Making Classrooms Come to Life

KU program empowers Kansas teachers to expand curriculum, tackle key issues
The Research Experience for Teachers program at the University of Kansas enables teachers like Jenny Gartner to work on real-world projects and lesson plans designed to encourage students to pursue careers in engineering.

Labette county high school science teacher Jenny Gartner is always looking for new ways to engage her students. She found exactly what she was looking for thanks to the Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) program at the University of Kansas.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the RET program brings Kansas science teachers to Lawrence for six weeks to work with KU faculty and develop lesson plans on topics such as transportation, energy, and the environment. Last summer at KU, Gartner researched potential uses of glycerol — a biodiesel byproduct — including using it to dampen dust on gravel roads, or spraying it on farmland to prevent herbicides and pesticides from washing off crops and into groundwater.

In the fall, Gartner brought her new research and lesson plans back to the classroom — and the results have been outstanding.

“Most of my students help work the family farm,” said Gartner, who teaches chemistry and physics. “With the lesson plans we developed at KU, I’ve seen more of my students interested in chemical-based careers because they see how it can impact their farms and their communities.”

Research Experiences for Teachers

  • The Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) program helps teachers develop lesson plans and acquire materials to demonstrate real-world scientific applications in their classrooms.
  • The RET program has two separate initiatives at KU: Bioengineering Toolkits for Teachers (BET 4 Teachers) for middle school teachers, and Shaping Inquiry from Feedstock to Tailpipe (SHIFT) for high school and community college educators.
  • Participants work with researchers from various KU departments. The program also partners with the southeast Kansas Educational service Center-Greenbush in Girard, Kansas.
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