Howdy everyone, and welcome to DRI’s Science Alive blog! What is DRI, you ask? And for that matter, what is Science Alive?
The Desert Research Institute (DRI for short) is the non-profit environmental research branch of the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) and is based in two locations: Reno and Las Vegas, Nevada. While it is based in Nevada, DRI conducts research all over the world – on all seven continents, in fact – and is even investigating phenomena on Mars!
Scientists and researchers at DRI study the land (earth and ecosystem sciences), the air (atmospheric sciences), and the water (hydrologic sciences) to address some of the biggest environmental problems facing us today. We have scientists researching airborne pollutants, studying the diverse problems caused by microplastics in our ecosystems, and investigating storm systems to better model annual precipitation. These are just a few examples of the fantastic work performed by DRI faculty every day.
As part of NSHE, DRI primarily focuses on basic and applied environmental research. Here we like learning to come full circle, so we devote considerable talent to distilling our researchers’ scientific ideas and findings into a variety of educational resources. That’s where Science Alive comes in. The Science Alive team uses their knowledge of diverse subjects to deliver STEM education to the next generation of scientists, engineers, and researchers.
This distilled education is converted into mobile suitcases of science lessons – bright green STEM extravaganzas we call Green Boxes! Each Green Box is pre-packed with a series of themed lessons and materials, all of which are provided by Science Alive at no cost to educators! K-12th grade teachers, as well as informal educators, may reserve the use of one of our Green Boxes for several weeks. Science Alive ships the suitcase to educators, who then use their expertise to deliver the contents to students.
We also offer STEM kits, which are smaller-scale science suitcases that provide STEM resources to formal or informal educators. Each STEM kit contains guidelines and materials for three activities that build on each other to teach various scientific concepts. Green Boxes and STEM kits are just two examples of the educational resources we provide – we also offer professional development through educator workshops, energy know-how through Home Energy Kits and the traveling Energy Theater Troupe, and much more. Teaching and learning can happen in a variety of settings, and Science Alive strives to provide a diverse selection of tools for whichever situation you happen to be in!
While Green Boxes and STEM kits form the crux of Science Alive’s educational outreach, the novel Coronavirus has created an educational landscape wherein face-to-face teaching poses risks to public health. In–person attendance at public schools is under review for the foreseeable future, and we must adapt to these ever-changing times. In order to meet the evolving needs of educators, we have new virtual resources in the works, and some of them are already available to the public! These offerings are available on our Online Resources page and will complement a limited release of Green Box reservations this fall.
Science Alive has been using Green Boxes, STEM kits, and the other materials outlined above to create diverse online educational resources that can be completed by students virtually. The Green Box program is still the core of our output – we have merely adapted it to better suit the needs of educators in these times of distance education. No matter the challenge, our team remains dedicated to its mission: to provide Nevada’s education community with STEM-based learning tools that are free and accessible.
By educating willing learners, Science Alive hopes to instill a passion for and understanding of science into Nevada’s communities and beyond. This is all in the hopes that our lessons are passed along, and a broader impact is generated to solve the conundrums of our time.
We appreciate your company on this journey, and hope you’ll follow along through rain, snow, or shine. Next time on the Science Alive Blog, we’ll give you a more in-depth look at our online offerings!