Seshadri Ramkumar, Texas Tech University, USA
Young students gathered on a cold morning in Lubbock to learn about cotton research, first hand. A group of 84 students accompanied by a handful of teachers, visited the Nonwovens and Advanced Materials Laboratory at Lubbock-based Texas Tech University to know more about cotton.
The 8th grade students belong to Terra Vista Middle School, Frenship ISD in Lubbock. The school is situated in the middle of cotton fields and the students see cotton just outside their school ready to be harvested, during the cotton season. As part of seeing what they learn in classrooms, the students visited the cotton research laboratory. In the group was a five year Ellie Sledge, daughter of a social science teacher, Joseph Sledge, who was so eager to visit laboratories. As the lecture demonstration began, responding to a question from this scribe, Ellie spotted cotton and stated, “fluffy.” Her father Joseph mentioned that such enthusiasm will lead students to choose science fields for their careers. This is what the school sets out to do every year to encourage students in science and mathematics subjects.
Although, the students who are from Lubbock, are familiar with cotton, they were thrilled to learn about different opportunities that are available for cotton products. Students were impressed with the oil absorption experiments using cotton and could immediately visualize many applications for cotton. One teacher who was from Louisiana recollected the Gulf of Mexico oil spill incident and stated that such developments are beneficial to the community.
While seeing cotton instantaneously picking up oil from oil-water mixture, “It is a complete win-win for the environment,” stated Kristina Janeway, the English teacher who accompanied the students. Students and teachers could connect their daily lives with science, which is the highlight of such field trips and lecture-demonstrations.
The cotton industry tries to reach out to consumers and create awareness on the advantages of cotton. Reaching out to middle and high school students, who are the future independent consumers should be part of that marketing equation, as well. Educating the common public and young students about new products and benefits of science should be a priority for many different industrial sectors.