AUGUST 13, 2020 — Ten K–12 teachers have participated in a two-day professional development workshop hosted by UTSA’s Center for Advanced Measurements in Extreme Environments in collaboration with the Dee Howard Foundation.
Funded by a NASA grant to the center, the virtual workshop responded to the revised Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills emphasis for more extensive engagement with earth and space sciences. TEKS are the state’s standards for what students know and should be able to do.
“We were excited to offer this opportunity for continuing education,” said Hongjie Xie, Department of Geological Sciences chair and the center’s director. “One of our goals in CAMEE is to inspire underrepresented students to pursue STEM careers. We hope that our K–12 teacher workshops provide teachers with the knowledge and resources to make science even more fun for their students.”
Faculty from the College of Sciences’ Department of Geological Sciences and the College of Engineering’s Department of Mechanical Engineering shared their expertise.
Attendees learned about hypersonic flight from Christopher Combs. They studied snow and ice elements of the cryosphere and remote sensing with Xie and Stephen Ackley. Kiran Bhaganagar discussed wildland fire education and shared how students can get involved with ongoing research. During Alberto Mestas-Nuñez’s overview of tropical Atlantic oceanic and atmospheric conditions, participants discussed the impacts of Hurricanes Harvey and Dorian. Each presentation included modules on technological, pedagogical and content knowledge.
Participant Sonia Cano, a seventh grade science teacher at Ronald McNair Middle School in Atascosa, said she valued the opportunity for professional development. “One of my personal core tenets as a science teacher is to inspire my students to discover the multitude of opportunities that STEM has to offer, while incorporating their own creativity in the discovery process,” she explained. “It was a rewarding opportunity to be able to network with professionals in their field.”
Jennifer Bault, a science teacher at Nicolet Union High School in Nicolet, Wisconsin, was both a participant and a presenter. Bault is also a teacher with PolarTREC, a research experience program funded through the National Science Foundation and administered by the Arctic Research Consortium of the United States. The organization pairs science teachers with scientists for real-world field-based research experiences.
In 2017 through PolarTREC, Bault accompanied Xie, UTSA professor Yongli Gao and collaborators from Columbia University’s Lemont-Doherty Earth Observatory on an NSF-funded Antarctic sea ice expedition to study Ross Sea ice production. In the field they joined another group of scientists from New Zealand and Germany.
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Bault’s presentation demonstrated how she integrated her experiences from the expedition into her curriculum. “PolarTREC helped me to see the amazing opportunities that exist in science in polar areas,” she said. “I have become a better teacher as a result of my experience with PolarTREC. I now have the ability and wherewithal to expose young people to these possibilities.”
Bault said that the workshop deepened her knowledge in several areas. “I will be able to use much from the talk on hurricanes and wildfires as these directly tie into my AP Environmental Science curriculum,” she said. “Some of these pictures, charts and graphics will go into my own PowerPoints and fuel discussion with my students.”
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