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Austin teachers benefit from UT Austin environmental workshop

     Science classes in some Austin-area schools will benefit next fall from the latest environmental research. Instead of relying on sometimes outdated textbooks, participating Austin teachers will share what they learned this summer from engineers at the Energy and the Environment workshop at The University of Texas at Austin.

     Teachers and students will learn from applying basic scientific and engineering concepts during experiments designed for fourth through twelfth graders. The curriculum was developed by UT Austin's industry-supported Environmental Solutions Program (ESP).

     The long-term goal of the program is to create an environmentally astute public. Complex environmental issues demand that young students receive a firm background in scientific and engineering fundamentals, so that they can make informed, educated decisions about current and future environmental problems.

     “Public perceptions of environmental problems are often based on incomplete information,” said ESP Manager Vincent M. Torres. “Unfortunately, regulatory action is often driven by those distorted perceptions. A well-informed public is essential to long-term solutions. One way to achieve that is to improve environmental science education for the next generation.”

     In its second year, ESP lengthened the teacher workshop from one week to two weeks after evaluating the enthusiastic feedback from the teachers last year. The course began June 8 and concludes on June 19. Most of the classes are held at the Commons Building at the J.J. Pickle Research Campus from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The workshops are taught by graduate students, professors and staff from the College of Engineering's Environmental Solutions Program.

     The course provides practical hands-on instruction and focuses on research that can be used in the classroom and will be relevant for future generations. Teachers design instructional activities for their grade levels as part of the class. They also attend lectures and field trips to municipal, industrial and research facilities to see real-world implementation of the principles studied in the classroom. Some of the topics include: soil and land pollution; transportation; energy generation and renewable resources; solid waste; bioremediation; and designing for the environment.

     Educators gain an improved understanding of the principles that govern people's daily interaction with their environment and the resources they consume.

     This workshop is made possible through grants from: Shell Oil Company Foundation; Austin Transportation Study; 3M Austin; and the Central Texas Chapter of the Air & Waste Management Association.