Paper No. 6
Presentation Time: 10:15 AM
INSPIRING FUTURE SCIENTISTS IN MIDDLE-SCHOOLS THROUGH SYNERGY BETWEEN CLASSROOM LEARNING AND WATER CYCLE RESEARCH
Water is at the core of many issues in environmental change from local to global scales, and learning about the water cycle offers students an opportunity to explore core scientific concepts and their local environment. In climate research, there are significant uncertainties in the role water plays in the climate system. Water also acts as a central theme that provides opportunities for experiential science education at all levels. The “Water Spotters”ù program underway at University of Colorado exploits the synergy between needs for enrichment of middle-school science education and the needs for water sample collection to provide primary data for climate research. The program takes advantage of the prominent agricultural landscape of the region in eastern Colorado, which is a poignant example of how society influences the climate through irrigation, evaporation/transpiration and run-off and whose productivity is influenced by the climate system. Both natural grasslands and alpine ecosystems in the surrounding regions serve as examples of the native landscape. In coordination with the St. Vrain Valley School District MESA (Math Engineering Science Achievement) program, middle-school students collect rain water samples that are analyzed and used as a core component of the research goals. In concert, new lessons have been developed in coordination with science teachers that emphasize both core scientific standards and application learning about the water cycle. We present the new curriculum modules developed for the program and that are distributed to middle-school teachers. The modules include original lessons and lessons with expanded original material to teach about water and water isotopes. Curriculum packages that include media resources are increasingly important to teachers. The Water Spotters program uses video to teach collection protocols and give background on the project. Weather station data from schools are disseminated online alongside the rainwater collection protocols. We highlight the value of citizen science in obtaining needed research quality data while also meeting national needs to improve science education.