Sulphur Bluff STEEM students track bad germs 

By FAITH HUFFMAN | News-Telegram News Editor

Oct 24, 2007 - Normally, when you think of bacteria in association with schools, it makes you want to grab a can of lysol or cleaning solvent, especially in light of the recent spread of staph infection in Texas schools.

Staff Photo by Angela Pitts

Sulphur Bluff High School senior Fatema Basrai and junior Joshua Formosa swab samples of bacteria from various everyday objects Wednesday morning in the main office at North Hopkins Independent School District for Sulphur Bluff’s STEEM project.

However, mention it to Sulphur Bluff students and you’ll get a whole other reactions. For two small groups of students, it’s full STEEM ahead, complete with swabs and petri dishes.

The students, prior to the recent announcement of staph outbreak, selected bacteria as their topic for Project Science, Technology, Engineering, Education and Math (STEEM) X-TEEMs, a program sponsored by Texas A&M University-Commerce.

Wednesday, the Sulphur Bluff science and math students not only took swabs from selected areas on their school campus, but also at neighboring Cumby and North Hopkins school districts as well. 

The students’ target at each school was to get a swipe or two in at least three central locations, such as the boys and girls bathroom door handles, the letter “e” on library computer keyboards, the office phone and possibly even from utensils in the cafeteria, according to science instructor Gerry Young.

The swabs were taken back to the school lab to be placed in a mix, then on a petri dish in an incubator to see if bacteria grows. The objective is to study any colonies that pop up, a process that generally takes at least a week. 

Once the results are in, the students will see if there are common areas at the schools which show more specimens than others. Then, they will try to determine why the bacteria are more concentrated in those areas. If they are sporadic, they will also study that. They will try to find parallel and converse results, then, after comparing from conclusions and reasons, they’ll suggest  how to improve those areas.

The students will show their preliminary results at a Project STEEM Expo in November. Overall, the student participating in the year-long program will show their project at two expos — one while in progress to show how it is developing and share with other schools in a science fair-type atmosphere and the other a wrap up session in April to tell how the project finished out.

Sulphur Bluff had six students and two teachers among 10 X-TEEMs selected to attend TAM-C’s two week Project (STEEM) X-TEEMS Academy in July and its X-TEEMs Year Long Academy.

Sulphur Bluff is the smallest district to be chosen to participate in Project STEEM X-TEEMS. The nine other “rural and financially disadvantaged school districts” approved for participation include Boles, Caddo Mills, Celina, Clarksville, Commerce, Cooper, Leonard, Quinlan and Whitewright.

The SB group included Joshua Formosa, Cindy Hatfield, Fatima Basrai, M.B. Basrai, Minerva Marquez and Cody Clawson with a wide array of interests, educational abilities, skills and grade levels.

�They wanted students of all different ranges and abilities. Some are high achievers and very interested in science or math, and other have different interests, and we picked a few who might achieve well in science. The goal is that we�ll keep some interested in it and draw in others,� said the math teacher who originally headed up the SB team.

This is the pilot year for STEEM in this area. The goal is for it to continue for three year, with 10 schools different school selected to participate each year.

Following the two week summer workshop at TAMUC for which the students were paid, the X-TEEMs were charged with going back to their schools to come up with a project which incorporates the STEEM disciplines, then work on it throughout the year.

The Sulphur Bluff students have been meeting once a week after school on Tuesday working together on STEEM. As part of the project, they received funding to purchase equipment such as microscopes and lab equipment in an with which to test the lab cultures. 

Throughout the process the student will continue to photograph each step to document the process and further show their progress with the project.

Older Archives

Looking for News-Telegram Sports and News Archives for January 2004 - November 2008