Eliminating Barriers to Learning

We are partnering with Rotary Clubs and other civic organizations to help ensure that our program is accessible to schools and home school students within Minnesota that are currently working hard to raise their test scores in STEM related subjects.


1) Provide 100 rabbits and supplies to be available for weekly checkout by late fall 2015.
    a) Purchase/build cages; acquire rabbit breeding stock and provide daily care of rabbits
    b) Arrange for staff/volunteers to transport to schools drop-off/pick-up dates
    c) Staff/volunteers will train families at weekly "Bunny Boot Camp" classes  

2) Introduce STEM Bunnies to 5000+ students by May 2016.
    a) Visit 15 target middle schools; 5 or more elementary schools
    b) Participate in community events as available
3) Get STEM Bunnies program feedback by May 2016 from at least 200 families from each of the following communities of color: American Indian, African-American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian-American.  Compare to baseline feedback from white families and lower income white families

4) Host a science fair February 20-22, 2016
    a) Judge 250+ participants (at least 50 elementary students)
    b) Involve 150 first time science fair participants
    c) Involve 75% participants qualify for Free/Reduced Lunch program

Eighth graders from schools that have participated in STEM Bunnies will demonstrate a shrinking achievement gap in science proficiency.  (Currently the gap between higher income and lower income students is 31 percentage points).

Minnesota Middle Schools are ranked #1 (top) to #471 based on standardized tests scores. Although we are pleased to take our program to any school in the Twin Cities metro area, we give first opportunity to schools that are currently ranked #375 and lower and we have identified them as "target schools." We do not give preference based on school type (ie. charter, grade 6-7, grade 6-8, K-8, public/private, STEM or not STEM focused) nor school size.   During this summer, we are actively recruiting up to 10 "target" schools for the 2015-2016 school years that are have at least 90% of their student population that receive free or reduced lunch and have high percentage of students who are not white.

Similarly, individual students who received test scores in the lower 50% of their District percentile or 50% nationwide are given first opportunity.  As additional rabbits/cages/staff/supplies are available, we will open up opportunity to others.   Our informal science program is fun and engaging and our middle school parents are beaming that they have found something like this to share with their child. 

We provide the curriculum, the cage, the food, the rabbit and the training.  We allow the perks of taking care of a pet and the opportunity to participate, addressing many of the known obstacles.

  • Pets cost money.  Even if a family can afford to purchase an animal, Pet food bills, cages, veterinary care, licenses, grooming costs, toys, bedding, boarding fees, and other maintenance expenses can mount up quickly. For families on a limited fixed income, and for those struggling to provide food for their family, pet ownership is a luxury that many cannot afford.
  • Pets require daily time and attention.  Some parents cannot fathom adding any additional responsibility to their daily routine and when time is at a premium, animals are one of the first things removed from the "to do list."  In fact lack of time is the number one stated reason why rabbits in Minnesota were being sold in 2014 on Craigslist.  
  • Pets require space to live and play.  Families with larger homes and yards do not have as many rules and limitationsUrban families and those who live in an apartment have additional challenges to pet ownership.  However we have been very successful in helping lower income families approach landlords to allow the child to participate in our short term program.
    So in response to these obstacles, we allow families "check out" the rabbit for a week at a time and then return it "guilt free" --like returning a library book--after a short visit to their home.  For those who wish to provide a forever home, if we believe it is a healthy fit for a family and for one of our sweet bunnies,
    we will be pleased to help with this process.

WILDER Research;  The achievement gap is not from a lack of interest or simply a lack of resources in the classroom.  Research indicates that teacher preparation, classroom time and instructional resources in STEM differ “just slightly” by students’ income level.  In fact, lower income students have as much if not more interest in STEM by 8th grade, yet there are statistically significant achievement gaps that continues to grow until they graduate from high school.  When students reach college age, 25% of lower income students are ready for STEM coursework compared to 45% of higher income students. 

      The researchers recommended:
Provide more informal education to build on initial interest and shore up math skills and integrate STEM coursework rather than stand-alone classes.
    **We introduce content in the classroom but then open a whole world of science to students 
         outside of school.  We build on what they've learned while help them start asking questions and
         equip them to find answers.
2) Provide opportunities to explore/gain exposure to STEM careers
     **We showcase related careers each week on our website
3) Provide guidance to parent for how they can work with their children to improve skills. 
    **After the initial classroom session, we invite students and their parent(s) to come to Bunny Boot
    Camp where we teach them how to care for a rabbit in their home for a week and how to access
     our resources.
4) Provide high expectations and strong support for academic excellence
    ** We are excited to challenge the students!!
5) Provide challenging content focusing on problem solving and sense making rather than rote instruction.   **No rote memorization here!  We help students build on existing knowledge and interest and we've found a way to make learning truly fun and engaging long before it has a test result attached.
6) Build relationship with students and families. **We are relationship-driven and truly enjoy meeting new families across the Twin Cities.  Funny how a little bunny rabbit can bring people together who would have probably never met otherwise.

We hope that the State of Minnesota will holds academia accountable for science scores (just like math and reading scores) so that teachers will have the needed push to allocate classroom time, budget, and personal energy in the other STEM content areas.  

Our curriculum was a collaborative effort, created with insight of rabbit breeders, a veterinarian, college faculty and middle school educators with the intention of reinforcing MN STEM standards inside/outside of the classroom and during a home study with parents. Students accumulate points and win prizes by completing weekly challenges outside of the classroom; class prizes and incentives are delivered to the school for positive reinforcement culminating in participation in a new SCIENCE FAIR open only to the middle school and elementary students who have participated in our program.

GRADE 6-7 Curriculum includes:
Breeding/ Reproduction -- 30 day gestation, delivery and feeding baby bunnies ( ; Calculate probability regarding the color of the babies (7.4.3); Viewing and comparing healthy to diseased cells germs, virus and cancer cell slides under a microscope (,; Charting rabbit growth on circle graph and histograms (7.4.2)  Finding mean, median and range using the stats of rabbits sold during two months on Craigslist (7.4.1). 

STEM Bunnies leadership is currently planning to visit 15 "target" schools during the 2015-2016 school years, aiming to visit each 6-7th grade classroom in those schools. classroom.  All students in those grads will receive a flyer that explains in that with parental permission, students are able to foster a rabbit in their home for a week and begin the weekly STEM Bunnies challenges where they can compete for scholarships/prizes.  An additional invitation will be sent home to families who qualify for Free/Reduced Lunch,  written in the parent’s mother language and English.  All students who participate in the free and reduced lunch program are able to participate in our foster rabbit program for $5 refundable deposit and $2/week donation for pet food and they have first opportunity.  If rabbits are still available, then other students may participate and are selected by a drawing.  All students are notified of their selection on the same day to help ensure student privacy.  It is our hope that we will not need to collect a fee from the schools for this program.
All students who complete the curriculum challenges are invited to participate in the STEM Bunnies / ROTARY Science Fair which we plan to host February 2016  where projects that are launched because of their involvement in our program will be judged.  All participants are eligible for the prize drawings.  Science fair winners will receive scholarships and prizes too.