USF Magazine Fall 2013

Volume 55 | Number 3

High Impact

Where Science Begins

| USF News

Teacher Pam McFarlin speaks with Professor Frank Muller-Karger while outside with Stewart Middle School students.
Photo by Vickie Chachere | USF News

Thirteen years ago, Stewart Middle Magnet School teacher Lynn McDaniel wanted to add more to her school’s earth sciences curriculum and went looking for someone who could help open her students’ eyes to the big world around them. She had to go no further than USF College of Marine Science Professor Frank Muller-Karger.

Now, hundreds of middle school students and thousands of classroom hours later, the partnership not only involves USF in enhancing instruction at the science magnet school but has brought Muller-Karger’s own graduate students into the classroom to share their knowledge and gain experience in teaching. This year, Muller-Karger and his students were awarded the Hillsborough County Education Foundation’s Business Partner of the Year Award for their long relationship with Stewart.

“The impact of his expertise, encouragement, enrichment, explorations and his desire to empower students has put them on the launch pad for learning,” McDaniel said in a tribute to Muller-Karger, a biological oceanographer and globally-recognized expert in using satellite technology to study the seas.

Over the years at Stewart, Muller-Karger and his students have developed educational presentations, field trips and activities for science classes in sixth through eighth grades. Muller-Karger was instrumental in helping Stewart win grants from NASA that help fund field trips for Stewart students and included the school in a crucial study on climate change funded through the National Science Foundation. That grant has allowed Stewart to become one of the monitoring areas in a global climate change project and turned a stretch of the school’s Hillsborough riverfront location into an outdoor lab where students take water quality measurements to contribute data to the multi-site project.

Because Muller-Karger’s expertise also involves uniting space technology with ocean issues, students have come to understand how technology advancements can be leveraged to answer big scientific questions, and opened their eyes to potential careers in science.

“Students are ‘restless sojourners’ and we need to help them shape their thoughts and images of their future. Whether they are studying the “Mir mortals” of the heavens or spreading their canvases from one end of the universe to another,” McDaniel said. “Our responsibility as educators is to provide awesome experiences for them to reach for the stars. Dr. Frank and his students have done that.”