2010 Mini-Grants

Twenty-six teachers from twelve schools have been awarded STEM Mini-Grants to develop new curriculum for projects that will engage students in hands-on projects during the 2010-11 school year.


Click on the schools below to see a description of their Mini-Grant project as well as their unit and lesson plans.


Central Minnesota Christian School: Conservation and Preservation of Prairie, Pond, Woods and Ecosystems.

Concordia Academy High School: Maximizing Radio Controlled (R/C) Aircraft Flight Efficiency.

Gethsemane Lutheran School: Sketchup a Utopia.

Groves Academy: Invasive Species Population Study and Nature Play/Wildlife Observation Area.

Holy Trinity High School: Understanding Soil Formation Make Up and Run Off.

Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic School: ET In STEM: Energy and Engineering Through Robotics.

Mayer Lutheran High School: Engineering Explorations with Robotics.

Southwest Minnesota Christian High School: Plant Physiology: From Lab to Field to Table.

St. Croix Lutheran High School: Thompson Lake Reclamation Project.

St. Mary's Catholic School: Sleepy Eye Lake Study and Stewardship.

Totino-Grace High School: Genetically Modified (GM) Food Investigation.

Transfiguration School: T.I.G.E.R.S. Project: Transfiguration's Innovative Lego Engineering Robotics Science.






Class and Grade Level: 5th and 6th Grade Science

Duration: 29 class periods 5th Grade; 10-12 class periods over a span of several weeks 6th Grade

Overview / Goals:

This unit contains seven investigations that introduce students to the relationships between an organism, its environment, and other organisms; how changes in environments can be hard on organisms; and how we as humans can affect the environment.

Through these investigations, we expect that the students will:

  • Gain an attitude of respect and understanding for life.
  • Develop experience with major environmental factors in terrestrial and aquatic systems by conducting experiments. 
  • Use the scientific thinking process by observing, communicating, comparing, organizing, and relating information from the investigations.
  • Build vocabulary associated with environmental biology.  
  • Organize and analyze data from experiments and investigations. 
  • Apply experiment results to real life situations.


The complete unit plan is available by downloading the attachment shown below:

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Class and Grade Level: Conceptual Physics, 11th & 12th Grades

Duration: 18 class periods over a six-week time span

Description: Students in the Conceptual Physics class, made up of juniors and seniors, at Concordia Academy (CA) will learn to use data collection tools to measure motor speed, current draw, and thrust while varying propeller diameter and pitch in order to maximize the flight time and speed of an R/C model aircraft.  Battery capacity and charge characteristics will also be measured, and student-generated graphs will be used with the other data in the decisions as to which design is best for a given flight task that the students will then need to perform with the aircraft.

The preliminary plan is to use about 18 class periods, which will take approximately 6 weeks in our A/B block schedule.  This, however, is a semi-educated guess as many of the tests that the students will do may take longer or shorter, depending on the group members, weather, and equipment reliability.  We will begin in April and finish the end of May.


The students will learn:

  • the forces at work on an airplane in flight.
  • proper care for R/C aircraft while they are being transported and flown.
  • how to use a flight simulator designed for R/C aircraft.
  • how to control 3- and 4-function R/C aircraft.
  • how to measure speed, current draw, and thrust of  an electric motor.
  • how to graph collected data by hand and with computer.
  • to used the graphs to predict flight times with various power systems.
  • to evaluate which power system to use for a specific flight task.
  • to work with a team to accomplish varying flying tasks with R/C planes.


The complete unit plan is available by downloading the attachment shown below.


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Class and Grade Level: Earth Science, Grade 8

Duration: Two Weeks

Unit Objectives:

1.  The students will describe basic soil properties and soil formation factors.

2.  The students will investigate the substances that are found in the soils where they live, as well as collect data regarding the pH, temperature, salinity, and effect of acid rain of the soils.

3.  The students will use technology for data analysis by collecting and interpreting data using Vernier sensors and probes and computers to construct graphs and organize the collected information. 

4.  The students will research the importance of preventing erosion and contamination of topsoil and interact with members of the community and county to study ways of preventing soil erosion and contamination.

5.  The students will take a field trip to a nearby farm and a city location to collect data from these two areas and interpret the data by inputting information into the computer and generating graphs.

6.  The students will inform the community about the importance of maintaining soil quality in our area by creating informational posters or brochures.

The complete unit plan is available by downloading the attachment shown below.

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Class and Grade Level:

This project will incorporate studies in biology, chemistry, geology, environmental science & math. Grades 11 & 12.

Description: Students will research Thompson Lake for a reclamation project. They will take water samples over a 7- to 8-month period. Water will be monitored for phosphates, oxygen, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), petroleum products, nitrates, clarity, algae and chlorophyll. This monitoring will be done at varying depths at 6 locations on the lake.


  • Students will participate in a cross-curricular project involving science and math classes.
  • Students will conduct interviews of people who use Thompson Lake Park and find out why they enjoy the park and some concerns they have.
  • Students will research the evolution of Thompson Lake.
  • Students will investigate the watershed feeding the lake.
  • Students will investigate how sediments are entering the lake what they might be and the effects they might have on the lake.
  • Students will conduct an ecosystem study identifying biotic and abiotic factors.
  • Students will identify the various fish located in Thompson Lake and determine if they are safe for human consumption.

The complete unit plan is available by downloading the attachments shown below.

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Grade Level(s):  Grades 11-12    (Students will also help organize/lead a field day for grades 5-6.)  

Subject(s):  Chemistry and Environmental Science

Duration:  Fall 12 days; Spring 4 days

Description and Goals:

The goal of this field project is to immerse high school students in an ongoing, authentic study of Sleepy Eye Lake which is designed to:

  •  provide baseline chemical and biological data on the water quality of Sleepy Eye Lake,
  •  identify sources of pollutants and/or excess nutrients which affect Sleepy Eye Lake,
  • collect scientific data which can help toward developing short- and long-term lake management strategies,
  • contribute to local, regional and state water quality databases,
  •  increase awareness of water quality issues, and
  •  promote community stewardship of Sleepy Eye Lake.

The complete unit plan is available by downloading the attachment shown below.

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Class and Grade Level: Microbiology, 12th Grade Elective

Duration: 13 class periods (class is 42 minutes long)

Description: This unit introduces students to the concept of genetically modified foods.  Already knowing that DNA carries the code for protein expression, students will learn how it is possible to add foreign DNA to organisms and still have that specific protein expressed.  The new organism is now genetically modified, or also known as transgenic.  Students will engage in online websites to help give them background information on genetically modified foods, watch a video on the controversy between GMO and non-GMO foods, conduct an experiment to determine if the foods they eat contain GMO’s, take a field trip to a local organic farm, and ultimately decide for themselves if GMO’s should be used in today’s society.

The complete unit plan is available by downloading the attachment shown below.

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Class and Grade Level: Grades 11-12, Science and Vocational/Technical

Introduction: As a teacher, guiding students through the process of a long term, multi-faceted project is both challenging and rewarding.  Most students have little experience planning projects, designating tasks and managing large time lines. Conducting meetings with professionals and presenting to groups outside of the classroom are completely foreign ideas.  With this project we hope to introduce students to all of these activities and experiences. The project it divided into two parts; one for science and one for vocational/technical students.

Science — The goals for students engaged in this project are to learn about general characteristics of population ecology, about landscape ecology, and enhancing wildlife habitat.  

  • They will become skilled at using and applying GPS and GIS software and hardware towards exploring trends in data.
  • They will explore the collaborative nature of a multifaceted project involving fellow students as well as members of the community which will use techniques and strategies for managing wildlife specifically related to invasive species.
  • These will include removal processes for species like European Buckthorn. They will gain knowledge of how to design and conduct field investigations as well.

Vocational/Technical — The goals for students engaged in this portion of the project are to learn to create a multi-faceted project plan for the design and construction of a nature based play area and wildlife observatory.

  • They will develop skills in design by using Google’s Sketch-up software and learn about the industrial application of those skills.
  • They will learn about green building techniques and strategies for reduced, reused and recycled building practices. 
  • Lastly, they will be advised on how to coordinate several different team units in different departments to achieve a final outcome.

The complete unit plan is available by downloading the attachment shown below.

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SKETCHUP A UTOPIA - Gethsemane Lutheran School

Grade Level: 6th — 8th Grade 


  • Mathematics & Geometry
  • Building Architecture & Visual Arts
  • Technology & Computer Science
  • Language Arts & Social Studies

Duration: 20 total taught over a span of 12-13 weeks

Description: The math/architecture/technology lessons will help students learn the software Sketchup. Through direct instruction and teacher directed inquiry students will be able to manipulate the software to create houses and buildings in 3-D. Students will be able to draw doors and windows, learn multiple ways to make copies of items and be able to use the software to paint walls and windows using different materials provided in the software. Along our daily journey, students will see and apply many facets of mathematical measuring and geometric terms. One such term is midpoint, which is used in finding a point directly halfway on a line. The team has estimated 10 lessons to give students the necessary tools to create a final building. Since we have not taught this software before, the time could be shorter or longer. We have much more material we could use which would allow students to have more complex designed buildings, as well as working on interiors of rooms.

In the language arts/social studies lessons each student will create a utopian society and then will use the information to create an online blog.

The complete unit plan is available by downloading the attachments shown below.

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Grade Levels: 4-6

Subjects: Physical Science, Engineering

Duration:  3-4 (50 Minute) Class periods

Description:  Basic operation of LEGO kits and NXT software

Goals:  Students will learn about the engineering design process through hands-on experiments, designing, programming, testing and presenting with the LEGO Mindstorms Robotics Engineering I & II. 

The complete unit plan is available by downloading the attachments shown below.

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Grade Levels & Subjects:  5th & 6th Grade Science; Technology

Duration:  3 - 8 lessons, depending on the subject area

Description: Using whole class instruction from teacher and NXT Video Trainer, students will:

  • Learn how to demonstrate their knowledge of the basic concept of energy and motion, specifically Newtonʼs Laws of Motion, by using the Lego robotics program. Students will learn how to program their robots to show understanding of different topics. In their small group of 2-3, students will write a variety of basic programs for their robots and test them. [5th Grade Science]
  • View the basics of robotics, receive an introduction to programming using NXT-G programming language; In their small group of 2-3, students will write a basic program for their robot and test it. [Technology]


  • Students will learn the basic concepts of energy and motion from their Science text and then learn how to demonstrate that knowledge using the Lego robots. [5th Grade Science]
  • Students will learn how to operate their NXT brick, how to write a program for their brick, and how to transfer the program their brick. [Technology]

The complete unit plan is available by downloading the attachments shown below.

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Class and Grade Level:

Physical Science [including introductory physics and engineering]; 9th Grade

Duration: The curriculum will be used the entire second quarter of the 2010-2011 school year and will include approximately forty-five (45) class periods of approximately 45 minutes in length.  Upon successful completion, it will be repeated in the fourth quarter of the school year as well.

Description: The curriculum will consist of a number of introductory engineering challenges, lessons pertaining to inventors and their contributions to our everyday life, followed by a series of model constructions and challenges using LEGO® MINDSTORMS® EDUCATION NXT and LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT SOFTWARE.


The complete unit plan is available by downloading the attachments shown below.

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PLANT PHYSIOLOGY: FROM LAB TO FIELD TO TABLE - Southwest Minnesota Christian High School

Course & Grade Level: AgScience, 11th & 12th Grades

Description: This unit will focus on a three-pronged approach to plant physiology. 

  • First, students will study and experiment with rapid growth radishes in a lab setting to determine how the plant makes food and its relationship among air, soil, water and essential plant nutrients for good plant growth.
  • Second, students will field trial varieties of squash. Their product evaluations will be used for future research by the Rupp Seed Company, which donated the seeds.
  • Lastly, the third prong will be the farming (seed to fruit) of approximately three acres of pumpkins and gourds. Produce will be harvested for a community wide fall pumpkin festival sponsored by the school.

The complete unit plan is available by downloading the attachments shown below.


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