Multi-year funding for Welty from the National Science Foundation!

We received such good news in late May…we’re on an NSF GEOPaths grant–3 years of funding to train School District of Beloit teachers and Beloit College education majors on lesson plans designed by NASA, called GLOBE. It supports middle and high school environmental science activities using Big Hill Park as a field site and the Welty Center as a location for workshops and presentations. The grant also provides funding for STEM summer camps for youth on the autism spectrum. 

This grant, managed by the UW-Madison Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research, is entitled “Fostering STEM Education and Career Opportunities in a Diverse Wisconsin Community.” Its partners form WELCOME (Wisconsin Educational Leadership for Community Outreach and Mentoring for the Environment), and includes staff from the Nelson Institute’s CCR, Welty, SDB science curriculum advisors, Beloit College faculty, and therapists from Achieving Collaborative Treatment.

Welty 5th grade field trips include plot studies comparing prairie and woodland ecosystems led by BMHS students. GLOBE experiments will have a similar approach–hands-on geoscience investigation.

This grant is a game-changer for Welty…

CCR staff will lead the training for the first year, so we can learn the protocols; then Aaron and his team will lead them in following years. Professors from Beloit College will recruit education majors, and the Help Yourself program (an academic College program for low-income youth ages 12-18) will get high school students involved. The SDB science curriculum team will work with district principals to identify science teachers who can use the GLOBE lessons in their classrooms, and will help with program evaluation.

…and the partners have a wide variety of expertise that will lead to this project’s success.

Area science teachers will develop GLOBE lesson plans with funds for materials to set up research projects in Big Hill Park, so their students can experience a geoscience investigation from start to finish. Projects might include: monitoring what kinds of pollinators are attracted to prairie plants; measuring changes in soil, water, and air depending on their location; studying what types of plants grow in the prairie, compared to the woodlands. Welty will host poster sessions, for students to share their discoveries with the community and scientists from UW and Beloit College.

The GEOPaths grant has a goal of improving the quality and effectiveness of instruction in STEM fields, especially in under-resourced school districts like Beloit’s. WELCOME will engage underrepresented Stateline youth with inquiry-based environmental activities so they can see themselves as future researchers and scientists.  This sense of academic accomplishment will help build a pipeline from high school to college and the workforce for students who haven’t considered STEM fields for their careers.

This grant is a game-changer for Welty. There are a lot of moving parts, but the partners all work well together and we have a wide variety of expertise that will lead to this project’s success. I can’t wait to start planning the workshops and share more details as the project unfolds!

Brenda Plakans
Executive Director, WEC