We have exciting news to share with our Montana Natural History Center friends – the Wings Over Water Program (WOW) has been honored for our excellence in environmental STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education as a 2019 UL Innovative Education Award (ULIEA) winner!

The UL Innovative Education Award is celebrating five years of recognizing organizations in the United States and Canada that demonstrate effective educational programming and community engagement. The program is supported through a partnership between Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE). To celebrate UL’s 125th Anniversary, six ULIEA winners were selected.

We are thrilled to be honored as a third-tier winner and to receive $25,000! (Want to see Jenélle Dowling and Erick Greene surprised with the announcement of winning? Watch this fun video to see our reaction!)


WOW brings STEM research into the hands of middle and high school students through the study of their local Ospreys and ecosystems. The program starts by building STEM expertise for teachers during a week-long professional development institute. They return to the classroom as mentors and research guides for their students, bringing along a rich curriculum that crosscuts physics, biology, chemistry, math, engineering, conservation, and technology. Through WOW, middle and high school students lead the entire process of scientific discovery: they ask and answer their own questions, they present results to international audiences, and finally, they take action in their communities to solve problems and help answer essential questions in E-STEM.

Students design – and test! – their own wind tunnel in the WOW program.

WOW is a partnership between several nonprofit organizations, researchers, and the University of Montana. We are grateful for all our collaborators on this program, including: Raptor View Research Institute, spectrUM, National Wildlife Federation, Montana Audubon, Five Valleys Audubon, Montana Space Grant Consortium, and NASA.

While winning $25,000 provides invaluable support for us to continue to refine and develop the WOW program, we are also excited to join the established network of ULIEA alumni awardees. In early August we will meet with our fellow 2019 winners, along with experts from UL and NAAEE, to further discuss environmental STEM education and how we can collaborate on social impact projects to engage youth, inspire leadership, and drive sustainable change.

“It is truly a privilege to recognize the important work of the UL Innovative Education Award winners, and to help them continue to bring unique and engaging learning opportunities to students in their regions,” said Cara Gizzi, VP of Education and Outreach, Underwriters Laboratories. “Over the past five years, 26 total winners received over $1.275 million to support environmental STEM programs, and they’ve built a strong network with like-minded organizations around the U.S. and Canada. This year’s cohort reaches a diverse group of audiences with innovative programming that can serve as a model for programs around the globe.”

To learn more about the UL Innovative Education Award, please visit ulinnovationeducation.naaee.net.

Learn more about the WOW program here.

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