The University has received a $1.35 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to expand and enhance a watershed studies program that links secondary school students and teachers throughout the world.
The three-year grant will enable the Global Rivers Environmental Education Network (GREEN) to develop the Teacher Enhancement Program for science and social studies teachers in the United States. Master teachers from five U.S. regions will improve their ongoing watershed monitoring programs and help colleagues at other schools set up similar programs.
A watershedthe drainage area of an entire river systemis an excellent medium for teaching students how to analyze and integrate information and knowledge, says William B. Stapp, professor of natural resources and co-principal investigator for the project.
For example, the study of a watersheds geological history and hydrological process teaches elements of earth science; analysis of chemical and biological characteristics of a river and flood plain teach physical and biological sciences; and human use of land and water within a watershed demonstrates the role of social sciences in watershed management, Stapp says.
The program funded by the NSF is really a combination of efforts, linking Project GREEN, founded by Prof. Stapp, with the U-M-Dearborns program to educate school teachers and enhance their understanding of watershed issues, says Orin Gelderloos, co-principal investigator and professor of environmental studies at U-M-Dearborn. Project GREEN has made a fantastic contribution in developing techniques to monitor river quality, while in Dearborn, weve gained the experience in preparing teachers. Our future efforts will be directed toward infusing the concepts of a watershed throughout the school curriculum, including science, social science and the language arts.
Schools in the teacher enhancement program will share information via EcoNet, the same international computer network that serves many GREEN schools throughout the world. By electronically linking schools from different watersheds or parts of one watershed, GREEN transcends political, racial and economic boundaries, Stapp notes.
The Rouge River project, for instance, includes schools from inner-city Detroit as well as suburban and rural areas. Such linkages make it possible for diverse student populations to learn more about one another and to work together to resolve issues that affect us all.
Stapp and other U-M faculty and students developed water monitoring projects in the mid-1980s in schools near the Huron and Rouge rivers in Southeast Michigan. In 1989, Stapp and graduate students in the School of Natural Resources and Environment conceived GREEN, an international expansion of the earlier programs. Today, GREEN has spin-off programs in all 50 states and 125 countries.
Much of the programs success depends on schools willingness to take a non-traditional, interdisciplinary approach toward education, Stapp says.
The new program will address the need to further weaken the boundaries between science and social studies in U.S. secondary schools, Stapp says. We also will help schools overcome problems in computer networking and make use of new technologies such as heavy metals testing and satellite imaging of watershed use.
Teachers also will receive help integrating GREENs experiential instruction into the school curriculum. They will examine ways to help students collect information from the real worldsuch as sources and levels of pollutionand move forward to take appropriate action to improve water quality, Stapp says.
Nearly every GREEN program has resulted in such action at the community level. In Tennessee, for example, students were instrumental in creating a state law that requires gas stations to collect recycled oil for processing. In Seattle, GREEN students who adopted a stream received permission to stencil Dump no wastedrains to stream on storm sewers. In Saginaw, students convinced the city council to promote a bonding issue for retention basins that would prevent sewage from overflowing into the Saginaw River.
A national project teamcomprised of Stapp, Gelderloos, and faculty associates Joseph S. Krajcik and Shirley J. Magnusson, both assistant professors of educationwill coordinate the enhancement program nationally.
Master science and social studies teachers, selected for their schools exemplary watershed monitoring, will lead five regional project teams, the Northwest, Northeast, Midwest, Southeast and Southwest teams. Each regional team also will include a school district representative, a computer networking specialist and a community representative.
Throughout the school year, teachers will conduct watershed monitoring programs, implementing newly developed curriculum ideas and teaching strategies.
In the programs final year, the master teachers will team up with teachers from schools in their regions that would like to participate in GREEN-type programs. The master teachers will prepare regional workshops, set up participation guidelines and offer the programs teaching guide to new GREEN participants.
The program will culminate in the National Evaluation and Dissemination Congress, which will bring together representatives from all watersheds involved in the enhancement program.