ING Unsung Heroes® 2013 Award Winners

Congratulations to all of our ING Unsung Heroes winners. Each year, 100 finalists receives $2,000 while three of them are selected as Top Winners to receive additional grants of $25,000, $10,000, and $5,000. You can find winners for your state or for a specific year using the controls below.

New Hampshire

  • Michael Van Dolah
    Kimball Union Academy
    Meriden, New Hampshire

    The purpose of Van Dolah’s winning program, “Critically Endangered Orchid Conservation Research”, is to help repopulate the local and regional environments with the showy lady’s-slipper orchid, a critically endangered plant in New Hampshire and Vermont. With the grant, part of the school’s biology laboratory will be converted to raise thousands of lady’s-slipper orchid seedlings. Students will be required to research the histology of the showy lady’s-slipper throughout its development, coordinating with laboratory resources at Dartmouth College and Valley Regional Hospital.

  • Oyster River High School
    Durham, New Hampshire

    Best’s innovative teaching idea, “Turning Students Into Citizen Scientists”, is an ecology-based field study that will allow students to assess the health and evolution of ecosystems while learning how to design and conduct accurate field research. The ninth-grade students will learn how to observe, document and evaluate the health of three different ecosystems located in the Stolworthy Wildlife Sanctuary.

New Jersey

  • Kylene Wood
    Alder Avenue Middle School
    Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey

    “News You Can Use” is the winning innovative program by Wood and her colleagues. Students will have a chance to produce a news program for other students that highlights the hands-on, cross-curricular activities at the school. Although various teachers will serve as facilitators, students will be involved in every aspect of the writing and production of each show. As with the real news media, brainstorming, pitching cross-curricular story ideas, fact checking, researching and interviewing are all skills the nearly 100 students will gain by participating.

  • Lindsey Kowalsky
    Iselin Middle School
    Iselin, New Jersey

    The purpose of Kowalsky’s winning program, “20th Century History Helper”, is to engage and orient the middle school students to an historical time period, teaching them that learning from the past is the key to changing the future. By collecting data through research of primary documents, personal accounts and other resources relating to each 20th century topic, students will create expert “apps” to help provide a student-driven and created research tool for others to use.

New Mexico

  • Barbara Menicucci
    St. Charles Catholic School
    Albuquerque, New Mexico

    “Catch the Wave”, Menicucci’s innovative program idea, is a collaborative science and music project designed to teach students about sound and other types of waves. It will give students a tactile experience generating notes while also creating a visual representation of different frequencies of sound waves. It also will help students understand the concepts of loudness, intervals, pitch, harmony, and quality of sound. Understanding time signatures, pitch, and intervals, along with counting beats, can help students develop their music sight-reading skills.


  • Rachel Kuntz
    Jo Mackey Academy of Leadership and Global Communications
    North Las Vegas, Nevada

    Kuntz’s innovative teaching idea, “Stimulating STEM Studies with Storms: STEaMing up the Classroom with Robotics”, is designed to help students, particularly female students, increase their interest in STEM subjects through the use of LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3 robots and the EV3 Design Engineering Project curriculum. Robotics in the classroom brings an emotional engagement. It allows students interaction with physical devices where they learn by doing. It also provides a multi-disciplinary approach to learning.

New York

  • Chris Brodmerkel
    Robert Moses Middle School
    North Babylon, New York

    “Fighting Erosion: Beach Grass Restoration Project” is Brodmerkel’s winning program. It is designed to introduce students, through hands-on learning experiences, to local marine environments and to foster an appreciation for and a stewardship of Long Island’s natural resources and unique habitats. With the impact of Hurricane Irene in 2011 and super-storm Sandy in 2012, there has been widespread erosion and destruction due to the extreme surges of water from the tides and high winds. Year-round habitats for wildlife have been affected or destroyed, along with local flora.

  • Mike Ward
    New Creation Fellowship Academy
    Cheektowaga, New York

    “Countdown”, Ward’s creative program idea, is the middle school campus radio station that is designed to give parents, students and the local community a boost to prepare for their school or work day, and the afternoon program will help the listening audience prepare for the evening, end-of-day routines. The AM station will broadcast locally within a 2-3 mile radius during morning drop-off, midday and during afternoon pick-up. The students will be responsible for the set up and operation of the broadcast with help from a partnership with one of the local commercial radio stations.

  • Andrew  Wintne
    New Design Middle School M514
    New York, New York

    “Middle School Harlem Historians: Researching Our Community and Improving Literacy”, Wintner and Goldenberg’s innovative teaching idea,  is designed to increase students’ interest in history, use their new understanding and engagement in history to increase academic  literacy skills, and expand critical-thinking skills. The program involves having students apprentice as youth historians in the field.  Wintner and Goldenberg believe students must first see themselves in local history to become engaged in the study of history.


  • Campus International School
    Cleveland, Ohio

    Grzelak’s winning program idea, “Picture This”, is designed to motivate students to improve writing and communications skills through video production. The fourth- and fifth-grade students will learn methods of video pre-production, production, and post production.

  • Kris Owen
    Ridgeview Jr. High School
    Pickerington, Ohio

    “Ridgeview Outdoor Classroom STEM Design Challenge”, Owens’ winning program idea, is a project charging students to create their own  cross-curricular outdoor classroom in the watershed area behind the school. It will be an eco-friendly experiential lab that will expose  students to contextual problem-based learning about the trail, ridge and Sycamore creek found in the watershed area. The student-led  initiative may include creating a wetland viewing area, designing two classroom areas, and increasing the length of accessibility of  trails.

  • Amanda Voorman
    Springfield High School
    Holland, Ohio

    “Student Chefs: Connecting Cultures through Cuisine”, Voorman’s winning program idea, involves incorporating cultural food research and  preparation into the world language curriculum. In addition to students reading articles and watching movies to learn about cultural  customs, celebrations and cuisine, they will now be able to fully experience cultural cuisine by researching recipes and making the  dishes themselves. In a fully stocked kitchen, students will prepare and present their culturally relevant dishes to others via their own  cooking show.

  • Andrea Baker
    Mount Airy School
    Cincinnati, Ohio

    “The Piano Lab”, Baker’s innovative teaching idea, will promote playing the piano among the students in grades two through six under the  direction of the music teacher.  Although the students currently learn how to play percussion, strings and woodwind instruments they have  not, up until this project, been able to learn the piano. Through learning to play the piano, students will improve their self-discipline  and stimulate their minds. It can also lead to reducing stress that is involved with school and help them express their emotions.


  • R. Paul Runnels
    Cache High School
    Cache, Oklahoma

    “Who Killed the Three Little Pigs” is Runnels’ winning program that is designed to be a real-world, hands-on crime scene investigation autopsy project to reinforce concepts taught in Forensic Science class. Detectives, using the Three Pigs Autopsy scenario, will learn by doing. The program affords them the opportunity to process crime scenes, analyze data, conduct scientific investigations, interact with guest speakers, conduct Internet research, write reports, and use technology to participate in activities used by forensic scientists and law enforcement.

  • Deborah Pettus
    Broken Arrow Senior High School
    Broken Arrow, Oklahoma

    “COAST”, Pettus’ innovative teaching idea, stands for Collaborative Outreach using Aquaria with Students and Technology. This problem-based research learning project is designed to motivate zoology, agriculture, and visual arts students and engage them in action-oriented investigations. The project investigates zoology through freshwater and marine aquariums. Because Oklahoma is in the heartland of the United States, there are challenges in teaching students about marine animals and marine conservation because most students have never been to the ocean.


  • Grant Poujade
    Forest Park Elementary School
    Portland, Oregon

    “Forest Park Mindstorm”, Poujade’s innovative teaching idea, will help students learn how technology works instead of them just using it.  The program will increase the opportunities for exploration, creativity, design, entrepreneurship, and collaboration. Designed for  students in the second through fifth grades, the activities will become increasingly complex based on the students’ grade level. Each  student will participate in multiple activities, at least one workshop and a final presentation at the school’s maker fair.


  • Amy Lintner
    Ancillae-Assumpta Academy
    Wyncote, Pennsylvania

    Lintner’s winning program idea, “4 I’s on Local History: Imagine, Investigate, Integrate, Inspire”, will help her students make a connection between the area where the students go to school and the history they study. Through the program, they will be asked to answer why the preservation of a local historical site is important.  They will explore historic locations from a number of perspectives, working with local experts to understand the local environment.

  • Clinton Sickles
    Pressley Ridge Day School Pittsburgh
    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

    Sickles’ innovative project, “Using Rap Music to Debunk Problems in Life”, is designed to examine the correlation between music and therapy in a particular hospital setting. Because the students at Sickles’ school have severe emotional and mental health issues that prevent them from being able to be educated in neighborhood schools, they often require different approaches to learning. The program will add to the traditional “talk therapy” methods. Students will learn appropriate ways to vent their problems through styles of music they enjoy and in the language of their generation.

  • Lisa Ciaranca-Kaplan
    Andrew Jackson Elementary
    Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

    Ciaranca-Kaplan’s winning program idea, “Greening Jackson Garden and Green House Science Curriculum”, is part of a multi-staged project  to develop an innovative ‘green’ curriculum as a vehicle for educational excellence and serve as a low-cost model for other under- resourced public schools in the City of Philadelphia. The program starts with the building of a roof-top garden.

Rhode Island

  • Davisville Middle School
    North Kingstown, Rhode Island

    “African Folktales Dramatized Using 3-D Masks”, Makielski’s innovative teaching idea, will give students a greater understanding of African culture. The 90 seventh-grade students will work in groups to produce and perform African folktales for their peers. The performance will be held under a tent outside the school in an effort to replicate a traditional African experience of sharing stories in large groups out in the open to foster a sense of community.

South Carolina

  • Linda Branham
    Langford Elementary School
    Blythewood, South Carolina

    “Roller Coaster Time with Force, Motion, and Measurement” is Branham’s innovative program. Through the study of roller coasters, fifth-grade students will learn the effects of force and motion, specifically balanced and unbalanced forces, equilibrium, mass, height of ramps, accelerations, and velocity. They will use the information they gather with technology-based programs to create a web-based roller coaster. Students will then use their web-based model to create a scale model of the roller coaster by interpreting multiplication and division as a way of scaling or resizing objects.

  • Tracy Epps
    Powdersville High School
    Greenville, South Carolina

    Epps’ innovative, winning program idea, “PADD: Physics Against Destructive Driving”, is designed to decrease the number of teenage automobile fatalities in the county and to increase student understanding of how scientific principles can be applied to real-world settings to make a difference and save lives. The program will address the physics of motion, collision, and momentum.

  • Sheri Sims
    East Clarendon Middle High
    Turbeville, South Carolina

    “Another Look”, Sims’ winning program idea, will involve students taking meaningful pictures and videos to bring science topics to life. Each month, following the exploration of a broad science topic, students will be allowed to check out a digital camera, video recorder, or Apple iPad to take pictures of science in action in their homes and community. Coupled with taking field trips around the community, students will be able to explore topics such as biodiversity, geologic processes, and applications of chemistry or physics.

South Dakota

  • Julie Olson
    Mitchell Senior High School – Second Chance
    Mitchell, South Dakota

    “Making W.A.V.E.S.: Water Quality for At-risk Student Ventures in Engineering and Science” is Olson’s winning project, designed to provide a service learning experience for the school district’s alternative high school program, Second Chance. Students will have a chance to expand their science and engineering knowledge while designing and carrying out a water quality analysis program for Lake Mitchell. The program also will include habitat restoration solutions.

  • Deuel School
    Clear Lake, South Dakota

    Walder’s winning teaching idea, ““iPad, iEngage, iLearn: Using iPads to Support Collaboration and Student Engagement and Learning”, is designed to increase the use of up-to-date, relevant technology among the students at Deuel School. By doing so, this program will enhance the teaching of science through hands-on experiences using technology, which will engage students’ personal learning styles. Students will use iPads to gather accurate information and to identify the flora and fauna present on the hills of Buffalo Ridge in Deuel County in the city of Gary.


  • Jana Summar
    Erma Siegel Elementary
    Murfreesboro, Tennessee

    “Book Buddies”, Summar’s innovative program, is designed to connect parents and community volunteers with kindergarten through fourth-grade students at Erma Siegel Elementary School who are not reading at their grade level. Through the program, volunteers will be assigned to work with students throughout the year. The students will spend 30 minutes, two to three times a week, reading to an adult and listening to an adult read to them.


  • Sherry Metzger
    Kinder Ranch Elementary School
    San Antonio, Texas

    Metzger’s innovative teaching idea, “Foodology: The Science of Food and Grocery Shopping”, is designed to give the 420 Kindergarten through fifth-grade students a real-world experience where they can engage in hands-on shopping and problem solving in a mock grocery store they create in an empty classroom. The grocery store will go beyond creative play, giving the students a chance to touch and inspect products on the shelves and solve real-life problems related to nutrition; purchasing and marketing; construction and layout; and math concepts and computation.

  • Pameolin Nelson,
    Jewell S. Houston Academy
    Houston, Texas

    Nelson and her colleagues’ winning program idea, “A Bridge Toward Sustainability”, will help their students study urban food production using a new, innovative vertical garden product. Incorporating components in the curriculum from “Let’s Move”, a comprehensive initiative dedicated to solving the challenge of childhood obesity, children will learn about food nutrition, biochemistry of plant growth, and the economics and environmental benefits of locally grown foods.

  • Anne Guess
    Smith Middle School
    Cypress, Texas

    “Virtual Choir”, Guess’ winning project idea, incorporates innovative technology to compile a virtual choir performance. Utilizing SkypeTM, Google+ Hangouts, or Apple FaceTime, the virtual choir gives students the chance to be seen, as well as heard in a web-based format. Various groups of students will be given specific parts of a musical selection to perform and instructions and guidance about how their parts fit together.  They also will be required to digitally capture it so that all the parts can be compiled into a virtual choir with the use of the virtual choir program.

  • Susan Merrill
    Kilgore High School
    Kilgore, Texas

    “Creating a 21st Century Science Department” is the name of Merrill’s winning program idea. Inspired by hearing the needs of the local oil, timber, and coal manufacturing plants, the updated science equipment will help students better compete in the workforce. Students will be able to read instructions, operate instruments that collect data, and evaluate the data produced for precision, accuracy and relevance. They also will need to critically analyze data and put it into reports that can be interpreted by physicians or managerial personnel.