Written by Scott Stevenson
Through the generosity of the Cockrell Foundation, The Houston Museum of Natural Science is proud to offer the Evelyn Frensley Scholarship for Outstanding Achievement in Science or Mathematics and the Wilhelmina C. Robertson Excellence in Science or Mathematics Teaching Award. Four annual awards of $2,000 go to two high school juniors, one K-5th grade science or math teacher, and one 6-12th grade science or math teacher from the Houston area. The winners of the Excellence in Science or Mathematics Awards and Scholarships are presented at the Excellence in Science luncheon in the fall.
We are still accepting applications for 2020. Please visit our website for more information and to learn more about the application process.
This past fall, we had the honor of awarding the 2019 Excellence in Science and Mathematics Student Scholarships and Teacher Awards. HMNS President Joel Bartsch recognized Colton Morgan, student at St. John’s School, Michael Artlip, student at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory, Jennifer Howell, teacher at Longfellow Elementary School, and Heidi Tarr teacher at The Emery/Weiner School. The following are brief profiles of the 2019 winners…
2019 Student Scholarship recipient Colton Morgan
Colton Morgan is a senior at St. John’s School. At school, he tackles a rigorous curriculum including advanced physics, chemistry, and math courses. His awards and honors include “High Honors”, AP Scholar with Distinction, Gold Presidential Service Award, and a National Merit Semifinalist. Colton participates in the Science Olympiad, Junior Classics League, and Cross-Country. His advisor of four years says Colton is well-respected, well-liked, and has a quiet but powerful presence about him. He is recognized as an Evelyn’s Park Conservancy Teen Ambassador and is an Eagle Scout. He also raises cattle and grows grapes at his family’s ranch. Colton attended a three week college preparatory physics course at the University of Chicago and a two week astronomy program at Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute in North Carolina among other programs. At the Pisgah Institute, Colton and his partners had access to the observatory’s two twenty meter radio telescopes, optical telescopes, and access to the SkyNet online service which allows users to view from telescopes stationed around the world. After identifying an unconfirmed exoplanet and using optical telescopes and SkyNet, they analyzed the image of the star and Colton developed a light curve from the data that graphed how bright the star was over time. Although there was a brief dip in the data, potentially indicating an exoplanet, the amount of data overall was insufficient to use as conclusive evidence. Colton desired to learn more and writes, “Looking through the optical telescope images and using physics to analyze the size and speed of an exoplanet orbiting a distant star were the highlights of my summer. Colton wants to pursue a college major in physics, chemistry, or astronomy. He wants to conduct research in college and then follow with an advanced degree in physics or chemistry. Colton writes, “Researching solutions to climate change would be incredibly rewarding.” Colton is considering careers in space and environmental science.
2019 Student Scholarship recipient Michael Artlip
Michael Artlip has been fascinated by numbers and physical science for as long as he can remember. He writes about his early scientific interests by saying, “They shared the common theme of admiration for the beautiful and complex, resulting in a firm desire to learn about and make sense of the universe’s beauty and complexity.” Michael is a senior at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory. Carlos Roman, Michael’s mathematics instructor writes, “Michael is one of the best mathematics students that I have taught in my teaching career of 33 years…He is very talented and has a remarkable ability to comprehend mathematical concepts and great enthusiasm for learning.” Michael is a National Merit Semi-Finalist, AP Scholar with Distinction and is on the Principal’s Honor Roll. Michael is a well-rounded student. Gymnastics has been a large part of Michael’s life. He began gymnastics at the age of three and has competed on a national level since age 11. This past summer Michael qualified and competed at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships. Michael writes, “Almost everything I do is about science and numbers. In gymnastics, I often use the principles of physics to determine how I can improve my technique.” While trying to learn a move called a “giant” on the parallel bars, Michael employed the principle of centripetal motion to perform the skill consistently and confidently. Michael is also a member of the school’s Quizbowl Team. For the team, Michael specializes in science and spends time daily, researching science and math topics. Michael led them to a state title in 2018, and they finished 19th nationally in 2019. Michael wants to pursue STEM as a college major and career. His immediate goal is to attend a university where he can simultaneously compete on an NCAA gymnastics team and study engineering.
2019 Teacher Award winner Jennifer Howell
Jennifer Howell has two guiding principles in her teaching philosophy. First, what are the student’s talents and how do they learn best? Second, is it good for the kids? Personalizing instruction, meeting kids where they are and helping them grow leads to students finding their own success. She sets her priorities and energy on doing things that benefit students. Jennifer Howell teaches at Longfellow Elementary School as a Science Specialist. She is described as a leader who creates a culture that supports science in and out of the classroom. Among other distinctions, Jennifer was the November 2015 HISD Teacher of the Month and the 2016-17 Longfellow Teacher of the Year. Her instruction is data driven, with pre and post-test assessments creating a sense of success and ownership. Jennifer’s classroom instruction is investigation based with a high level of student engagement. When she became the science lab teacher at Longfellow Elementary School, her students raised four baby chickens. First, the kids learned responsibility. They knew how to behave around the chickens, they kept an eye on them, and looked out for anything out of the ordinary. Second, the students learned empathy by successfully integrating an older chicken into the flock by understanding that chicken’s needs. Third, the students understood synergy by observing the chickens working together and integrating their roles into a successful flock. Next, the kid’s observations of the chickens reinforced science concepts and deeper observations provided direct experience with life cycles. Finally, the students used sustained inquiry to answer questions from their observations and then did research to find answers or continue observations. Jennifer writes, “Whenever possible, I prefer to use an interdisciplinary, integrated approach to classroom learning…We weave in other subjects, past learning, and big concepts into our lessons to keep our skills fresh and provide authentic connections for the kids.”
2019 Teacher Award winner Heidi Tarr
“Go out into the world and inspire as many people as you can, change as many lives as you can, and do as much good as you can.” Heidi Tarr writes, “Each morning when I wake up before school starts I keep this in mind, and every year when seniors graduate I write this down in the cards I give them.” Heidi Tarr has been teaching for 12 years, currently teaching AP Biology at the Upper School at The Emery/Weiner School and before at Sam Rayburn High School. Nathan Barber, Head of the Upper School writes, “In just her second year at the school…Heidi transformed the life sciences classes into inquiry-based, hands-on adventures that had the kids hooked from day one.” Heidi creates a culture in which students who enter her room are called “nerdlings” and they refer to her as “The Queen Nerdling”. She places a heavy emphasis on creating a community, building lasting relationships with her students, inspiring them to think outside the box and creating an environment where it is acceptable to be exceptional. Heidi writes, “Regardless of their socioeconomic backgrounds, it is my philosophy that in order for true learning potential to be achieved, students need to be excited, inspired, intrigued, and most importantly their ideas, voices, and opinions need to be heard and respected.” A former student from seven years ago, Josue Chirinos, provides an inspiring recommendation letter in support of Mrs. Tarr. Josue writes “Seven years ago, I was starting high school…I was worried about whether I would eat that night.” Josue had started working in eighth grade to help with bills at home. Josue’s goals going into high school were simple: get in, get out, and work. Josue writes, “It was not until I met Mrs. Heidi Tarr that I started on a better path.” She taught him to use his frustration and struggles as motivation. Josue writes, “I began to see college as a way to break the cycle of my family’s poverty.” Today, Josue is a rising senior at Princeton University, and plans to attend medical school with the ultimate goal of becoming a surgeon. He says, “Someone like Mrs. Tarr – her dedication and reassuring support – cannot simply be described. You must experience it yourself to truly understand.” Josue continues, “I never thought I would have interview offers from places like Harvard Medical School and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine…She is by far the best teacher I have ever had…She helped me realize my potential, and without her, I may well have become another statistic.” Update from Ms. Tarr, Josue has been accepted to Harvard Medical School.
High School Juniors, please consider applying for this scholarship now. The deadline for all submissions is April 24. Of special interest to the Museum review committee is a description of plans for college and future career and a description of projects or activities that demonstrate ability and interest in science or mathematics.
Houston area teachers, please consider nominating yourself, another teacher, or a student for a scholarship now. The deadline for all submissions is April 24.