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University of Idaho’s MOSS Program Wins National Award of Excellence for Introducing STEM Education to Young Idahoans

October 26, 2018

The University of Idaho’s McCall Outdoor Science School (MOSS) won a University Economic Development Association (UEDA) Award of Excellence Oct. 22 for serving up innovative educational programming in ways that sustain regional economic development.

The award was presented at the 2018 UEDA Annual Summit in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. U of I was one of five finalists in the award’s “Talent + Place” category, which was developed to recognize university programs that connect their institutional talent in ways that enrich our communities and help create talent for the future. Other finalists in the category included Montana State University, Southern University and A&M College, the University of Georgia and the University of Alabama.

“We are so honored to receive this national recognition relating to long-term economic development. At MOSS, students learn that science is a verb – something exciting that they get to do outside, rather than facts in books. In this way MOSS is inspiring the next generation of lifelong learners from all corners of Idaho,” said Lee Vierling, MOSS executive director. “At the same time, graduate students learn better science communication skills by working directly with the K-12 kids. It’s a fantastic link among the state’s K-12 system, Idaho’s communities, and the University of Idaho.”

MOSS, operated through U of I’s College of Natural Resources, brings place-based outdoor learning to more than 2,100 K-12 students and educators across Idaho annually. Since 2001, the first-of-its-kind initiative has delivered immersive science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education programming in the Idaho outdoors. It has been successful in building scientific literacy and positive attitudes toward science in Idaho. These efforts have helped Idaho build a STEM-focused population for the benefit of local communities.

UEDA uses the annual Awards of Excellence competition as a platform for validating and promoting unique and successful programs like MOSS to encourage their adoption at other institutions and communities. Only six Awards of Excellence were distributed nationally this year. This was U of I’s first UEDA award.

This is the fourth major award for the MOSS program. It won the Albertson Foundation ID21 Grand Prize in 2012, the W.K. Kellogg Engagement Scholarship Award in 2013 and the Underwriters Laboratories Innovative Education Award presented in partnership with the North American Association for Environmental Education in 2015.

“For nearly two decades, MOSS has been a driver behind Idaho’s STEM workforce,” said Janet E. Nelson, U of I’s vice president for research and economic development. “This innovative program inspired many children to build STEM-based careers that support their local communities. The graduate students, faculty and staff supporting MOSS truly deserve this recognition for producing such a high-quality and innovative program.”

About the University of Idaho

The University of Idaho, home of the Vandals, is Idaho’s land-grant, national research university. From its residential campus in Moscow, U of I serves the state of Idaho through educational centers in Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls, nine research and Extension centers, plus Extension offices in 42 counties. Home to nearly 12,000 students statewide, U of I is a leader in student-centered learning and excels at interdisciplinary research, service to businesses and communities, and in advancing diversity, citizenship and global outreach. U of I competes in the Big Sky Conference. Learn more at