Stafki awarded the Seagate Excellence In Science Mentoring Award
Perham High school Science Teacher Shawn Stafki is happy, and proud, to talk about his students, their science projects and what they have accomplished during the 16 years he's been taking them to the state science competition.
Turn the conversation to Stafki himself, and he immediately reroutes the conversation back to the kids.
"That's what I am more interested in, focusing on them," he said.
This year the focus could easily also be on him, as he was one of two science teachers in the state awarded the Seagate Excellence In Science Mentoring Awards at the 81st annual North Central Regional State Science and Engineering Fair in Minneapolis, April 8-10. The science fair is put on by the Minnesota Academy of Science.
The award recognizes outstanding science teachers who find creative ways to nurture students' interest in research and discovery, going above and beyond the classroom to promote science education.
Stafki said the award means alot to him knowing the application was written by parents, teachers and students, but that it is also very humbling.
He is also grateful to the administration and their support of the science program and providing the resources they need for the state competition each year.
He added what he's most excited about is that as part of the award, the school gets $1,000 and he will get to use it for field trips.
Stafki took a team of seven students to state science fair, where sophomore Olivia McNair won an American Psychological Association Best Project Award in Psychology, and received an honorable mention in the behavioral and social sciences category.
Stafki said the students are competing against other students from across the state, including both public and private schools.
"It's a fierce competition and I tell them that just getting there is an accomplishment, but it's also a great experience for the kids and they have a good time," Stafki said.
The topic of McNair's project was, The Prevalence of Cognitive Dissonance in Perceiving Fake News.
Examples of other projects that advanced to state from our region were, How Does Weight of Backpack affect Blood Pressure, and The Effects of Fracking Fluid on Fish.
He added a student who received an award at the regional level will be going to the international science competition in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in May.
That project tested three different species of UTI causing bacteria and what type of household products can impact them.
"They will have a great experience there. It's not unusual to have projects go to regionals and qualify for the international competition, but not win at state," Stafki said. "That's why I always say go there, do your best and after that, it is all up to the judges."
At the international science competition, Stafki said there will be over 70 countries, and all 50 states, in attendance and a total of 1500 projects competing against each other.
He's glad to see the students come back each year to take part in the state science fair, and what keeps them coming back he feels is the competitive aspect of it and their love of science.
"I also think they enjoy it because it's hands-on, and these are their ideas and their research. I see myself more as a mentor than a teacher," Stafki said.
He added his favorite part is working with the kids.
"I really just enjoy helping them chase whatever it is they are trying to accomplish with their project," Stafki said. "They have done amazing projects over the years that are way beyond what I could imagine."