2008 Joint Meeting of The Geological Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies with the Gulf Coast Section of SEPM

Paper No. 8
Presentation Time: 10:10 AM

Water EducaTion for Alabama's Black Belt (WET): Hands-on Laboratory and Field Exercises for K-12 Students and Teachers

LEE, Ming-Kuo1, WOLF, Lorraine2, HARDESTY, Kelli1, BEASLEY, Lee1, SMITH, Jena3, ADAMS, Lara3, STONE, Kay4 and BLOCK, Dennis4, (1)Geology and Geography, Auburn University, 210 Petrie Hall, Auburn, AL 36849, (2)Department of Geology and Geography, Auburn University, Auburn University, AL 36849, (3)College of Education, Auburn University, Auburn, AL 36849, (4)Environmental Institute, Auburn University, Auburn, AL 36849, Leeming@auburn.edu

Project Water EducaTion for Alabama's Black Belt (WET Alabama) provides off-campus environmental and water-education activities designed to increase the appreciation, knowledge, conservation, and protection of water resources by middle-school teachers and children from predominantly African American families in some of Alabama's poorest counties. The project is structured around a variety of indoor and outdoor activities held at Auburn University's E. V. Smith Resource Center. The educational activities provide an engaging laboratory and field experience for children from rural schools that lack facilities and equipment. The hosting centers have easy access to surface water (ponds, wetlands, streams) and groundwater (through nested wells), and offer facilities for setting up basic hydrologic experiments (e.g., aquifer models, permeameter, water quality). In these educational events, students and teachers visualize groundwater flow and its interaction with surface water in an aquifer tank model, assess the hydrologic properties (porosity and permeability) of different aquifer materials, learn about groundwater purging and sampling, and assess water quality and flow direction in the field. Using the aquifer tank model, students learn basic hydrologic concepts and the components of a groundwater system. Simple exercises demonstrate (1) the balance of recharge and discharge, (2) the effects of flooding, drought and pumping, and (3) the movement of contaminants through aquifers. For porosity and permeability assessments, students conduct a series of percolation tests using a variety of sediment types. A set of ready-to-teach laboratory exercises and tutorials have been created for use with the Alabama science curriculum for grades 6 to 8. The ultimate goal of Project WET Alabama is to help students and teachers from rural low-income communities become knowledgeable about surface water and groundwater so they can identify and sustain “safe” aquifer zones, where sustainable, clean water resources are available for long-term use and economic development.