There is nothing like firsthand experience to add to the validity of the information presented to students. Participating in fieldwork and modeling classroom activities makes science relevant, exciting and hands on.
I saw it, I did it and I can talk about it because I was there. Attending Project E3 facilitators’ training, taking part in the Texas Mining and Reclamation Association and LiftOff allows me to relay up-to-date information about various science fields and their career applications. You cannot get this type of exposure through a textbook. Stories of my science adventures are captivating, and the various activities I pick up along the way are engaging.
Ocean Star in Galveston is a retired offshore drilling platform converted into a museum and education center.
During the two days in Galveston, we were trained on the Project E3: Expanding Energy Education guidebook, the Knowledge Box and the Playing with Petroleum Kit. Upon completion of the conference, we, the newly trained teacher facilitators, offer workshops on the OEC’s (Offshore Energy Center) behalf in our local region. Stephanie Story and I will present the workshop at the ESC2 (Educational Service Center) today, Thursday, March 17, for our Coastal Bend teachers. In the Project E3 workshops, teachers are introduced to various hands-on discovery activities related to hydrocarbon-based energy themes with emphasis on chemistry, Earth science, and physics.
Norm Chaffee, a retired aerospace engineer for the manned spacecraft center, told a group of LiftOff participants to tell our students that to be successful in their careers, they must be able to: 1) communicate in all forms, 2) have a deep personal understanding of their field, 3) be a continuous learner, 4) have synergy and integrity, 5) network and volunteer, and 6) join a professional organization. A partial list of Chaffee’s words of wisdom was given in the June 29, 2010 article, “Teacher Visits NASA”.
During my week-long stay at the Jewett lignite mine, we toured the mine operations and saw how resources are removed from the Earth and how they are used. Not only did we see actual restoration of mined lands, we also participated in activities focusing on reclamation, such as ground and surface water, soils, wildlife habitat and native species restoration.
Mining is regulated by the Railroad Commission and the environmental care given to the land used by this industry is very impressive. Restored land is primarily for cattle grazing, crops, commercial timber, wildlife habitat and wetlands. The restored land is generally returned to a more productive state than before it was mined. At the very least, it is restored to its original condition. Based on EPA’s Acid Rain Database, Texas ranks sixth best in the nation and is best among coalusing states in emissions of NOx (nitrogen oxide). A few facts about Texas mining in the U.S.: Fourth largest producer of clay and aggregates, fifth largest coal producer, first in coal consumption for electricity, and eighth largest mining industry.
Being involved in the Regional Collaborative for the Excellence in Science Teaching and GK12 program through UTMSI have given me access to latest technology, changes in curriculum, networking with other teachers, and current science research. How unique is our district to have a graduate fellow in the classroom once a week? Kelly Darnell is a fellow in my eighth grade classroom. She is working on her PhD in sea grasses. She shares her research, inspires my students in the field of science both as a subject and as a career.
Bottom line, how does this relate to student learning? I have the latest information to share with my students, engaging activities and pictures that I took or was in. I hope through my example that my students see the importance of being lifelong learners. I challenge us all to go out and explore our world, and ask questions. There is some amazing science going on in Texas.
Andrea Skloss is a science teacher at Brundrett Middle School.