Fossils, fertilizer and relationships examined in COM students’ honors projects

Diving into topics from student/teacher relationships to ideal plant fertilizers, four students at College of the Mainland explored, researched and presented their work for honors credit.

Students elected to complete a research project on a topic they chose related to class to earn honors credit, which will be denoted on their college transcripts.

Student Calah Pope, of Dickinson, had a rocky start in elementary school. Motivated by her early school experience, Pope explored what made a successful student/teacher relationship.

“I had ADHD. I struggled all through kindergarten to learn the alphabet,” said Pope, who attended COM Collegiate High School and graduated one year early with 54 college credits.

For her project, working with COM English professor Dalel Serda, Pope examined Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning, which examines how deeply students understand concepts.

“The student needed to feel that the teacher was open and approachable,” said Pope, who will attend University of Texas in January. “I want to be that teacher. I want to go the extra mile.”

For her project for COM chemistry professor Dr. Tom Johnson’s class, student Kathryn Day, of Bacliff, analyzed the water in Lake Eckert to see if it remained at a healthy pH for animal life. Lake Eckert’s water is chemically controlled, and she compared it to a non-chemically controlled pond in Galveston Bay Park and chronicled her data.

“It was very time consuming. I learned patience. I learned how to research. I learned dedication,” said Day.

Her work paid off.

“The pH was within about 6-8 pH, healthy for animal life,” said Day.

Student Tyler Austin’s interest in geology sparked a project exploring fossils and layers of sediment along the Brazos River in Bryan, Texas.

“It was fieldwork, collecting fossils and samples. It was really fun, and it’s something I’d love to do again,” said Austin, of Texas City, who worked with geology professor Dr. Veronica Sanchez.

He measured sand grains, analyzed sediment layers and examined fossils under a microscope. He estimated that years ago the waters in Bryan, Texas, at their deepest point were no more than 500 meters deep, and no less than 80 kilometers from the shore.

“Geologists need to know what the ancient environment was like when looking at the area so they can determine if oil is present,” said Austin. “Formations like this are an indication that methane could be present in the area.”

Student Sara Pecina, of Dickinson, explored the effects of organic versus chemical fertilizer on plants.

“We had a control (group) with no fertilizer, just root hormone,” said Pecina, who worked with COM biology professor Sheena Abernathy. “The one that surprised me the most was the control that we didn’t do anything for. It did really well. Maybe we shouldn't mess with nature sometimes.”

To earn honors credit, students must earn an 85 or higher in the class, contract with the professor outlining the extra research or creative project they will complete, meet with the professor regularly and present their research or creative work at the COM symposium or other public forum.

“It lets professors work with students who are excited about their topic,” said COM biology professor Sheena Abernathy. “Students who earn 12 honors credit hours, make a GPA of 3.4 or higher and do 24 hours of community service can be recognized as a COM scholar at graduation.”

For more information about honors projects at College of the Mainland, contact professor Sheena Abernathy at 409-933-8330 or sabernathy@com.edu or professor Samuel Layton at 409-933-8307 or slayton@com.edu.

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