corn project

Student Christina Mardini (right) is currently piloting the Corn Genome to Phenome project at High School North. Thanks to her efforts, and the initiative of her teacher Christine Girtain, the project will begin to flourish at High School South. Story below.

Christina Mardini

High School Teachers, Students Will Study Corn, Extract DNA With $10k in Funding

March 19, 2021: Authentic Science Research (ASR) Director Christine Girtain certainly proposes the most interesting projects, and her latest venture again caught the attention of-- and earned support from-- Sustainable Jersey for Schools.

Four years after winning a Sustainable Jersey for Schools $10,000 grant to implement her Wolbachia Project, Girtain earned a $10k-level grant for her proposal titled, “Investigating Food Crop Sustainability With Corn Genotype to Phenotype Teacher Workshop.” Needless to say, it was the only submission of its kind. But both its uniqueness and its science- and environmentally-driven tenets wowed the grant review panel.

This grant cycle was funded by Sustainable Jersey for Schools through the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) and-- like he did for the Wolbachia proposal-- Toms River Education Association (TREA) President Scott Campbell endorsed Girtain’s application on behalf of High School South. With the funding, the longtime TRRS educator-- who directs the ASR program at both High School South and High School North-- will implement teacher workshops on the sustainable science; train herself on in-house DNA and RNA extraction through the innovative MinION technology; and introduce students to these new avenues of scientific inquiry. In fact, student Christina Mardini is currently piloting the Corn Genome to Phenome project at HSN.

“I want to inspire a network of New Jersey-area educators to connect students to modern STEM, agriculture, tech, and researching careers,” Girtain said.

In fact, maybe it’s easier if we let Girtain herself explain the rest, courtesy of a required post-award video submitted to Sustainable Jersey for Schools:

The National Corn Growers Association will be working closely with Girtain, her students, and her cohort of educators throughout the project.

“The National Corn Growers Association is proud to partner with teachers like Christine through our Nourish the Future program,” said NCGA Director of Research and Productivity Robyn Allscheid. “We know that her enthusiasm and passion for research and teaching will help inspire other teachers to think about how they can incorporate real plant science research in their classrooms to help students understand the importance of agriculture.”

The scientific, environmental, and sustainable facets of the project align well with recent district initiatives, from its involvement in the EPA’s Clean Diesel Rebate Program; intimate work with UN Sustainability Goals; and several other Sustainable Jersey for Schools-funded projects over the past several years.

“High School South continues to be extremely proud and amazed by Mrs. Girtain and her students,” said HSS Principal Michael Citta. “This grant opportunity is yet another example of the dedication and investment that Mrs. Girtain has in her community, her science, and mostly the belief in her student's abilities to make a difference in our environment and world.”

An official announcement of the award was made during a virtual Facebook Live ceremony March 19. The district echoes Christine Girtain's sentiments about the award and upcoming project: "This is awesome."