Profile: Jessica Tegt
Assistant extension professor Jessica Tegt doesn't just teach Mississippi State students about environmental conservation and natural resources: She's also teaching much younger students about protecting nature.
She works regularly with third-, fourth- and fifth-graders, whether with the 40 students participating in the Starkville Science Club's weekly meetings or with each individual grade's Youth Environmental Science — aka YES! — program.
At Henderson Ward Stewart Intermediate School, Tegt works in science labs with a variety of supplies and live animals, including a snake and guinea pig, as well as turtles, fish and hermit crabs. "
We teach these children about wise use of our natural resources," Tegt said. "It's a win-win to combine stewardship and natural resources with the concepts they're learning in class. I think the teachers appreciate our ability to expose them to the outdoors.
"We're always looking for ways to expand the program: more time, more money, more resources," she continued. "We want even more students to be able to do the same things they're doing at Henderson Ward Stewart."
Tegt said the YES! program received the third-place Gulf Guardian Award in Environmental Justice and Cultural Diversity in summer 2013.The award is sponsored by the Gulf of Mexico Program, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency unit that works to promote natural resource stewardship.
"Almost 3,000 students have gone through YES!, an outreach program for third- through fifth-graders y," Tegt said. "Fourth- and fifth-graders get a full week of hands-on instruction: Fourth graders go on a field trip to Noxubee Wildlife Refuge for terrestrial ecology, and fifth-graders go to Plymouth Bluff Environmental Learning Center near Columbus where we do aquatic ecology. Third-graders get two days of instruction, which gives them a taste of the program and gets them ready for the next level.
"They all enjoy it."
As for the Starkville Science Club, Tegt said more than 100 children apply to participate each year, but only 40 may be accepted. One of the most popular club activities is the dissection of owl "pellets," which allows students to reconstruct the skeletons of mice the owls have consumed.
Though many of the club's students enjoy what adults may find "gross," that interest can spark deeper fascination in science, Tegt said.
"We're teaching respect for wildlife, and the snake in our classrooms helps them overcome fears," she said. "We never make them stay if they feel uncomfortable, but if they want to challenge themselves a little bit, they can and they're so proud of themselves.
"We're teaching these children leadership skills and that they can do anything they want to do."
Learn more about the Starkville Science Club at http://starkvillescienceclub.wordpress.com.Writer: Leah Barbour | Photo: Beth Wynn
Next week … Eboni, Destini & Mahogani Smith !