Mason County Middle School science teachers Brian McDowell and Ella Bowling

Two Mason County Middle School science teachers have been recognized on a national level for their ingenuity in the classroom.

Ella Bowling and Brian McDowell learned Wednesday they were named as recipients of two national awards from the National Science Teachers Association.

Ironically, neither knew the other had applied for the national recognition until they were notified by NSTA and word began to spread around MCMS of their achievements.

Bowling won the PASCO STEM Educator Award.  McDowell won the Delta Education/CPO/Frey Scientific Awards for Excellence in Inquiry-based Science Teaching.

It was the first time a teacher at the district's middle school has received such recognition on a national level.

Bowling is one of five teachers across the country to be named in the PASCO STEM category.  The award goes to one elementary, two middle school, and two high school teachers.

The award is for excellence in teaching and incorporating the concepts of STEM -- science, technology, engineering and math into daily curriculum and student projects.

Bowling said she was "going on a whim" when she submitted her application to NSTA, never dreaming she would be recognized.

"I was excited, I didn't expect to win by any means ... we do some really cool stuff here, but I was blown away when I found out I had won," said Bowling.

Her application outlined such classroom projects as an ecology unit to calculate water quality parameters tied to a Trout in the Classroom project; the study of physics by mapping the trajectory of objects; and a weather unit.

McDowell said after giving a big "woo hoo" it was "somewhat surreal when something like that happens," because you never know when you submit an application if it will be noticed.

McDowell said the philosophy behind inquiry-based teaching is to move students away from the traditional memorization of scientific facts and to learning and understanding how scientists know things and what a scientist actually does to come to a conclusion of facts.

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McDowells' application outlined classroom projects involving the school's nature trail. Students studied a butterfly garden to determine what, and why certain types of plants attract butterflies; a dinosaur trackway and fossil dig site to develop observations/measurements and inferences about dinosaurs before their extinction; study of Ice Age mammals through a bone assemblage area; and a bird blind studying such things as what birds are attracted to certain bird seeds.

Both acknowledged the support of school district administrators for supporting them and allowing them to travel to regional and state NSTA conferences each year.

Principal Justin Moore said he wasn't surprised at the recognition given Bowling and McDowell, as well the entire science department at MCMS.

"They do a great job going and finding resources and connections that fit in the classroom.  It doesn't surprise me, our science department is better or as good as anyone in the state, with fewer resources.  They do a phenomenal job," Moore said.

Bowling teaches seventh grade science and has been with MCMS since 2005. McDowell teaches eighth grade science and has been with the district nine years after teaching in Cincinnati for nine years.

Both will travel to the NSTA National Conference in April, with expenses paid as part of their award.  In addition, Bowling with receive $2,000 worth of PASCO supplies for her classroom and each receives a monetary award.


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