Texas A&M University-Kingsville

Area middle, high school teachers gain research experience through summer program

KINGSVILLE - August 14, 2006

Contact: Jason Marton
jason.marton@tamuk.edu or 361-593-4143

Front Row (L-R): Laura Heil, Stephanie Story
Back Row (L-R): Edmond Everett, Lawrence Lollar, Belinda Rjasko,
Dr. Alvaro Martinez, Dr. Yifang Zhu
Five South Texas middle school and high school teachers got to walk in the shoes of environmental researchers for five weeks as part of the third annual summer Research Experience for Teachers (RET), a program sponsored by the Center for Research Excellence in Science and Technology- Research on Environmental Sustainability of Semi-Arid Coastal Areas (CREST-RESSACA) at Texas A&M University-Kingsville .

Under the program, the five were selected to receive hands-on experience with environmental engineering technology through A&M-Kingsville’s Ph.D. program for environmental engineering.

The RET program was coordinated by Dr. Kuruvilla John, director of CREST-RESSACA and associate dean of the Frank H. Dotterweich College of Engineering , and Joyce Coleman, RET program director with CREST-RESSACA.

The middle school teachers that took part in the RET program were Laura Heil and Belinda Rjasko of Calallen Middle School. The high school teachers were Edmond Everett of San Diego High School, Lawrence Lollar of A.C. Jones High School in Beeville and Stephanie Story of Moody High School in Corpus Christi.

The participants took a 10-day class on teaching environmental sciences. Upon completion, they reported to Texas A&M-Kingsville, where each was matched with a different faculty research group for three weeks. Each group was made up of a faculty advisor, graduate students and, in some cases, undergraduate students on assignment.

Heil was teamed up with Dr. Alvaro Martinez to study the air pollution along the Texas-Mexico Border.

Everett worked with Dr. Kim Jones on a project examining different types of soil moisture sensors.

Lollar worked with Dr. Lee Clapp on a desalination project.

Rjasko was teamed with Dr. Yifang Zhu to study air pollution in local K-12 classrooms.

Story was teamed with John to work on an air pollution monitoring display project in conjunction with the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History.

The teachers served as observers and participants, helping to gather data and receiving graduate-level instruction and explanation of each group’s research subject.

During the course of the three weeks, the teachers took the advanced concepts they were learning and applied them in the development of middle school- and high school-level lesson plans for the upcoming school year.

At the end of the program, the teachers gave presentations summarizing their research experiences and provided feedback to their university mentors.

“ The CREST-RESSACA program offered more than what I expected,” said Rjasko. “I gained insightful environmental knowledge that I know I will utilize and implement in my classroom.”

The highlights came on a number of levels for Story of Moody High School.

“Personally, I will be taking with me the knowledge that I participated in a project that enabled me to help teachers by providing them with lesson plan templates that will allow them to spend more time teaching and less time planning and searching the internet for information or ideas they seek. Teaching is a very time intensive commitment and dedicated teachers never have enough time.

“Professionally, I am taking with me additional knowledge that will enable me to better prepare my students for lives as more responsible, knowledgeable citizens in terms of being stewards of the environment. Air quality is everyone’s business and responsibility, as such I too, am more aware of air quality and the investigations being carried out in our area in which our students can be involved and perhaps one day attend A&M-Kingsville to study in a more in depth and concentrated effort to make our environment cleaner and more healthy for all.”

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