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    Molly Marek, a sixth-grade science teacher at STEAM Middle School, recently was awarded a grant from the Texas Retired Teachers Foundation. Shown are, from left, STEAM Middle School vice principal Candice Cook, Molly Marek and President of the Burleson Area Retired School Employee Association Philo Waters. BURLESON STAR/COURTESY PHOTO

STEAM Middle School’s Marek receives grant

Molly Marek was recently awarded a grant from the Texas Retired Teachers Foundation, a branch of the Texas Retired Teachers Association.

Marek, a sixth grade science teacher at STEAM Middle School, was one of 30 teachers in the state of Texas to receive a grant of $500 to help fund her project.

Marek said that STEAM Middle School will be establishing an outdoor learning center with the goal of reducing our waste, educating young people about sustainability, and directly involving students in the local ecosystem.

The permanent feature of the learning center will be biodiversity beds which are native plant landscapes designed by STEM Biology to restore the biodiversity in our area that has been lost to suburban development.

“This came about as an extended project that fits naturally within my Biology curriculum,” Marek said. “Since the original design, we’ve planned for other features that will open the learning center up to a range of purposes. We are currently composting and plan to extend that program to our cafeteria food waste. We also plan to include Inquiry Beds that can be reserved for class projects or student organizations and a small greenhouse for a future biology project on Mendelian genetics and plant reproduction.”

According to Marek, biology classes have played a major role in the design and will continue to be directly involved in future garden-related endeavors. The sixth- and seventh-grade classes will engage in the learning center as they study many life science topics such as cells, taxonomy, ecosystems, plant response, and photosynthesis.

Student organizations such as NJHS can earn service hours by volunteering for garden maintenance.

“As of right now, I hope to have most major components established over the summer and ready for the fall semester,” Marek said. “The grants I have received from Texas Retired Teachers Association and from Keep Burleson Beautiful will assist me in purchasing building materials, (lumber, soil, mulch, fertilizer), tools, mature native plants, and our little greenhouse.”

Philo Waters, the President of the Burleson Area Retired School Employee Association, said Marek was aware that the Texas Retired Teachers foundation has a program in which current educators submit proposals for creative learning projects.

“The goal is to find teachers who have designed a creative learning project that is fun and enhances learning for their students,” Waters said. “Molly Marek  reflects the creativity encouraged by the BISD and STEAM Middle School, and she is a true asset to the BISD.”

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