It is 7:45 on a cold Thursday morning, when a school bus pulls up to a river in rural Hood County. About 15 high school juniors and seniors, toting black chemistry cases and dressed in waders, jump off the bus and head straight into the water. First period has just begun.
“Right now, several students are in the water grabbing samples and we have students on the side who are running the wet analysis,” explains David Rutledge from Luminant's environmental services department.
“We're testing the water for a lot of different parameters,” adds Wendy Thompson, environmental science teacher at Glen Rose High School. “We're looking at dissolved oxygen, temperature, pH and conductivity.”
This unconventional class is a partnership between Luminant and Glen Rose High School. Created in 2002 as a way to develop a hands-on environmental education program within the school's existing environmental class, the program mixes traditional classroom course work with once-a-month water sampling field trips.
“We record data and practice testing several times a week during school so that we don't make mistakes out here,” says student Jorge Espino. “Not every school does it, so it's just fascinating to me.”
Now in its ninth year, participation in the program has exploded from roughly eight students in one class the first year to 55 split among three classes in 2010. In all, it's estimated the program has reached more than 200 students, some of whom have taken the lessons learned here to the next level.
“I had one graduate two years ago who is now at A&M and involved in the environmental field,” shares Thompson. “He calls himself ‘my favorite student' because he was so into this class and now he's planning to do this for a living.”
To learn more about the program and see the students in action, click here to watch a brief video on Luminant's YouTube channel.