Rachel Zack Receives $10,000 STEM Grant

Rachel Zack

March 09, 2012

Gonzaga News Service 

SPOKANE, Wash. — Gonzaga University Science Outreach Coordinator Rachel Zack, along with biology Professor Nancy Staub and Research Coordinator Christy Watson, have been selected as Washington STEM Entrepreneur Award recipients for 2012 and will receive a $10,000 grant to fund "Science in Summer!"

Science in Summer! is a research immersion program for high school students and their teacher hosted by Gonzaga faculty and students. The program will expose students to the excitement and creativity of conducting innovative science research. The students will work on a research project of their own design with support from Gonzaga faculty. The program will provide a local high school science teacher with the lab experience and training necessary to take research projects back into the classroom to benefit even more students.

This project is among 14 statewide chosen to receive the third wave of Entrepreneur Award grants announced this week from Washington STEM, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education statewide. With these investments, Washington STEM is helping more than 500 teachers and 16,000 students statewide.

Zack, who was hired at Gonzaga in October 2011, says the project will be a summer residency experience for the students and a teacher from communities traditionally underrepresented in the sciences, including predominantly Native American and rural school districts. Along with hands-on science research, students will experience life on a college campus and explore science careers.

Gonzaga views science education as vital to the nation's economy and the health of its people. The University is committed to building partnerships with schools and community groups to improve science literacy in the community. The biology and chemistry departments run a variety of outreach programs that include class visits, field-trip tours, special summer programs, and more. All of the programs aim to engage participants with opportunities for hands-on scientific discovery and inspiration.

Professor Staub directs "Science in Action!," Gonzaga's largest science outreach program that has - for the past four years - been matching pre-service teachers, biology, and chemistry majors with local K-6 classrooms to conduct weekly science experiments and activities that align with the school district's curriculum. The elementary students and Gonzaga's students find the program rewarding and valuable.

The Washington STEM Entrepreneur Awards aim to support breakthrough innovations and generate promising practices in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Launched in March 2011, Washington STEM partners with education, business, and community leaders to bridge opportunities that reimagine STEM education for all students, starting with those most underserved and underrepresented in STEM fields.

While the state of Washington ranks No. 1 nationwide in its concentration of STEM jobs, too few of its students are prepared for STEM degrees to seize these jobs, Washington STEM said. This disparity extends to the state's elementary schools, where children typically receive two hours or less of science instruction a week, the organization noted.

"STEM isn't just for scientists and engineers, it's the best ticket to a good job in today's market and virtually the only ticket to a good job in the economy of the future," said Carolyn Landel, chief program officer at Washington STEM. "Entrepreneur Awards celebrate the commitment and innovative spirit of Washington educators who strive to ensure that all kids are prepared to succeed." The one-year investments encourage teachers to take risks, pilot new ideas, and generate promising practices that can be used statewide.