April 12, 2024

SIU-affiliated event to raise funds to benefit STEM educators

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. – A Southern Illinois University Carbondale-affiliated family event aimed at helping science teachers across the region is set for later this month at a local winery.

Teachers from SIU’s River Region Master Teaching Fellows Program will host the Family Eco Festival, set for 1-5 p.m. April 27 at Alto Vineyards, Alto Pass.

The event is a fundraiser for the nonprofit organization Innovations in STEM Education. Money raised will be distributed to Southern Illinois teachers in need of science materials.

Renee Lopez Swalls, project manager for the River Region Master Teaching Fellowships in Environmental Sustainability program, said the ISE aims to enhance science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and improve science literacy and engagement.

“ISE was founded by local educators to support effective STEM learning in the classroom and in informal settings,” Swalls said. “Our outreach and collaborative efforts with community leaders and organizations enhance STEM understanding and experiences and expand career opportunities.”

The program offers K-12 educators assistance in developing effective classroom activities related to STEM, environmental sustainability and environmental justice, Swalls said. Last year, the fundraiser provided 10 teachers from six counties with grants that impacted more than 1,000 students.

The event includes hands-on science activities offered throughout the day, as well as a silent auction and 50/50 raffle, and arts and crafts. Demonstrations and activities this year also will include distributing free milkweed seeds, which help sustain the monarch butterfly.

The event also features live music beginning at 1 p.m. with the Buck ‘n' John Show. Cash and The Kid take the stage at 3 p.m.

A food truck and kid-friendly snacks and soft drinks will be available throughout the day.  

The sponsors for the event include Straight Up Solar, SIH, Illinois Education Association, Illinois Arts Council, AES Solar, Alto Vineyards, Southern Illinois Community Foundation, The Robert Noyce Teaching Scholarship Program, SIU River Region Sustainability and the National Science Foundation and others.