Montana State University

MSU receives NSF grant to build after-school science programs

September 16, 2014 -- MSU News Service

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Tel: (406) 994-4571

BOZEMAN – Montana State University has received funding from the National Science Foundation to engage Montana kids in scientific explorations relating to life under the snow – in their very own school playgrounds.

During MSU’s Using Technology to Research After Class (UTRAC) project, youth in Montana after-school programs will use environmental sensors to record and compare schoolyard measurements to improve science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning.

The project focus – life under snow – will take advantage of Montana’s long winters, existing after-school programs and MSU’s pre-service teacher education program to engage elementary students in measuring snow depths, snow water equivalents (the weight of water in a standard volume of snow after melting), soil and air temperatures, and soil production of carbon dioxide. From sites across Montana, students will upload their sensor data to a central repository – the Virtual Observatory and Ecological Informatics System at MSU – where they will compare their own school’s measurements with those from other schools around the state and, eventually, around the country.

Snow scientists and soil scientists at MSU will use the data gathered by after-school programs to inform their own research. MSU students who are preparing to become classroom teachers will educate the youth on using the technologies.

The principal investigator is Tony Hartshorn, assistant professor in MSU’s Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences (LRES). Co-investigators are Nick Lux of the Department of Education, Kim Obbink of Extended University, and Paul Stoy, also of LRES, as well as Chris Hulleman of the Center for the Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning at the University of Virginia. MSU’s Irene Grimberg will serve as the official program evaluator.

The grant is part of NSF’s Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program, which supports new approaches to, and evidence-based understanding of, the design and development of STEM learning in informal environments.

Contact: Jamie Cornish, MSU Extended University, (406) 994-6005,