2002 Denver Annual Meeting (October 27-30, 2002)

Paper No. 7
Presentation Time: 1:30 PM-5:30 PM


PATTERSON, Lauren A., Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Purdue Univ, 1397 Civil Engr Bldg, West Lafayette, IN 47907-1397 and HARBOR, Jon M., Purdue Univ, 1397 Civil Engr Bldg, West Lafayette, IN 47907-1397, patterla@purdue.edu

Geosciences are now an integral part of the middle school National Science Education Standards (NSES), and there is considerable interest in student activities that combine geoscience content and inquiry at this educational level. Local environmental issues provide an excellent opportunity to create interactive, interdisciplinary lessons that meet science standards, and that motivate students to learn through their interest in understanding and solving local community problems.

As an example of using local environmental issues as the primary theme within which a range of student learning goals can be achieved, we have developed middle school activities related to E. coli contamination in Lake Shafer, Indiana. High E. coli levels in the lake are having a serious and highly publicized local impact, and the E. coli could be coming from a range of agricultural and residential sources in the watershed, as well as municipal sewage treatment facilities. We have developed an interactive presentation, hands-on activities, and a field/lab exercise to help students build their own understanding of how to apply the scientific method to determine watershed sources and transport paths of E. coli. Several teachers have begun to incorporate these activities into their curriculum, involving students in a local environmental issue while also meeting standards in the NSES areas of Science as Inquiry, Science Content (Earth / Space Science and Life Science) and Science in Personal and Social Perspectives, as well as Math and English standards. Student pretest-posttest results have provided valuable insight into student learning, and have guided modification of the materials and activities to address common misconceptions.