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The University of Wyoming's Science Posse was recognized in two categories at the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate STEM Fellows in K-12 Education Conference March 17-18, in Washington, D.C.
The Science Posse, along with the University of Connecticut's Ingenuity Incubators Program, placed first in the media category. The Science Posse also was named a finalist in the outstanding project website category. UW was the only institution to be recognized in both categories.
Science Posse members were Alicia Martin, Evanston; Amy DiRienzo and Ashley Driscoll, Cheyenne; Cara Wiblemo, Lander; Charles Schmidt, Laramie; Marjie MacGregor, Seattle, Wash.; Rachel Farris, Austin, Texas; Sabrina Coles, Riverside, Calif.; and Tommy Servantez, Lingle.
"It's very unusual to get recognition in two areas," says Don Roth, professor and deputy director for academics in UW's School of Energy Resources. "These are very prestigious and reflect well on the specific performance in the context of the national arena."
Criteria for the media award included audience, richness of message, quality of media item and number of media items submitted. The media awards were self-nominated, according to Jan Truchot, UW Science Posse program coordinator.
The Science Posse's media project was an accumulation of news releases and television spots that highlighted the group's various educational activities at schools around the state. Science Posse Fellows are pursuing advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and math. They share their enthusiasm with students in grades 5-12 in Wyoming's schools.
"They (students) do the work and Megan Schnorenberg, the other coordinator, and I get the information out to the newspapers and send the fliers out to invite students and teachers to participate in the programs and to recruit" to be members of the Science Posse, Truchot says.
"Our graduate students go into the schools and discuss their activities," Roth says. "They engage and inspire them about how scientists work, the applications and the excitement of discovery."
The NSF Graduate STEM Fellows in K-12 Education Program supports fellowships and training for graduate students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Through interactions with teachers and students in K-12 schools, graduate fellows can improve their communication and teaching skills, while enriching STEM content and instruction for their K-12 partners.
"It's great for the students. It's wonderful for our graduate students," Roth says. "They (UW graduate students) gain an understanding of how to translate their research to diverse audiences. They gain confidence in their teaching and speaking abilities."
The Science Posse's website qualified as one of five finalists among 123 entries judged by NSF for that award category. According to the NSF website, criteria included visual appeal, organization of material, current content; Fellow biographies are present, clear and interesting; school partner and teachers are identified; user-friendly science activities, lessons/labs, curriculum and presentations are available; and project news events are available.