A group of Arlington County middle and high school teachers recently enjoyed a “A Bite of Science” at Marymount University, where Dr. Todd Rimkus, chair of the Department of Biology and Physical Science, and Curtis Jordan, a security engineer at TruSTAR Technology, spoke about their research.
Sponsored by the Center for Excellence in Education (CEE), the dinner and talk gave STEM teachers an opportunity to connect with the two experts from industry and academia.
“I treated them like a classroom full of kids,” said Rimkus, which meant bringing along several turtles, a snake and even an alligator. “Their enthusiasm was infectious!”
Rimkus, who researches the growth and development of turtles, was introduced by Dr. Lois Stover, Marymount’s dean of the School of Education and Human Services. Rimkus often visits elementary, middle and high school classrooms and even involves the students in his work.
“I like to send turtles out into classrooms, where the students can take care of them and take measurements for me,” he said. This gives them a chance to work with data directly and increase the population Rimkus can study.
He’s currently working with Kathryn Fossaceca, a science teacher at Richmond Community High School who earned her bachelor of science degree from Marymount in 2014.
“Dr. Rimkus has inspired my teaching style and how I teach in the classroom because he is a truly phenomenal professor,” she said. “I think it is awesome that even after graduation Dr. Rimkus is still invested in the lives of his students. This project has added a new dimension to my teaching, and I am grateful for everything Dr. Rimkus has done to give my students this experience.”
Fossaceca currently has 18 of Rimkus’ turtles in her class, where she and her students study how the number of turtles in a particular environment can influence their growth.
“We have six tanks with only one turtle and six tanks with two turtles,” she said. “Every month we collect data on the size of the turtles. We want to know exactly how multiple turtles in an environment affect their size, and whether or not the turtles will compete for food or if a social relationship might be beneficial.
“My students love the turtles, even students who I do not teach love them,” she added. “It is quite amazing seeing how this project allows them to interact with science. My goal is for my students to do hands-on learning with applications to the real world, and this project does exactly that.”
The professional enrichment session at Marymount was free for participants, part of the CEE’s Teacher Enrichment Program, whose mission is to ensure a diverse U.S. workforce in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It provides rural and urban teachers the chance to explore cutting-edge research and helps them provide students with a context of how science is applied in the real world and to inspire them to pursue STEM careers.
For more information on Rimkus, go to marymount.edu. Learn more about CEE at www.cee.org.
Dr. Todd Rimkus, chair of the Department of Biology and Physical Science at Marymount University, is shown in this file photo.