Jason Project cultivates student interest in STEM fields

Gage Bernard, Jack Kirksey, John Steinman and Ruth Garcia

Students from the Southeast Texas region are participating in the Jason Project at Lamar University through Jan. 25. The science, technology, engineering and mathematics based program engages students in activities meant to be both fun and educational to cultivate their interest in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Named for the mythological Greek explorer, the Jason Project was founded in 1989 by Robert D. Ballard, the oceanographer and explorer who discovered the shipwreck of RMS Titanic. After receiving overwhelming amount of support and interest from students all over the world, Ballard designed a STEM-based program to help educate students about their world.

Southeast Texas schools began participating in the Jason Project in 2001. The program is funded through grants, as well as community support and donations. Participants in this year’s program include 13 regional school districts, Beaumont Homeschoolers, the Catholic Diocese of Beaumont, Conroe Liberty Classical School for the Deaf, Texas School for the Deaf and Tekoa Charter Schools.

D’ann Douglas, director of the Jason project for the Southeast Texas region, said the program trained 210 instructors to teach the 10,486 students from the Region 5 area who are registered this year.

“The Jason Project has an outstanding curriculum,” she said. “We produce our own Jason video through the Department of Communications at Lamar, and present it to the students. They hear presentations by scientists, engineers, mathematicians, oceanographers, meteorologists and other professionals in the STEM fields. After that, they go to interactive sessions with STEM activities they can engage in.”

Cynthia Williams, Little Cypress Junior High School eighth grader, said she likes the interactive nature of the program. During a communications presentation, Williams learned how data, including videos and text messages, is transmitted using cell phones.

“Getting to do activities really helped me learn the topics,” she said. “I was really surprised to learn the amount of bytes that go into sending a text message,” Williams said. “I also didn’t know that you can only send 160 characters per message.”

Jack Kirksey, seventh grader from St. Anne’s, said he enjoyed learning more about his favorite Southeast Texas terrain during the program.

“My favorite part of the program was learning about the marsh and the different sediments it is made of,” Kirksey said. “I spend a lot of time in the marsh fishing, so I found that interesting.”

One of the many activity sessions in the program illustrates how different materials react with each other through chemical and physical processes. For this activity, students create an erupting soda volcano using Mentos and diet soda.

“My favorite activity was getting to put the Mentos in soda,” said John Steinman, seventh grader from St. Anne’s. “I really like getting to learn new things and be outside of the classroom – it’s a lot of fun.”

To learn more about the program, visit jasonproject.org.