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Calvin Announces TRIAGE Coordinator
January 15, 2007

Rebecca Martin, an energetic science teacher at East Grand Rapids Middle School, has been hired to coordinate the after-school programs for the new TRIAGE middle school science program at Calvin College, an effort funded by a $720,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

TRIAGE (which stands for Team Researchers in a GLOBE-al Environment) will kick off on Saturday, January 20 with an open house at the Bunker Interpretive Center at Calvin for the 100 or so students part of this first group. That open house will be held from 1:30 to 3 pm and will bring together not only all of the students in the program, but also their parents as well as teachers, Calvin personnel and others connected to TRIAGE.

Martin is a native of Grand Rapids and a 1991 graduate of Forest Hills Central High School who went on to earn her bachelor's degree from Hillsdale and her master's from Aquinas. She has been part of the East Grand Rapids Middle School science program for some 10 years, but is taking a leave of absence this year and was convinced to take on the new parttime post at Calvin.

She will be a central figure in the college's effort to to help area middle school students develop authentic scientific research skills and thinking as part of a comprehensive focus on environmental sustainability, and she can't wait to begin.

"To get this kind of opportunity both personally and professionally was too good to pass up," she says. "The TRIAGE program has amazing potential and I am so thrilled to be part of it. It's going to be great to get started this month."

"We want the parents to feel like an important link in this process," says Martin. "We'll be relying on them."

Following the January 20 open house the program will begin in earnest on Monday, January 29 when the first group of middle school scientists comes to Calvin's Bunker Center to begin their after-school research efforts (which will be coordinated by Martin).

Each day of the week, Monday through Thursday from 3:30 pm until 5:30 or 6 pm, for three weeks of each month, a group of 20-25 middle school students will come to Calvin to do their research. TRIAGE teams will utilize the Bunker Interpretive Center and Ecosystem Preserve at Calvin for their home base, where they will collect data for existing projects, develop data entry and analysis skills, design and execute their own research projects, and engage in team-building activities using resources, games, and exhibits in the Bunker Center.

The fourth week of the month will be reserved for special scientific events. Such events and experiences will include career nights, scientific guests of honor to participate in research with students, research vessel cruises aboard the Grand Valley Water Resource Institute's Jackson, tours of local scientific labratories and plants and scientific investigations within local science labratories.

Martin notes that each group of 20-25 students will be split into smaller groups of five students each and that those smaller groups all will be mentored by either a local science teacher, a teacher-in-training from Calvin or a parent.

"The low ratio of students to adult mentors will really enhance the scientific research that takes place," she says. "And the Bunker Center is going to be a fantastic home base. I know the kids and the adults will love what the Bunker Center has to offer."

Calvin is partnering on TRIAGE with Forest Hills Public Schools, Grand Rapids Catholic Schools, Grand Rapids Christian Schools, Grand Rapids Public Schools and Wyoming Public Schools as well as with a quintet of area business partners (Meijer Botanical Gardens and Sculpture Park, Pierce Cedar Creek Institute, Timmermans Environmental, West Michigan Environmental Action Council and the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum).

The college is one of seven prestigious institutions across the country to receive the funds as part of the NSF Academy for Young Scientists program (other institutions include the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University and the University of Chicago).

Rachel Sytsma Reed, an assistant professor in education at Calvin, is the program coordinator. A former middle and high school school science teacher, whose many degrees include a doctorate in educational psychology and a master's in chemical oceanography, she says the time is right for this project for West Michigan.

"I feel like all of the pieces of the puzzle are right here in West Michigan," she says. "There is so much happening right now. This area has the potential to be an amazing scientific hotspot. I believe TRIAGE is part of that puzzle and can make a big contribution to what's happening here."

The TRIAGE advisory Board includes: Gordon Van Harn, Van Andel Education Institute; Janet Vail, Annis Water Resources Institute; Gail Heffner, Calvin College; Shawn Wessel, West Michigan Environmental Action Council; Linda VanderJagt, Forest Hills Public Schools; and Diana Payne, Connecticut SeaGrant, University of Connecticut.

In addition to the out of school sessions at the Bunker Center, students will spend two weeks during the summer engaged in a Student Research Institute (SRI), working alongside research faculty at Calvin College to develop their own research knowledge, skills, and questions.