Paper No. 7
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM


ORBOCK MILLER, Suzanne1, MILLER, Jerry2 and FLOWE, Sharon1, (1)Department of Science, Tuscola High School, 564 Tuscola School Road, Waynesville, NC 28786, (2)Department of Geosciences & Natural Resources, Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC 28723,

Water quality education is a critical ingredient in the reduction and prevention of riverine contamination: it can inform the community of the causes of water quality degradation, and the means of reducing the influx of harmful pollutants, while creating a new generation of physical, biological, and social scientists. In 2011 a project, supported by the Pigeon River Fund, was developed to provide hands-on field and laboratory exercises to initiate student interest in water quality issues in Haywood County, NC, while simultaneously developing critical thinking, teamwork, and communication skills. The project impacted approximately 270 students ranging from grades 9-12 in 11 classes. The majority of these students made bi-monthly visits to the field sites where they were responsible for the collection of specific items including the weather, water samples, channel slope, the size of channel bed sediment, cross-channel morphology (width, depth, form), water chemistry (dissolved oxygen, pH, nitrates, phosphate), flow velocity (needed to calculate discharge), and benthic biodiversity. The field exercises were combined with lectures and laboratory exercises throughout the year that addressed related water quality issues. The data were periodically analyzed, but the majority of the analysis occurred in May, 2012 when the students were required to interpret and present the outcomes of their results. End of year surveys showed that more than 80 % of the students thought that they learned a fair amount or a lot about water quality from the project. More than 90 % thought they now understood why studying rivers was important and approximately 75 % of the surveyed students stated that they learn best from these types of hands-on experiences. Anecdotally, a number of students who did not perform well in the classroom were engaged and participated in the field experience, often taking the lead in the collection of field data. Although the program possessed many benefits, several issues arose that require attention in the future. Specific problems included the oversight of a large number of students in the field, the need to balance a focus on water quality issues with other aspects of the curriculum, and funds for covering the expense of equipment and travel to the field sites.