Today@Sam - SHSU Campus News Online Sam Houston State University Seal
In the News
SHSU Homepage

SHSU Experts
SHSU Stats
Sam the Man
SHSU History
Austin Hall

Heritage Magazine
Huntsville Item
The Houstonian
Gov. Links
Useful Links
Theater & Dance
SHSU Athletics
Rec. Sports
Request Info
General Info
Then & Now
The President
Public Relations
Post Office
Search SHSU

Course Educates Teachers On Environmental Issues

Conroe Dam
Graduate students got a hands-on learning experience by visiting such places as the Conroe Dam as part of a Teaching Environmental Sciences class, a 10-day course funded by a $20,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency through the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Teaching teachers has been a focus of Sam Houston State since its establishment over 125 years ago.

Today, the curriculum and instruction department has taken teaching teachers to a more ‘hands-on’ level with its 10-day Teaching Environmental Sciences graduate course.

Through this program, funded by the Environmental Protection Agency through the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, local and area teachers spanning all grade levels were introduced to the basic principals in environmental science by touring facilities that deal with those issues on a daily basis.

This year, the third year SHSU has sponsored the program, a record 20 teachers met at the University Center to participate in the program, according to Terry Contant, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction.

“The course is really designed to immerse the participants in environmental issues in the community, and we visit utilities, industries and governmental agencies that deal with air, water, waste or pollution issues,” Contant said. “They (TCEQ) fund the program at 20 universities, and the idea is that you’ll go to the one that’s near you because we go to places of environmental interest in the area.”

The group, under the direction of Contant and coordinator for elementary education graduate studies Margaret Hammer along with environmental science professor James DeShaw, visited approximately 15 different agencies in Houston, Conroe, The Woodlands and locally. Some of these places included the Entergy power plant in Willis, Port of Houston, waste-water treatment facilities in Conroe and Houston, Texas Forest Services at Jones State Forest and Byrd Automotive, among many others.

“We were very busy,” Contant said.

ship channel
Students also participated in a tour of the Port of Houston (above) and looking through discovery scopes during the TES class.
discovery scope

While visiting these places, the participants learned about water quality testing, even testing local ponds and streams themselves; the disposal of industrial wastes; composting and doing a mosquito study; household hazardous waste; emissions testing; and air quality monitoring.

“The goal is to inform teachers so they can better inform their students about the environmental issues in the community,” Contant said. “But it’s not just looking from the environmentalist side or the industry side; it’s trying to give them a balanced view.”

That goal was achieved, according to the positive feedback from evaluation forms.

“This is science in action. This course has allowed me to build life experiences to pass on to my students,” one middle school teacher said. “I have had many science courses, but none so interactive.

“This is how science should be taught: present the information and allow students to draw their own conclusion,” she said.

“Now I better understand the need for education in environmental (and other) science. The younger we start this education, the better,” a middle and high school teacher wrote. “It really opened my eyes. I learned a lot.”

The course also gave teachers an opportunity to network, another goal of the program because “it helps make that education community connection, hence they’re learning in a real-world context,” Contant said.

This too was also reflected in an evaluation form.

“I have always loved to teach science, using a hands-on approach in my classroom even though my own background in science is limited,” one elementary school teacher said. “This class has given me so much information and resources to use with my students that I feel even more capable of giving my kids a deeper understanding of current environmental issues.

“The field trips were the best part of the program, supplying me with people’s names and numbers that I can use to support my classroom activities, as well as places to which I can take my students for their own field experiences,” she continued. “These are the kinds of things my students will retain throughout school and life and things they will build upon in the future.”

The recent passing in the State Legislature of a bill that now requires high school students to take a fourth year of science has reinforced the importance of learning more about environmental issues, Contant said.

“It certainly shows the need for a program like this,” she said. “Since that fourth year of science is probably going to be geology-related, environmental science-related or aquatic science, the general topics that we talked about in this course are very helpful for teachers who are going to be teaching some of these courses.”

“I think the most important thing is the chance that the teachers get to network about education issues. They all come away saying, ‘wow, I didn’t know there was so much science right around me’ and realizing that we take so much for granted, like you turn on the faucet and you get the water, but who really thinks about what has to happen to it?” Contant said. “They realize that if they don’t know, their kids definitely don’t know, and now they feel more confident that they can share experiences.”



SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt
July 28, 2004
Please send comments, corrections, news tips to

This page maintained by SHSU's Office of Public Relations
Director: Frank Krystyniak
Assistant Director: Julia May
Writer: Jennifer Gauntt
Located in the 115 Administration Building
Telephone: 936.294.1836; Fax: 936.294.1834