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Idaho Falls High School teachers react to the news that their school was selected as the recipient of a $10,000 INL Extreme Classroom Makeover Grant.

Extreme Classroom Makeover Grants

by Kortny Rolston, INL Communications & Government Affairs

Inside Idaho Falls High School's chemistry laboratory, plastic totes filled with lab equipment are stacked on makeshift shelving and two tables in the middle of the room.

Beakers are stored on rolling carts and lab supplies are located down the hall. Sixteen students share two sinks and only a few lab stations are connected to gas that can fire Bunsen burners.

"We have no space," said Bonnie Wehausen, a chemistry teacher at the school. "There's just not enough room to store what we need in here. It makes it hard because it really limits our time when I have to go down the hall to get items."

Come August, the room will be transformed. Each lab station will have a sink, storage and gas. Beakers and other equipment will be stored throughout the classroom and Wehausen and the two other teachers who share the lab space will have a demonstration area up front.

The lab will undergo a major remodel with the help of a $10,000 Idaho National Laboratory Extreme Classroom Makeover grant and another $5,000 donation from the Battelle Memorial Institute as part of a Gordon Battelle award it gave to Drs. Bob Fox and Dan Ginosaur, INL researchers who developed a technology that provides a new, efficient, cost-effective way to convert greasy wastewater, such as from water treatment plants, to biofuel.

"We are very excited about these awards," said Randy Hurley, Idaho Falls High School principal. "That lab has needed to be remodeled for a long time, but we haven't had the money. It will have a huge impact. We've had to limit how many students we can have in the lab because part of it was used for storage and there just wasn’t enough space."

Idaho Falls High School is one of two recipients of an INL Extreme Classroom Makeover Grant. The other $10,000 grant was awarded to Mackay Elementary School, which is purchasing hands-on science, technology, math and engineering (STEM) materials for all of its classrooms.

INL also awarded 22 mini grants — up to $2,000 apiece — to K-12 schools throughout the state for supplies and equipment that support STEM lessons.

The grants are part of INL's effort to boost STEM education in Idaho. INL and Battelle Energy Alliance, the contractor that runs the lab for the U.S. Department of Energy, have invested more than $2.2 million in Idaho schools since 2005.

Dr. Melinda Hamilton, director of INL's Education Programs, said getting students excited about science, technology, engineering and math is critical to the lab's — the country's — future.

"The students in our schools today will be tomorrow's scientists, engineers and technicians," she said. "We will be relying on them to develop new technologies and continue to solve complex energy problems. Grants like these provide our teachers with the tools they need to educate students and give them hands-on experience in STEM subjects."

Colleen Schroeder, an Idaho Falls High School science teacher, said the $10,000 INL grant ensures she and her colleagues can continue to provide meaningful labs for students.

"Science needs to be hands on," she said. "Without labs, we can only teach theory from textbooks. With good laboratory space, we can demonstrate and apply the theory."

The following is a list of 2011 Mini Grant recipients:

  • TJ Adams and Tim Dotterer, Vera O’Leary Middle School in Twin Falls, will receive $1,074 to purchase stream table kits to teach students about weathering and erosion.
  • Connie Cox, Taylorview Junior High School in Idaho Falls, will receive $985 to purchase supplies so students can raise trout, study them and release them into the wild.
  • Darbie Duclos, Prairie High School in Cottonwood, will receive $986 to update chemistry lab equipment so students can also earn college credit.
  • Donald Eberlin, Mountain View High School in Meridian, will receive $1,989 to purchase EKG sensors, heart rate monitors and other equipment for an anatomy class.
  • Linda Engle, Pocatello High School, will receive $1,760 to purchase kits and lab equipment for a new energy technology course.
  • Jaysa Fillmore, Grangeville High School, will receive $1,829 to purchase pressure, temperature and sensor probes for agriscience classes.
  • Sam Franklin, Valley School in Hazelton, will receive $1,080 to purchase calculators, motion detectors and temperature sensors for math classes.
  • Megan Gaz, Victor Elementary School, will receive $1,000 to purchase microscopes, digital recording devices and other equipment to collect field samples and other data.
  • Shannon Griffin, South Fork Elementary in Rigby, will receive $745 to purchase a planetarium, microscopes and other equipment for a Math Science Night held in conjunction with the school’s science fair.
  • Yuliya Hall, Hayden Kinder Center, will receive $959 to purchase hands-on kits to teach kindergarten students about living organisms and scientific and mathematical concepts of comparing, matching and measuring.
  • Dawn Holmes, Council Junior and Senior High School, will receive $823 to purchase shovels and other equipment so students can study snow, take measurements and learn about avalanche conditions.
  • Delores Johnston, Coeur d’Alene Tribal School, will receive $1,111 to purchase introductory robotics kits, laptops and supplies.
  • Thomas Kennedy, Bridgewater Elementary School in Idaho Falls, will receive $759 to purchase equipment to teach students about levers and pulleys and mixtures and solutions.
  • Deidra Little, Marsing Middle School, will receive $1,989 to purchase various magnets, a hand-cranked generator and other equipment for a unit on electricity and electronic components.
  • Donna McCurdy, Arco Elementary School, will receive $1,869 to purchase a Lego kit so students can design, build and test simple machines and structures.
  • Peggy McDonnell, Moscow Junior High School, will receive $1,937 to purchase compound microscopes so students can analyze slides.
  • Michelle McGarry, Holy Rosary Catholic School in Idaho Falls, will receive $1,000 to purchase equipment and specimens for a biology unit.
  • Tawny Olsen, Victory Charter School in Nampa, will receive $994 to purchase centigram digital balances for chemistry and biology classes.
  • Kathryn Palmer, Robert Stuart Middle School in Twin Falls, will receive $1,050 to purchase stream table kits to teach students about weathering and erosion.
  • Krista Ramacher, Arco Elementary, will receive $1,900 to purchase a Lego kit to teach students about robotics.
  • Mike Scott, Rolling Hills Public Charter in Boise, will receive $1,000 to purchase stream table equipment, plants and electrical connections for a school-wide environmental education project.
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