For a few years, Kim Small, head of the Planetarium in Upper Dublin, had received emails from the Intel Corporation advertising their annual School of Distinction Awards for Science and Math Programs. However, this year, she decided to find out more about the award program.
Her research paid off.
After applying for the award, Sandy Run Middle School was chosen as one of three finalists for the Intel Corporation grant, winning $5,000, with a chance for $100,000 more in products.
“When I saw this award was for distinction in science, how a school can excel or stand out in science, it made me think how our school has a planetarium, which is very unique, and we also have the environmental center at Robbins Park,” said Small. “Those two things make us stand out, and we have a lot of great teachers who go above and beyond.”
Even though Small recognized that past award winners were magnet schools specializing in math and science, she still thought SRMS had a good chance, good enough to at least try for the award.
“That made us even more proud,” said Small. “Some of the other schools are specifically math and science schools, and we aren’t.”
The application process was extensive.
“It was a 53 question application; each question was a standalone question. Some of it was basic questions like income levels and ethnicity of the students, but other questions required 800-word responses on everything from professional development of science teachers to what programs we offer the kids both during the school day and after school, how we help low achieving students in science,” said Small. “So there was a range of questions. Some were more general, like the mission of the school, but some were geared toward the science program.”
Small worked on the application with the help of Pam Ryan, director of development for Upper Dublin, for two to three months between answering the questions, editing it and submitting the application.
The application was due in December. In May, Sandy Run Middle School found out it was chosen as a finalist.
“It is wonderful for Sandy Run Middle School to be acknowledged for all the hard work and efforts by our staff in the area of science,” said Sandy Run Middle School Principal Denise Falconi.
Each finalist—three each at the elementary, middle and high school levels—receives a $5,000 grant. If Sandy Run Middle School is chosen, the school will win an additional $5,000 and a package of hardware, software and teacher professional development products valued at $100,000.
“I’m very excited to be chosen,” said Small. “That day when we got the email, I was so excited. I didn’t realize what we were getting ourselves into when we started the application process. Attached to the award email was a black-tie invitation and travel information. I thought we would just get the award, but we actually have to travel to Washington D.C. to find out the winner of the award.”
In September, Small, Falconi, the superintendent and the school board president will travel to Washington D.C. for four days to find out if Sandy Run Middle School will be awarded the Intel Corporation School of Distinction grant.