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CFISD Educator, Student Return from JASON Argonaut Science Expedition

| September 1, 2017

Arnold Middle School teacher Tiffany Schmidtendorff holds a sea turtle near the Cape Eleuthera Institute (CEI) in The Bahamas.

Arnold Middle School teacher Tiffany Schmidtendorff holds a sea turtle near the Cape Eleuthera Institute (CEI) in The Bahamas.

The Pair Joined A Select Group Of Argonauts Who Traveled To The Cape Eleuthera Institute In The Bahamas

A Smith Middle School alumna and Arnold Middle School teacher recently returned from a summer science expedition as Student and Educator Argonauts through Chevron’s JASON Learning program.

Bridgeland High School incoming freshman Smitha Bhagavatula and Arnold Middle School science campus content instructional specialist Tiffany Schmid­tendorff were among a select group of Argonauts who traveled to the Cape Eleuthera Institute (CEI) on the island of Eleuthera in The Bahamas for a weeklong expedition July 13-20.

They participated in an intensive hands-on research experience with resident and visiting scientists and engaged in a diverse number of marine science projects. The Argonauts spent their days on outdoor excursions such as exploring the island’s scenic bodies of water, cliff jumping into the Atlantic Ocean, participating in interactive field educational lessons and documenting their experiences in journals and with blogs.

Their days were filled with wall-to-wall action that included snorkeling and sea turtle research, in addition to other social and bonding activities.

“The schedule was very busy but I was so excited and interested that the time flew by,” Schmidtendorff said. “Cape Eleuthera Institute is an Environmental and Marine Biologist’s dream. CEI promotes a connection between people and the environment. The institute focuses on sustainability, conservation, edu­ca­tion and research.”

Schmidtendorff, who attended the surprise ceremony for Bhagavatula after the teacher was surprised herself in April, learned more of the rising freshman and her inquisitive nature. “Smitha is an incredible young lady,” Schmidtendorff said. “Every evening, a scientist gave us a presentation and Smitha was not shy about asking questions. I was proud of her! Smitha is driven and is going to make a difference in the world.”

Bhagavatula also showed Schmidtendorff and the other Argonauts her determination. “The first day was the swim test and even though Smitha got water in her goggles, she finished strong,” Schmidtendorff said. “I am excited for Smitha to move on to high school and I cannot wait to see what she does next.”

Eleven student-teacher teams for the program were from the Houston area, learning as part of a collaborative public-private partnership underwritten by Chevron looking to help the metropolitan community develop a sustainable and systematic solution to the need for high-quality effective science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.

Through a result of a nearly $250,000 grant from Chevron, the JASON curriculum was unveiled in CFISD beginning in 2013-2014.

The Argonaut expedition offers continued learning for students and educators to take with them to the classroom. Schmidtendorff highly encouraged fellow CFISD educators and students to apply to future Argonaut programs.

“JASON Learning is about the experience,” Schmidtendorff said. “As a JASON Argonaut, we learn science through experiences. We had scientists explain a problem and then give us a mission. When working with students, I think it’s important to keep the student interested. Students need to know why this information is relevant.

“I plan to use my JASON experience to reenact some of the same missions and tie it to students and their interests. At Cape Eleuthera, the institute gave me the opportunity to live what I teach.”

(L-R): Arnold Middle School teacher Tiffany Schmidtendorff and incoming Bridgeland High School freshman Smitha Bhagavatula were among 11 student-teacher teams from the Houston area to participate in the JASON Learning program in July.

(L-R): Arnold Middle School teacher Tiffany Schmidtendorff and incoming Bridgeland High School freshman Smitha Bhagavatula were among 11 student-teacher teams from the Houston area to participate in the JASON Learning program in July.


Category: Cy-Fair People & Places

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