Do you want to boost the economy, create more jobs, and give Montana students a brighter future?
Think STEM.
MSU Billings and Montana Tech of the University of Montana recently received a three-year, $1 million grant to help K-8 teachers in the state improve science education.

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education has drawn more attention recently as U.S. students have lagged behind some other advanced countries in scores on science and math exams, said Ken Miller of the Montana State University Billings College of Education.
The federal grant was issued through the Montana Office of Public Instruction.

Over the next three years, 152 Montana teachers will receive specialized training — online and in face-to-face workshops — in science education. 

That training will look not only at what is being taught but also how, Miller said.
Teachers will learn how to cultivate students’ inquisitiveness and encourage them to answer their own questions. Some traditional ways of teaching stifle children’s natural curiosity because answering questions such as “Why is the sky blue?” or “Where does rain come from?” doesn’t fit into the curriculum. 
“We need to think outside the box and not run students through a factory approach to teaching,” Miller said.
One of the grant’s goals is to create a network of K-8 teachers, STEM faculty at MSU Billings and Montana Tech and science-related businesses. The idea is to nurture interest in science in younger students and show them how they can continue in science though high school, college and into specific science-related jobs.

While many teachers do a good job of teaching science, there is room for improvement.

On international science math and science tests, the U.S. ranks 12th among industrialized countries in science and 17th in math.

Graduating more math and science majors also will spur the economy.

Half of the 30 fastest-growing jobs in the past decade require at least some STEM education.

Half of economic growth over the past 50 years has come from technological innovations. One of the best examples of science creating jobs is the spin-off from NASA projects.

Many also consider the possible loss of the U.S. leadership role in technology and innovation a threat to national security.

Jeanie Kalotay is the coordinator for the grant at MSU Billings.


Montana Tech to administer $1 million teaching grant


Over the next three years, Montana Tech will have the task of administering a $1 million grant that will help science teachers across the state learn effective teaching strategies.

Denise Juneau, the state’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, on Tuesday announced the recipients of two grants totaling $2 million from the Mathematics and Science Partnership Program. Tech secured the science grant.

Tech’s Clark Fork Watershed Education Program secured the grant, with Rayelynn Connole,’s curriculum coordinator, as the grant’s principal investigator, along with Ken Miller of Montana State University-Billings.

The grant, about $600,000 of which will go exclusively to Tech, will be used to train teachers in the new Next Generation Science Standards. It will help teachers learn effective ways to use a more hands-on approach to science class rather than a textbook-and-worksheet-based curriculum, Connole said.

“Real science in the classroom” and in the outdoors, like experiments and observations, is the goal, Connole said.

Fifteen faculty members teaching science, technology, engineering and mathematics at Tech will be trained first, and then they’ll teach kindergarten through 12th grade teachers.

Altogether, Connole said 136 teachers and 50 principals will get the professional development opportunity afforded by the grant.

Bozeman public schools, Montana State University and others received the math grant.





High school students get dual-enrollment discount


HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana colleges say they are making it cheaper and easier for high school students to take some college classes.


The Montana University System says the dual-enrollment program allows qualified students to take college level classes for credits that can apply toward both their high school diploma and a college degree.


Online courses are also available at the Montana Digital Academy.


Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau says every high school student should consider the opportunity. She says it makes college more affordable, while also offering a new challenge.

The Montana Board of Regents previously approved a plan to discount dual enrollment tuition as much as 50 percent. In some cases, tuition will be free to high school students.



August workshop covers STEM education for girls


A one-day workshop in Missoula will offer professional development, networking and new ideas for anyone interested in STEM education for girls. (STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and math.) The workshop is sponsored by the Montana Girls STEM Collaborative Project (MGSCP), a National Science Foundation-funded effort that encourages girls to pursue STEM careers and studies.


The workshop will be held on Wednesday, Aug. 8, and is open to anyone who works with girls or is interested in how the new project will support girls and girl-serving organizations in Montana. Anyone is welcome to attend, including representatives from businesses, non-profits and government, as well as teachers, counselors, administrators and staff from K-12, higher education and informal education.


The keynote speaker is Lisa Regalla of SciGirls, an Emmy award-winning PBS series based on best practices for STEM education for girls. Regalla will also offer training on the SciGirls Seven, strategies proven to increase girls' engagement in STEM. Participants will leave with practical tips for implementing STEM education in their own programming.

Other sessions focus on best practices in STEM education and what girls say about STEM. Leaders and participants in the Montana Girls STEM Collaborative Project will also meet to discuss future plans for the group, including professional development around the state, online resources and mini-grants.


The workshop takes place from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn Missoula and is part of the 21st Century Learning Centers summer conference. Registration for the event is free, but participants must pre-register at The deadline is July 25.


MGSCP is part of the National Girls Collaborative Project, or NGCP, which helps coordinate organizations that encourage girls to pursue STEM careers and studies. Membership into the NGCP gives Montana the opportunity to host a variety of free or low-cost professional development opportunities for girl-serving organizations, educators and business professionals in the state.


For more information, follow MGSCP on Facebook at or contact MGSCP co-leaders Martha Peters of Montana NSF EPSCoR (; 994-7658); Suzi Taylor of Montana State University (; 994-7957); or Holly Truitt of the University of Montana ( Those who are interested may also sign up for email updates at



Carter County students win national competition for conserving energy


Apparently, Carter County grows scientists.


A team of students from five schools in the county is the national champion in a competition aimed at getting students and their families to save energy.


The win was no surprise to Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, given the state's strong science background.


"We spawn some of the best scientists in Montana," he said.


The winning students hail from Alzada Elementary School, Carter County High School, Ekalaka Elementary School, Hammond School and Hawks Home School.


The team members beat out roughly 120,000 other students to win and did it by reducing their home energy use by 3.4 percent, working with local utility companies and the community and keeping students engaged throughout the process.


"Our students were very enthusiastic about this program," said Marlene Waterland, an official with Southeast Electric Cooperative in Carter County.  


The five schools won $15,000, which they will share, as both a regional winner and as the national champion of the America's Home Energy Education Challenge.


The idea behind the challenge "was to get students involved in reducing energy waste in their homes," said Secretary of Energy Steven Chu.


Chu, along with Schweitzer, Waterland and Dr. Gerald Wheeler, the interim executive director of the National Science Teachers Association, made the announcement during a conference call Wednesday.


"The Montana team was engaged, enthusiastic and creative," Chu said.


The entries were judged by a panel of science teachers from the National Science Teachers Association and graded using a complex set of criteria that weighed the amount of energy saved, level of community involvement and the creativity of the solutions.


"This was a very complex challenge," Waterland said. "It was hard."


Over the course of five months last fall and winter, students created an action plan that encouraged families and the community to switch off lights, unplug appliances, and use compact fluorescent light bulbs.


The plan was engaging and many in the community used it successfully to reduce energy.


"It's just good business to use less energy," Schweitzer said.


This was the program's first year. Chu hopes to run it again next year and turn it into a tradition.




NASA Selects Montana Teacher to be "Agent of Change" for STEM Education


GREENBELT, Md., - LeAnne Yenny, a teacher at Sacajawea Middle School, Bozeman, Montana, has been awarded an Endeavor Fellowship with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). NASA's Endeavor Science Teaching Certificate Project provides live, online training for educators working to earn a STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) certificate from Teachers College, Columbia University, N.Y.


"This year marks the acceptance of 51 new Endeavor fellows in Cohort 4," said Katherine Bender, Education Specialist and lead for the project at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "The project is funded through NASA's Office of Education.  Implementation is through Glen Schuster and U.S. Satellite Laboratory, Rye, N.Y."


Teachers engage with education experts, NASA scientists, and with each other to carry back to the classroom a greater understanding of NASA discoveries, to impact student learning in real-world contexts, to inspire a next generation of explorers, scientists, engineers and astronauts.


"Endeavor offers educators research-based ways to bring relevant NASA and STEM discipline content to a school's curriculum.  The project helps educators to do this effectively," said Shelley Canright, Manager of Elementary, Secondary and e-Education at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "The 2012 cohort of educators from around the U.S. represents many of our nation's future leaders in science, mathematics and technology education."


The highly-competitive NASA Fellowship is a model for effectual improvements in teacher practice.  Endeavor is collaborating with the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, promoting effective strategies for teaching and learning.


The project was designed and is administered by the U.S. Satellite Laboratory Inc., of Rye, N.Y. Funding for the program is provided through the NASA Endeavor Teacher Fellowship Trust Fund, in tribute to the dedicated crew of the space shuttle Challenger.


For additional information about the Endeavor Science Teaching Certificate Project, visit:

For information about NASA education programs, visit: