March 21, 2014
CORPUS CHRISTI, TEXAS – The Texas State Aquarium (TSA) and Flint Hills Resources (FHR) are uniting forces to create the Flint Hills Resources Center for Excellence in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Education at the Texas State Aquarium. Focused through the familiar lens of environmental education, the Center will place a powerful new emphasis on STEM practices and skills featuring the habitats and animals of Gulf of Mexico that are featured at the Aquarium. This new approach will improve STEM teaching, learning, and career recruitment in South Texas and beyond – an issue of importance to the Aquarium, Flint Hills, and our community.
The Center is made possible thanks to a $1 million gift to the Aquarium by Flint Hills Resources, which has been the presenting partner for the Aquarium’s distance learning program, Aquavision, since 2007 and a strong supporter of the Aquarium for over 25 years. The Center will work over the next five years to provide leadership in the STEM education community, empower staff and area educators with best and “next” practices, demonstrate excellence in STEM and environmental education through an emphasis on science process skills, double program participation from 60,000 to 120,000 learners per year, and produce measureable gains in environmental, marine, and general STEM literacy among all audiences.
“Our long-standing partnership with the Texas State Aquarium has helped students from all around the country learn about marine life, and concepts tied to science, technology, engineering and math without having to leave their classroom. We are happy to be able to help TSA expand its programs and enrich the lives of twice as many students,” said Valerie Pompa, vice president and manufacturing manager for Flint Hills Resources Corpus Christi. “We enjoy being able to help showcase the amazing natural resources that exist in our community.”
According to TSA President and CEO Tom Schmid, “For over 25 years, Flint Hills Resources has demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to the Texas State Aquarium and our educational efforts. Now, with this transformational gift, Flint Hills Resources and the Texas State Aquarium are taking on a leadership role in science education in South Texas. The new Flint Hills Resources Center for Excellence in STEM Education will allow us to help definitively tackle the challenge of improving STEM teaching and learning for Coastal Bend students and teachers.”
Center activities will commence this summer with a large community Open Space meeting to map the Center’s philosophy, vision, mission, and priority projects. Open Space Technology is singular in its ability to discover, capture, and prioritize best and “next” practices. Other highlights of the Center’s plans include advisory panels comprising a broad cross-section of stakeholders, including formal and informal educators, parents, K-16 school administrators, STEM professionals, partner organizations, and Aquarium members; teaching fellowships; STEM professionals in residence; an expanded distance learning program; an approach that includes increased relevance for learners; and contextual, experiential, and discovery-based learning.
Texas State Aquarium Director of Education and Conservation Leslie Peart remarked, “In other words, our plans for the Center will help us to move learning out of the classroom and leave lecture behind through engaging, experimental methods.”