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Georgia Southern team awarded $465k to train science teachers, address critical environmental issues in Gulf of Mexico 

(l-r) College of Education’s Lacey Huffling, Ph.D., Regina McCurdy, Ph.D., and Heather Scott, Ed.D., are part of an interdisciplinary team awarded $465k to train science teachers in the Gulf of Mexico.

An interdisciplinary team from Georgia Southern University was awarded more than $465,000 from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to foster the development of scientific and environmental skills that are critical to solving complex issues in the Gulf of Mexico region now and into the future. The award is part of an initiative with the Gulf Research Program (GRP) that awarded $2 million to eight projects that engage children and youth in place-based educational activities. 

The funded project, “Suwannee Watershed: Assessment and Monitoring of Place to Gain Understanding of Local Flow (SWAMP to GULF),” is led by principal investigator (PI) Lacey Huffling, Ph.D., associate professor of science education, and co-PIs Heather Scott, Ed.D., and Regina McCurdy, Ph.D., both assistant professors of science education.

“I am honored that we were selected to receive funding from the Gulf Research Board,” said Huffling. “Over the past four years, we have developed a strong network of Georgia middle and high school teachers who are dedicated to developing the science and environmental literacy of their students through watershed citizen science, specifically focused on areas of Georgia that flow into the Gulf of Mexico. We are excited to continue to grow this network of teachers in Florida further to foster scientific and environmental literacy of future generations to monitor and advance scientific and community understanding of the Lower Suwannee Watershed.”

The group will train and support teachers in Florida to implement place-based learning through citizen science using communities as classrooms to deepen teachers’ and students’ sense of place and connection to local watersheds; research how teachers and students address local issues and solve problems by using and developing their critical environmental agency; and increase participation of rural populations in science, which have historically been underrepresented. 

This initiative, along with the seven other GRP projects, will help connect young learners across the Gulf of Mexico region with local environmental issues and work toward the betterment of the region at large.  

“The goal of these grants is to empower young learners through place-based education, an interdisciplinary, student-centered, inquiry-driven teaching and learning practice situated in the local community and environment,” said Karena Mary Mothershed, senior program manager for the GRP’s Board on Gulf Education and Engagement. “These eight projects have a high potential to create long-lasting impacts on underserved students in grades K-8 across the Gulf of Mexico region, enabling them to consider and address environmental challenges impacting their own communities.” 

Additional SWAMP to GULF project members include Georgia Southern staff and faculty: Mary Thaler, senior administrative assistant for the Center for STEM Education; J. Checo Colón-Gaud, Ph.D., professor of biology and associate dean of the Jack N. Averitt College of Graduate Studies; Shainaz Landge, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemistry, Luke Roberson, coordinator of Community Engagement and Outreach for the Institute of Water and Health; and Asli Aslan, Ph.D., director of the Institute of Water and Health.


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