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By Caitlin Jennings, Communications Specialist, Society for Science & the Public
“It’s hard to get stuff up here,” says Society Fellow Tim Lundt, who teaches in Wasilla, Alaska. “We don’t have the big universities like everybody else does.” His school, the Mat-Su Career & Technical High School, is 40 miles from Anchorage and 300 miles from Fairbanks.
However, with the help of Society, Tim is making new connections for his students. They have been able to connect with scientists from as far away as Finland and Hawaii and, using Skype, his students have overcome distances to get the mentoring that allows them to advance to the next level in their projects.
Tim has leveraged Society funds in other ways too, in order to help the nearly 70 kids he works with after school on Ocean Bowl, Science Olympiad, and other projects. For Ocean Bowl, the students work in teams to create a 20-page report and a presentation. They also practice for the Quiz Bowl, which is sort of like Jeopardy! for all things ocean related. Science Olympiad participants do a range of activities, from building towers to studying physiology, in order to prepare. Tim supplies snacks to the kids, who often haven’t eaten in hours, to help keep them going after school.
“The Society has funded a lot of that, from the treats to the materials for some of the classes, to transportation o some of the events,” Tim says, adding that, without that support, “We wouldn’t be able to do a lot of the things we have been doing.” The students’ current projects are helping them prepare for science fairs with the goal of eventually competing in Intel ISEF and Intel STS.
Alaska, like much of the nation, is seeing shrinking resources, and Tim’s school is no exception. This year, he and his fellow teachers are each taking on an additional class, and the class sizes are growing, resulting in more papers to grade and less time to spend on extracurricular science. With resources already slim, Tim says the Society funding and support is even more important.
“When money is tight, I don’t have to worry about ‘do I need to get this,’ ‘do I have to have approval for this,’ I can just go order it and get it done,” he says. “We can go a lot quicker and get stuff accomplished.”
Want to diversify STEM? Here’s an opportunity to do so.