Tier Three Winner

Wings Over Water

Montana Natural History Center
Missoula, Montana

Wings Over Water (WOW) brings research into the hands of middle and high school students, through the study of their local Ospreys and ecosystems. The program starts by building E-STEM expertise for teachers, who return to the classroom as mentors and research guides. Their students begin a rich curriculum that crosscuts physics, biology, chemistry, math, engineering, conservation and technology. Through WOW, students lead the entire process of scientific discovery: they ask and answer their own questions, they present results to international audiences, and finally, they take action in their communities to solve problems and help answer essential questions in E-STEM.

Judges Comment

We are pleased to announce Wings over Water as a 3rd tier winner. Wings Over Water uses a single species to help young people explore systems and E-STEM concepts. We love how they use the osprey as a way to illustrate connections, our shared environments, and diverse topics from technology, to chemistry, to physics, and more. Rather than focusing solely on species conservation, this program uses the osprey as a jumping off point for rigorous inquiry into the interconnected nature of environmental health and safety. Judges applauded Wings Over Water’s attention to professional development in E-STEM topics, which ULIEA’s original research pointed to as a critical need in the field. Moreover, this strategy enables the program to multiply its reach with students across a larger area and in different contexts. With an emphasis on the scientific enterprise, the program puts young people in the driver’s seat. Judges loved how students are equipped to play an active role in research, from formulating a research question, to collecting data, to interpreting results. Broadly, judges appreciated how Wings Over Water engages young people in systems thinking through the simple anchor of one species that’s found throughout most of North America.