Thank You, U.S. Customs & Border Protection!

STARBASE One students have the unique opportunity to visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection team at Selfridge Air National Guard Base. Here they learn about their mission and goals and the critical role these women and men have in protecting the United States. STARBASE students also explore the technologies and techniques these homeland security personnel use to keep our country safe. The students even get to witness the skills of physical and time-proven methods—something with fur and four legs!

Agent Geoffrey Ramer leads the visit and captures the attention of students in a fun, informative, and interactive way. The students watch documented video of investigations, look at photos of seized items, and study the tools and technology that assist agents. The students also tour the hangar where they see helicopters and airplanes that are vital to the missions of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

 

One of the more memorable experiences, of course, is the K-9 demonstrations. Agents show how they train their dogs to sniff out drugs from many other distracting smells. A dog’s sense of smell is incredible, making it the perfect tool for this task. They are even better than any available technology!

 

To train and maintain the dog’s skill, agents motivate them through play. When the dog finds the hidden drugs, they reward them with a toy. The dog handlers also share personal stories of their dogs, and they answer all of the interesting questions that students are eager to ask.

Buckle with his handler, Agriculture Specialist Van Tongeren, after successfully finding apples in a suitcase.

Most of the drug-sniffing dogs are German shepherds and Belgian Malinois, or mixes of the two. They are large breeds (giving them better search range), have a great deal of energy, and love to go work where they find playtime! These dogs even live at home with their handlers.

 

STARBASE students also observe an agriculture dog perform their unique skills, sniffing out food! The dog works in airports and can find any food in the luggage of passengers. While locating food may seem strange, it is critical to defending our country against invasive species, which can damage our crops. Handlers of these dogs reward and motivate them through food treats. Because of their “hunger” for food and their friendly demeanor with people, beagles are a good breed for agricultural “sniffing.”

 

STARBASE One is extremely grateful for the incredible opportunity our students have to see the inner workings of Homeland Security, explore the investigative techniques used by Border Protection, and witness K-9s in action! Thank you, Agent Geoff, and the Homeland Security team!

Oakland University, An Experiential Partnership

 

At STARBASE One, our mission is to inspire youth. By creating memorable learning experiences through STEM, we foster positive perceptions of math, science, technology, and engineering for the future generation. We advocate inclusion and firmly believe in the importance of infusing empathy with every lesson. Our curriculum and its delivery allow us to continually refine and enable us to present only the best and most relevant material. STARBASE stands proud as a longtime leader in STEM education. 

 

Though our primary participants are fifth-grade students, we appreciate that to make an even more significant impact, we have a responsibility to extend our reach. STARBASE One meets this goal through a partnership with the Teacher Development and Educational Studies program at Oakland University. This partnership provides education majors an opportunity to fulfill requirements by spending several hours observing at STARBASE. For the more advanced majors, they even have the chance to instruct STEM lessons. 

 

“Observing” may be a bit misleading. We make it more than just a fly-on-the-wall experience. The Michigan science standard for fifth grade includes teamwork, and we are not shy about putting this standard to practice. At STARBASE, Oakland University education majors witness and participate in the power of positive teamwork. From the moment they arrive, university students become a part of our team. They take an active role by joining groups of STARBASE students. They dive into experiments, work together to solve real-world problems, engineer and test restraint systems, and so much more. 

STARBASE also offers a chance for advanced education majors to teach STARBASE lessons. Through observation and coaching by highly qualified and skilled STARBASE instructors, these Oakland University students have an unparalleled opportunity to hone their STEM teaching abilities in subject areas that many consider “daunting.” Pre-service teachers engage STARBASE students through robotics, programming systems to navigate a simulated Mars surface, and help them solve a whodunit mystery by using chromatography, a lab technique for separating mixtures. The repetition of these lessons with many small groups of children builds confidence in teaching abilities and classroom management.

 

After completing their STARBASE experience, many of the Oakland University visitors ask if they can return for additional visits. We consider these requests a mark of the partnership’s success, especially since they can choose to visit STARBASE among many other community opportunities. We are proud of the positive impact we are making with STEM education at all ages, and we look forward to serving more Oakland University students in the years to come.

 

If you are an Oakland University education major or have a friend or family member that is, and would like more information on visiting STARBASE, please contact us. We enjoy the opportunity to assist future educators.

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