95th ESA Annual Meeting (August 1 -- 6, 2010)

OOS 42-9 - Graduate training through Project Flowing Waters: Challenges at Texas State University

Thursday, August 5, 2010: 10:50 AM
315-316, David L Lawrence Convention Center
Weston H. Nowlin1, Julie Westerlund1, Timothy H. Bonner2 and Richard Earl3, (1)Biology, Texas State University, San Marcos, TX, (2)Department of Biology, Texas State University, San Marcos, TX, (3)Geography, Texas State University, San Marcos, TX
Project Flowing Waters is an NSF GK-12 program founded on the interdisciplinary theme of water, emphasizing the integration of water-related sciences research and inquiry-based teaching. The focal point of the program, the San Marcos River ecosystem, is a unique natural laboratory that permits integration of aquatic ecology, geology, fluvial geomorphology, conservation biology, and river restoration. The river’s source, Spring Lake, lies within the Texas State campus and the San Marcos River emanates from the lake and flows through the Texas State campus and the city of San Marcos. Project Flowing Waters has two major objectives: (1) improve professional skills of Texas State University graduate students, primarily in teaching and communication, and (2) increase interest of secondary school students in STEM disciplines and in higher education. 

In the program, PhD students in the Departments of Biology and Geography work closely with partnered teachers in the San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District (SMCISD) to generate inquiry based, water- related lessons in middle- and high school classes.  In addition, graduate student GK-12 fellows are called ‘resident scientists’ in the classroom and integrate their graduate research into activities.  One of the major challenges in Project Flowing Waters has been the institutionalization of the program at Texas State University and SMCISD.  To facilitate institutionalization commitments, we utilized a diversity of strategies to convince key participants including graduate students, teachers, faculty advisors, department chairs, school administrators, and college deans. Our attempts at institutionalization over the initial two years have been successful.  First, we created a graduate-level Professional Development course which emphasizes inquiry-based science teaching and now includes doctoral students outside of the GK-12 program.  Second, Texas State University has committed departmental staff to partially support activities such as web site maintenance.  The College of Science at Texas State University has also committed use of an endowed scholarship program to partially support Project Flowing Waters fellows after NSF funding terminates.  Finally, we have received funding for Project Flowing Waters fellows and teachers through the Texas Pioneer Foundation, a regional educational foundation.  We foresee the commitment from the Texas Pioneer Foundation to continue after NSF funding is exhausted and we are currently seeking additional support from other state and regional educational foundations.  Thus far, Project Flowing Waters has received support from key participants and its institutionalization has been the result of a focused effort to relay how the program benefits each individual party or funder.