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“Research your environment”; An interactive look at science

The BETA Project educates students and educators to create greater environmental awareness.

Aguadilla. Puerto Rico’s west coast is vulnerable to multiple climatic stressors. Part of this large impact has been extreme weather events – such as two Category 5 hurricanes – that record warmer temperatures, coastal erosion and seasonal desert dusting.

Within this framework, the project started last January Search your environment (BETA) from the University of Puerto Rico at Aguadilla, under the supervision of Professor of Natural Sciences, Dr. Nancy Cardona and Professor Rafael Justino. It is an environmental education proposal supported by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that seeks to increase knowledge about environmental issues and climate change in college and high school students in Puerto Rico. In return, it supports secondary school teachers with instructional materials and guidance for their STEM curriculum.

BETA is currently training eight (8) students from UPR Aguadilla who serve as mentors to 200 students from four (4) schools in the Western Region, including: Benito Cerezo Vázquez High School in Aguadilla, Eladio Tirado López High School in Aguada, Catalina Morales De Flores High School in Moca and Juan Suarez Pellegrina High School in Aguadilla.

To achieve BETA’s educational and environmental goals, they run a series of problem-based educational workshops, using manipulative models and small-scale simulations, environmental tours, and environmental equipment (air quality monitors and weather stations) for each school. competitor .

“My goal as director of this project is to be able to provide tools for school students in an interactive look at science, while highlighting the importance of addressing emerging problems in our country. At the same time, we are developing the next generation of leaders in STEM fields.

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The BETA project has been strengthened by joining forces with Mr. Hector Varela of Surfrider FoundationFrom Puerto Rico, an environmental organization that protects the ocean and coast, on marine litter, climate change and coastal heritage.

The Surfrider Foundation will incorporate ecotour design related to coastal erosion and the implications of climate change in Puerto Rico in the coming months.

For teacher Alexandra Ortega of the Juan Suarez Peregrina School in Aguadilla, it was an enriching and educational experience about air pollution:

“We learned how to analyze statistical data using the ‘Purple Air’ filter to compare air quality in different places in Puerto Rico and the world. The resource fostered active participation of students throughout the workshop. Such programs, he concluded, allow for the enhancement of environmental awareness in students and the application of the scientific method to solve environmental problems.” and influence students and the community in which they live.

Similarly, Gerales Diaz, a tenth grader from that school, told us:

“My experience while participating in UPR Aguadilla was excellent, as I was able to learn different things about the environment, what the air is made of and what affects it, and I feel this is very important, as there are many factors that harm our surroundings rather than help us. Note I really liked that The talk was very interactive, there were many questions and they even taught us how to make a spreadsheet.And how not to forget the “Purple Air”, a device made to monitor our environment which is so much fun and I can’t wait to learn more about it, the student answered very enthusiastically.

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The proposal will achieve its purpose in July 2023 with an investment of $100,000 from the Environmental Protection Agency, after an intense year of direct interventions with the school community in the Western Region through workshops and training, and thus, with experiential experiences of students and teachers in affected areas.

“This project showcases our service component from university to graduate schools and raises awareness among more than 200 young people in environmental science and preserving our environment, an important issue for the Puerto Rican archipelago,” said Cardona.

By the end of the project period, the University of Puerto Rico at Aguadilla expects to increase environmental awareness among all participating students, develop educational materials on locally relevant mitigation strategies, and establish environmental associations in partner schools that work with the communities involved to identify and address local environmental impacts of climate change.

UPR Aguadilla students will receive a $1,000 end-of-year scholarship for their collaboration and commitment as mentors to the school’s students.

The next workshop to be held on Thursday, March 9th in the Department of Natural Sciences of the UPR Aguadilla.

Students and educators interested in participating in upcoming workshops can contact Dr. Nancy Cardona via her email: [email protected]