Trading her summer break for a classroom at a different campus, Duncanville HS math teacher Susan Patterson was a Year Four instructor for this year’s Dallas Texas Prefreshman Engineering Program(Dallas TexPREP). She taught Algebraic Structures, Water Science, Problem Solving, and Research for seven weeks at the University of North Texas at Dallas. TexPREP is a mathematics-based academic enrichment program for middle and high school students, aimed at sparking student interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.
This summer’s work was Susan’s second such commitment – she was a Year Two instructor for Dallas TexPREP during the summer of 2010, teaching Algebraic Structures, Career Research, and Technical Writing. She learned about the program from fellow DHS teacher Paula Cartmell, who worked with the start of the program three years ago. Susan says she doesn’t mind trading her summer break to teach because she thoroughly enjoys it. “We get to examine lots of different concepts using methods that range from traditional research to ‘what if’ types of questions, research, and answers.”
According to Patterson, Year Four of Dallas TexPREP focuses on engaging a student’s perspective by using a systems approach to problem solving. Students are introduced to the Waters Foundation pedagogy, which examines how parts of a whole interact to produce an outcome. This was the inaugural summer for Year Four studies, and Patterson believes her master’s degree in Systems Engineering is why administrators asked her to lead it. “The students and I were all working in unfamiliar territory,” she explained. “We were challenged at all aspects of the program. As a result, we delivered an incredible gallery walk for parents, family, and friends of students, as well as administrators of UNT Dallas, to view on the day of graduation.”
At the end of seven weeks of study, this year’s program graduates produced posters that included a functional diorama of a watershed. They also gave presentations about their research findings on the North Dallas watershed, urging guests to conserve precious resources and garnering local news coverage. While Patterson admits the main goal of Dallas TexPREP is to prepare students for college, she says the program offers so much more. “Students are exposed to curricula, knowledge, and abilities that help develop high-level critical thinking. This year’s experience was awesome, uplifting, and life-changing.”