El Campo High School science teacher Matt Sohrt spent two weeks in mid-June to become more educated so he could bring new ideas back to his classroom. Sohrt was selected to attend a workshop at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in Livermore, Calif. at no expense to the district.
“I have a passion for teaching, learning new content and bringing that content back to my students,” he said.
Part of that content, he said, will be used in teaching the first-ever computer science course at the high school campus which will have a class load of about 22 students.
“Hopefully that class with grow,” he said.
Workforce Industry Training (WIT), which Sohrt was a sponsor of at the high school campus for the first time this past year, is made possible through the Nuclear Power Institute (NPI) at Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES). They also helped pay his way to California.
“NPI graciously provided funding for this two-week long experience along with ECHS WIT and POWER SET programs,” he said.
POWER SET is the acronym for Powerful Opportunities for Women Eager and Ready for Science, Engineering and Technology.
While at the laboratory, Sohrt completed various Teacher Research Academies (TRA), which was hosted by LLNL.
TRA offers middle school, high school and community college faculty unique professional development experiences at LLNL. TRA teachers participate in a continuum of standards-based instruction, enabling them to progress from novice to mastery in scientific disciplines while they experience the application of real world science in the environment teachers seldom experience.
Sohrt participated in three areas of discipline: 3D print and design, bioscience and fusions and astrophysics.
“3D print and design is an engaging, hands-on workshop designed to equip educators from elementary through post high school with the skills they need to implement 3D printing and CAD (Computer Aided Design) into their classrooms,” he said.
These workshops place an emphasis on teaching participants real world, classroom-applicable skills through hands-on exercises, group projects, talks/tours and current 3D printing research.
“Bioscience focuses on learning science by doing science,” Sohrt said. “It provides an opportunity to expand lab skills and how they can be integrated in NGSS curriculum, AP curriculum and IB curriculum.”
These professional development workshops offer hands-on wet lab experiences in biology and biotechnology.
Fusion and astrophysics focused on how to deliver content in highly engaging areas of physics and astronomy.
“Everything we did was hands-on,” he said.
Participants like Sohrt were able to experience cutting-edge research while talking to scientists and engineers on the job and hearing about their latest research.
“It was a wonderful experience for me to continue to spark the interest of my students in STEM-related fields,” he said. “I look forward to sharing what I learned when school starts with my students and fellow coworkers.”
Sohrt plans to apply for grants in order to purchase 3-D printers for his classroom, too. The printers cost in the ballpark of about $2,000 each.
“3-D printers can print fabrics, plastics, metals and composite materials,” Sohrt said.
For example, the printer can create “light weight full body armor for law enforcement,” he said.
Sohrt traveled to California with Victor Pena, a teacher, WIT sponsor and coach from Van Vleck High School who was also selected to attend.
Sohrt and wife Lindsay are natives of El Campo. He has been employed with the district since 2008.
Using an ultraviolet light (UV), El Campo High School science teacher Matt Sohrt, front, examines a petri dish, or an agar plate that had ampicillin, an antibiotic, and an arabinose sugar. “E.coli bacteria was exposed to a pGLO plasmid that allowed the bacteria to uptake the trait that allows for the production of green fluorescent protein (GFP), which is the ability to produce phosphorescence,” Sohrt said. “The pGLO plasmid also has an ampicillin resistant gene that is transferred to the bacteria.” When the bacteria is cultured on the petri dish, as seen here, the bacteria can grow because it is resistant to ampicillin and, because of the arabinose, it allows the bacteria to produce the trait that allows it to be phosphorescent. If the arabinose sugar was not there, the bacteria would still grow, but it would not glow green under UV light. The experiment was part of the hands-on bioscience workshop he was a participant in during his summer studies in California.
By Quala Matocha, firstname.lastname@example.org