Mines News

Release Date Monday, June 26, 2017

6-12th Grade Science Teachers and Students Take Part in Green Infrastructure Workshop at SD Mines

Scott Kenner, Ph.D., Department Head of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Mines shows a group of 6-12th grade students with Rural America Initiatives water sampling techniques on Rapid Creek. 

RAPID CITY, SD (June 26, 2017) – On Tuesday, June 27 about 80 middle and high school students with Rural America Initiatives (RAI) will take part in a hands-on workshop at SD Mines. Students will learn environmental science and engineering practices that help them understand the connection between urban runoff, its potential impacts on surface and groundwater, and best management (sustainable) practices to reduce these impacts.  RAI, partnered with SD Mines on this workshop, is primarily made up Native American students. One goal of the workshop is to help increase the number of tribally based scientists and engineers.

The students in the workshop will move between five hands-on stations: One, on Rapid Creek where they will learn what is water quality and how it is measured; at a second, they will learn how surface water and groundwater interact; third, they will observe the response of urban watersheds to rainfall; fourth, they will learn sustainable cost-effective storm water best-management practices; and finally, they will learn science-based sustainable practices to ensure long-term ecosystem health.

Each of these five stations will include science teachers from around South Dakota alongside experts from SD Mines. The workshop includes a collaboration between two different grant initiatives underway at Mines. The workshop itself is being taught thanks to an EPA Urban Waters Small Grant. The effort also includes 6-12th grade science and math teachers from around the state who are at Mines this summer taking part in the Sustainable Development-Research Experience for Teachers (SD-RET) program.

Organizers of both the workshop and the SD-RET program, along with an RAI representative are available to speak with the press at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, June 27, in the second floor lobby of the Chemical and Biological Engineering and Chemistry Building (CBEC) at SD Mines (campus map). This press availability is happening just prior to the arrival of students and the start of hands-on activities at about 10 a.m. Media are welcome to cover the workshop, as well.

“Having these two grant projects come together for this workshop is a great benefit to both,” says Jennifer Benning, Ph.D., in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at SD Mines. “The EPA Urban Small Waters Grant and our partnership with RAI gives these students a taste of the important work of environmental scientists and engineers. The SD-RET program includes some of the top 6-12th grade science teachers in the region, and their expertise goes a long way in the outreach effort to the next generation of professionals in these fields.” 

South Dakota teachers in the SD-RET program are spending six weeks working side-by-side with faculty at SD Mines to bring what they learn back to the classroom.

The SD-RET program helps integrate new engineering and science technologies into 6-12th grade classrooms in rural America. The program is sponsored by a $543,466 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). It gives teachers new tools and resources to improve Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) curriculum aligned with state standards. The grant increases collaboration between South Dakota teachers, industry partners and Mines faculty.

“STEM education and research are a significant part of our mission and strategy, and therefore this NSF grant will have a significant impact on future education of South Dakota 6-12th grade students in science” says Jan Puszynski interim president SD Mines.

The effort gives teachers hands-on scientific and engineering research experience that they can then share with students. Teachers take part in SD-RET work with Mines research scientists and engineers during a six-week summer program. The program includes various science and engineering projects: Black Hills water quality, wastewater treatment and electricity production, biodegradable materials, sustainable energy, biofuel production and advanced manufacturing.  The three-year program takes applications from middle and high school science teachers each spring. Interested teachers can find more information here.

The SD-RET program supports participating teachers by providing academic follow-up during the school year to ensure that their new sustainability content and knowledge are robustly applied in the classroom setting. The SD-RET program includes a multidisciplinary group of SD Mines professors: principal investigator Shaobo Huang , Ph.D., Co-PI Robb Winter , Ph.D., along with senior personnel Jennifer Benning , Ph.D., William Capehart , Ph.D., Daniel Dolan , Ph.D., Tsvetanka Filipova , Ph.D., Venkata Gadhamshetty , Ph.D., Rajesh Sani , Ph.D., Foster Sawyer , Ph.D., Alevtina Smirnova , Ph.D., Christopher Shearer , Ph.D.

Next Generation Science Standards require that practices and concepts of engineering be integrated as essential elements of science education. Students must be able to analyze and define problems in various contexts, develop and test solutions using mathematical tools and optimize solutions with specific criteria and constraints. The project will also measure the effect of the new curricula on middle and high school students’ attitudes toward and level of achievement and engagement in STEM.

The overall effort aims to help restore the United States’ competitive economic edge and to improve the lagging achievement of U.S. students in STEM subjects when compared to other developed nations.


About SD Mines  

Founded in 1885, the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is a science and engineering research university located in Rapid City, S.D., offering bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. The university enrolls 2,778 students with a student-to-faculty ratio of 15:1. The SD School of Mines placement rate is 96 percent, with an average starting salary of $62,929. Find us online at www.sdsmt.edu and on Facebook and Twitter.


Contact: Charles Michael Ray , 605-394-6082, charles.ray@sdsmt.edu