Two instructors from Madison High School received the Educators of the Year Award from the Nebraska Association of Resources Districts (NARD).
Suzy Foley and Patrick Kratochvil, both science teachers at Madison High, were recently honored at the NARD Annual Conference held at the Younes Conference Center in Kearney. The awards were presented by Jim Johnson, Chairman of the NARD Information & Education Committee, and NARD President Larry Reynolds.
The two were nominated by the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) for their work in developing the Taylor-Union Watershed Team. The team was started in the summer of 2011 to introduce minority students to fieldwork in science and to see how the concepts taught in the classroom can be used in real work situations.
Kratochvil said, “A total of eight sites on the Taylor and Union Creeks are tested once a month on consecutive days from June through August. The water quality is calculated based on the Water Quality Index (WQI) System, developed by the National Sanitation Federation. Macro-invertebrates are also studied, allowing us to obtain a more complete survey of the Taylor and Union Creeks. A macro-invertebrate count is made giving a water quality rating based on a formula developed by the Nebraska Wildlife Federation’s Adopt-a-Stream program.”
Kratochvil added, “Through the project we are using a cross-curricular strategy, which includes science, language arts, math and technology. This project also teaches the students about the different areas of science including Life Science, Earth Science, Physical Science, and Chemistry.”
Suzy Foley said, “We have students that started as young as incoming 6th graders and have continued through their first year of college. Through this process we have seen that the skills learned lead to higher achievement on tests such as the ACT and a more diverse set of skills for the job market.”
Foley added, “Students use their critical thinking skills while collecting and analyzing the samples collected during the Watershed class. Excel is used to analyze the data that has been gathered throughout the summer and from past summers. Once the data is entered, we generate graphs to visually display the information. This allows the students to obtain a better grasp of the information they have collected. They also create a Power Point presentation to share with the Madison Public School Board of Education, local community groups, the LENRD Board of Directors, and local Universities and Colleges.”
Kratochvil commented, “Each year we have some of the students involved in the program go to the Middle School and do a presentation about what the program is and how it’s exciting and fun as well as educational. This is one way that we keep recruiting students into the program.”
LENRD Information & Education Specialist, Julie Wragge, said, “I was happy to nominate such a great team of leaders for our youth. I have worked with Suzy and Patrick for a long time and they continue to step it up each year as they grow their program. I’m very proud of the partnership the LENRD has developed with Madison Public Schools. We congratulate Suzy and Patrick on this very deserving award.”
The Watershed Team has also become involved with the “Know Your Well” program through the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the Nebraska Environmental Trust, and the Nebraska Water Center. The students have had to gain an understanding of how land and water conservation apply to real world situations. In this project, the students collect well samples from rural drinking wells in the area. They run tests on the water and reports are given to the well owners with a discussion about the results. Students were given the task of trying to discover where any possible contaminants came from.
The Taylor-Union Watershed Team has received grants from the LENRD, the Nebraska Environmental Trust, the Groundwater Foundation, and Farmland.
Patrick lives in Albion, and is originally from Pierce. Suzy lives in Madison, and is originally from Blair.