ITALY — While students and faculty enjoy summer break, one Italy science teacher took the academic advantage of an award-winning program to help enhance her class for the coming semester.
At the end of July, 21 Texas-based teachers were invited by the Texas Mining and Reclamation Association (TMRA) to learn about uranium mining and nuclear power generation at the Ninth annual Uranium Teacher Workshop.
“You always go in wanting to do the best you can with your students and really get them the most prepared that you can because that’s essentially what we’re doing – getting them ready for life,” expressed Lindsey Thompson, Italy Junior High science teacher. “So I’m teaching them all this hands-on material, especially with all the earth sciences because a lot of them they don’t know about this. So to go and show them pictures of a uranium mine and explain it, their minds are completely blown."
According to a TMRA press release, teachers learned from industry experts about the nuclear fuel cycle, industry regulation, mining exploration and extraction techniques, groundwater restoration and land reclamation during the workshop.
Held in Corpus Christi and throughout South Texas, the uranium mining workshop is one of three mining industry workshops offered each summer by the TMRA Teacher Workshop Program.
“The uranium camp was awesome,” Thompson described of the week-long sessions that also included hands-on tours. “We actually got to go out to a uranium mine and see how they mine the uranium out of the ground.”
Exploring the Energy Fuels Resources (USA) Alta Mesa uranium plant in Brooks County, Thompson described the difference between coal and uranium mining through her previous workshop experiences.
“At the coal camp, they actually dig into the ground and pull the coal up, and they put all the dirt back into the big pit that they’ve made,” Thompson recalled. “So I was thinking that they were going to do the same thing. Well, uranium is mined a completely different way.”
“They basically do it with water wells and flush water into the ground where the uranium is, and it pulls all of it out,” she explained. “So the water that has all the uranium gets sent to a plant that extracts it out and purifies the water as it's shipped off to another company. Well, that company takes the uranium powder and turns it into pellets that they use for power for the actual power plants.”
As articulated by TMRA, Texas teachers learned science-based information on the availability, importance, and development of natural resources, including lignite, uranium, and industrial minerals.
“TMRA is committed to providing a first-class, unique-in-the nation, fact-based program, filling a critical void in science-based education,” expressed Francye Hutchins, education director of TMRA.
“By touring our member companies’ sites, educators can see for themselves how mining is actually done, along with the industry’s commitment to providing a much-needed resource while protecting the environment through advanced techniques and technologies,” she included.
TMRA explains that during the workshops, each teacher received about 40-45 hours of professional development taught by scientists, academics, and accredited industry professionals.
Aligned with state academic requirements, the workshop’s curriculum corresponded with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) and the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) provisions.
Recognized by the Governor’s Conference on Math, Science, and Technology, the program is also certified by the Texas Environmental Education Advisory Council and is a professional development provider by the State Board of Education Certification.
TMRA goes on to say that through this award-winning program - educators will be able to enhance their classrooms with earth science facts and real-world, problem-solving activities that encourage students to use critical thinking skills.
“It helps a lot, especially with the junior high sciences because they learn a little bit of everything,” Thompson affirmed. “High school is when they really hone in on certain areas, but in junior high, they hit all of the information, so learning about things like that is important, and to have this type of hands-on experience is something I would have never known or got to experience without the TMRA workshops.”
“I can now take it back to the classroom and teach on renewable and nonrenewable energy sources. We’ll also talk a lot about how humans impact the environment. So with the coal mining, there’s a lot more impact on the environment than there is with the uranium mining because there’s immersions or destruction of the land. So we get to talk about the differences between those situations, and as a teacher, I want to enlighten and prepare my students the best I can and this better equipped me to do it,” she concluded.
To connect with The Texas Mining and Reclamation Association (TMRA), visit tmra.com.
Chelsea Groomer, @ChelseaGroomer