Teacher wins $5k national science award

Grant will buy classroom equipment
By: 
Scott Girard

Photo by Scott Girard. Angie Midthun-Hensen helps students with an in-class experiment last week.

Angie Midthun-Hensen joined the National Science Teachers Association last fall.

Already, that has paid off with a $5,000 grant for her Verona Area High School classroom, which she’ll use for equipment to assist with in-class experiments.

Midthun-Hensen, a science teacher and FFA adviser, told the Verona Press she was “very surprised” to learn she won the national DuPont Pioneer Excellence in Agricultural Science Education Award. The award is given to one teacher each year.

“I couldn’t believe it,” she said.

But the credit for the award is spread among the teacher and her students, who took major roles in producing a video that’s required in the application process.

Midthun-Hensen said seeing the two classes put so much effort into the project, and take ownership and pride in it, was a “great experience” in itself.

In addition to the classroom grant, the award winner receives a paid trip to the NSTA national conference, mentoring with a DuPont Pioneer scientist, classroom resources and access to a DuPont Pioneer product plant or research facility.

It’s “a dream that’s now being realized,” she said.

Making the video

While the application requires many traditional items, such as letters of recommendation and a written description of how the grant could help the teacher’s program, it also asks for a more technological component.

Teachers must submit an up-to-20-minute video must show themselves and their students participating in an agricultural science activity.

There, Midthun-Hensen needed some help.

Midthun-Hensen assigned topics to the students and let them decide how they would portray those in the video. From paper bees illustrating pollination to diagrams about cell cloning, the students got creative with their ideas for the 13 ½-minute video.

“It was a cool opportunity for us to do something together as a class,” junior Alex Hofstetter said.

The students spent between two and three class days filming the video, and collaborated and planned out their sections for homework.

One student, junior Joey King, volunteered to spend nearly 18 hours editing the video after it was filmed, without Midthun-Hensen even asking.

“I would’ve had to figure it out myself,” she said. “He jumped in full force. They all just really wanted to make it happen.”

Using the money

When she won the award, Midthun-Hensen knew exactly how she would spend the money.

She knew her classroom could use a stealth fume hood, something that will help improve the results of their in-class experiments.

Fume hoods are designed to protect the product of a scientific experiment by keeping out elements that could affect results. The current class fume hood doesn’t offer full sterility for experiments, she explained.

“(Students) have seen their hard work not turn out because of contaminations,” she said.

Hofstetter said he's excited to get more “exact and professional results” once the fume hood is purchased, which Midthun-Hensen expected to be before the end of the school year. Midthun-Hensen’s students are also simply happy for their teacher, who will travel to Boston in April to receive the award and money in person.

“Of all the teachers to get it, she deserves it,” senior Ben Feller said.

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