2011 Mini-Grants

Thirty teachers from fifteen schools have been awarded STEM Mini-Grants to develop new curriculum for projects that will engage students in hands-on projects during the 2011-12 school year. 


Click on the schools below to see a description of their Mini-Grant project.


Al-Amal School: Creating a Schoolyard Wildlife and Pond Habitat with Weather Station.

Central MN Christian School: Foss Hands-On Science and Night of Science Community Event.

Community Christian Middle School: Keeping Our Pond Water Quality Investigation.

Cotter Jr. High School: Modeling Renewable Energy Sources.

Gethsemane Lutheran School: Bridging the St. Croix: The Stillwater Bridge Project.

Hillcrest Lutheran Academy: Modeling Physics.

Maranatha Christian Academy: Rocketry: Blast-Off to Success.

Mayer Lutheran High School: Simple Machines!? Not Really!

Minnehaha Academy: STEM Human Anatomy and Physiology.

St. Croix Lutheran High School: Indoor Aquatic Ecosystem.

St Francis-St. James United School: From Greenhouses to Growing Green Plants.

St. Mark's School: Growing STEMS of Creativity.

St. Pascal Baylon School: T.E.A.M. (Together Exploring About Math).

St. Paul Preparatory School: Robot Design: From Concept to Construction.

Southwest Minnesota Christian High School: What's So "Fishy" About the Redwood River? And, Why Is It So Important?


Academy of Holy Angels: Make the Connection.

Benilde-St. Margaret's: Mobile Applied Learning Project.







We will create a schoolyard habitat and learning area for our students to learn about wildlife, water and soil quality, plants, aquatic life, and weather. The entire process of planning, building and maintaining a schoolyard habitat provides a wide range of benefits to students, teachers and the community. The key student outcomes of Schoolyard Habitat will be to introduce students to life sciences, ecology, wildlife biology and scientific observations by serving as a living laboratory where students engage in hands-on activities about the natural world. The project will promote cross-curricular activities to support student engagement not only in Science, but in Social Studies, and Mathematics as well. Our team hopes to bring science to life by using the habitat to test water and soil samples, study/create ecosystems, observe and collect weather data to study patterns, as well as instilling a love of nature in our students.


Al-Amal School Yard Curriculum Overview

Al-Amal A.2.1 Investigate-Keeping Green

Al-Amal B.5.1 Pit-Traps for Arthropod Population Sampling


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The focus of this project is to provide students with more hands-on science in the classroom. The purchase of several Fully Operation Science Systems available through Delta Education, along with teacher curriculum development, would give our students more opportunity to experience science rather than have science presented to them.  Given our limited science facilities, the FOSS kits would provide benefits of a lab for our students. The overarching goal of this project is to get students to experience science in an environment that simulates having a laboratory, providing them with the opportunity to do science in a real and meaningful way. 


Central MN Christian Take Me to the Moon Plan


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We are fortunate to have a pond behind our school. The city of Willmar grew around and developed it into a park area. The size of the pond is approximately seven to ten acres.  Though the pond is surrounded by homes and a walking path, the soil, water, and air quality has never been checked.  Our proposal is to complete tests, using manual testing and technology, twice a year at the intake, outflow, and two other specific spots around the pond.  Data will be collected and charted twice a year, with results reported to the city council in a student made PowerPoint presentation.



Community Christian - Keeping Our Pond Unit Plan Fall

Community Christian - Data Collection Sheets


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Following their introductory renewable energy unit, students will be introduced to the LEGO Education system renewable energy kit. With partners they will use the kits to extend their knowledge of how renewable energy actually works and build models of renewable energy sources. They will write-up their final projects and present them to classmates, parents and staff. The project is designed as an integrated STEM project as well as an interdisciplinary one which encompasses English as well as Science, Engineering and Math. Math will be used for various portions of the projects such as determining ratios, acceleration, and wind speeds among others. Science will be the base of exploring the need for renewable energy, where the energy we use comes from and the environmental effects on the energy that is non-renewable. Engineering will be the incorporation of creating the renewable energy systems and applying these concepts to how they could be transferred to life-size renewable energy sources. Technology will be used throughout the unit not limited to communication, source connections and computer based learning and information.


Cotter - Renewable Energy Unit



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In this interdisciplinary unit, students will complete an in-depth study of bridge design from a variety of perspectives: engineering, construction, aesthetics and environmental impact.  Students will record their process by photographing each stage: observation of the Stillwater Lift Bridge, investigation of beam strength using Timber Tester, testing of joint strength using various truss joints, K’Nex and the construction of a balsa bridge.  Based on their findings, students will use engineering software to create a new bridge over the St. Croix River which will be created in 3-D at the Century College FABLAB.  The culminating project will be to create a multi-media presentation illustrating their learning.


Gethsemane Bridge Project Intro

Gethsemane Bridge Project Curriculum

Gethsemane Balsa Bridge Lessons

Gethsemane Balsa Bridge #1 Rubric

Gethsemane K'nex Lessons

Gethsemane Overview of Bridges Powerpoint

Gethsemane Millau Bridge Powerpoint

Gethsemane Resources for Bridge Building


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MODELING PHYSICS - Hillcrest Lutheran Academy

Students will collaborate internationally to model real world phenomena as mathematical representations and to become engaged in STEM at the global level. The project will focus on revising one module of the classic physics curricula to reflect a project-based, modeling approach. The revision will involve international and local students and STEM professionals. Probeware will be used to gather data, reporting will be done through both low and high-tech presentations.


Hillcrest Curriculum Plan

Hillcrest Electricity Lesson Plan

Hillcrest Electricity Lesson Part 1

Hillcrest Electricity Lesson Part 2



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ROCKETRY: BLAST-OFF TO SUCCESS - Maranatha Christian Academy

Teams composed of  up to 5 students (2-3 high school and 2-3 elementary) will learn the fundamentals of aeronautics and rocketry and build model rockets for competition. Deliberate efforts will be made to recruit elementary girls for the project, with the goal of having at least one female elementary student on each team. Each team will be assigned an adult mentor from a local chapter of the NAR (National Association of Rocketry).

High school students in the Engineering class will be partnered with 4th-6th grade students and a mentor from a local chapter of NAR. Each student will build a model rocket from a kit to begin to learn some of the skills involved in building a model rocket. Each group will test fire several engines using the Pasco testing apparatus that allows students to compare the actual thrust characteristics with those predicted by the engine manufacturer. We will look at variances in the thrust of the engines and see if it can be predicted in any way, say, from the weight of the engine. The rocket will be modeled on the modeling software and the flight characteristics predicted by the program will be compared to the actual flight characteristics. Differences between the two will be analyzed.

Teams will then build competition rockets from designs that they produce using the software. These rockets will conform to the rules laid out by the Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) for their annual competition so that any team that qualifies will be eligible to compete in that competition in May. Teams will carry out several test firings of their rockets to determine the dependability and repeatability of their desired flight characteristics.

Finally, we will hold a competition modeled after the TARC competition that will serve as the culminating activity for the project as well as the qualifying flights for the TARC competition should any of the teams desire to go on to that.




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SIMPLE MACHINES!? NOT REALLY! - Mayer Lutheran High School

This project will develop a curriculum using LEGO robots to study the application and utilization of simple machines in our world. Mechanical advantage and its implications will be examined as students design, program, and build robots that will make use of simple/complex machines to accomplish various challenges. The direct motivation for developing this curriculum is a need that became apparent watching our students build both LEGO and FTC robots for in-school projects and out-of-school competitions. As the students were led by design requirements to include a number of simple machines into their robots, it became necessary for the teacher and other mentors to spend time explaining just how certain simple machines work and how, in combination, these machines could aid in the operation of their robot. The need for this information was very apparent. Additionally, simple machine projects have not been adequately taught due to the lack of appropriate materials. With appropriate materials, hands-on practice of the necessary skills will be accomplished.


Mayer Lutheran Simple Machines Curriculum


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This project will provide a rigorous, collaborative, technology-enhanced human anatomy and physiology course to 11th and 12th grade Minnehaha Academy students as part of the University of Minnesota’s College in the Schools program that includes these student learning outcomes (from the CIS course outline): to identify, define, and begin to solve problems; to locate and critically evaluate resources; to use and apply principles and concepts of anatomy and physiology to identify and begin to solve biologically-related problems; and to understand the role of creativity, innovation, discovery, and expression in the discipline of human anatomy and physiology.


Minnehaha Academy Curriculum Plan

Minnehaha Academy Capillary Exchange Lesson


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INDOOR AQUATIC ECOSYSTEM - St. Croix Lutheran High School

Students will identify and discover the importance of biotic and abiotic factors in an aquatic ecosystem by developing an indoor pond and maintaining it throughout the school year. The students will engage in authentic scientific practices such as observation, sampling, and reporting. Students will develop an appreciation for and gain responsibility in taking care of our planet through experiences with their classroom aquatic ecosystem. As a cooperative effort, they will be responsible for adding water and plant and animal life, and learning how to maintain the pond throughout the school year.


St. Croix Lutheran Curriculum Plan


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Students will plan and build a fully functional greenhouse. Students will conduct a research project and use the greenhouse to conduct experiments. Students will harvest untouched vegetables to be implemented into the school lunch program to promote healthy eating. A successful design must be able to build an environment that is adaptable to changing heat, light, and humidity. Students will build the greenhouse within space requirements on school property. Students will be able to identify various types of plants and identify which plants will thrive the best in our greenhouse. Students will be able to plant seeds and be able to inform others what is necessary for plants to thrive. Students will create their own experiment using the plants. Students will use the scientific method and inquiry process to conduct experiments and write reports for their plant experiments. Students will be able to harvest vegetables for the school lunch program that have not had any experiments done on them.


St. Francis-St. James From Greenhouses to Growing Green Plants Unit Plan


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The focus of this St. Mark’s School STEM initiative is to explore the three seasons of the school year, teaching students about dormancy, growing cycles, urban precipitation, and CO2 and O2 cycles. Throughout the school year, 8th grade students will capture data for CO2, O2, pH, temperature, and light intensity, and learn how to analyze this information within the context of different climate problems. The focus of this curriculum enhancement will be to instill in our students principles of sound experimental design, data capture, and analysis procedures through study of local and global climate factors. Through this curriculum enhancement, our students will improve their decision-making abilities, improve time and project management skills, utilize their math skills in the context of real situations, and they will develop stronger task identification and description skills by identifying, creating and implementing workable experiments.


St. Mark's GSOC Curriculum


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Students will meet weekly during the school day to explore math concepts in depth and apply their learning to real-life situations. The program would run throughout the school year for four to six weeks (mini-sessions) at a time focusing on a particular math concept. The students will utilize strategies related to their learning in the sciences and areas of engineering. The scientific method will be explored and applied to the investigation and discovery of mathematics. In addition, several of the mathematical concepts have engineering based real-life applications that the students will explore and incorporate into projects. Students will also have opportunities to present their learning through multi-media presentations developed by their team.


St. Pascal Together Exploring About Math Plan


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After our inaugural season in the FIRST Robotics Competition, my students had the chance to experience the most difficult fun they have ever had. During the build season students gain experience in all STEM subject areas. In this project, students will design a robot from concept to construction, learn to use a variety of technology — autocad, hand and power tools, pneumatics, electronics, metal work, computer programming — use mathematics daily, and develop their communications skills.


St. Paul Prep Curriculum Plan


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Angling and the environment go hand-in-hand. The majority of educated fly fishermen develop a deep sense of responsibility when it comes to protection, preserving, and enhancing a river system. Thus, fly-fishing can change the way you think and interact with the environment. It instills a respect for the natural world, teaches you the need for sustainability, forces one to learn the components of a river system, and for many, gets them involved in stream preservation. With this premise in mind, students will be actively engaged in three river studies: the art of fly-fishing, entomology, and fluvial geomorphology. Intertwining these three components, a deep and healthy awareness of river education, ecology, and stewardship will be fostered.

In addition to these student engagement projects, two MISF member schools have been awarded Mini-Grants to pilot STEM Professional Development models. We look forward to working with and learning from these two pioneering schools in their efforts to improve STEM Teacher Professional Development.


SW MN Christian Stream Lesson Plan

SW MN Christian Introduction to Aquatic Life Research Assignments


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MAKE THE CONNECTION - Academy of Holy Angels

The Make the Connection project funds the enrollment of two, tech-literate AHA staff members — a math teacher and a chemistry teacher — in the Graduate Engineering Certificate offered by the University of St Thomas.  They will meet regularly to connect real applications of science and math to the classroom and to connect students’ math learning to their science learning.


They also will train other staff members, particularly in math and science, in integrated STEM activities appropriate to their fields.  Most important, all of this collaborative learning and curriculum development will be implemented into the classroom.

The anticipated key outcomes of the project are:

  1. 1.Students will participate in basic research projects to stimulate their creative abilities in using the engineering-based science and math instruction they receive to solve problems.
  2. 2.Students will be introduced to the inquiry method of problem solving.
  3. 3.Students will experience a stronger link between what they are learning each term in math with what they
    are learning in
  4. 4.Students will utilize STEM instruction as a tool to develop interest in and plan future careers in the science, technology or engineering disciplines.


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This project sought to create and support a STEM cohort of nine educators — 4 science, 3 math and 2 physical education — to enhance student engagement and learning by designing STEM projects that incorporate iPad and iPod Touch technology to extend learning beyond the classroom. This team focused on creating easily duplicated lessons for teachers that used new mobile technology tools (iPad and iPod touch).

Lessons were designed to engage students in the creative process of inquiry, problem-solving, and experimentation, as they gather and analyze data and incorporate science, math and engineering knowledge in real-world applications.  The Mobile Applied Learning Project’s student outcomes are informed by the ISTE standards and performance indicators. In addition, each of the projects developed include learning objectives specific to course content. Lessons were designed to have a selection of the following elements:

  1. 1.Students will demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology.
  2. 2.Students will use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others.
  3. 3.Students will apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information.
  4. 4.Students will use critical thinking skills to plan and conduct research, manage projects, solve problems, and make informed decisions using appropriate digital tools and resources.

BSM iPad STEM Lesson Plans


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