LARAMIE -- Allison Baas, a seventh-grade life science teacher at Laramie Middle School, was selected to participate in the 2019 National STEM Scholar Program in Bowling Green, Kentucky the week of June 3 for five days of training to kick off the year-long program. Baas is one of only 10 teachers selected for the 2019 year-long program from a pool of nearly 600 nationwide applicants.

The program, a partnership between the National Stem Cell Foundation and Western Kentucky University’s Gatton Academy for Mathematics and Science, first began in 2015 and empowers middle school teachers with training, resources, and project support to help cultivate the next generation of STEM pioneers—future scientists and researchers who one day might discover new treatments and cures for diseases that today are considered incurable.

Baas has found that lessons that are driven by storylines and phenomena that are student-centered, inquiry-based, and three-dimensional engage students the most. She found out about the STEM Scholar Program through the National Science Teachers Association.

“It’s a year-long program, and I thought it would be interesting because I just moved from teaching high school for 10 years to middle school. I thought it would be nice to network with some other great middle school teachers and help me learn a little more about teaching middle school. I submitted a sample lesson plan, and I was accepted!” said Baas.

“This is my first year in Laramie. I got my bachelors degree from the University of Wyoming, then we moved away. I did some contract work for WY Game and Fish, got my teaching certificate and Master’s degree from Dakota Wesleyan in South Dakota. Then we moved back to Wyoming, and I’ve been teaching in Green River at the high school for nine years. This is my first year at Laramie Middle School.”

Baas will bring some ideas from the STEM Scholar Program back to her classroom in the fall.

“Mostly, the week spent at Western Kentucky was networking with other middle school teachers and working with some of the professors on campus, and some ‘Master Teachers’ that are from their state. We looked at different ways to creatively use technology integration in different subject areas and discussed math. All of us have a science background. My emphasis is in biology – I can teach other subjects, but I love biology, so that’s where I do a lot of my ‘guinea-pigging’ for STEM stuff, is how to increase technology, engineering, and math in biology.

“We had physics, some people who did some chemistry, and then we had some teachers who are very lucky and live in a state where they are solely middle school STEM teachers, meaning that they don’t have to focus on just one disciplined content. They get to integrate all of it in really creative ways and decide which standards they’re going to cover.

“A really cool idea we gained are ways to make little mini-microscopes for student’s iPhones so that it is more of a portable microscope.”

Research shows that middle school students who become excited about science are more likely to pursue STEM courses in high school and major in STEM subjects at the technical and college levels.

Following her week of training at Western Kentucky University, Baas is back in Laramie with new ideas and connections for the 2019-2020 school year at the Laramie Middle School, a laptop/tablet to facilitate ongoing collaboration with her nine cohorts from the National STEM Scholar Program, a generous stipend for technology and supplies to implement a classroom Challenge Project at the middle school, and sponsored attendance at the National Science Teachers Association’s annual meeting in spring 2020.