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Rotary Club supports young scientists

By John Duvall
Special to The SUN

Photo courtesy John Duvall Students in J. D. Kurz’ science class at Pagosa Springs High School take measurements of the San Juan River’s ph level, its turbidity, the magnitude of its dissolved organics and other aspects of the river’s health as part of a year-round “River Watch” project. Funding for the instruments the students use came from a $6,000 grant, half from the Pagosa Springs Rotary Club and half from Rotary District 5470. 

Photo courtesy John Duvall
Students in J. D. Kurz’ science class at Pagosa Springs High School take measurements of the San Juan River’s ph level, its turbidity, the magnitude of its dissolved organics and other aspects of the river’s health as part of a year-round “River Watch” project. Funding for the instruments the students use came from a $6,000 grant, half from the Pagosa Springs Rotary Club and half from Rotary District 5470.

On one cold winter day, students in J. D. Kurz’s science class at Pagosa Springs High School were kneeling beside the San Juan River taking measurements of the river’s ph level, its turbidity, the magnitude of its dissolved organics and other aspects of the river’s health as part of a year-round “River Watch” project.

Funding for the instruments the students were using came from a $6,000 grant, half of which came from the Pagosa Springs Rotary Club and half of which came from Rotary District 5470.

Partnering with Pagosa Springs High School and its science teachers, the local Rotary Club is supporting science education by underwriting the acquisition of needed science equipment and by assisting the science faculty at the high school with teaching support.

Rotarians David Smith and Dave Richardson are volunteer physics and chemistry instructors at the local high school. During the spring semester, David Smith’s wife, Jean — a chemist — also taught science at the high school on a volunteer basis. For many years, the Smiths were professors of  chemistry at Purdue University, the University of Nebraska, and the University of Utah. Dave Richardson received his Ph.D. in chemistry from Michigan State University and for many years was involved in Shell Oil’s scientific endeavors.

Good science education typically requires both good teaching and proper science equipment for the students to use. The process of identifying what science equipment was most needed by our high school began in May of last year, when the aforementioned Rotarians and the school’s physics and chemistry teacher, J.D. Kurz, did an inventory of the existing scientific equipment. That was followed by the group prioritizing a list of needed equipment. The local Rotary Club then submitted a grant application to Rotary’s District 5470. In the fall of 2012, District 5470 approved a $3,000 grant for the equipment purchase. The Pagosa Rotary Club matched that with its own $3,000. With $6,000 in hand, the high school was able to purchase the equipment in time for use during the fall semester of 2012.

With the new instruments on site, Rotarians Smith and Richardson began working with students on how to use the new equipment. The students caught on quickly and used the instruments throughout the school year. To nonscientists, this equipment might be thought of as a multipurpose set of lab equipment for measuring a large number of physical and chemical properties — applicable in virtually all the science classes taught at Pagosa Springs High School.

For the Pagosa Springs Rotary Club, this project isn’t just about making a financial donation. It’s also about the personal commitment of the club’s diverse and talented members who thrive on helping to make Pagosa Springs a better place to live.

This story was posted on June 20, 2013.