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Carolina Living Materials: Enhancing the Hands-On Learning Experiences of Thousands of Wisconsin Students

student holding a hissing cockroach

Carolina Living Materials: Enhancing the Hands-On Learning Experiences of Thousands of Wisconsin Students

Carol Pearson enjoys a challenge—like working with a team that designs and maintains interactive STEM learning units for more than 60,000 elementary and middle school students each year. Carol served as curriculum director for The Einstein Project (TEP) from 1994 until her recent retirement in 2016. TEP is a Wisconsin nonprofit, begun in 1991, whose mission is to "elevate STEM education by enriching student learning and enhancing educator knowledge through interactive experiences." Twenty-five years and more than 140 Wisconsin schools later, TEP provides hands-on learning units that are loved by teachers and students alike.

"The Carolina team is great to work with, and the living materials selection and quality are outstanding."

—Carol Pearson, Former Curriculum Director, The Einstein Project, Green Bay, WI

boy with a painted lady butterfly on his finger

Consistent High Quality

Pearson credits the high-quality curriculum and materials from Carolina Biological Supply Company as a big part of that success. "Carolina has been with us from the beginning," she says, "because their quality materials and outstanding service can’t be beat." TEP began by using the Smithsonian’s STC™ curriculum—published by Carolina—and now uses many other Carolina living and nonliving materials for their learning units.

Pearson is aware of the potential problems inherent in using living materials, especially when shipping is involved. "Carolina’s living materials are consistently the highest quality," she says, "as evidenced by teacher feedback and the continuing increase in the number of schools using our units."

She further describes the extra steps Carolina takes to protect living materials when shipping in inclement weather: "They put cold packs in the shipping containers during the summer, and heat packs during the winter." And on the few occasions when materials have been affected by the weather, Carolina "promptly replaced them, no questions asked."



Carol Pearson
Curriculum Director


The Einstein Project
Green Bay, WI


To provide living materials of consistently high quality for hands-on STEM learning to thousands of K–8 students, year-round.


Living materials from Carolina Biological Supply Company


Schools and teachers enjoy a wide selection of interactive learning units that include high-quality living materials. The hands-on activities captivate young learners and get them excited about science.


Carolina Biological Supply Company




Wide Selection, Specific Customization

Pearson and her team were able to offer a diverse selection of hands-on learning units with the help of the wide range of living materials available from Carolina. “All of our life science units include Carolina living materials, such as seeds, plants, butterflies, guppies, snails, and many more,” she reports. TEP physical science units also use nonliving materials from Carolina, such as chemical reagents, soil, rocks, and minerals. Just one look at the Carolina™ Science catalog shows the incredible selection of materials available.

With more than 1,200 different learning units, the TEP collection is as diverse as the grade levels and topics they cover. As she developed new units or updated existing ones based on teacher and student feedback, Pearson knew that Carolina was right there to help her create a customized living materials package for each unit.

Outstanding Service, Support

Pearson recognizes that the highest quality materials may be of little use if they are not backed up by good service and support, and that is just what TEP receives from Carolina. "Carolina orders are promptly shipped, delivered on time, and are accurate and complete," she reports. And when her team or a teacher had a question about a material, they consistently received helpful and thorough support from Carolina. "Carolina responds quickly and provides help with any question or issue that arises," she says.

One memorable example was when a teacher asked TEP how to determine if the snails she received were alive. (A good question, considering snails’ low activity level.) Pearson contacted Carolina, which developed a checklist of procedures that can be used to make such a determination. In fact, the checklist has become standard with all snail shipments from Carolina.

Multifaceted Educator Training

Pearson is also pleased with "the excellent instructional guides and video tutorials" available for Carolina materials. Each living material comes with detailed instructions on its use and care. Many materials also have video tutorials. In addition, Carolina supports the Einstein Academy, TEP’s professional development training for teachers who use the learning units. "Carolina adjusts our usual living material kits to accommodate the shorter time frame of our teacher training," Pearson says. "For example, they provide each stage of the butterfly life cycle so the teachers can walk through each step of the learning unit during the training."

Hands-On Success

A nationally recognized STEM resource, The Einstein Project is having an incredible impact on science and engineering learning. A big part of that impact comes from encouraging students to "think outside the book" by including hands-on experiences with Carolina living materials. One teacher said it best: "Once a student has used an Einstein kit, they are hooked on science for life." Now that’s success!