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Jason Thomas
Browning High School
Long Beach, CA
Chemistry and Food Science, 10th and 11th grade
2018 STAR Research Poster
2019 STAR Research Poster

Q: Briefly describe your STAR research experience(s), where you worked and 1-2 sentence overview of the type of work you were involved in.
A: For the past 2 summers, I have had the pleasure of working with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center and Estuary and Ocean Science Center, based in Tiburon, CA, were I was involved in research focused on native oyster restoration (Ostrea lurida) in San Francisco Bay. Additionally, I investigated how environmental and ecological impacts contributed and continue to contribute to this pattern. 

Q: What do you enjoy most about your job as a teacher?
A: I enjoy the relationships I have been able to cultivate between the students and myself, as well as between my fellow educators. In regards to my students, I have come to cherish them like they are my own and I strive to provide them engaging, authentic and relevant experiences that get them excited about education and life after high school. Aside from the academic aspect, I appreciate that I have the ability to affect their personal lives, impart wisdom and relay my experiences (i.e. success, failures, and struggles) to them in hopes that they have the tools and knowledge to best navigate their own individual journeys. Our specific student body comes burdened with a lot of individual experiences that have jaded their outlook on their present and future prospects and I feel like I have been placed in the perfect position to support them and help them find the courage and confidence to strive for excellence. I am always excited to see their academic and personal growth and that is what drives me to be the best teacher I can be.  

In regards to my coworkers, I have never met a more authentic, supportive and encouraging group of individuals who all share the common goal of providing superior education for our student population. Being in the company of such a like minded group of individuals who care just as much about the students as I do, and each other, is inspiring enhances the joy I get from being an educator.   

Q: How has your STAR experience influenced your classroom teaching and the ways that you engage your students in STEM disciplines and research practices?
Being a STAR intern has influenced my desire to provide for authentic research opportunities for my students. In the age of NGSS and inquiry-based learning, I feel it is important for students to be able to populate their own research questions and methods via observations and examination. I use my STAR research experiences as examples of how simple observations and curiosity can lead to exciting and applicable experimentation. STAR has taught me the meaning of “doing science” and how powerful it is for students to actually engage in hands-on, authentic research and experimentation. This has resulted in more experimentation and inquiry-based lessons in my classroom, providing student and opportunity to build both procedural skills and scientific knowledge through active investigation and participation. The end result is that the stigma around STEM is removed, leading to students having a heightened interest in the professional and academic possibilities that exist after they leave high school.

Q: How have the personal and professional connections that you made during your STAR experience benefited you, your students, and/or your school community? 
A: The personal and professional connections made from STAR are what brought me back to both the program and my particular site. Working with a team of like-minded individuals who understood the need of advocating STEM in the urban setting was both refreshing and exciting because they wanted to make sure I had the most true investigative experience that would allow me to see those skills and knowledge that are needed for my students to be successful in this field, if they choose to pursue this route. Additionally, I received a wealth of support and encouragement from field professionals during my time at the site, pushing me to my fullest potential and educating me about the relevant knowledge and skills necessary for success in STEM research. My time was both rewarding, educational, exciting and fun and this is the feeling I want my students to experience while in the course, feelings that they hold on to as they move out of my course and on to higher academia. I deeply enjoyed my experience and the team that I had the opportunity to work with for 2 consecutive summers. I was never made to feel less than and I was held to the same standard as a paid member of the team, therefore, I knew they knew I had the potential to work alongside them as their equal. These feelings are what I convey to both my educational community and my students, preaching the value and importance of teamwork, self-confidence and hardwork. I am also happy to have access to resources and supports if I want to create assignments, lessons and units that are applicable and true to the industry. It is exciting to have the ability to collaborate on potential ideas for both my classroom and the science department using current research and data, guided by those doing said research.