Paper No. 6
Presentation Time: 9:55 AM
THE RAIN GARDEN PROJECT: CONSTRUCTION OF SCIENTIFIC LITERACY THROUGH PLACE-BASED LEARNING IN AN INFORMAL SETTING
Place-based projects taught in an informal setting can create a framework for building scientific literacy and reflection upon environmental ethics. Non-science majors enrolled in an introductory environmental science class on the Winter Haven (FL) campus of Polk State College participate in a semester-long, experiential service-learning project that focuses on local water resource issues. The course is designed to integrate local geology and ecology with local sustainability issues. The campus is built on a recharge area for the Floridan Aquifer. The sustainability of the aquifer has received local and statewide publicity over the past several years and the issue is relevant to the student’s current and future quality of life. The City of Winter Haven Water Resource Management Plan calls for the use of rain gardens to capture runoff and increase infiltration of rainwater into the aquifer. Students work in small groups with the City of Winter Haven Water Resource Management Office to site, plan, and build gardens using native plants.
The informal nature and setting of gardening provides opportunities for students to apply classroom concepts and prior knowledge as well as to build knowledge through conversations centered upon local water resource issues. The exchange of ideas within a framework of the personal relevance of the underlying resource issues creates an awareness of the usefulness of scientific literacy and the power of scientific literacy to solve local problems. The project is used as a vehicle for reflection upon the need for and relevance of a water ethic.