Open: Science Communication Fellowship Applications

Calling All Researchers!

You are doing important work. We can help you tell the story of your work to a general audience. Now more than ever science communication (#scicomm) is essential to doing science. Apply today for a Science Communication Fellowship!

The Fellowship is an outreach of the Portal to the Public program, funded by the National Science Foundation and proven by evaluation. This opportunity will equip you with the strategies and skills to be an effective, engaging science communicator.

PoP Fellow at Activity Showcase with public.

As a Fellow, you will participate in two six (6) hour workshops where you will learn how to develop and hone your message. We culminate the Fellowship with an activity showcase, a two hour event for the general public. Scholarships are available. Questions? Contact Rhea.

Apply today!

Because of the Sun

South Dakota Discovery Center Special Projects Director and 2017 National Geographic Grosvenor Teacher Fellow Anne Lewis has recently returned from an expedition to Svalbard, Greenland and Iceland.

This is the second in a series of blog posts from her about the expedition.


I decided to do field work using GLOBE protocols. on my Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship because 1) that is what one does on an expedition according to every movie I’ve ever seen and 2) field work was a natural way to connect the Arctic and my teaching. My plan was and is to compare and contrast results from the Arctic field studies with results from Prairie field studies.

Selecting the field work protocols necessitated some thought, balancing equipment requirements, luggage space and a host of other variables, some of which I discovered only after I got to the Arctic. For example, I was in polar bear country and that meant I couldn’t go marching off on my own to set up transects. I had to adapt.

I used an infrared thermometer to take surface temperature readings.

The protocol that rose to the top of the suite I selected was surface temperature. I wasn’t expecting this to be the protocol but then there was a lot I didn’t expect about the Arctic. In retrospect, it made sense. The Sun more than any other factor is what makes the Polar region unique.

The Arctic in early July has a lot of sun. And what I mean by “has a lot of sun” is the sun did not set. Ever. It was 24 hours of daylight.  (See What is a Solstice for an explanation). Even the clouds couldn’t darken the sky to twilight let alone night levels of black. I found this 24 hour sunlight invigorating yet disorienting, a whole blog post in and of itself.

This constant sunlight meant that there was nonstop solar energy coming into the Arctic. Some of it, to be sure, was filtered out by clouds, but even on the cloudiest day Sun energy still got through.

We all know the Sun warms the Earth. We learn this as children, sometimes painfully after stepping barefoot on blacktop on a hot summer’s day. Yet while we know what happens, many of us cannot explain why. Allow me to digress a moment.

Copyright Kaitlin Naughten. Use by
Energy from the Sun warms the Earth and is radiated off as heat. Copyright Kaitlin Naughten. Used under Creative Commons license.

When a photon of energy from the sun hits the Earth’s surface, the surface will absorb some of the energy and reflect the rest. This absorption heats up the surface, a little or lot depending on several factors including the height of the sun in the sky (more about that in a bit) and the color of the surface with darker colors generally heating up more than lighter.

Eventually, though, the surface will release the absorbed energy, radiating it off as heat. Since this radiation happens 360° some of the heat is radiated downwards warming below the surface, some of it sideways, and some of it upwards warming the air above the surface. Some of that heat radiated into the air will make its way back to space as long as it’s not reabsorbed along the way.

On the hottest days on the Prairie which are also among the longest we wait for the relief of sundown to stop the constant barrage of incoming Sun energy so the Earth can cool down, radiating the heat back out to space. We didn’t have this sundown relief in the Arctic but then, we didn’t need it because the sun never got very high in the sky. It’s not just the length of days (i.e. how long the sun shines) that heats the Earth; it’s also the angle of the rays. A sun lower in the sky means the rays are less direct and therefore less intense.

A lower sun altitude means less intense solar energy.

On the summer solstice in Longyearbyen in Svalbard which is well above the Arctic circle, the sun only reached an altitude of 35° at solar noon, the point when it is at its highest and therefore the most direct. Compare this with a sun altitude of 69° at solar noon in my home city of Pierre, SD on the same date. We have to wait to later in October to have a 35° sun altitude at solar noon.

In measuring surface temperature, I was measuring the impact of the constant, though somewhat indirect energy on the Earth’s surface.

Selecting surface temperature as a protocol was a serendipitous choice as I discovered I could use it on land and at sea where I measured the temperature of ice and ocean. The procedure was different at sea since I had to take the reading off the side of the ship, a height of maybe 10 meters above the surface. On land I took the reading about 1.2 meters off the ground. This meant the two data sets weren’t comparable to each other but no matter.

Land and sea each had their own story to tell.

On land, the coldest surfaces were ice and snow. The warmest was dark sand, warmer than similarly colored rock even. Interestingly, plants-all low growing, a mixture of forbs and mosses–could be warmer or cooler than the nearby barren surfaces. I can think of several possible explanations but I would like data with more tightly controlled variables before I put my ideas out for public consumption. In science, you quickly learn there is almost never enough data.

This Svalbard Poppy was warmer than the surrounding rock.

One forb that was warmer than its surrounding rock was the Svalbard Poppy. This national flower of Svalbard holds the altitude record for flowering plants and indeed, we did see it on a gravelly ridge, well above sea level. The day was raw and gray, with squalls of icy flurries which settled on the plants. The flowers bloomed individually and in small groups. I counted 5 blooms in one cluster, a dot of life and color in an otherwise gray, brown and white landscape. This is the plant that was more than ¾ a degree Celsius warmer than the surrounding rock.

Sea ice and open ocean. The open ocean measured under sunny conditions–not shown- here-radiated more heat than the ice did.

At sea, I took temperatures of the surface, aiming my thermometer at both the dark open sea and the blue/white ice. The range of their temperatures overlapped–the highest ice temperatures were about the same as the lowest sea temperatures–but overall the open sea was warmer than the ice.

It did not come as a surprise that the dark sea radiated more heat than ice. More radiant heat results in a warmer atmosphere which melts ice and exposing more dark ocean surface. You can see where this is going. It was both sobering and compelling to see those final numbers in my spreadsheet. Somehow, the impact is different when it’s your own data.

I am still organizing and processing my experiences on the Lindblad expedition. My vision for how I want to use these experiences in my teaching is bolder after the expedition than before. My big dream is to develop a cross curricular unit (science, geography, literature, writing, math) that can be adapted to multiple grade bands with the Polar setting as the anchor. I don’t know where this will end. But I do know where it will begin.

With the sun.

Fall Preschool Classes Announced

Science Fun for the Little Ones!

Children 4-6 can explore and experience SCIENCE in these monthly hour and a half classes, either morning or afternoon. New this year: children 2½-4 can participate with a parent in the morning class!

Sign up today!

Morning Class: 10am – 11:30. Register
Afternoon Class: 1:00 – 2:30. Register
Parent/Tot Class: 10am – 11:00. Register
Members: $10
Nonmembers: $12
United Way funding available to assist with costs for qualifying families. Call Kristie at 605-224-8295 for more information.

September 6
Buzzy Bees
Bzzzzz! Where do bees live, what do they eat and how do they make honey? Join us as we learn all about these amazing insects.

October 4
Plenty of Pumpkins
Big ones, fat ones, little ones and round ones! Explore how they grow from a tiny seed into a Jack-O-Lantern.

November 1
Zoom, Zoom!
Pre-school Physics at play will be the theme of the day! We will experiment with wheels, ramps, balls and launchers and learn about the basic laws of motion.

December 6
Arctic and Antarctic Animals
Let’s find out how animals survive in the ice, snow and bitter cold. We will learn all about Penguins, polar bears, walruses and more.

January 10
Our Amazing Bodies
How does food get digested in your tummy? How do your muscles work? We will answer these and many more questions as we explore the human body through fun experiments and games.

Celebrate Space Science!

Join us for some out of this world fun as we blast off into a new school year. We are celebrating Voyager’s 40th year AND the solar eclipse with a special planetarium show, eclipse make n takes, a star party, door prizes and a big screen showing of the PBS special The Farthest Voyager in Space.

Our special events are listed below. Be sure to like and share on Facebook!

Saturday August 12

  • Bus from Miller to Pierre. Departs Miller at 9am. $8 per person. Includes SD Discovery Center admission planetarium show. We’ll also stop at Zesto! (ice cream/lunch on your own). Sign up at the Miller Library.
  • Make n Take Eclipse Viewers. 10 am – 5pm.  SD Discovery Center Exhibit Hall. Free with paid SD Discovery Center admission. Daily until August 20.
  • Planetarium Shows. 12pm – 3pm. SD Discovery Center. Free with admission. Special show features deep space objects and eclipse.
  • Star Party! 9 to 10:30pm.  Oahe Downstream Recreation Area. Free. Follows the car show and ice cream social that begin at 8pm. We’ll have telescopes (10pm-10:30pm), make n take star charts, try-it star gazing apps and more!

Monday August 14

Special Screening: The Farthest – Voyager in Space.
State 123 Theater, Pierre, SD.
2 showings – 1pm (activities -12:15pm) and 7pm (6:15pm)
Pre-movie space science activities before each showing, starting 12:15pm and 6:15 respectively. Door Prizes – 2 State 123 Gift Cards & 5 SDDC memberships. Groups of 10 or more please call 605-224-8295 to reserve seating.

Tuesday August 15

Special Screening: The Farthest – Voyager in Space.
Midway Drive-In, Miller, SD.
Gates open at 6pm. Movie at 9pm.
Free admission w/school supply donation for Backpack Buddies programs. Inflatables & space science activities & make n’ takes from SD Discovery Center. Door prizes – 5 2018 Midway Drive-in season passes and 5 SD Discovery Center memberships.

Aug 12- 20

Make n Take Eclipse Viewers. Free with paid SD Discovery Center admission. Daily until August 20.

Watershed Protection Outreach Mini-grants

The South Dakota Discovery Center administrates a mini-grants program for small watershed protection outreach projects.  Projects should promote watershed protection to adult and community audiences.

Applications are now being accepted. You may request up to $10,000. The due date is 23:59 CT September 8, 2017. Projects must start on or after December 1, 2017.

To apply:

    1. Read the background guidance. Google Doc. PDF
    2. Submit your application through this form . The form is provided for you in a different format to draft your responses. Please do not submit your application via email through these documents. They are only for you to plan and draft your application. Google Doc. PDF. Word.
    3. Provide a link to an online version (i.e. Google Doc, Dropbox, etc) of your budget in the form. Please use this budget template. Google Doc. Excel.
    4. Please contact Anne Lewis , 605-224-8295 with questions.

South Dakota Discovery Center Special Projects Director and 2017 National Geographic Grosvenor Teacher Fellow Anne Lewis has recently returned from an expedition to Svalbard, Greenland and Iceland.

Read the first in her series of blog posts about the journey.


How do I start? How do I tell this story?

I suppose I should start with the facts; where I went, what I saw, what I did. I put that information for most of the expedition in an annotated map.

The map only covers Svalbard, our travel towards Greenland and one stop in Iceland. The other stops in Iceland will be added at a later date. I hope. Iceland ended up feeling like its own expedition.  I had intended to do field work throughout but once I got muck boots on the ground I decided to limit the field work to above the Arctic circle where there was ice.

I say this as if I had some agency in the matter and I suppose at some level I did. But my decision to limit my field work was based completely and solely on my fascination with ice. Once we were out of it, I felt my field work was done.

I did not expect to fall in love with the ice. The ice was beautiful and compelling. I’m still trying to find the words to describe it. I struggle to even explain how profound it was for me. Imagine, if you will, you have never seen a sunset. Then, one day you see not just a sunset but a full color, sky aflame sunset. Your life is changed because you have experienced this beauty that makes you stop breathing for a moment. Your world is different to know such a thing exists.

I feel the same way about glacial ice. My world is different.

This glacial ice is not the ice you curse as you scrape it off your windshield in January. This ice has a turquoise luminescence. It’s ancient and beautiful and strong and vulnerable.

I say vulnerable because I saw a glacier calve. Rationally, I know that all glaciers calve, it’s a natural process. There is no way to tell if that particular episode of calving was in anyway caused by climate change. But that calving was representative of all calving. It was beautiful and sad.

The day I saw the glacier calve was brilliant with sun, the crisp white terminus of the glacier, and deep blue sky. I watched from the bow of the ship the ice drop into the sea, its transition from glacier to iceberg.  I could not see a splash; there must have been ripples. The freshly calved terminus glowed blue under the white.

We were far enough away that the ice made no sound when it fell.  A few moments later, I heard its rumble above the crackling of the ice near the ship, made by icebergs releasing the gases trapped inside for hundreds and thousands of years.

It is said time does not have a sound. But I think it does. It is the sound of the ice.

Women In Science Logo Competition

Our Women in Science Conference logo changes every two years. This year you have the chance to submit a new logo design for the 2018 Women in Science Conference! Enter the competition with your unique design to be featured on conference brochures, flyers, and bags for the next two years and win a $50 Amazon gift card!

Who can enter?
All girls between 12 and 18 years old (at time of entry) who have attended the 2017 Women in Science Conference.

How to participate?

  1. Read up on best practices of logo design
    Here are some useful tips on how to design a logo:,
  2. Get inspired 
    Check out or
  3. Be creative You can design on your own, or get a team together
  4. Design your unique logo
    Use your preferred software or get a free trial of Adobe Illustrator at
  5. Submit your logo by August 1st 2017 end an email with your name, age, school and logo design to

Explore the river in a new way. Kayak! Sign up today for a 3 hour into to kayaking class. Learn new skills. Improve existing skills. Look like a pro!

Whether you want to try kayaking before you buy a kayak to see if you like it or if you want to improve your paddling skills, kayaking try it is the class for you.

In this three hour intro to kayaking for adults and teens we will learn the basics of good paddling, including fitting your life jacket, kayak entry and exits, paddling strokes, how to lift and carry your kayak (even if you don’t have a lot of upper body strength) and wet exits.  We will also cover the number one pro tip that experienced kayakers know. We will finish with a leisurely paddle along the length of La Framboise Island.

Bring sunscreen, water bottle, clothes that can get wet including shoes for wet exit practice, towel, dry clothes, hat. Dry bags recommended for phone and electronics.

Under age 14 must participate with parent or guardian.

Sign up today.

SD Discovery Center Memberships Sales to Fund School Projects

Members receive discounts on classes, free admission year round and free/reduced price entry to other science centers around the country!

Stanley County Elementary is looking to raise funds to add a grassy play area to their playground. Sully Buttes Elementary needs supplies & equipment for their science programs. Kennedy Elementary PTO wants to continue providing classroom supply grants to their teachers. They all have partnered with the SD Discovery Center to help these efforts.

From now through May 31 you can purchase a membership to the Center in the name of one of these organizations. Twenty-percent of the membership fee will go to the group you choose.

“This is a real win for education.” says Buddy Seiner, president of the Kennedy PTO. The schools feel good about this fundraiser because the product is something families can get lots of use from and helps keep kids learning over the summer.

You don’t have to have kids in one of these schools or in school at all to support this fundraiser.

“These groups were able to participate in this first run this year.” Says Kristie Maher, executive director of the SD Discovery Center. So anyone from any school or city can join the SD Discovery Center through this program. If you support one school this year, you can choose a different school next year, if you like.

Family, grandparent or gift membership are available for $50. Classroom or daycare memberships start at $75 and can be use for teacher gifts. Businesses and organizations who wish to support one of participants and/or the SD Discovery Center have membership options, too. There is even an option to donate a membership to a family that might not otherwise afford one.

Memberships last for a calendar year and have many benefits. These include free admission to the Center plus free admission to over 280 addition science centers. Members also get discounts on science workshops and birthday parties.

Which worthy project will YOU support with a membership? Buy a membership today!

We Need Volunteers!

Volunteer at the SD Discovery Center

The SD Discovery Center is looking for volunteers (ages 11 & up) this summer!

Use this great opportunity to learn more about STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and the backstage works of a science center. Acquire valuable teaching and leadership skills, and help us inspire kids to explore nature and science!

We have three different types of volunteer jobs:

  • Exhibit Hall — helping guests with exhibits & keeping the exhibits clean and ready for guests
  • Gardens — helping guests interact with the garden, plant/weed/water/pick as needed, learn the workings of the greenhouse (training is provided)
  • Camps and Classes — assist our instructors run the classes and camps

Pick one to three days a week, just one or two time slots per day. If you can pick the same time each week, that’s great. If you just want to fill in as needed that works, too. Get a friend to sign up with you, if you like.

To check volunteer opportunities and sign up click here.