2008-04-10 / Youth

Jill Smith admitted to UMass summer institute

BY DAN PARKER SOUTH JETTY REPORTER

Port Aransas High School science teacher Jill Smith has been granted admission to a summer institute at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where she will learn about changes in the world's polar regions.

After the July 14-18 institute is over, Smith will return to Port Aransas, where she will pass on her new knowledge to PAHS students this fall.

Smith said she learned of the institute after getting a tip from Dr. Ken Dunton, a research scientist at the University of Texas at Austin Marine Science Institute. Dunton also is a member of the Port Aransas Independent School District Board of Trustees.

Smith applied for admission by writing a letter of interest, updating her resume and obtaining a letter of support from PAHS Principal Travis Longanecker.

The institute will focus on rapid changes scientists have observed in the physical environment of the Earth's polar regions, impacts of those changes and the history and politics of the polar regions.

Smith and other teachers attending the institute will draft a plan for incorporating what they learn into their classroom instruction. They will finish their plans in the fall, using online discussion forums to collaborate with each other and with UMass faculty.

"I feel very fortunate to have been chosen," Smith said. "Interestingly enough, the training I received with my Port Aransas Education Foundation (PAEF) grant last year, I think, really may have increased my viability as a candidate. It perhaps made me more eligible, gave me an edge, because I've had experience with online forums."

A year ago, PAEF awarded Smith a $960 grant that helped her get her students involved in a worldwide computer network involving 20,000 school children collaborating on science projects together.

Smith teaches chemistry, integrated physics and chemistry and environmental science at PAHS.

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