The Museum of the Big Bend, with assistance from Big Bend Ranch State Park, the Center for Big Bend Studies, and the Sul Ross science and math education departments, will present Caving Across STEM for middle school students June 13-14.
The program is a partnership event between the museum and SRSU Noyce en la Frontera, which “aims to increase the pipeline of highly qualified science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) teachers by 10 percent to serve in high need school districts located on the Texas-Mexico border,” according to the website.
The Noyce Scholars Program provides scholarships, mentoring, professional development, school STEM club support and STEM events.
Included on the Monday, June 13, itinerary are lessons about the geology of caves, mapping and surveying caves, slopes and distance, making a cave, making crystals, and weather and erosion. On Tuesday, June 14, students and teachers will travel to Big Bend Ranch State Park for the day.
About the presenters:
Dr. Michael Ortiz is an associate professor of mathematics at Sul Ross State University’s Rio Grande Campuses. His interests include geometry, physics, and the ways in which a humanistic approach to teaching can make higher-level mathematics more accessible to underrepresented groups. He has served as a Noyce mentor, Faculty Senate president, and is involved in ongoing efforts to improve and assess institutional effectiveness.
Dr. Dan Foley is the chair of the Department of Natural and Behavioral Sciences on the SRSU RGC campuses and chair of Biology, Geology and Physical Sciences on the Alpine campus. At Rio Grande College, Dr. Foley was instrumental in developing and seeking approval from the Texas Coordinating Board of Higher Education to offer the necessary curriculum for a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology. His research has focused on landscape level ecologies of vertebrates, particularly rare and endangered species of reptiles, and fish and gamebird species. Additionally, he has investigated the impacts of various exotic invasive vertebrate species on native ecosystems.
Dr. Bryon Schroeder became the director of the Center for Big Bend Studies in 2020. He received his Ph.D. in archaeology from the University of Montana in 2015, and holds both a B.A. and M.A. in archaeology from the University of Wyoming, where he studied hunter-gatherer conflict, violence and ethnic identity. He has worked throughout Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Montana, the Central Coast of California and Texas, where his research interests focus on collector collaboration, ancient human and plant DNA, and the distribution of ancient maize. He has ongoing excavations at several large rockshelters and caves in the Big Bend region.
Jesse Kelsch is an instructor in the geology program at Sul Ross. Her primary field of research and teaching is Structural Geology, or the deformation that gets recorded in rocks of Earth’s outer layer as a result of tectonic plate movements. She is currently mentoring two Sul Ross undergraduate students in their own Structural Geology research in Big Bend National Park and has done so for several graduate students who are now working as professional geologists in the groundwater and mining industries. Professor Kelsch also has great interest in Earth Science education and public science communication, and is an active member of the National Association of Geoscience Teachers.
Ashley N. Quinones is a math major at SRSU from Eagle Pass. Even though she was born in the U.S., Quinones was raised in Mexico for most of her life. She graduated from Southwest Texas Junior College with an Associates of Arts with cum laude honors in Fall 2020. Her math teachers inspired her to become a STEM educator and she wants to encourage future students to follow a STEM path.
Evelyn Perez is majoring in biology with a teacher certification at SRSU. Neither of her parents had the opportunity to attend college and both faced many struggles in their personal and professional lives. They made a promise early in her childhood to do everything they could to establish in her a love of learning and an appreciation for the value of hard work and commitment. Perez is the first in her family to attend college.
Darissa Cervantes is a math major at SRSU seeking a teaching certification. She is from Del Rio. Although learning English was a priority, math became her escape subject when her brain felt tired of too much reading. Cervantes enjoyed math classes and decided to become a STEM teacher to help others enjoy it as well. As a math teacher, her two main goals are to make the subject enjoyable and interesting.
More information about Noyce programming can be found at https://sites.google.com/view/srsunoyce/home or https://sites.google.com/view/caving-through-stem- noyce/home.