West High teacher wins national science education grant

Carolyn Walling and the West High Science Bowl team. — photo by Pareen Mharte/West Side Story

An Iowa City West High School science teacher is one of 50 educators nationwide to be awarded an Advocate grant by the Society for Science and the Public. Carolyn Walling will receive $3,000 from the Society’s Advocate program, which attempts to “expand opportunities for underrepresented and low-income students by helping them to develop STEM projects,” according to the press release announcing the award.

“I’d done a lot of science fair work with my daughter when she was a student, so I’ve been really interested in getting more kids involved in the science fair,” Walling, who has taught chemistry at West High for 11 years, told Little Village.

Walling sees science fairs as a good way of capturing the attention of students who otherwise might not be interested in science.

“It’s much more student-led than school work. Kids get to become an expert on whatever they want,” Walling explained. “So, unlike at school where you have to study what the teacher tells you to study, you can choose your own project and be in charge of it.”

Walling will start using her grant almost immediately. She plans to work with students in West High’s summer enrichment program.

“The program has its own science fair,” Walling said. “I’m hoping to help some of those students take their science fair projects further, and enter them into the regional and state science fair.”

The Society for Science and the Public was founded in 1921 as the Science Service, “with the goal of keeping the public informed of scientific achievements,” according to the Society’s site. The Advocate grant program was launched in 2015. This year the program received more 250 applications, from which its 50 grantees were selected.

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