BY KELLY MADSEN | IOWA ENERGY CENTER
Annually, the Iowa Energy Center is proud to award high school students with the Youth and Energy Scholarships during the State Science and Technology Fair of Iowa (SSTFI). But this year, in addition to the student scholarships, the Energy Center chose to recognize Kevin Brasser as an outstanding science educator.
Mr. Brasser, a ninth grade biology teacher at South O’Brien Secondary School, has continually supported students in pursuing energy-related research for the SSTFI. In 2012 and 2013, four South O’Brien students have been selected for five of the Energy Center’s scholarships, totaling $12,500. The Iowa Energy Center believes this is a clear indication of superior education and leadership from Mr. Brasser.
Mr. Brasser earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa. After graduation, he seized a mission opportunity at the University Schools of Taiwan Republic of China to teach students English as a second language, and was immediately inspired by this experience to become a teacher.
“It took going around the world for me to realize I wanted to use my biology degree to teach science,” Mr. Brasser said. “I am so thankful for that opportunity, without it I may never have known how much I liked teaching.”
Following this passion, Mr. Brasser completed a secondary science education degree at Northwestern College, and has been teaching at South O’Brien Schools since 1987. Currently, he is a freshman biology teacher and oversees student involvement at the annual SSTFI.
In the classroom, Mr. Brasser inspires his students to take an interest in science through hands-on experiments and labs. His classroom has eight lab stations equipped with PASCO lab probes, which allow students to collect various types of data and develop their own experimental procedures. The South O’Brien School District has been supportive of funding this classroom technology, Mr. Brasser said.
Mr. Brasser often goes above and beyond simple lab experiments with his students. Early in his teaching career, he was inspired to educate students about ethanol. He developed a lab protocol for students to learn about making ethanol (which can be accessed here) and developed a mini-ethanol plant in the classroom. With this lesson, students were able to “buy into the science” behind ethanol production, making the topic more interesting and applicable.
Mr. Brasser’s students also have a hands-on opportunity to build solar houses based on their solar energy lessons.
“Learning science with a hands-on approach simply helps students become more interested and learning is a lot more fun for them when they can make it relevant to their worlds,” Mr. Brasser said. “Not to mention, it makes teaching students a lot more fun when they are engaged in the topics.”
Every freshman student at South O’Brien Secondary School is required to develop a project and participate in the SSTFI under the supervision of Mr. Brasser. The students are able to choose their area of research interest, and can use the classroom technology to conduct their experiments.
“The students actually love the process of research, especially when they can choose their own topics,” Mr. Brasser said. “The majority of students will continue research projects for SSTFI even after they are required as freshman.”
Mr. Brasser will take little credit for the impressive science research his students produce.
“So many of our students have a rare combination of work ethic, ability, and passion, which makes my job very easy,” Mr. Brasser said. “These students can go anywhere they want.”