Grants help students change world

Honoring outstanding elementary, junior and senior high school student projects that reduced local pollution or cut a school’s energy costs? Yes. Providing millions of dollars in college scholarships? Yes. Honoring and assisting outstanding public school teachers in math, science, technology and engineering? Yes. Providing online examples of project-based learning in science, math and engineering, and opportunities for educators to talk with each other? Yes.

With about $7 million a year, the Siemens Foundation offers a remarkable range of opportunities to students, schools and teachers in Minnesota and other states. Information can be found at

Between now and March 5, 2013, elementary, middle and high school students and their teachers can work on projects that might result in prizes under the Foundation’s “We Can Change the World” competition. Jeniffer Harper-Taylor, president of the Siemens Foundation, told me that the elementary program focuses on how to improve a classroom, the middle school stresses ways to help a school, and the high school program seeks solutions to national or worldwide problems. More information can be found at

Students have, for example, designed projects that reduced their school’s energy costs or water pollution/run off from their school, or cut down on the amount of a school’s wasted food that ends up in landfills, or developed campaigns to increase awareness of environmental issues. A vast array of projects along with curriculum plans is available on their Web site.

Siemens’ High School Competition in Math, Science and Technology is probably the best known of its programs. National winners receive $100,000 college scholarships. It’s incredible to read about the winners: suburban, rural and inner city students who have developed projects that may help cure cancer or extend our understanding of fundamental physics principles.

Cassee Cain, one of the two 2011 national winners, told the Foundation, “Being a black female interested in math and science, I grew up without role models. As I got older, I realized that I could be a role model and disprove not only that girls can’t do math and science, but that black people can’t. It became an obsession for me. I couldn’t get enough math and science.”

The Siemens Foundation also provides scholarships to honor the male and female student in each state who earned the highest scores on Advanced Placement Exams in science, math, engineering and technology. Over the last few years, students from several Minnesota high schools have won those scholarships.The Foundation also provides scholarships to the nation’s top male and female student.

Teachers also can win trips and training from Siemens. Each summer, the Foundation convenes educators and scientists. Their Web site has more than 1,200 resources for educators, aligned with grade levels.

Joe Nathan, formerly a Minnesota public school teacher and administrator, directs the Center for School Change, Macalester College. Reactions are welcome via e-mail at

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