By Kenneth Rainer, HRI Education Specialist
I would like to begin by having the reader imagine the following
scenario. You walk into a large room full of posters of projects all
geared towards science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The
air is resonating
with words and thoughts that you have built your
education and life around. You walk around a row of posters and the
presenters notice and perk up, take their heads out of the latest
popular novel, and become fidgety with anticipation that you will
step up to their poster allowing them to pour out their heart and
soul. You walk up to a poster; the presenter greets you and shakes
They guide you through their scientific process of how
they discovered that improperly treated wood commonly used to build
playgrounds can be potentially toxic, causing arsenic poisoning
in children, and why parents and cities leaders should be concerned.
They finish up by asking if you have any questions. At this point
your jaw is on the floor and you are absolutely dumbstruck, not only
because of the implications of arsenic position in a widely used
public space but also because the presenter is a second grader. Now
back to reality. This scenario actually occurred and was a very
common occurrence at
Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi’s 23rd
Annual Coastal Bend Science Fair on April 30.
It was my privilege to represent the Harte Research Institute in the
special awards category by selecting and presenting the “Make a
Difference” award to four students. In order for projects to qualify
they must have a coastal/marine environmental conservation theme.
During interviews, the students must convey that they understand the potential
implications their research can have in the real world. They also need to express a sincere connection and
desire to continue their research in order to make a difference for
present and future generations.
The winners of the 2011 HRI Make a Difference
- Kendall Leal and Addison Carrillo (Kindergarten) for "Clean up:
A project regarding oil spill cleanup on coastal habitats"
- Ryan Guerra (2nd grade) for "How Oil Spills Affect Marine Life:
A project looking at how oil would potentially affect different
- Lauren Gonzales (5th grade) for "Arctic Blasts: A project
looking at how different mechanisms allow marine mammals to survive
in extreme cold environments"
- Yoseph Mahmoud (8th grade) for "Operation Oil Spill: A comprehensive project that
encompassed the development, testing, implementation and marketing
of a filter to remove oil from contaminated marine environments"
One of my favorite quotes is “In the end we will conserve only what we love. We love only what we
understand. We will understand only what we are taught.” - Baba Dioum
Since I am an educator, this quote carries a great deal of meaning and truth,
because it is my life-long
ambition to continuously instill the same
passion, fervor, respect and love I have for science and the natural
wonders of planet Earth. After attending the Coastal Bend Science
Fair, for the first time, I am fully confident and comforted to know
that not only are there educators with similar ambitions (as seen
through their students’ projects), but students, even as young as
five years old and I am sure younger, already molding and building
the same passion, fervor, respect and love for science and the
environment. To be quite honest, it is very difficult to put into
words the respect I have for these students, their parents and
their educators. Congratulations to everyone that
presented a project and to the recipients of the “Make a Difference”
award. All of you have fantastic future ahead of you.