Houston County Courier - Local News
Stories Added - March 9, 2008 - March 16, 2008
Copyright 2008 - Polk County Publishing Company

SFA and CES Collaborate in Science Project
Houston County Courier - March 2008

Dr. Allan Sowards and his colleague Dr. Cheryl Boyett, both professors at Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches, recently began working on a science project with the first through fifth grade students and teachers of Crockett Elementary School.
The project's purpose is to give hands on experience for the youngsters in the lower grades in the area of science, particularly environmental science, and the college professors teach every teacher on the elementary campus to be science teachers.
Since fifth graders are required to take the Science TAKS test, and since Crockett fifth graders have scored below passing on the science portion of the TAKS, which gained Crockett Intermediate School an unsatisfactory rating from Texas Education Agency, school officials and staff contracted with SFA and the two professors mentioned to provide relevant activities so the students will be successful in science.
The project began when Dr. Sowards and Dr. Boyette met with third and fifth graders in building and preparing raised beds for planting after the spring break.
Large rectangular beds were built, newspaper were laid down to prohibit the growth of weeds, and a mulch of leaves, straw, and peat moss, plus other organic material were layered in the bed forms in preparation for planting the seeds.
The first graders will study Frogs and Meal Worms Life Cycle.  Collected frog eggs are already fertilized and developing upon arrival, which will allow students to observe frog embryology and development right away.  Grass frogs, tadpoles and eggs will arrive on April 21 and will be released into the gardens.
Second graders will study the Butterfly Life Cycle. Students will be able to observe the crysalises being hatched in a butterfly bungalow, a safe environment until their release into a supportive ecosystem.
Owl pellets and vegetable garden/composting is the interest level for CES third grade students. The gardens are called "rainbow gardens" because vegetable seeds will be planted representing each color of the rainbow.  
These lasagna gardens require no digging. In addition, each third grade garden will have one corner reserved for the Native Americans called the " Three Sisters Garden."  Beneficial insects will be released into the vegetable gardens.
Fourth graders will study the life cycles of the Praying Mantise and Ladybug.  Caterpillars and Praying Mantis are due to arrive by March 24, and when ready, the beneficial will be loosed into the third grade gardens.
 Safe, organic sprays will be developed by the fourth graders with supervision from their teachers. When sprayed on the garden plants, the organic sprays will prevent harmful pests from attacking the flowers and vegetables.
The older students, 5th graders, will establish an ecosystem and plant flower seeds in the raised beds.  Once the butterflies are ready, the second graders will release their butterflies into this butterfly garden.
Two large sperically designed compost bins have been ordered for the 3rd and 5th grade gardens.  Filled with organic materials and rolled every 5-10 days insures enough compost to manage the raised beds.   
There's no mixing and no mess with the Bio-Orbs, which allows for faster decomposition.  Rolling movement allows contents to break down aerobically, producing a sweet pleasant aroma.  Students will be able to conduct the composting with supervision.
So far, constructing the raised beds and preparing them for planting has been accomplished. Watch for more photos and additional activities in this unique science project to be reported in the Courier.



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