January 2020: New Year, New Phenomena Lesson Plan Competition

Butterfly eye, courtesy of NGSS Phenomena

Competition opens: January 1, 2020.

Deadline: on or before 11:59 P.M. Eastern Time, Friday, January 31st, 2020.

Welcome to the New Year! Can you see it? A classroom filled with students eager to learn, engage, and explore... but as teachers, we know that is not always the case after Winter break, so here’s the challenge: The Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) wants you to engage students using phenomena! For example, what are the molecular characteristics of water that cause it to form a “water hat” when dumped on a person’s head, and why does someone’s tears in space look different than someone’s tears on Earth? Submit an original STEM lesson plan that uses phenomena to engage students for a chance to win. THREE teachers will win a trip to NSTA!

Prize: THREE teachers will win an ALL-EXPENSES PAID trip to NSTA! This includes travel, lodging, meals, and conference entry!


  • Interested educators are invited to submit an original lesson plan to https://orausurvey.orau.org/n/PhenomenaCompetition.aspx by 11:59 p.m. EST on Friday, January 31st, 2020.
  • Phenomena ideas can be found here: https://www.ngssphenomena.com/
  • To avoid plagiarism, please a submit lesson plan that you have written. We understand that many activities are developed by other teachers; just make sure that you put your own spin on the activity.
  • Lesson plan may focus on any math or science topic as long as it incorporates phenomena!
  • Lesson plans should include the following:
    • lesson title
    • teacher name and school
    • target grade level
    • time required for lesson
    • standards/objectives
    • materials required
    • instructional steps for introduction, activities, and closure
    • assessment strategies
    • differentiation strategies
  • Lesson plans will be scored using a rubric, and winners will be announced late-February!
  • Teachers must teach in the United States, a U.S. Territory, or a DoDEA school to be eligible to win.
  • Teachers are eligible to win 2 ORISE competitions in a 12 month period.

Note: Lesson plans submitted for the competition may be shared with other educators via the ORISE website. Plans are subject to revision and edits by ORISE staff before they are shared, so please submit in an editable format (Not PDF).

To view the current ORISE lesson plan library, visit https://orise.orau.gov/stem/k-12/curriculum-for-the-classroom.html.

Butterfly eye image above courtesy of https://www.ngssphenomena.com/

Previous K-12 STEM Competitions and Winners

  • As teachers, we know that one of the best ways for students to learn is to create! The Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) wanted to see how you incorporated Makerspace in your math or science classroom! 

    K-6 th Winners:

    1 st: Rebecca Van Duker, Medford, OR

                    Lesson Plan: Space Odyssey Making Challenge: Mission Mars

    2 nd: Ruth Coats, Clarksville, TN

                    Lesson Plan: Launching to the Moon

    3 rd: Jessica Suri, Laveen, AZ

                    Lesson Plan: Mesopotamian Filter Project

    7 th-12 th Winners:

    1 st: George Hademenos, Richardson, TX

                    Lesson Plan: Oh the Places You’ll Go… to do Science with ROAVEE

    2 nd: Edward Gunkle, Middleburg, PA

                    Lesson Plan: Rube Goldberg Machines

    3 rd: Christine Lauer, Marietta, GA

                    Lesson Plan: Energy is Everywhere


  • September 2019: Eureka! Inquiry-Based Lesson Plan Competition

    EUREKA! As teachers, we know that one of the best ways for students to learn is to discover it themselves. ORISE wanted to see how teachers incorporate inquiry based learning in their math or science classroom!

    1. “Water Movement” by Linda Lohner, 10 th grade teacher at Wallenpaupack Area High School in Hawley, PA
    2. “Ocean Acidification” by Eleanor Williamson, 9 th grade teacher at Urban Assembly School of Design and Construction in Yonkers, NY
    3. “The Martial Arts and Science of Rotational Inertia” by Jose Rivas, 11-12 th grade teacher at Lennox Math, Science and Technology Academy in Lennox, CA


  • August 2019: Social Media Contest

    3-d printer image

    Throughout the month of August, we wanted to know how has inquiry based learning benefited your students? Or if it is new to you, how do you imagine inquiry based learning benefiting your students?

    Winners of the social media contest:

    • Jacqueline Creasy, Union Elementary School, Gallatin, TN
    • Emily McDonald, Red Bank High School, Chattanooga, TN
    • Luke McKinley, King Toledo Public Schools, Toledo, OH
    • Melany Stawnyczji, Windy Hill Elementary, Owings, MD
    • Tracy Call, Rockfish Elementary School, Fayetteville, NC
  • July 2019: Social Media Contest

    supplies image

    Throughout the month of July, we wanted to know what does/can inquiry based learning look like in YOUR classroom that may be different from another classroom! 


    Stephanie Austin, Pontotoc, Mississippi, South Pontotoc Elementary.

    Brittany Weeks, Lilburn, Georgia, Trickum Middle School.

    Vanessa Wentzloff, Auburn Hills, Michigan,  Avondale High School.


  • lesson-plan logo

    Teachers! School may be out, but summer social media contests are just beginning! Throughout the month of June, we wanted to know what does inquiry based learning look like in science and math classrooms!

    Congrats to our June Social Media Contest winners Stephanie Schlimgen, Crystal Bigham, and Wendy Smith!

    To view the current ORISE lesson plan library, visit https://orise.orau.gov/stem/k-12/curriculum-for-the-classroom.html.

  • ORISE participated in the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) National Conference.  To enter, teachers submitted their best STEM lesson plan. 


    1 st Place: Lydia Tate , Bolivar Middle School, Bolivar, MO
    Lesson Plan: The Power of Waves

    2 nd Place: Alicia Miller , Lewiston Elementary School, Evans, GA
    Lesson Plan: Fossil Recovery Team

    3 rd Place: Tammy Guthrie , Hellstern Middle School, Springdale, AR
    Lesson Plan: What can I do as a student to make a positive impact on the environment?

  • For May, ORISE wanted to see your best science or math review game. The activity covered the materials with which you are preparing your students for end of year assessments. 

    1 st Place Winner: Linda Bugg , Bess T. Shepherd Elementary, Chattanooga, TN 
    Lesson Plan: Escape Room Science Review

    2 nd Place Winner: Kim Nickell , Midway Middle School, Kingston, TN
    Lesson Plan: Buzzword Review Game

    3 rd Place Winner: Katherine Kirby , John Early Middle School, Nashville, TN
    Lesson Plan: Clue-ology

    If you have any questions, please contact STEMEd@orau.org.

    To view the current ORISE lesson plan library, visit https://orise.orau.gov/stem/k-12/curriculum-for-the-classroom.html
  • DEAR logoIn honor of Drop Everything and Read April 12 th, ORISE asked to see teachers most engaging and hands on lesson plan that integrates science and literacy! 

    Winner: Greta Shipman, Green Acres Elementary, Smyrna, GA
    Lesson Plan: Seeds All Around Us

    Runner-up: Rachel Cahill, Penn-Mont Academy, Hollidaysburg, PA
    Lesson Plan: Can You Help Me?

    Judges’ Choice: Kellene Colin, Kay Carl Elementary, Las Vegas, NV
    Lesson Plan: Rapunzel Needs Your Help!


  • lesson-plan logo

    In March, ORISE four teachers to ISTE! These teachers submitted two lesson plans, one in each of their content areas. 

    Congratulations to the winners:

    • 1 st Place Winners: Michael Buerstner and Peter Lauzon , Irmo, SC

      Lesson Plans: Point and Non-Point Water Pollution and Freshwater Environment Assessment

    • 2 nd Place Winners: Barbara Dunham and Mildred Henderson , Birmingham, AL

      Lesson Plans: Anemometers on the Move and Incredible Matter


  • ORISE is sending four teachers to the National Science Teachers Association Conference or the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Conference!

    Congratulations to the winners:

    • 1 st place: Charles Canestaro , Cortland Senior High School, Cortland, NY
      Lesson Plan: Europa Rover Landing System Project
    • 2 nd place: Alicia Miller, Lewiston Elementary School, Evans, GA
      Lesson Plan: Sand Sleuths
    • 3 rd place tie: Julie Pepperman , Heritage Middle School, Maryville, TN
      Lesson Plan: Surviving Extinction
    • 3 rd place tie: Sarah Jackson , Lenoir City Intermediate/Middle School, Lenoir City, TN
      Lesson Plan: Roller Coaster Math
  • makerspace logo

    The December Teacher contest will be a social media contest to win one of six 3D printers. Be sure to follow Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education on Facebook and @ORISEconnect on Twitter see how to enter. The contest launches on December 8 th!

  • makerspace logo

    Classroom Makerspace Lesson Plan Competition

    In October, teachers shared a lesson plan incorporating the use of a makerspace into their content area class. First place winners in each category were awarded a Makerspace Easy Pack, an Invention Easy Pack, and a Tool Kit Easy Pack. Second place winners in each grade band were awarded a Makerspace Easy Pack, and second place winners in each grade band were awarded a Makerspace Basic Supply Easy Pack! See the full list of winners below:

    Winners Grades K-6:

    1 st place: Cheryl Burchett , Beaumont Elementary School, Knoxville, TN
    Lesson Plan: Iggy Peck Bridge Design and Build Challenge

    2 nd place: Rebecca Van Duker , Griffin Creek Elementary School, Medford, OR
    Lesson Plan: 3,2,1 Natural Disaster

    3 rd place: Kelly Carey , A.Z. Kelley Elementary School, Antioch, TN
    Lesson Plan: Diving into Makerspace (with Sharks!)

    Winners Grades 7-8:

    1 st place: Donna Widner , Oliver Springs Middle School, Oliver Springs, TN
    Lesson plan: The Cell Membrane: The Gatekeeper of the Cell

    2 nd place: Amy Haney , Oliver Springs High School, Oliver Springs, TN
    Lesson Plan: MakerSpace: Developing Franken Toys

    3 rd place: Sonya Hatfield , Oliver Springs High School, Oliver Springs, TN
    Lesson Plan: Wind Turbines


  • drone on! logo

    In September, teachers shared with the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education their best hands-on STEM lesson plans for the opportunity to win drones for their classrooms. Frist place awarded a  set of Parrot mini-drones and accessories. Second- and third-place winners received one Parrot mini-drone. In all, there were entries from teachers in 10 different states and Japan. See the full list of winners below:


    Grades 7-9

    Grades 10-12

  • kids can compute logo

    In August, teachers shared how they were using Raspberry Pi for a STEM lesson. Winners will be announce mid-September and will receive a Pi-Top modular computers for their classrooms.

    Congratulations to our winners!

    Amanda Callahan-Mims, Spring Hill Elementary School, Knoxville, Tennessee

    Gary Cipinko, King Arts Academy, Evanston, Illinois

  • 3D learning logo

    In this contest, teachers had the opportunity to submit a lesson plan that integrates 3D printing into their classroom. Congratulations to our winners!


    Grand Prize:  Lauren Wilmoth, Biology, Oak Ridge High School, Oak Ridge TN

    View Lesson Plan: Ozobot Meets 3-D Printing (Art Challenge grade 6-9)

    2 nd Place:  Allison Pattion, Pre-K, Dunbar Elementary, Memphis TN

    View Lesson Plan: How Do Shapes Make Pictures?

    3 rd Place:  Andrea Grossart, Biology, Addison Trail High School, Addison IL

    View Lesson Plan: Bio-engineering for a Cure!

    Judge’s Choice:  Holly Randa, Grade 6-8, Jonathan Edwards Classical Academy, Whites Creek TN

    View Lesson Plan: 3D Printed Egyptian Alphabet Stamps & Clay Cartouche

  • Fun with the Sun logo

    In May, teachers were invited to submit a lesson plan that related to solar energy! Congratulations to our winners!

    K-6 th Grade Category:

    • First place: Jessica Everitt, 4 th grade, Hardin Valley Elementary School
    • Second place: Sally Suttle, 1 st grade, Grand Oaks School
    • Third place: Kelli Harvey, 4 th grade, Petros-Joyner Elementary School

    7-12 th Grade Category:

    • First place: Lesley Brinkmann, Physical Science, Northeast High School
    • Second place: Jane Lyengar, Business & Information Technology, Mount Vernon High School
    • Third place: Stephanie Sluss, Chemistry, Oliver Springs High School
  • In April, teachers shared how they put the “M” in STEM by submitting STEM lesson plans that explicitly address mathematics standards.

    Congratulations to our winners!

    Elementary School Category

    • First place:  Jennie Wright, 4 th grade, Sullins Academy
    • Second place: Nancy Holloway, K-5, Kingston Elementary School
    • Third place:  Jessica Chambers, 2 nd grade, Pi Beta Phi Elementary School

    Middle School Category

    • First place: Sarah Hampton, 8 th grade, Sullins Academy
    • Second place: Donna Budynas, 6 th grade, Hutchison School
    • Third place:  Charles Canestaro, 8 th grade, Cortland Junior-Senior High School
  • In January,  we asked teachers how they are planning to integrate Olympic-themed math or science lessons into their classrooms.

    Congratulations to our latest winners!

    Science Category

    Mathematics Category

  • In October, our extreme weather lesson plan competition asked educators to tell ORISE how they are integrating current extreme weather events into classroom lessons.

    Congratulations to our grade-band winners!

    Amy Kennedy, third grade, Glenwood Elementary School
    View lesson plan: Saving Our Community from Rising Water

    Donna Widner, seventh grade, Oliver Springs Middle School
    View lesson plan: Weather Alert! Did We Do That?

    Christi Ridley, environmental science/biology, Seymour High School
    View lesson plan: Extreme Weather: Hurricanes

  • Our very first lesson plan competition asked educators to submit an original STEM lesson covering a topic of their choice. These lesson plans can be found on the Curriculum for the Classroom page.

    Congratulations to our winners!