NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Stephen F. Austin State University’s Dr. Sarah Straub, an associate professor in the James I. Perkins College of Education’s Department of Education Studies, was recently awarded a $58,000 grant through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department that will fund a science academy for up to 100 girls in the Nacogdoches Independent School District.
The grant is for the establishment of the East Texas Adventure Girls Environmental Science Academy. Meant for students at McMichael Middle School, the academy will feature two excursions in the fall, to Mission Tejas State Park and Caddo Lake State Park, and two in the spring, to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center and SFA Gardens. The academy concludes at the end of April with the creation of a native plant garden in Nacogdoches.
Straub put the grant application together with former SFA assistant professors Dr. Tonya Jeffery, now at the University of Houston-Downtown, and Dr. Marisol Diaz, now at Cal Poly Pomona. Straub will administer the grant in coordination with Jeffery and Dr. Summer Koltonski, an assistant professor in the Perkins College of Education.
“Each of us – Dr. Jeffery, Dr. Koltonski, Dr. Diaz and myself – brings unique interests and areas of focus to this program, and it has been an adventure getting the details worked out,” Straub said.
The excursions will feature events with park rangers, camping, cooking, interpretive programs, painting, canoeing and the use of an atlatl to throw a spear. Ideally, each excursion would have 25 participants, thus allowing the program to reach 100 girls.
“What I love so much about our program is that it highlights what is so great about not only the outdoors but who we are as women,” Straub said. “Whether it’s the physicality of atlatl throwing, the creativity of watercolor painting on the lake, the deep conversations of unpacking young adult literature, or engaging in activities aligned with science, technology, engineering, arts and math, which we call STEAM, this program has something for everyone.”
The renewable grant awarded to Straub is part of a larger, statewide package of more than $2 million issued to 41 partners including churches, conservation groups, nature centers, nonprofits, school districts and municipalities under the department’s Community Outdoor Outreach Program.
"I view life as a grand adventure, and if we can bring that joy and excitement to these students through outdoor pursuits and STEAM-related experiences, then we have accomplished our goal,” Straub said.
Visit the TPWD’s CO-OP program website for more information.