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Teaching Environmental Sciences tours Shangri La

Touring BayouLamar University’s Department of Earth and Space Sciences annual Teaching Environmental Science summer institute introduces EC-12th grade teachers to local environmental issues through hands-on learning and first-hand experiences. The 10-day field institute is offered in conjunction with the Region 5 Science Collaborative, local industries, state and federal agencies, and environmental non-governmental organizations.  Since its inception, more than 200,000 Texas students have taken courses from teachers who have experienced the institute. 

As part of the institute’s 20th year, participants toured Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center on July 20 and discussed wetland and estuarine ecosystems and participated in a routine water analysis.

“Institute participants helped Shangri La staff capture bottom living aquatic insect larvae to analyze and determine the water quality,” Westgate said. “This is one of the many activities that teachers can anticipate if they were to schedule a prospective field trip to the gardens.”

During the program, the teachers explored and studied environmental topics including hazardous waste disposal, pollution prevention and wastewater treatment in the petrochemical industry, electrical generation, with industry focusing on lessening its impact on the local environment. Participants also explored other environmental habitats in the Golden Triangle, including boat trips on the Neches and tour of the Big Thicket National Preserve.

Observing aquatic life“Over the years, we fine tuned the institute to focus more on southeast Texas issues and field opportunities and expanded to allow secondary school teachers in addition to elementary teachers,” Westgate said.

The Lamar University TES Institute has received international, national and statewide exposure through presentations at numerous venues. These have included meetings of the International Conference on Hands-on Science in Antalya, Turkey (2012), Australian Association for Environmental Education (2006), National Science Teachers Association (2003 & 2005), North American Association for Environmental Education (2002 & 2003), Science Teachers Association of Texas (2001-2004), Texas Academy of Science (2002, 2003, 2005, & 2013), and the Texas Environmental Educators Partnership (2002). 

Participants this year were Casey Anderson, Westbrook H.S., Beaumont; Sandy Chalyy, Lone Start College; Molly Mendoza, Dowling Elementary, PAISD; Dolores McCarter, Dowling Elementary, PAISD; Josalyn Conwell, Lansberry Elementary, Trinity ISD; Bengie Jaresh, Roquemore Elementary, Arlington ISD; Drema Quinn, Bondy Intermediate, Pasadena ISD; Gayle Polanski, masters student LU Earth & Space Sciences; as well as Lamar University students Katie Faulk, Jacob Lopez and Scott Vaughan. Helping Westgate with the program was master science teacher Jennie Knapp, Little Cypress-Mauriceville CISD.