Van Andel Education Institute to award educators up to $5,000 in Pitch Tank competition

Science on the Grand conference aims to transform classrooms and honor educators

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (June 5, 2019) – Van Andel Education Institute (VAEI) invites educators from across the country to submit their ideas on how they would use $5,000 to transform their classroom during Science on the Grand: A STEAM Conference for Inquiry-Based Instruction. Conference finalists will present their “pitch” to a panel of judges at the Science on the Grand Pitch Tank dinner. Selected winners will be awarded up to $5,000 to turn their idea into a reality. The conference will take place July 15 and 16 in Grand Rapids.

“We are committed to creating classrooms where curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking thrive,” said Terra Tarango, Chief Education Officer of Van Andel Education Institute. “The Science on the Grand conference and Pitch Tank awards allow us to amplify this commitment by providing the kind of practitioner-based professional development that teachers deserve and by supporting and rewarding teachers who are creating memorable, meaningful learning experiences for students.”

During the 2018 Pitch Tank, five educators received grants to develop unique and stimulating education experiences for students. Winners implemented classroom strategies including added resources to support mindfulness, themed classroom materials, materials to increase productivity and engagement during group activities, hands-on problem solving materials and an outdoors STEM-based science project.

The second annual Science on the Grand conference will help transform classrooms and honor educators through relevant sessions and presenters. Conference sessions are intended to equip K–12 educators with the skills, resources, confidence, and competence to create a classroom culture that supports STEAM integration.

Some featured 2019 sessions and presenters include:

  • STEM Smart Start (K–12) with Andy Losik (Fennville, MI)
  • Let’s Play! Lessons from Sports for the Classroom (K–12) with Peter Grostic (Grand Rapids, MI)
  • State of Sustainability (K–5) with Paul Solarz (Arlington Heights, IL)
  • Helping Students Think and Act Like Scientists (6–8) with Susan Koppendrayer (Minnetonka, MN)
  • Engaging Students in PTC Genetics (9–12) with Rebecca Brewer (Troy, MI)

A complete list of sessions is available here.


Established by Jay and Betty Van Andel in 1996 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Van Andel Institute (VAI) is an independent nonprofit organization committed to improving the health and enhancing the lives of current and future generations through biomedical research and education innovations. Van Andel Education Institute (VAEI), the education division of VAI, is dedicated to creating classrooms where curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking thrive. VAEI is transforming education through programs that provide hands-on, inquiry-based learning opportunities across the educational spectrum, from elementary to high school. VAEI offers engaging programs for students as well as transformative professional development and instructional tools for teachers. VAEI is committed to promoting a high-quality education for all children, regardless of gender, race or socioeconomic status. Learn more about Van Andel Education Institute by visiting

Media Contacts
Beth Hinshaw Hall
Van Andel Research Institute

Media assets available: photos of 2018 winners (1, 2, 3)