STEM Outreach

South Dakota State University is reaching out to K-12 students and their teachers in hopes of sparking an interest in science. Professors Larry Browning, physics, Matt Miller, chemistry, and Madhav Nepal, a professor in the College of Agriculture and

Chemistry professor Matt Miller tells students what to expect when adding certain solutions to distilled water.

Chemistry professor Matt Miller tells students what to expect when adding certain solutions to distilled water.

Biological Sciences’ biology and microbiology department, teamed to create the SCI Squad. Their mission is to help students retain a passion for science and to discover there is much to gain from an understanding of the sciences. The SCI squad had been an outreach group that conducts demonstrations and activity sessions in schools and museums. The SCI squad held a teaching workshop—STREAM—Science Technology Resources for Engagement Activity Modules—in summer 2015.

Program Overview

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, better known as STEM, represents the core disciplines needed by young scholars to be successful in today’s technologically oriented world. Through teacher workshops as well as visits to classrooms and communities, the SCI squad hopes to improve STEM literacy.

Physics professor Larry Browning explains how to assemble a rocket to Flandreau Indian School students.

Physics professor Larry Browning explains how to assemble a rocket to Flandreau Indian School students.

The current SCI squad has conducted two previous workshops (in all, Browning has directed or been involved with 19 workshops), each with 20 teachers. In the last five years, the SCI Squad has visited the following schools: Canton, De Smet, Hoven, Lower Brule, McIntosh, McLaughlin, Montrose, Newell, Rapid City Central, Rapid City Stevens, Red Cloud, Redfield, Takini and Tiospa Zina.

The workshops intend to give high school and middle school teachers ideas and activities to construct new lesson plans to meet the standards set by the state, but maybe more importantly, spark interest about science in their students.

“We want to get students excited about science and to think a little bit more about why it happened,” Miller said. “The only way to learn something is to try to explain something yourself—to experience or see the project yourself.”

Impacts of STEM Program

Browning, Miller and Nepal have visited the state’s four corners, including several tribal schools. Nepal stressed the importance of inspiring today’s teachers so they emphasize the importance of science education. The

Teachers from Sisseton, Selby Area, Tripp-Delmont and Newell gather at the school in Faith to build plant presses.

Teachers from Sisseton, Selby Area, Tripp-Delmont and Newell gather at the school in Faith to build plant presses.

goal of the SCI squad is to create the opportunity for that inspiration.

“I do it because it’s fun,” Miller said. “Going out and working with these kids is fun. I think the kids get excited about what they see. I don’t know whether it means anything to them, whether they go into science or not, but I hope they see the possibilities.”

Those possibilities can be seen in everyday life, such as a cell phone, which Browning called beyond science fiction when he was a youth.

“Science and technology are key to our life today,” Nepal said. “We are dedicated to transform STEM instruction through active learning, and inquiry-based hands-on activities have ignited students’ interest in science.”

Excellence
Browning, left, and Miller, far right, visited trails at Tiospa Zina Tribal School in Agency Village.

Browning, left, and Miller, far right, visited trails at Tiospa Zina Tribal School in Agency Village.

Browning has been conducting outreach and workshops since his arrival at State. In addition to the list of schools, at least seven local nonprofit organizations have hosted the programs. His work hasn’t gone unnoticed.

At the 2015 Celebration of Faculty Excellence, Browning received the Excellence in Outreach and Engagement Award. The prestigious award recognizes a member of the faculty or professional staff who make significant contributions to outreach through service to a community, school or organization in South Dakota.

Julie Klimavicz

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