Skip to Main Content

Apply Now to the University of Wyoming apply now

Evanston Teacher Hones STEM Skills at UW

July 14, 2015
three women and two men working with some papers at a table
Participants in the Launching Astronomy: Standards and STEM Integration program at the University of Wyoming are, from left: Andrea Hayden, fourth-grade teacher from Laramie; Annette Mason Kelley, first-grade teacher from Saratoga; Jason Kinder, fifth-grade teacher from Cheyenne; Nichole Buczynski, seventh-grade teacher from Cheyenne; and Sam Kramer, middle school teacher from Evanston. (UW Photo)

An Evanston Middle School teacher is among nearly two dozen educators who will return to their classrooms this fall with new skills and ideas to stimulate young people’s interest in science, after spending two weeks this summer working with astronomy and education experts at the University of Wyoming.

Sam Kramer, who has taught at EMS for nine years, was on the UW campus as part of something called Launching Astronomy: Standards and STEM Integration (LASSI). It’s one of several UW programs aimed at helping K-12 educators improve their instruction in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“In the end, we’re going to create a more enriching knowledge base for our students,” Kramer says. “Any time we can broaden the horizons for our students, and make it a bigger world for them to explore, it’s beneficial.”

Taught by faculty members in UW’s Department of Physics and Astronomy and the College of Education, the LASSI participants learned about planets, stars, quasars, light spectra, gravity and galaxies -- and how to teach those topics to students from kindergarten through high school. The teachers built telescopes called Galileoscopes, visited UW’s Wyoming Infrared Observatory on Jelm Mountain, participated in research projects, and developed lesson plans to use in their classrooms in the coming school year and beyond.

“A program like LASSI makes something that’s non-attainable, attainable for K-12 teachers,” says Andrea Burrows, UW assistant professor of secondary science education who runs LASSI. “If you had asked any of them three weeks ago if they could explain spectra of stars or quasars, they would have said ‘no.’ If you had asked them if they could use the moons of Jupiter to figure out the density of Jupiter, they would have said ‘no.’ It’s not that the resources aren’t out there, but I think sometimes teachers aren’t sure of where to go to start asking questions. Because we have the experts here, we’re fortunate that we’re able to ask the right questions and help them see how to use that in the classroom.”

In addition to developing specific plans for hands-on astronomy projects in their classrooms, the LASSI participants say they benefited from their interactions with fellow educators around the state -- and beyond. Three of the teachers were from New Hampshire, recruited to the UW program by Ryan Hickox, professor of physics and astronomy at Dartmouth College.

K-12 educators around the country are adjusting to new science standards that raise the bar on what is expected of students in STEM areas, including astronomy and physics. The LASSI experience allows the participants to exchange ideas on how to help their students meet those standards through hands-on learning in real-world scenarios. A website with LASSI information and the teachers' lesson plans can be found at

Kramer says he’s now better equipped to teach photography students about the technology used in digital cameras, as well as to explain to his ceramics students the science behind turning clay into hardened pieces of art.

LASSI is funded through a National Science Foundation (NSF) Mathematics and Science Partnership grant awarded by the Wyoming Department of Education to Burrows. Additional aspects of the program were funded by an NSF astronomy grant awarded jointly to UW's Adam Myers, Department of Physics and Astronomy assistant professor, and Hickox of Dartmouth College. A range of consultants and graduate assistants from an outside company, and UW's secondary education and physics and astronomy departments, helped provide expert guidance along with the faculty organizers.

Contact Us

Institutional Communications

Bureau of Mines Building, Room 137


Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: (307) 766-2929


Find us on Facebook (Link opens a new window) Find us on Twitter (Link opens a new window)

1000 E. University Ave. Laramie, WY 82071
UW Operators (307) 766-1121 | Contact Us | Download Adobe Reader

Accreditation | Virtual Tour | Emergency Preparedness | Employment at UW | Privacy Policy | Harassment & Discrimination | Accessibility Accessibility information icon