Quantitative Chemical Analysis for All NTHS Science Students

Grant Date
Grant Applicant
David Steakley
Grant Category
Amount Funded
Description (10 points)

This grant seeks funding to purchase a class set spectrometers for use in chemistry, AP chemistry, biology and, AP biology courses. These spectrometers allow the accurate,  real-time calculation of absorbance and transmittance from lab samples. They also include analysis software allowing for the calculation of relevant parameters and graphing in real-time. These spectrometers are necessary components of functional modern biology and chemistry labs. Having access to these instruments will allow teachers to complete relevant and engaging labs with classes. Examples include: evaluating the photosynthetic pigments in leaves to understand where the spectrum they absorb light and why they are green, measuring the rate at which enzymes lose their effectiveness in non-ideal conditions, measuring metal percentages in commercial samples to find out if jewellers are honest when they are selling alloyed metals like 14k gold or brass, and measuring the rates and kinetics of chemical reactions in real time with applications in AP chemistry. These tools will allow science students at NTHS to get real world experience using professional level measurement tools to gather real-world data. This is a tremendous help because students are able to contextualize and apply the scientific concepts they are studying in their courses with their own hands. With the transition to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) this is now the expectation and the purchase of these tools will allow NTHS students to keep up with the now increasingly rigorous standard.  As the district broadly transitions to NGSS science instruction, students students will need to engage with tools and labs like these in order to build the 21st century skills. This skills are paramount for success in future science careers, and success on upcoming NGSS-aligned science assessments.

Benefits of Program (10 points)

Funding this proposal will have durable and long-term benefits to the student population at North Tahoe High School. The purchase of these spectrometers will allow the labs described above to be delivered to students in all grades (9th grade biology, 10th grade chemistry, as well as upperclassmen in AP chem and AP bio). Over time the whole school population will benefit from their use. The spectrometers will be stored and reused yearly with no further upkeep cost. Numerous empirical studies have demonstrated that student-centered, hands-on curriculum, like these labs, increases student learning outcomes in a variety of ways. This unit (and the resources required to perform it) allow students to physically engage with real science data, and form their own conclusions based on their observations. It also allows them to arrive at universal truths about many chemical and biological principles by generating and testing hypotheses themselves rather than reading information from a book and taking it as fact. By providing opportunities for students to stretch their critical thinking skills and "act like scientists" while they look at real science data, they are able to internalize the information in a far deeper and more authentic way. Not only does this type of learning experience motivate and engage students, these skills are cross-curricular in that they allow students to create meaningful argumentation from evidence and use quantitative arguments to support their ideas, having far-reaching benefits across subject areas.

Success of Program (10 points)

Discrete program success: This program will be a success if students are able to use the spectrometers to complete the labs described above and  to master the specific content being explored within them.

General program success: As described above, this program will allow students to engage in scientific content in an authentic, hands-on way. This leads to more generalized success by having a positive impact on student motivation and engagement with the subject matter, by supporting 21st century skills development, and pushing students to create meaningful argumentation from evidence and use quantitative arguments based on data they collected to support their ideas.

Evidence to support discrete and general success: Before coming to North Tahoe High School, I taught in another district where I worked in a small team of teachers to write or modify similar labs as a part of the transition to NGSS. Last year at NTHS, I delivered labs like these to students, but had to provide “example data” they could work from because we did not have access to the required instruments to collect it ourselves. While it met the bare minimum requirements, it was far from ideal. Research has shown that when students collect data themselves and participate in the experimental planning, as well as data collection and analysis themselves their level of understanding and retention is higher. Beyond covering specific performance standards and lab content, this labs and investigations seek to allow students to experience how "real science" gets done, and how ideas are shaped by data and curiosity to arrive at the ideas we currently think of as correct. Initial evidence suggests that these types of NGSS-aligned learning experience foster this curiosity and better-prepare students for careers in the sciences.

Implementation (10 points)

With the purchase of the spectrometers labs requiring their use will immediately begin being implemented by teachers. The lab plans and lesson materials already exist, we are simply missing the instruments themselves that allow us to complete them. Students will bing using the spectrometers in lab courses as funds are allocated and an order can be placed.

This project is sustainable and durable. This one-time funding will allow this course of study to be implemented every school year going forward at no cost. The lab plans and student materials that facilitate the lessons using the spectrometers have already been generated and shared with teachers at no cost. The spectrometers themselves are not consumable, and will be cared for and stored at the school site to be reused yearly.
Can you share this grant with your grade level or subject team?

Yes, I have already generated all of the required student and teacher materials, and have discussed how they will be implemented by the other science teachers at NTHS. The materials are available for review if requested. These specs will be used by other teachers at the site and I am willing and able to provide assistance and support, as needed, to ensure successful implementation.

Budget (10 points)
Budget Item(s)
$3192 - 8 (Pasco PS-2600 Wireless Spectrometer)
Amount Requested
Budget Notes

The spectrometers listed above are the best value for the money after some careful comparison shopping. There are instruments that can perform similar,  limited functions, but because they aren’t able to do real-time measurements of the visible spectrum, or only read absorbance at two or three defined wavelength they limit the utility of the instruments to specific experiments. The models listed above are “future proof” because of their broad measurement range and real-time accuracy.

Other funding sources

I did speak with my site team, and it is possible that site fund could be used to support this project, however, that would mean that money normally directed towards science class consumables (lab reagents etc.) would no longer be available for other science courses and some other specific labs may need to be removed from the curriculum because of a lack of funding for consumables.