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BHS Students Partner with Soldiers and Veteran Group for Geography Project

fort hood

The creative team of world geography teachers at Belton High School delivered a unique project-based learning experience for their students last Friday.

They brought along members of Fort Hood’s 36th Engineer Brigade and Field Artillery Squadron, 3d CR, as well as representatives of Team Rubicon, a veteran-led disaster response organization, to introduce and provide guidance for a physical geography project detailing a hypothetical earthquake along the Balcones Fault in Bell County.  

“We are calling this disaster day and it is a culminating activity for the first unit, which was physical geography,” said Geoffrey McKenzie, Belton High School ninth-grade world geography teacher.


“Really, the purpose is to get them thinking creatively and critically, and get them solving problems,” McKenzie, a veteran himself and a West Point graduate, said. “Get them thinking about what would have to happen (in this fictional scenario), prioritizing those things and then coming up with long-term solutions that would have to be solved on the back end, that as a freshman in high school, maybe you are not thinking about.”

As part of the weeks-long project, students will adopt the roles of one of 11 groups -- including local police/fire department/emergency medical services, the National Guard and U.S. Military, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), local community emergency response team, Red Cross, Team Rubicon, local government, state government, public works, and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) – in order to coordinate disaster response plans.

“We’re trying to impart that the hypothetical earthquake is possible, and things like this really do happen,” Team Rubicon’s Michael Shenk said. “We’re really here to help initiate the students through the thought process on how to tackle a big problem. Emergencies are complex, but not impossible. Teamwork, collaboration, understanding not only what you’re capable of but also what other agencies’ capabilities are, is super important.”

team rubicon

For BHS world geography teachers, Team Rubicon’s and Fort Hood’s participation was a vital component of this project.

“This has been eye-opening,” said 36th Engineer Brigade Captain Asael Flores about working with the students. “It’s great how they are taking a physical geography class and incorporating outside agencies to see how that affects what they’re learning, and it gives us a chance to give back to the community by giving feedback to the students.”

fort hood

The day was also eye-opening for students, such as freshman Tenley Stone, who learned about the vast network of agencies that respond to national disasters.

“I didn’t know that there was a fault line near Belton, so that was new too,” Stone said. “I am hoping to learn how natural disasters are caused and how to help after.”

At the culmination of the project, students will submit their final versions to these military and NGO personnel for review and will receive feedback on their real-world problem-solving skills.

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Joshua Wucher
September 10, 2019