STEAM Day at the Zoo

Students learned about butterflies at an Idaho Falls Zoo booth during STEAM Day at the Zoo this summer.

Nine schools and groups in eastern Idaho received grants from the Idaho STEM Action Center this week, providing more than $20,000 for their projects and events that promote science, technology, engineering and math.

The STEM Action Center announced Tuesday that $133,324 would be awarded for dozens of projects across the state through two grant programs. A category for Innovative STEM Projects provided funding for 45 projects and the grants for Family and Career Awareness Events went to 27 programs.

Madison Junior High School received one grant from each of the categories. The school was awarded $1,000 to help combine its Career Day and Maker Day events into one program and $2,500 for a technology partnership with the graphing calculator company Texas Instruments.

Environmental science teacher Neva Telford applied for the grant to provide students with state-of-the-art TI-Nspire graphing calculators. The calculators would be used as part of a school project for the United States Geological Service, where students measured water samples from the Teton River to track pollution and water quality.

“The calculators have more of a computer interface. Students can input their latitude and longitude to show where exactly they were getting the samples from. It’s pretty cool,” Telford said.

Madison School District 321 and Texas Instruments both provided $2,000 to help cover the cost of the project, and the company will provide training to district science teachers in January. So far 15 calculators have been sent to the high school, with the grant being used to purchase data probes that can be plugged directly into the calculators.

Six other schools in eastern Idaho received between $2,400 and $2,500 for their STEM projects. White Pine Elementary School in Ammon asked for probes to help teach earth science classes; Sugar-Salem High School planned to have students research the potential for solar energy at the school; and Rigby High School sought rover kits for its summer astronomy program.

Schools weren’t the only groups that were eligible for the grants. The Idaho Falls Zoo at Tautphaus Park received $1,000 to add a third day to its STEAM Day at the Zoo program, where more than 1,000 second-graders visited to learn about art and science. The new Family STEAM Day would feature many of the same booths from Fluor Idaho and other partners but expand the program to more local students and their families.

“The whole reason we developed this event was to present it in such a unique atmosphere. As you walk through the zoo, you’re experiencing engineering and math and art and the booths. And behind the scenes, everything at the zoo is based on those STEM areas,” education director Sunny Katseanes said.

The third local grant for a family and career event was awarded to the Hamer Public Library for a family STEM activity night this spring.

Brennen is the main education reporter for the Post Register. Contact him with news tips at 208-542-6711.