterway areas will also be included in studies as they provide even more diversity of species. Our focus on pollinators in this project comes from our knowing that approximately one-third of all food consumed by humans is delivered by pollinators. This would include fruits, vegetables, nuts, and coffee. Habitat necessary for rapidly declining populations of honey bees and monarch butterflies is also the very same diverse grassland and prairie flower habitat necessary for larger animal species. Pollinator habitat and prairie restoration projects such as this will not only benefit the birds and the bees but it will also provide educational opportunities for our students, students of other local schools, our school neighbors and community groups.
Minnehaha Academy’s Lower School will implement a STEM strand that involves all students from Pre-K through 5th grade. The project will involve designing, implementing and evaluating a STEM program that emphasizes four core strands: (1) Digital Citizenship, (2) Robots and Robotics, (3) Coding/Programming, and (4) STEM-based Problem Solving. This STEM Grant project will support the redesign of the current computer lab into a collaborative learning space, able to facilitate the types of imaginative learning experiences the Innovation Lab will provide. There will be desktop work stations, iPad workstations, collaborative seating, whole-group learning areas and flexible workspace.
St. Charles Borromeo School
St. Anthony Village
LEGO Robots Fight Forces of Nature
Middle School students in grades six, seven, and eight, at St. Charles Borromeo School, will be building and programming robots using the LEGO Mindstorms EV3 kits. They will work in teams as they engage in creating their robots and will develop creative engineering skills in problem solving, logical thinking, programming technology, mathematics, and science.
The real-life problem that the project will be focused on is the destruction caused by forces of nature. Students will research and learn about various types of forces of nature that are common in our community. They will also contact local professionals in the field to determine what our current plans are in terms of the disaster response process for our community. Students will determine what we are doing to prepare for disasters, how will we respond to disasters, and how we will rebuild after a disaster. Students will analyze the information and try to design and create an improved disaster management plan. Students will then create a platform representing the community after a disaster, and use the engineering design process to design, build, and program LEGO robots to accomplish defined missions in community preparation, response, or rebuilding activities.
St. Croix Lutheran School
West St. Paul
Aquaponic Garden Project
St. Croix Lutheran will build a new Aquaponic Garden for our school to provide our students with a dynamic learning environment. Students will learn valuable STEM lessons from participating in the design and on-going care of the garden.
- Biology students will raise the initial seedlings and collect baseline data for the project. They will also help to determine the placement of the greenhouse.
- Chemistry students will take initial and ongoing pH readings.
- Applied Technology students will be involved in the construction of the outdoor lab.
- There is also potential to provide learning opportunities beyond the STEM classes.
- Our Future Business Leaders of America students will be able to plan marketing projects to sell the vegetables and flowers grown from the lab.
- Our cafeterias would benefit from the fresh fish and produce raised on campus.
We believe this approach will increase student engagement as well as sharpen critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
St. Jude of the Lake School
Monarch Butterfly Garden
Through the development, study and maintenance of the monarch garden, St. Jude of the Lake students will have valuable hands-on experience as they develop their skills in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math. Some of the STEM related concepts that students will regularly experience include: research, planning, measuring, adding, subtracting, prediction making, trial and error, evaluating, and working as part of a team.
Examples of how lessons involving the monarch garden will be incorporated into existing International Baccalaureate (IB) structure to address the four areas of STEM include:
- In kindergarten, within units of inquiry based on habitats and plant biology, students will gain deeper knowledge of why wild life lives in particular areas, what is needed in that area to sustain life, and what types of plants attract monarch butterflies and help them grow and survive.
- Through units focusing on species survival and sustainability, first graders will study what can occur when a habitat is changed and the importance of human beings respecting natural environments.
- In second grade, within a unit of inquiry based on the struggle to share finite resources, students will learn how human decisions to change landscapes—positively or negatively—impact the growth of plants, and therefore the development of wildlife.
- In third grade, the monarch garden will provide a living forum for students as they work with a unit concentrating on the exploration of the natural world.
- In fourth grade, students will use the garden as a model while studying how humans work with or against nature as they design and build structures and businesses..
- In a fifth grade unit focusing on the interaction between the natural world and societies, students will understand the impact of scientific and technological advances on habitats.
Sunny Hollow Montessori
Through working in wood, students integrate concepts of science, technology, engineering and math, learn about history, language and art, and explore what Maria Montessori meant when she observed that “children learn by doing.”
Sunny Hollow Montessori students, kindergarten through 6th grade, will participate in a program that focuses on crafting items from wood. In the process, they will learn about tools, design, assembly, and safety. Through this work they will hone their ability to concentrate, follow instructions and think independently. All of the STEM disciplines will be incorporated in these projects through a wide variety of hands-on experiences, described in detail below. Students will be engaged in the process of scientific discovery, the engineering design process, developing and practicing the skills of mathematics, and using a variety of technology from simple machines to digital tools.
Winona Area Catholic Schools
HOT Engineering – Higher Order Thinking
As we continue to grow our STEM program at Cotter and St. Stanislaus school, we wish to provide additional materials to integrate STEM materials into every classroom at St. Stanislaus. Currently, we offer an after school STEM program for grades 4-6, and fortunately there are a tremendous amount of students who attend. We would like to grow this successful program by adding LEGO classroom kits for use in each grade level, and ultimately, into each classroom in grades 1 through 6. The overwhelming support and interest shown by students and parents motivate us to continue using these valued STEM materials, as they are vital to our success in capturing student interest and motivation.
Additionally, we will seek to use these LEGO kits to enhance, strengthen, and grow our summer H.O.T. Math Program (Higher Order Thinking Math & Engineering) held at Cotter for all area children ranging in grades K-8. This program is open to Winona residents and the seven surrounding communities and rural towns. The H.O.T. Math program proudly receives full class enrollment from children who vary in socio-economic backgrounds and ethnicity. It is a wonderful opportunity for summer enrichment and remedial support to strengthen student achievement in science, engineering, technology, and math.
Starter Grants are intended to offer a first step into STEM education for member schools that have not received a MISF STEM Grant in the past. A Starter Grant will be awarded for the acquisition and implementation of STEM curricula and/or educational materials.
Heritage Christian Academy
“Seeds of Hope” Community Garden
There is an opportunity for elementary students beginning in these grades — Kindergarten, Second and Fifth — to join together in a STEM project called “Seeds of Hope.” The project is step one in pursuing a dream of starting a community garden on our property with potential to serve others in need in our community. The garden would be an opportunity for STEM learning and a chance to focus on one of the school’s core values of service. The project will span multiple grade levels to ensure funds for starting the garden are being utilized by a large number of students. All students will utilize the garden for learning activities once the garden is established. We will plan and prepare for the garden in the 2015-2016 school year and launch the garden in the Spring of 2016.
John Ireland School
Our goal is to incorporate more engineering lessons into the current kindergarten through sixth grade curriculum. The first phase is to purchase LEGO activity sets for students in grades 4-6. These will be used in the classroom setting to challenge and enrich students. They will be used in small groups so students are free to explore and learn hands-on. By incorporating these lessons, the teachers can create engineering objectives to add and enhance the current curriculum. The best way to create these objectives is to have some tools to use in the classroom to see what is most effective and interesting for the students. As a school (staff, parents and students), we can explore the possibility of adding more engineering projects to our science fair in the spring. The fair is an opportunity for students to select projects of interest and share their learning with the school and community.
Maternity of Mary-St. Andrew School
Reducing Our Carbon Footprint by Recycling Milk Cartons
We designed a cross-curricular STEM unit that includes kindergarten, third grade, and sixth grade working in collaboration to design and create a fully functioning recycling center for the recycling of milk cartons that our school uses during lunch time. Each grade level is responsible for one portion of the final project. Kindergarten will design a way to efficiently empty and rinse all the milk cartons, third grade will be responsible for designing a way of condensing the cartons, and sixth grade will be responsible for storage of the cartons and designing a way to keep track of how many milk cartons are being recycled each day. The three grade levels will work together with their designs to make sure that they will work together as a fully functioning system. We will be using the engineering design process to engage our students in generating, drawing, and recording their ideas in engineering notebooks. We will emphasize the design, test, redesign nature of the engineering design process. Students will create models of their own designs and take into consideration the various constraints imposed including cost, space, and feasibility. They will learn that people in the engineering fields have designs that fail and that they must use those failures to make even better designs.
New Life Academy
New Life Academy’s goal is to redefine and rearrange the Media Center into a space that is not only accessible to students for research and books, but is a place for community, collaboration, creativity, and exploration. By incorporating Makerspace principles, we can provide hands-on activities to teach students perseverance, sharing, self-directed learning, as well as practical skills. This type of learning can help bridge the gap in learning for our visual and spatial learners and ignite imaginations. We would like to provide materials such as Tinker Toys, K’Nex, LEGOs, craft supplies, circuit kits, Hummingbird Robotics Kits, games, puzzles, iPads, and computers. These types of materials can be used for a variety of cross-disciplinary tasks to allow students to tinker, try, make a mistake, and try again. Computers and iPads can be setup for LEGO Robotics and coding tasks. iPads can be used to help students track and share their process.
St. John the Baptist Catholic School
STEM Energy Course
Our school started a STEM program during the 2014-2015 school year. The trimester-long course is for all students in grades 6, 7, and 8. This past year, the focus of the STEM course was on the mechanics and engineering process of bridge design. For the 2015-2016 school year, we will be examining the different forms of energy – renewable and nonrenewable. Energy use is a constant headline in today’s media. This high profile topic will allow the students to develop a deeper understanding and knowledge of the many aspects within the world of energy. Students will explore the varying constraints of all forms of energy, from fossil fuels to wind to solar to hydroelectric to nuclear. In the end, students will be able to grasp all of the positive and negative effects of all the forms of energy. Ultimately the students will create a windmill and/or a solar panel and measure the amount of energy they are able to create.
Sustainability grants are awarded to previous MISF STEM Grant awardees to fund the costs of consumable materials needed to offer successful projects to a new group of students.
Four years ago MISF granted Cotter Schools an Innovation grant for Simple Machine LEGOs and the Renewable Energy Resource kit. It has been used in the Jr. High Science room every year since. We also use the kits in the 7-9 grade math classroom, at WACS in the 4thgrade math classroom to help teach fractions, at WACS for 4th-6thgrade after school STEM, in the summer for Engineering Camp and for Christmas break Engineering! We challenge the minds of our students using Tug of Wars, Tractor pulls (with a real sled build also from LEGOs), Power lift challenge, Incline challenge, 50 feet in under 5 seconds, 1 foot race (slowest car wins), and many more including the gearbox challenge. The 4th graders come in after class to ask for more challenges almost daily. The LEGOs from the initial grant have been used more than almost any other material in our school over the past 4 years. The Sustainability Grant funds will be used to replace the LEGO pieces that have been and will be broken, lost, stretched out (rubber bands), and worn out (motors and battery packs).
We are currently working with 9 complete sets, 3 serviceable sets and 5 sets that are very challenging to use on many projects. This grant will put us back at 16 full sets and add 2 new sets to put us at 18 total sets. We can then serve 36 learners at a time.
St. Anastasia School
Our vegetable gardening project involves a 3rd grade science/technology/engineering/math unit involving two hoop greenhouses, raised garden beds and hay bale gardening. We are applying for a sustainability grant to help us pay for fresh supplies for the perishable items (hay bales, seeds, seedlings, soil, etc.), repairs to the greenhouse, and 2-3 additional gardening books.