Educating About Water

Educating About Water


Brightwater: An Opportunity for Connection

Mithun-Brightwater-Center-lead

The treatment facility employs state-of-the-art technology for a cleaner effluent and odorless operation.

by Cynthia Thomashow

T3he Metro bus opens its doors, releasing 40 fourth-graders who have ridden an hour from South Seattle to the Brightwater Water Treatment Center in Woodinville, Washington. “We’re in the wilderness!” squeals one of the young boys. To his credit, the landscape is very different from his urban schoolyard. But, just 20 years ago Brightwater was an industrial site, housing an old soup factory and a scrap-metal heap. Now it is home to a state-of- the-art water treatment center, flourishing wetlands, a LEED Platinum environmental education center, and 40+ acres of woods and fields crisscrossed by trails and abundant wildlife.

In 2011, IslandWood, an environmental education center on Bainbridge Island, Washington, won the contract to provide educational programming at Brightwater in partnership with Seattle Public Utilities to a mostly urban population. The Center is a laboratory and gathering place filled with interpretive displays that creatively connect water quality, engineered waste treatment processes, and the health of the Puget Sound to everyday life choices. IslandWood educators use this site to deliver field-study approaches that enhance science curriculum in the King County schools. Woven into every lesson is relevance of the field-based learning to the home environment of the urban students.

Students enter BrightwaterCenterOver 4,000 students come through the doors of Brightwater each year to study Freshwater Ecosystems, Land Forms and Humans in the Water Cycle with IslandWood educators. Sparked by the question, “Which pond at Brightwater has more types of water bugs, Storm Pond (an untreated storm water runoff catchment) or Otter Pond (a pond fed by a stream originating in the watershed above the treatment plant)?” Students may spend half the day mucking through wetlands, climbing hilly fields, and dipping their nets into containment ponds to collect macro-invertebrates. Student make observations and predictions about freshwater ecosystems in the field, collect specimens, tabulate data using microscopes in the lab and discuss their results together.

Another key question, “What happens when we ‘borrow’ water from the water cycle in our homes, schools and businesses?” begins the study of how humans participate in the water cycle every time they turn on their tap, run the dishwasher or go to the bathroom. During the Humans and the Water Cycle program, students experience the treatment process first-hand, discuss water issues in an interactive exhibit hall, and participate in a hands-on lab focusing on three different water-related STEM careers.

An ongoing professional development challenge for staff is to connect the field experiences to the actual neighborhoods where students live. The goal of IslandWood’s Brightwater Team is to ‘urbanize’ their signature field-based approach of getting kids outdoors to the urban settings where students live. Once a month, staff delve into the assumptions that define our goals around environmental education, considering equity issues, environmental justice and cultural competency as it relates to educational approaches. Every time a new group of students arrives at Brightwater, a conceptual shift moves the educators closer to relevant and meaningful engagement with the young urban leaders of tomorrow’s world.

BrightwaterArtInstallation

An installation by artist Jane Tsong illustrates the treatment process to visitors through poetry, and “blesses” the water before it is released.

(Photo credit: Juan Hernandez.)

Coastal Margin Science and Education

Coastal Margin Science and Education

CMOP: The Best Environmental Education Program You’ve (Probably) Never Heard About

gliderworkshop-group.
.

Coastal Margin Science and Education in the Era of Collaboratories

by Vanessa L. Green, Nievita Bueno Watts, Karen Wegner, Michael Thompson, Amy F. Johnson, Tawnya D. Peterson and António M. Baptista

cmop

.

I-bluenterdisciplinary science is needed to make big decisions when it comes to complex and fragile ecological environments such as the Columbia River estuary. Effective communication of that science is necessary to engage students and to work across scientists, educators. policy-makers and the general community. For these reasons, the Center for Coastal Margin Observation and Prediction (CMOP) has developed a “coastal margin collaboratory,” which brings together sensor networks, computer models, cyber-infrastructure, people and institutions to better understand the Columbia River coastal margin ecosystem as a whole (Baptista et al. 2008).

CMOP scientists study the Columbia River and transform the openly shared data and tools into a better understanding of current conditions and into the anticipation of future trends from increasing climate and anthropogenic pressures. Many types of users access CMOP data for their own needs and/or collaborate with CMOP on joint scientific and educational efforts. Through the collaboratory, CMOP enables a common understanding among interested groups such as natural resource managers for local, state, federal and tribal agencies, enabling effective discussions and long-range planning.

WHAT ARE COASTAL MARGINS?

noaa_animation_800x390_screenshot02Coastal margins, broadly defined as the interface between land and ocean, contain important and highly productive ecosystems. They often mitigate the negative impacts of human activities from local to global scales, for example ‘filtering out’ excess nutrients that enter watersheds from fertilizer applications. Coastal margin environments are naturally variable because of tides, seasons and year-to- year differences in the forcing from rivers, oceans, and the atmosphere. Ecosystems adapt to that natural variability, but are often less well equipped to adjust to major shifts caused by population growth, economic development and global climate change. CMOP seeks to understand how biological and chemical components of the Columbia River interface with and are affected by physical processes, with the ultimate goal of predicting how they might respond to climate change and increased regional development.

A recent study (Frontier Economics Limited 2012) estimates that the world’s ten most populated river basins account today for l0% of the global gross domestic product, and that by 2050 that share will grow Io 25%, which will be more than the combined gross domestic product of the United States, Germany and Japan. This type of growth could be ecologically devastating, locally and globally, should it not be managed in a perspective of long-term sustainability and with the support of sound science. The datasets and predictions provided by the CMOP collaboratory can serve as useful examples that can be “exported” to other similar river and estuary systems worldwide.

THE COLUMBIA RIVER-TO-OCEAN ECOSYSTEM

virtualcrThe Columbia River watershed extends across seven states in the United States and two provinces in Canada, and contributes about 70% of the freshwater input to the Pacific Ocean between San Francisco and Juan de Fuca (Barnes et al. 1972). Big decisions are needed to determine policy about the hydroelectric dams, protection and regulation of the migratory salmon, and changes in water quality such as ocean-driven estuarine hypoxia and acidification. All of this is set in the context of continued population growth, economic development and climatic change-and amidst a complex regulatory environment that includes the Endangered Species Act, a federal treaty between the U.S government and Native American tribes, and a soon-to-be renegotiated treaty between the U.S. and Canada.

CMOP science has already led to the identification of previously unrecognized environmental issues, from a benign but ecologically relevant seasonal red water bloom in the Columbia River estuary (Hertfort et aI. 2012) to the development of seasonal and severe ocean-driven estuarine hypoxia (Roegner et al. 2011) and potential acidification- and is showing how those apparently distinct processes are tied together. CMOP science is also contributing to an understanding of anthropogenic and climatic changes to estuarine and ocean processes, which affect salmon habitat and life cycle.

THE CMOP EDUCATIONAL PATHWAY

Progress towards our scientific goals has opened exciting opportunities to entrain a new and diverse workforce in coastal margin science. CMOP offers an educational pathway that includes a broad range of age-appropriate activities for students and teachers. Our pathway includes short courses; camps; sustained professional development programs for teachers; curricula for high school classes; individualized research experiences through high school, undergraduate and teacher internships; interdisciplinary graduate curricula through Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) and affiliated degree programs at partner universities; and lifelong opportunities for scientists and natural resources professionals to incorporate outcomes of CMOP science in their activities and decision-making processes (Figure 2).

OCAMPteachers

From left, Sam Case third-grade teacher Fanny Drews, Newport Intermediate fifth-grade teacher Christie Walker, Taft Elementary fifth-grade teacher Valerie Baker and sixth-grade teachers Beth Parsons and Kara Allen identify microbes that live on marine debris. Photo courtesy of NewsGuard of Lincoln County, Oregon.

Teachers and informal educators engage with CMOP in a variety of ways. Teachers access data through user-friendly modules that can be used to plot time series and explore correlations between estuary variables. As an example, teachers could design an experiment that demonstrates how red water blooms influence dissolved oxygen levels, using CMOP’s models to explore various scenarios. CMOP offers a regularly updated activity archive on the CMOP website (Science Activities and Curriculum URL). Lessons are designed for adaptability between age groups and data are appropriate for math, science, and social science classrooms. These lesson plans align with the essential principles of Ocean Literacy and the Next Generation Science Standards (Ocean Literacy Guide URL) and were generated through an interactive teacher professional development workshop. Teachers can engage in individualized internships of their own, conducting original research within CMOP teams and incorporating their experiences into their classroom curricula.

A three-year collaboration of the Oregon Coast Aquatic and Marine Partnership (OCAMP) consisting of CMOP, the Lincoln County School District, Hatfield Marine Science Center, Oregon Sea Grant, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife/Oregon Hatchery Research Center, the Oregon Coast Aquarium, and the Bureau of Land Management’s Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area aimed to provide teachers with the tools needed to carry out meaningful field experiences and inquiry driven learning while improving ocean literacy during sustained, year-round professional development colloquia as well as summer workshops. A follow-up program, entitled the Oregon Coast Regional STEM Center, extended OCAMP’s partnership to include Tillamook School District, Western Oregon University, and a variety of local businesses and agencies, and seeks to support teachers in their use of problem-based learning to improve student outcomes in STEM disciplines through engagement and the incorporation of 2lst century skills. The latter program is being carried out in a blended model of professional development, with in-person and web-based activities. CMOP can also engage with an entire school community through the CMOP- School Collaboratories (CSC) program. Cohorts of teachers from CSC partner schools can engage with CMOP to develop an integrated curriculum that emphasizes an inter-connected environment (Hugo et al. 2013).

THE VALUE OF A SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY CENTER

CMOP remote sensorsThe structure of the National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center program (NSF STC) has greatly enabled the development of this educational pathway through the decade-long investment in exploratory yet rigorous, potentially transformative science. lt is this structure that allows CMOP to expose students to a multi-disciplinary approach, engaging scientists from a broad range of relevant fields and from several collaborating universities, as well as practitioners from many state, federal and tribal agencies and from industry. The longevity of the STC investment has also contributed to our ability to effectively engage in sustained efforts to broaden participation among Native American, Alaska Native (Bueno Watts and Smythe 2015) and other groups underrepresented in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) disciplines.

The synergy among anchoring academic partners (OHSU, Oregon State University and University of Washington, in the case of CMOP) is critically important to the success of a STC. Also critical is the engagement of regional stakeholders, which offer a natural, realistic, enriching and often pressing context for our science and education programs. For instance, Native American tribes of the Columbia River have historically been active and effective stewards of the land, water and natural resources in the basin. The Columbia River lnter-Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC) has partnered with CMOP to identify potential threats to salmon and lamprey through investigation of factors that influence habitat quality. This collaboration has effectively engaged several Native American students in the CMOP education pathway and has also educated non-Native students on tribal cultures and natural resource management strategies.
DEVELOPING THE COASTAL MARGIN WORKFORCE

student-datareviewCMOP students are engaged at all levels of the collaboratory. They participate in the development of sensors and models, and take active part in oceanographic cruises that might range from research to mariner-training vessels, autonomous underwater vehicles (Figure 3) and even kayaks (Rathmell et al. 2013). CMOP students, from high school to graduate, conduct research projects that relate to important biological hotspots, attempting holistic descriptions of their underlying physics and biogeochemistry that cover gene-to-climate scales. Students learn, shoulder-to-shoulder with researchers and practitioners, how to characterize, predict and inter-relate processes driving estuarine hypoxia and acidification. plankton blooms, and the biogeochemistry of lateral bays and of estuarine turbidity maxima (ETM)-turbid water regions located at the heads of coastal plain estuaries near the freshwater/saltwater interface. CMOP students also gain an understanding of broad topics that provide context to CMOP research science initiatives, such as global nutrient cycles, climate change, managing natural resources, mitigating natural hazards, and protecting fragile ecosystems.

Within the curriculum or with their mentor teams, students conduct fieldwork in the Columbia River estuary and in the coastal waters of Oregon and Washington using a variety of approaches, ranging from simple cmop2river-front water sampling from a dock to participation in major research campaigns aboard University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS) vessels. Students gain hands-on experience within laboratories, using state-of-the-art equipment such as imaging flow cytometers (FlowCAM), an Environmental Sample Processor (ESP), a Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth Sensor (CTD), or a Scanning Electron Microscope. Students also gain exposure to the “Virtual Columbia River,” a data-rich simulation environment that offers multiple representations of circulation and ecological processes, including their variability and change across river-to-shelf scales (Virtual Columbia River URL). The models that form the Virtual Columbia River simulate estuarine conditions, enabling predictions of changing physical properties (tides, currents, salinity and temperature) and biogeochemical cycles (e.g., nitrogen and carbon) important to ecosystem management. Comparisons between field observations and model simulations allow for continued learning and refinement of the process.

INCORPORATING CMOP SCIENCE INTO THE CLASSROOM

Ocean Literacy & OCAMPCurricula available on the CMOP website combine elements of coastal oceanography, environmental microbiology, biogeochemistry, computational sciences, and information technology. Student participants in K-12 activities have continued working with CMOP, ‘graduating” to more sophisticated, longer-term participation as undergraduate interns. Likewise, undergraduate interns have continued their research by matriculating into the CMOP-affiliated M.S./Ph.D. Environmental Science and Engineering degree program offered through the lnstitute of Environmental Health (IEH) at OHSU. IEH graduates have gone on to related careers in academia, private research, and with related federal and state agencies. To date, CMOP has served over 800 K-l2 students, over 70 teachers, over 100 undergraduate students, and has graduated 28 M.S. and Ph.D. students. CMOP students have graduated from the Environmental Science and Engineering Program at Oregon Health & Science University; the Ocean, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Program at Oregon State University; the Computer Science program at Portland State University; the Marine Estuarine Environmental Sciences program at the University of Maryland; the Computer Science program at the University of Utah; the Physical Oceanography Program and the Biological Oceanography Program at the University of Washington. Students who have engaged in the CMOP Education “pathway” have become citizen scientists with a nuanced knowledge of coastal-margin science issues, and many have gained expertise and skills that have enabled them to contribute to a growing professional workforce in coastal margin science.

For middle- and high-school students, CMOP offers classes. day-camps and high-school internships in partnership with Saturday Academy, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing hands-on, in-depth learning and problem-solving activities. Past topics have included microbiology, marine biology, oceanography, and ocean technology. The curriculum is designed to enable students to easily identify the importance of coastal-margin related issues to their own academic interests and personal lives.

Undergraduate interns join CMOP mentor teams, which include a “Frontline Mentor” and a “senior Scientist.” The Frontline Mentor-typically a graduate student, staff member or post-doctoral fellow-establishes a project relevant to one or more CMOP research initiative. The Senior Scientist mentor provides guidance and ensures academic caliber. Over the course of the ten-week program, interns gain autonomy within their mentor teams as they gain contextual knowledge and skills. lnterns regularly interact with each other and with other CMOP participants through professional development seminars encompassing scientific themes, career opportunities and scientific ethics. lnterns visit sites along the river from Bonneville Dam to downtown Portland and to the mouth of the Columbia River estuary, to gain a first-hand understanding and appreciation of the complex interactions of biological, chemical, and physical processes. lnterns document their work through a daily lab notebook, a weekly blog (Undergraduate lnternships URL), a final presentation and a synthesizing paper. lntern research projects have been thoroughly incorporated into CMOP research; interns have co-authored CMOP publications in peer-reviewed journals (Publications URL) and have presented at national and international conferences (Presentations URL).

ASSESSING IMPACT

The CMOP Education program seeks to make full use of the resources available to this NSF STC to enable a wide range of teachers, students, and other users to learn more about and contribute to place-based knowledge of coastal margins. The University of Washington’s Office of Educational Assessment regularly evaluates the effectiveness of our program. Evaluations include surveys and focus groups with each participant cohort as well as follow-up surveys for longitudinal data. Data analyses demonstrate that high school and undergraduate participants in CMOP programs have increased interest in STEM education; increased confidence in their ability to engage in STEM research; enhanced relevant technical and professional skills, and, for undergraduate students, clarified research foci both within their degree programs and related to their decision of graduate programs. Eighty-seven percent of undergraduate survey respondents who obtained bachelor degrees went on to matriculate into STEM graduate programs, 4O% in fields related to their internships. All of these graduates agreed or strongly agreed that “Being part of the [CMOP] summer internship strengthened my application to this graduate degree program.”

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

CMOP is primarily supported by the National Science Foundation, through cooperative agreement OCE-O4246O2. Crant CEO-I034611 extended our CSC program to Native Alaskans.

REFERENCES

Baptista, A., Howe, B., Freire, J., Maier, D., & Silva, C. T. (2008).

Scientific exploration in the era of ocean observatories. Computing in Science & Engineering, l0 (3),53-58.

Barnes, C. A., Duxbury, A. C., and Morse, B. (1972). Circulation and selected properties of the Columbia River effluent at sea. ln: The Columbio River Estuory and Adjocent Oceon Woters: Bioenvironmental Studies, edited by A.T. Pruter and D.L. Alverson. Seattle: University of Washington Press, pp. 71-80.

Bueno Watts, N. & Smythe, W F. (2013). It takes a community to raise a scientist:A case for community-inspired research and science education in an Alaska Native community. Current: The Journal of Morine Educotion 2B(3).

Frontier Economics Limited. (2012). Exploring the links between woter ond economic growth: A report prepared for HSBC. London, England: Frontier Economics Limited.

Herfort, 1., Peterson, T. D., Prahl, F. C., McCue, L. A., Needoba, J. A., Crump, B. C., Roegner, C. C., Campbell, V., & Zuber, P. QO12). Red waters of Myrionecto rubrq are biogeochemical hotspots for the Columbia River estuary with impacts on primary/secondary productions and nutrient cycles. Estuories ond Coqsts,35 (3), B7B-891.

Hugo, R., Smythe, W., McAllister, S., Young, B., Maring, B. & Baptista, A. (2013). Lessons learned from a K-’12 geoscience education program in an Alaska Native community. Journal of Sustainability Education,5 (SSN 2-51:7452).

Ocean Literacy Cuide URL http:,/www.coexploration.orgl ocean literacy/documents/Ocea n LitC u ide_LettersizeV2.pdf

Presentations URL http://www.stccmop.orglknowledge_transfer/presentations

Publications URL http://www.stccmop.orglpublications

Rathmell, K., Wilkin, M., Welle, P., Mattson, T., & Baptista, A. (2015). A very smart kayak. Current: The Journal of Marine Education QB)3.

Roegner, C. C., Needoba, J. A., & Baptista, A. (20I). Coastal upwelling supplies oxygen-depleted water to the Columbia River estuary. PLoS ONE, 6 @), e18672.

doi:1O.137 1 /journal.pone.00l 8672

Science Activities and Curriculum URL http://www.stccmop.org/education/teacher/activityarchive

Undergraduate lnternships URL http://www.stccmop.org/education/undergraduate

Virtual Columbia River URL http://www.stccmop.org/datamart/virtualcolumbiariver

AUTHORS

Vanessa L. Green M.S. serves as Director of Student Development and Diversity at the NSF Science and Technology Center for Coastal Margin Observation and Prediction. Having earned a M.S. in Higher Education Administration she has focused her career on broadening participation and increasing engagement, persistence and retention among first-generation and underrepresented students in high school, undergraduate and graduate programs. She served as a founding faculty member and Dean of Students at the King George School in Vermont and served as a member of the Board of Trustees at Marlboro College. She currently serves on the Education and Outreach Steering Committee for the Center for Dark Energy Biosphere lnvestigations (C-DEBI).

Nievita Bueno Watts Ph.D. is a geotogist, science educator and Director of Academic Programs at the NSF Science and Technology Center for Coastal Margin Observation & Prediction. She conducts research on broadening the participation of underrepresented minorities in the sciences and serves on the Board of Directors of the Geoscience Alliance, a national organization dedicated to building pathways for Native American participation in the geosciences.

Karen Wegner MSW was rhe first Director for K-12 Education for the NSF Science and Technology Center for Coastal Margin Observation & Prediction. She brought years of experience as a wildlife biologist and environmental educator to CMOP. Along with education partners Saturday Academy and the SMILE Program she developed K-12 programs initially offered at CMOP. She credits the success of the K-12 program to the fantastic support offered by CMOP researches and students. Karen is now a Palliative Care Social Worker and Program Manager in Montana.

Michael Thompson Ph.D. is the Education and Outreach Coordinator at the NSF Science ahd Technology Center for Coastal Margin and Observation. He has an M.S. in Biochemistry and a PhD in Chemical Education with a focus in Engineering Education. He has been instrumental in the establishment of the EPICS High-school program, development and implementation of teacher training workshops, STEM learning communities for undergraduates, and service-learning experiences for high-school and undergraduate students.

Amy F. Johnson M.S, serves as the Managing Director for the NSF Science and Technology Center for Coastal Margin Observation and Prediction. Having earned an M.S. in Management in Science and Technology, she has years of experience managing in science and technology companies and education institutions. Prior to joining CMOP she was the Assistant Dean for Craduate Education at the OCI School of Science & Engineering at the Oregon Health & Science University.

Tawnya D. Peterson Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Institute of Environmental Health at Oregon Health & Science University. She holds a Ph.D. in Biological Oceanography and carries out research that seeks to identify the factors that shape planktonic community diversity and function in aquatic systems. ln addition to scientific research, she is interested in the development and implementation of professional development programs for K-l2 teachers.

Antonio M. Baptista Ph.D. is a professor and director of the lnstitute of Environmental Health, Oregon Health & Science University and the director of the NSF Science and Technology Center for Coastal Margin Observation & Prediction. He has 25 years of experience in team science and graduate-level teaching, and uses leading edge coastal-margin science and technology as a catalyst for informed management decisions, workforce development and broadening participation.

PHOTO CREDITS

All Photos: Courtesy of CMOP staff member Jeff Schilling

Reprinted from Current, the Journal of the National Marine Education Association

 

The Power of One

The Power of One

 

CadutoPic4

The Power of One

by Michael J. Caduto

You must be the change you wish to see in the world.
—    Mahatma Gandhi

 

About five years ago I started to plan for a new book for children, parents and teachers about global climate change. I soon found that there was no shortage of materials that addressed how humankind is generating greenhouse gases, and explained the myriad ways in which this pollution is changing the weather and impacting people’s lives and environmental health worldwide.

Climate Change on a Kid’s Scale

When I began presenting a related program called Kids’ Power, I encountered a deep-seated concern among many young people who were struggling with this overarching environmental issue. Children’s natural instincts lead them to want to do something about the issues that affect people and the natural world, especially plants and animals, but climate change doesn’t lend itself to clear cut projects like Pennies for Peace or setting up a school-wide recycling program. Some students were vexed by the complexity of climate change; some felt that the issue was so grand they couldn’t take meaningful personal action to help solve the problem; still others saw it as a challenge to meet head-on. One thing was clear: In order for children to know what can be done to solve the problem of climate change, they must have a solid understanding of how our actions affect the environment, as well as what kinds of natural and physical forces can be used to solve the related problems.

The book that was finally published, Catch the Wind, Harness the Sun, explores climate change and includes activities for helping to solve the problem. It then takes a critical step beyond—helping youth to understand the principles behind the forces of nature so that they can harness the power of the sun and wind to generate renewable energy for use in everyday life. To those ends, it covers essential concepts in physics, such as the electromagnetic energy engaged in wind turbines and when pedaling a bicycle generator.

 

CadutoSidebar1The Power of One

I also discovered a phenomenon that I call The Power of One: every single positive action taken by each individual adds up to create a huge impact. For example: whenever fortyfive kids convince their parents to replace just one incandescent lightbulb at home with an energy-efficient compact fluorescent light (CFL) or light-emitting diode (LED) bulb, they save more than enough energy to supply all of the lighting for one entire household. If every home in the United States replaced just one incandescent lightbulb with an energy-efficient bulb, it would have the same effect as taking 800,000 cars off the road— reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 9 billion pounds each year. And if each and every household in the United States simply started drying clothes online, instead of using a clothes dryer, we would immediately cut down on the use of enough electricity to shut down thirty average-sized coal-fired power plants. Every action we take to cut down on energy use and generate renewable energy combines with the actions of others to produce a positive synergistic effect.

Green Giants

Still, something else was needed in the book; inspirational stories about young people who have responded to current environmental challenges with projects and programs that are creating a brighter future. These young people come from throughout North America and from such far-flung countries as the United Arab Emirates. Their projects range from the “Cool Coventry Club” (Connecticut) that encourages commitments to reduce energy consumption, generate renewable energy and cut back on greenhouse gases; to anti engine-idling campaigns in Utah and Manitoba; and to generating local hydroelectric power for rural villages in the mountains of Indonesia.

The common element among all of these successful projects is that the children use local resources, harnessed by virtue of their own ingenuity, to make a real contribution toward fighting climate change and other environmental problems. They demonstrate how the solutions are all around us—blowing in the wind, shining down upon us from our home star and flowing through remote mountain streams. These “Green Giants” show that it is possible to (literally) set and run our clocks by using the forces of nature; to create a new world of renewable energy in which fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) will become obsolete.

We adults have left today’s children with a legacy of environmental problems on a global scale. The least we can do is provide them with the knowledge and skills they need, as well as a sense of their own personal power, so that they can understand how to live in balance with the environment today in order to create a sustainable future. Saving our home planet us an exciting, empowering and fun way to connect with other youth in a common cause. Following is an example of how twelve-year-old Adeline Tiffanie Suwana started an environmental movement in Indonesia that has become a powerful force for improving the lives of many people and caring for the natural world.

 

Friend of Nature

Adeline Tiffanie Suwana
Kelapa Gading Permai, Indonesia

Excerpted from: Catch the Wind, Harness the Sun: 22 Super-Charged Science Projects for Kids. ©2011 by Michael J. Caduto. Used with permission from Storey Publishing.

CadutoPic1Adeline was eleven years old and had just graduated from Primary Six in Indonesia when she first got involved with protecting the environment. “I think the most important environmental issue that we face in Indonesia and the world today is Climate Change, which has already disrupted our environment and communities,” she says, “Disasters such as floods, drought, and sinking islands could become more frequent and more severe. Those concerns encouraged me to start asking children to understand, commit and act to save our Earth.”

Many of Indonesia’s low-lying coastal farms would flood if sea levels continue to rise due to global warming. Two thousand of the nation’s smaller islands could be underwater by 2030. Rising temperatures may shorten the rainy season and make storms more severe. These changes would affect Indonesia’s rice yield—the staple food for more than 230 million people.

“Nature is declining in quality at an alarming rate,” Adeline says, “starting from where we live and stretching to the sea—the river, the forest and the air that we breathe. The effects can be felt in the form of floods, air pollution and beach erosion due to climate change and global warming.”

But Adeline is hopeful. Speaking with wisdom beyond her years, she says that, starting at an early age, children need to be encouraged to grow a sense of love and caring toward nature and the environment.

CadutoSidebar2Planting Trees in a Fragile Land

How does an eleven-year-old start to save the world? In July 2008, after graduating from primary school, Adeline spent her holiday teaching friends about the importance of mangrove trees. Soon they were planting mangroves at Taman Wisata Alam Angke Kapuk, the Jakarta Mangrove Rehabilitation Center.

She says that in order for the project to succeed, it was important “to make children include their parents so that they start realizing that it is time that we contribute to the world to save our mother nature from destruction.”

Adeline’s enthusiasm is contagious. She and her colleagues soon formed a group called Sahabat Alam, or “Friends of Nature.” The number of children who joined Sahabat Alam and the environmental projects they took on grew quickly. The group’s activities included ecotourism, planting coral reefs, freeing Penyu Sisik (hawksbill turtles) and cleaning marine debris from beaches.

Several national and international Environmental Organizations have now recognized the work of Sahabat Alam. In May of 2009 Friends of Nature received the Biodiversity Foundation’s (Yayasan Kehati’s) Highest Award and Appreciation in honor of the group’s commitment toward developing awareness among children and youth as the next generation of stewards of Indonesia’s biodiversity.

CadutoPic2Adeline says she feels honored that she was awarded first place in the 2009 International Young Eco-Hero Awards (for ages eight to thirteen) by the San Francisco-based Action for Nature, a non-profit organization that aims to inspire young people to take action for the environment and protect the natural world in their own neighborhood and around the globe. She was also selected as an Indonesian Delegate by UNEP (United Nation Environment Programme) to participate in the 2009 TUNZA International Children’s Conference in Daejon, Korea in August 2009.

Adeline doesn’t see herself as being much different from any other twelve-year-old. “I am not the only Eco-Hero,” she says. “Children, youths and adults all over the world can do the same thing as long as they have the willingness and commitment. This comes first from the heart, then from sharing with friends and starting to take action.”

CadutoPic3Helping Rural Families

Adeline also sees the connection between the needs of people and the natural world. “I would like to help our remote brothers and sisters to fulfill their dream [of] flowing electricity into their houses for children to study, watch television, cook and all other activities, especially at night.” She is now involved with a program that is bringing electricity into remote areas that have never before had power. She points out that, “Nearly half of Indonesia’s 235 million people live in areas without electricity.”

The solution? An Electric Generator Water Reel, a small hydroelectric generator that uses the natural power of a waterfall to produce what Adeline describes as “clean, environmentally friendly, Green, renewable and sustainable energy that does not increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere or worsen the greenhouse effect.” The water reel simply turns in the falling water and doesn’t affect the waterfall or the flow of the stream. (See the box called “Reel Math”.)

Sahabat Alam is getting lots of help from parents and sisters, as well as the Indonesian Ministry of Environment. For the first installation, the group traveled to the region of South Cianjur, West Java, which is a four-hour drive from Jakarta. After walking up into the mountains for another two hours, the team finally reached the village of Kampung Cilulumpang. By the time they left, the villagers had electricity for the first time in their lives. The group is now building Electric Generator Water Reels for two other villages, and it plans to bring this project to villagers throughout Indonesia.

“Previously, children’s voices were not heard,” says Adeline, “but now, we are coming together to voice our commitment to our national leaders and world leaders, to make peace and start having one voice to save the Earth.”

CadutoPic4“I share and affirm with all of them that, even with our small hands, children can initiate, contribute and implement environmental projects starting from their small community to nation-wide projects to contributing to the world by helping hinder climate change and global warming and save the earth from further destruction.”

“We are the next and future generations of the world. In our hands, the world and its contents are at stake.”

CadutoReelMathSidebar

Resources

Adeline Tiffanie Suwana’s Friends of Nature website
Action for Nature
Change the World Kids
Young Voices on Climate Change
YouTube video for Catch the Wind, Harness the Sun
Sources That Explain Global Climate Change:
Tiki the Penguin
Global Warming Question and Answer Web Site, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/
National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS) Asheville, North Carolina
Renewable Energy for Kids:
EcoKids Canada, Earth Day Canada, Toronto, Ontario
Energy Kids, U.S. Energy Information Agency, Washington, D.C.
Curriculum Connections:
The Pembina Institute: Lessons & Activities, Curriculum Links
Natural Resources Canada’s Climate Change Teacher Resources: Grade 5

 

Michael J. Caduto, author, environmental educator, storyteller and ecologist, is well known as the creator and co-author of the landmark Keepers of the Earth® series and Native American Gardening. He also wrote Pond and Brook and Earth Tales from Around the World. His latest books are Catch the Wind, Harness the Sun: 22 Supercharged Projects for Kids (Storey Publishing) and Riparia’s  River (Tilbury House). His many awards include the Aesop Prize, NAPPA Gold Award and the Brimstone Award (National Storytelling Network). Michael’s programs and publications are described on his website: www.p-e-a-c-e.net

 

CadutoAd

Can technology  connect us to place?

Can technology connect us to place?

WC_12-05_Snyder_3_webB&WHomewaters Project, an educational nonprofit in Seattle, successfully uses Geographic Information System (GIS) technology as one of its methods of connecting students to their natural and social communities.

By Todd Burley, Homewaters Project

As place-based educators, we often shudder at the notion that technology can connect people to the world around them.  The very idea of sitting in front of a computer to learn about your home place seems incongruous.  But Homewaters Project, an educational nonprofit in Seattle, successfully uses Geographic Information System (GIS) technology as one of its methods of connecting students to their natural and social communities.

ALERT: You need to be a CLEARING subscriber to read the rest of this article.
(enter password then hit return button on your keyboard for best results)

[password]

In the foreword to David Sobel’s book Place-Based Education, Laurie Lane-Zucker defines place-based education as “the pedagogy of community, the reintegration of the individual into her homeground, and the restoration of the essential links between a person and her place.”  Elementary school students must begin this process by simply developing awareness and knowledge of their local environment and community.  For middle and high school students, however, appropriate education engages them in their community as active citizens.

Technology can actually be used to connect these older students to certain social and environmental issues in their community that are beyond direct experience in both time and scope.  Consider:

• Population density in relation to stream health,
• Income levels in relation to pollution spots, or
• Shoreline changes over the past century.

How can a teacher bring these locally relevant large social and environmental issues to light?

WC_1-06_Gourd_1_webB&W

Water and Community
In three Seattle middle schools, eighth grade students use technology to visualize these complex neighborhoods and watershed issues in their own home place.  Coordinated and created by Homewaters Project, the Water and Community GIS Program brings together real world data from local governments, volunteers from local colleges, and the GIS software ArcView to help prepare students to become active citizens.

Designed to last about a month, Water and Community engages students in the ecological and social issues of their home place while teaching them the GIS skills that professional planners use to help understand and solve such issues.  Using their home watershed as the organizing framework, the students investigate water quality issues using different data layers, including:

-one that shows where nearby streams are,
-one that pinpoints leaking underground storage tanks, and
-one that displays the population density by census tract.
These line, point, and area layers can be placed over each other (like transparencies) to visualize their relationships, and together provide a basis for students to investigate questions about hydrology and water quality in their community.

Students also use GIS data to find out specific information about features such as creek names, businesses that require pollution permits, or predominant types of land cover in their neighborhood.  Rather than learning about issues in far away states or countries, these students study the deeper story behind places they see everyday.  Over the course of five classroom sessions, they learn information about their neighborhood that few residents ever discover.  Prepared by this experience, Water and Community participants become more informed and, hopefully, more engaged future citizens.

WC_GraphicB&WMaking Learning Relevant
One problem with technology in education is that it can lack relevance for students.  Yet the Water and Community GIS Program offers an example of how to connect students to their place using technology.  When the concept of place-based education guides the application of technology, truly remarkable learning can result.

As always, a key question must be, “What is the goal?”  If technology enhances the student learning experience and helps achieve that goal, technology can be a wonderful tool.  For Homewaters Project, and other place-based education organizations, the goal is to connect people to their home place and engage them in their community.

As students reach middle and high school age, GIS application using local data can bring alive and clarify complex issues every community must confront — and make the issues immediate for young people as they prepare to become citizens.  While every community is unique, and obviously not every educational goal can be served with technology, Homewaters Project shows that strategically applied technology can enhance place-based education.

[/password]

Todd Burley is the Outreach Coordinator for the Homewaters Project in Seattle. Homewaters can be reached at 9600 College Way North, Seattle WA 98103; (206) 526-0187 or at www.homewatersproject. org