Grant Spotlight – STEM Education

New Trier Students Help Volta Science Olympiad Teams
Prepare for Regional and State Tournaments

“Our main objective is to engage New Trier students in meaningful interactions with the Volta students while helping them develop valuable skills in engineering, science and lab. This is a great embodiment of all three facets of our school motto––to commit minds to inquiry, hearts to compassion, and lives to the service of humanity.”
– Don Wurth, Science Faculty

Seven New Trier High School volunteers––comprising seniors and faculty––traveled with the Volta Elementary School Science Olympiad varsity team to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign for this year’s state tournament on April 21. After several weeks helping the Volta students prepare for the competition’s 23 science and engineering events, the New Trier students celebrated the Volta team taking home three medals in Thermodynamics, Rotor Egg Drop and Hovercraft. The varsity team also finished in the top 10 in other events. This was their fourth straight year competing at the state level.

On March 10, the regional tournament took place at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Volta’s varsity team brought home 12 medals and finished third in the city. The junior varsity team took home 16 medals and finished in a tie for first place. The entire team also won the 2018 Spirit Award.

Funding from the Foundation in the amount of $2,000 helped to cover some of the costs for science equipment, building materials, supplies and bus transportation for Volta students to visit New Trier. “Thanks to Marianne Breen and the New Trier Educational Foundation for the generous grant that allowed us to provide the kids with the equipment and materials they needed for their events,” acknowledges Don Wurth, Science Olympiad Sponsor. “Be assured that your support translated into many smiles, hugs, fist pumps, and parent tears at the awards ceremony.”




New Trier Science Olympiad Team, 2017 State Champion, Wins Bid for National


With funding support from the Foundation, the Science Olympiad Team was able to travel to the National Tournament in Dayton and to another at MIT after winning the State Championship held at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign! The Trevians were among 50 Illinois high school teams competing for a bid to the Science Olympiad National Tournament in Dayton, Ohio. They took home 18 medals and the championship trophy.

New Trier’s Science Olympiad Team has won many State Championships, and has placed in the top 20 teams in the nation for the past ten years in a row. These out-of-state competitions provide high level experiences which motivate students to realize their full potential. They also have the opportunity to meet their peers from other parts of the country and learn from the experience of others.



Igniting Curiosity and Passion for Learning through Science

“I become a better teacher for my students when I can bring the passion and excitement in the real world back to them. It was a great opportunity and I couldn’t have done it without the Foundation’s help.”
– Brittany Neptun

ntef_nasa_scientistsWhen New Trier Geoscience teacher Brittany Neptun received word about an exclusive opportunity to participate in a 5-day field experience with NASA scientists in June 2016, she jumped at the chance and submitted an application. Soon after, Neptun approached New Trier Educational Foundation Executive Director Marianne Breen to see if the Foundation would consider providing funding support for her travel and lodging.

ntef_nasa_crater“Marianne suggested that I go ahead and submit my proposal while she contacted members of the Foundation’s Grant Committee who were preparing for the review process,” recalls Neptun, who has been teaching for 17 years. “I’m so thankful that they were willing to find merit in the project and support me to participate in it.”

ntef_nasa_telescopeThe Search for Habitable Environments: Instilling Curiosity into Student Learning Symposium and Field Trip was limited to only 30 participants. It was part of a collaborative educational outreach by NASA and Arizona State University to ignite curiosity, excitement and passion within students by bringing real world science into the classroom. Participants came from all over the country and comprised mostly elementary, middle school and high school teachers. Other participants worked in museums and libraries.

NASA’s Curiosity Rover had been exploring Gale Crater on Mars for the past 4 years to investigate the planet’s history including habitability. Mars Rover scientists led the field experience in areas on Earth similar to environments on Mars. “We visited regions in Arizona that the NASA scientists have explored and showed us how the surface had changed over time,” says Neptun. “Sedimentary rocks found on Mars that were identical to those in Arizona suggest a wet history on the planet.”

“We learned activities that explored the intersections of biology, geology and chemistry using data and images that the scientists have been looking at and analyzing in their search for life elsewhere,” says Neptun. “When the students realize that they are going through the same process as the scientists, it brings more depth and meaning to their learning.”

NASA scientists shared how to create other dimensions for describing the subject matter to students beyond textbook learning. “Being in the field gave me something tangible to share with my students–whether it’s a picture of me in my hiking gear or a video I took,” points out Neptun. “Upon returning, I immediately dove into the summer school Environmental Geoscience and Physics classrooms and shared my experience with the students using the Mars Image Analysis activity. Their level of enthusiasm, collaboration and critical thinking that developed from the activity has been amazing to witness.”


Read more impact stories:

Grants Spotlight 2018-2019

Grants Spotlight 2017-2018

Grants Spotlight 2016-2017

Grants Spotlight 2015-2016