UTD Collaborates With Texas Parks and Wildlife to Teach Middle Schoolers

UTeach Dallas students connect bass fishing, genetics, and math in creative lesson plans for kids.

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The University of Texas at Dallas’ UTeach Dallas program is working with Texas Parks and Wildlife to create educational lessons integrating genetic concepts used by the Toyota ShareLunker program.

At UTeach Dallas, students simultaneously work toward STEM degrees and teaching certifications. Students create math and science lessons that meet state standards for a project-based teaching course, according to a UTD news release.

Last year, the students created lessons for seventh- through ninth-graders that complemented the Toyota ShareLunker program, which works to boost bass fishing in Texas by incorporating the genes of larger bass into the broader gene pool, said Todd Witt, education and outreach manager for the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center.

The ShareLunker program has collected and spawned 13-pound or larger “lunker” largemouth bass from across the state for the past 30 years in its effort to enhance bass fishing in Texas’ public waters.

“What the UT Dallas students did is a perfect fit with how we’d like to reach the public.”
Johnnie Smith

The lessons the students created included science such as genetics, biology, natural selection, and ecology. Math concepts on fish size, scatter plots, and statistics also comprised the exercises, UTeach Dallas Assistant Director Katie Donaldson said.

One student group combined teachings on selective breeding, how genetic traits are passed on, and a fish-catching game.

“The students worked very hard, and I think that’s because they knew they were developing a potential product for an authentic audience. They’re designing project-based lessons to capture students’ attention and to get young scholars excited about learning science and math,” Donaldson said.

Texas Parks and Wildlife already is committed to generating educational material for K-12 kids with Project Wild, a program that includes online resources about Texas wildlife and hands-on workshops across the state.

“What the UT Dallas students did is a perfect fit with how we’d like to reach the public. It matches the science we do in parks and wildlife with our mission to conserve and protect natural and cultural resources across the state,” Johnnie Smith, director of education and outreach for Texas Parks and Wildlife, said.

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Last spring, Teach Dallas students designed curricula to complement a bass conservation program, run by the state of Texas. Recent graduates, from left, Magali Morales, Jonathon Sok, Connor Clements, and Kassie Newport-Forbes devised a fish-catching game aimed at helping middle school students learn about math and science. [UT Dallas photo]

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