Annual Teachers Workshop Connects Science and Local Workforce

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The Texas Chemical Council (TCC) and the Association of Chemical Industry of Texas (ACIT) hosted the Annual Science Teachers and Industry (STI) Workshop July 18-21 at the Harris County Department of Education.

At the annual four-day workshop, academic leaders and industry experts provided more than 50 sixth to twelfth-grade science teachers with an overview of the chemical manufacturing industry. Highlights included showcasing local chemical projects, initiatives, products and organizations.

On the first day, Texas Naturalist Teri MacArthur shared an overview of the Texas Stream Team Monitoring Project, a cooperative partnership between Texas State University, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency. In addition to presenting the importance of protecting the 191,000 miles of Texas waterways, MacArthur provided information on how teachers and students can be certified to collect water quality data.

Arnold Anderson, of Humble Independent School District, provided real-world examples of how sustainable chemical management can help school districts maintain a healthy environment in their buildings.

On day two, teachers assembled buckets containing products manufactured by TCC member companies. This activity allowed teachers to make a connection between chemical compounds and some of the common household products that contain them. Attendees also learned about the science of toxicology, the composition of matter and other compounds associated with everyday life.

East Harris County Manufacturers Association (EHCMA) Board Chair Monty Heins presented information about the Houston Ship Channel and how EHCMA and its members are dedicated to protecting the health, safety and economic well-being of the community. Additionally, the teachers toured the Gulf Coast Waste Disposal Authority facility and BASF Freeport chemical manufacturing facility.

Combining science activities with presentations about the local industry, gave the teachers who attended this workshop the tools to connect the dots for hundreds of middle and high school students between the science they learn in the classroom and the local industry.

The petrochemical industry is expected to grow 30% in the next decade and many workers are retiring, leaving thousands of jobs open. According to Downstream Today, nearly one-half of recent U.S. high school graduates who start college will not earn a degree within six years. Downstream Today suggests this percentage represents a category of students who may benefit from exploring other options, such as a career in the petrochemical and manufacturing industry.

Teachers making connections between science in the classroom and the opportunities and importance of the local industry could help their students see the path to a successful career in the petrochemical and manufacturing industry.

Thanks to the TCC, ACIT and the Harris County Department of Education, as fall classes begin more than 50 teachers will be able to bring more in-depth industry knowledge to the classroom, possibly introducing hundreds of students to the vast opportunities in the manufacturing and petrochemical industry for the first time.