Confluence Academy-Old North named regional winner of Shell Science Lab Challenge
Confluence Academy-Old North named regional winner of Shell Science Lab Challenge
Posted on 02/28/2013

The National Science Teachers Association has named Confluence Academy-Old North as a regional winner of the third annual Shell Science Lab Challenge.


The competition is sponsored by Shell Oil Company and is administered by the NSTA. The competition encouraged science teachers in grades 6-12 to share how they use innovation to give students quality lab experiences with limited resources. The competition offers the chance to win a grand prize – a school science lab makeover valued at $20,000. The competition named 18 regional winners in the United States and Canada. Five of the regional winners are selected as national finalists and one is selected as the grand prize winner.


In a release from NSTA, leaders stated the importance of the challenge and its impact on education.


“We are truly amazed by the regional winners’ ingenuity,” said Dr. David Evans, executive director, NSTA. “These science educators – with limited resources and funding – have come up with some incredible ideas and creative approaches to providing high-quality lab experiences for their students.”


“Inquiry-based learning and hands-on experimentation are key elements for encouraging student interest in science,” said Dr. Frazier Wilson, vice president, Shell Oil Company Foundation, manager, social investment. “The Shell Science Lab Challenge strives to support inquiry-based instructional practices of our science teachers and excite students about the wonders and possibilities of science through active learning that emphasizes questioning, data analysis, and critical thinking. Exemplary science teaching is more relevant when it occurs in a quality lab environment where science concepts can be explored by students.”


As a regional winner, Old North will receive:  


·         Designation as an NSTA/Shell Science Lab Challenge District Winner and a school banner

·         $1,000 in donated lab equipment, materials and gift certificates

·         $1,000 Shell Science Lab Challenge grant to purchase science/lab equipment and science education resource books

·         $300 gift certificate to the NSTA bookstore

·         One-year NSTA Learning Center membership for two

·         Paid registration for two teachers to attend a 2013 NSTA Area Conference or the 2014 NSTA National Conference


The award will be available for the 2013-2014 school year.


Old North teachers Michael Stypolkowski, Patricia Henry, Keely Sutton, Stanley Johnson, Sheila Caradine, Allison Brewer and Principal Sonya Murray, worked together on the application and a video for the challenge.


The video features interviews, footage of students working together, and a rap about cells.


“The rap was Ms. Caradine’s class and it was their idea. It was about the two types of cells – plant and animal. They found a similar version online and the students had fun with it,” said Stypolkowski, who teaches 7th and 8th grade science.


“They were able to memorize and perform the rap after only a few rehearsals. It’s really quite impressive and goes to show what our students are capable of when motivated, and it shows how effective our teachers are at sparking interest,” he continued.


Brewer, a special education teacher, created and produced the video from start to finish.


“One thing I wanted to highlight was the students,” said Brewer. “While the video submission called for answering questions about our current facilities and resources, it did not specify how. It took roughly a week to get the footage of everything.” After hours of editing, the video was narrowed down to 3 to 5 minutes.


“The hardest part was finally getting down to a 10-minute video and deciding what parts to keep and what to cut because it was all so good,” she said.


“Overall, this grant will impact the entire school. Just the amount we receive for being finalists will be enough to spread out so every grade level, every student, will benefit in some fashion,” said Stypolkowski.


Murray said the grant will “drastically improve our effort to provide a high-quality and engaging science experience for our students. It will provide resources for hands-on science curriculum, especially for students at the fifth through eighth-grade level.”


When the students learned about being named a district winner, the reaction was hard to judge.


“The students weren’t quite sure how to react. Many of them haven’t experienced using the materials we will soon have, so honestly, they have no idea what they are in for. I do know that some of the eighth graders were a bit disappointed because they’ll be gone next year,” said Stypolkowski.


“The decision on what to spend the money on will be a collaborative one. The rest of the science team and I will discuss the most efficient way to use the grant,” he continued.


“The money will be spread out. It won’t just be monopolized by the older students. We feel that the younger students need a strong science foundation to build on for when they are older.”


The grant will help purchase items such as chemistry supplies, basic safety equipment, test tubes and microscope slides, as well as replacing and repairing microscopes.


The way science is taught at Old North will change, too. Science is heavily focused on text and lessons that can be projected onto the SmartBoard. The money will help teachers be more creative and provide access to materials and supplies to give students more opportunities for engaging and stimulating activities.


The impact of the grant will be monitored by the teachers to gauge how it supplements what they are teaching, and how it can complement Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) and Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) testing.


Each spring, Missouri public school students in grades 3-8 are tested for knowledge in communication arts and math through MAP. Students in fifth and eighth grade are also tested in science through MAP. Confluence Charter Schools uses NWEA to test student knowledge throughout the year.


“It will be pretty easy, short-term, to see the strides gained from having so many new resources at our fingertips. We can continue to keep an eye on what works and what will continue to be tweaked on a long-term basis,” said Stypolkowski.


“This honor recognizes the consistent dedication and hard work that occurs every day by the teachers and staff at Old North. It helped our students see that their hard work and efforts can be recognized at monumental levels,” said Murray.


“I think our creativity at Old North has been the deciding factor for us in the challenge. The students already make the best use of the limited resources we have, so imagine what we can do with more,” said Stypolkowski.


“I think the students are most looking forward to the new experiences that will be possible with this grant. For the past month, a representative from the Saint Louis Science Center has worked with us every Wednesday to do hands-on activities with the students, and many of them really enjoy it. The grant will allow us to do the same types of things in-house without having to depend on outside resources,” said Stypolkowski.

To check out the Confluence Academy-Old North video on YouTube, check it out here -

To learn more about the Shell Science Lab Challenge, check it out here -