Potlatch science teacher secures grant to help kids learn hands-on science

POTLATCH, ID - Funding for education in Idaho continues to be a controversial topic in Boise, and almost every district in Latah County replies on taxpayers to pass maintenance and operation levies.

Reporter Rachel Dubrovin explains how a teacher in Potlatch took matters into her own hands, and won thousands of dollars to upgrade her science classroom.

Laura Wommack is a science teacher at Potlatch Junior-Senior High School.

"My students all call me Womm, almost all of them," said Potlatch Junior-Senior High School Science Teacher Laura Wommack.

(Wommack chatting with students)

"So I teach biology, I teach advanced biology, chemistry, physics, some science electives," said Wommack. "We have a little forensics."

"So what does the spatter tell you?" said Wommack. "What can you imply just by looking at it?"

"She is an asset because she does enjoy what she's doing and the kids do enjoy what they're doing in their class," said Potlatch Junior-Senior High School Principal Cheryl Riedinger.

Wommack is one of 18 science teachers across the nation who was awarded a grant from the 2014 Shell Science Lab Challenge.

"Mrs. Wommack applied for a grant to remake a classroom, science classroom," said Riedinger. "And it's exciting for us because she doesn't have a lot in the science room."

"Science teachers, in particular, need to really get out there and try to look for money to bring more activities and more hands-on things into their classrooms than we get just from the normal budget," said Wommack.

"It's just really hard," said Riedinger. "You go with the bare minimum, with what you can. And then you try to find grant money."

Wommack will get $3,000 to buy new equipment... like safer bunsen burners that will be used in experiments to keep students engaged.

"I'm very constructivist, I want them creating their own knowledge," said Wommack. "My belief is I can't just serve it to them and have them really come away with anything."

Wommack said the money from the grant will help students get something even more valuable, a good education in science.

"Science is everywhere," said Wommack. "And the more science literate the kids are, the better global citizens they're going to be."

The science lab challenge is a National Science Teachers Association program, and it's funded by The Shell Corporation.