Wednesday, March 21, 2018


Told by Montana Tech's AmeriCorps Team Leader Rachel Towsnend.

TRIO Day students attend the Closing Ceremony hosted by Montana Tech Chemistry

“This is so awesome! Much cooler than a tour around campus…” 
On February 23rd, Montana Tech of the University of Montana celebrated TRIO Day, an opportunity to focus the nation's "attention on the needs of disadvantaged young people and adults aspiring to improve their lives if they are to become contributing citizens of the country, and to the talent which will be wasted if that investment is not made."

Students head underground for a tour of one of Butte’s inactive mines.
Students from middle and high schools in and around the Butte area came to our university to experience first-hand the voluptuous opportunities college access will provide them. From touring underground mines with professionals to memorization from Tech’s chemistry students demonstrating various chemical reactions, it was certainly a day worth celebrating.
Junior and Senior Upward Bound students after their tour
of one of Butte’s inactive mines

Although four-year universities do not bode well with every person’s career aspirations, academia past high school allots everyone an opportunity that otherwise would not be possible. It is important for students to realize their potential and begin thinking about life after high school from an early age;

however, it is one thing to be told of different possibilities and entirely another to see what is possible in face-to-face situations.
During the event, junior and senior Upward Bound students had an opportunity to travel 100 feet underground to tour an inactive educational mine. They walked with lights on their hardhats, reflective vests on their backs, and smiles on their faces. Butte is known as the “Richest Hill on Earth” for its mining history, which the majority of the students who came to campus for this year’s TRIO Day celebration are interested in pursuing to some degree.

Sublimity has a funny way of taking over when you have a room full of countywide students who are genuinely excited about their next steps.
High School TRIO students.
TRIO student with Amanda Curtis, a member of the Montana
House of Representatives.

Friday, March 16, 2018


EmPower Place is a hands-on family learning center that brings together science exhibits, University of Montana role models, library books, activities, and free snacks. Located at Missoula Food Bank, EmPower Place is a collective impact effort by spectrUM, Missoula Food Bank, and Missoula Public Library. EmPower Place is powered by the City of Missoula, the Missoula Redevelopment Agency, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

We strive to educate and encourage critical thinking in all activities we do, whether it is for science or for art. We have activities scheduled almost every day of the week. On Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays we have our after-school programing called the After-School Clubhouse, which includes a cooking class, a game day, and a science making & tinkering day.

On Mondays and Wednesdays, the Missoula Public Library hosts its Tiny Tales programming in our space in the morning. Tiny Tales is a program where a library employee will sit down and read children’s books and sing songs that the kids love. On Fridays we have a different guided art project where kids can explore the ideas ranging from what a water shed is, to making valentines cards for refugees living in Missoula.

Monday Cooking:

Every Monday afternoon we have our after-school club house where we have a cooking class. One day this month we made fruit sculptures held together by caramel and tooth picks. Pictured here is FruitBot 9001, a robot with the mission to destroy hunger.Each week we get to learn new cooking techniques, practical skills, and how to be effective and safe in a kitchen.

Science Tuesday:

Every week at EmPower we spend our Tuesday morning learning about a new science topic by doing a variety of activities. Each month we have a theme, and February’s theme was Love Our Neighbors. This month we had hygiene, neurons and brains, and blood typing and hearts.
Hygiene: First you must take care of yourself: Learn how to wash your hands with GloGerm, brush your teeth and wash dishes. GloGerm can show you how well you wash your hands, by showing spots you missed under a black light. We can also see any spots we missed when brushing our teeth and the importance of flossing by seeing our green ‘food’ on the teeth.

Making & Tinkering Thursdays:

On Thursdays our After-school Clubhouse hosts a spectrUM discovery area Making & Tinkering activity. One day this month we made a giant cardboard castle using no scissors or tape. It even had a functional draw bridge to cross our moat.

These weekly science/making & tinkering activities really make the kids think outside the box and problem solve a whole host of potential problems that can come up in science. The activates usually include a team work component so that everyone can work together to solve the problem at hand. We have made giant soccer balls out of straws, hoverboards, and bouncy rockets this month, in addition to the card board castle.

Our after-school program at EmPower Place is starting to take off and we are seeing more kids every single day. Starting in April I EmPower staff will be taking over the control of cooking classes from the food bank, where we will have an even more personal touch with that programming. I am excited to see how the program evolves and ready for any changes that might be included with that.