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Middle School Watershed Awareness Project Report
Bryant Watershed Project, July 2001 to February 2002

Drawing of a watershed.
Sarah, Ava Middle School
  In July 2001, the Bryant Watershed Project was awarded a grant by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to conduct a special project for middle school students.
Our goals for this project were: 
  • Increase the scope and clarity of Atlas materials on the concept of watershed, adding supporting pages about the watersheds surrounding Bryant. 
  • Develop new materials for the Atlas that would increase student awareness of the intersection of our karst topography and nonpoint source pollution. 
  • Build on cooperative relationships with the SMSU Bull Shoals Field Station, the Missouri Department of Conservation, and the Missouri Watershed Information Network
  • Expand use of the Atlas as a resource by working one on one with teachers in area schools, identifying and overcoming barriers. 
How did the project do?
Concept of watershed
"Almost everything runs together. 
If one goes wrong, all goes wrong." 
Sydney Schaeffer, fifth grader
The concept of watershed is challenging to explain on a middle school level. Our new section, What is a Watershed, uses text, photos, and a slideshow of maps to do the job. Illustrations and quotes from local children help kids and adults relate to the information.

Click the map to see the slide show
As we worked with the Local Watersheds Map and its accompanying lesson plan, Watersheds Watersheds Everywhere, we realized that some of the small sheds that share borders with the Bryant are actually in the Missouri River Basin, not the White River basin. This necessitated another article, called A Tale of Two Raindrops, to explain the Ozark Divide

Our volunteer photographer, Pete Callaway, spent countless hours driving the six neighboring watersheds to add photographs to the new stories on those watersheds. Our writer/editor, Marideth Sisco, selected just four or five photos out of the 20-30 shots he provided for each story. Pete also compiled the basic data for the stories. 

Our goal for the minigrant was to add eight new content pages to the Atlas; the actual page count is sixteen, counting the karst movie and map slide show as only one page each. 

"It was a learning experience for me as well as the students. They were eager to learn more about their watersheds."
Darlene Davis, teacher 
Educational specialist Mary Chipps took this lesson plan into five fifth grade classes in the Ava Middle School. Each teacher conducted a short preparatory session, reading through print copies of the What is a Watershed story with the students. Mary then spent two sessions with each class. 

A total of 150 students completed this lesson. The children were excited to locate their school and homes in the different watersheds. However, we learned from the pilot that more time was needed to cover the material. Along with other revisions suggested by Mary and the teachers, the lesson plan is now divided into two sessions. 

"Students relate to this personally, and it addresses our curriculum requirements for local studies." 
Barbara Groover, teacher

Click to see the graphs
  Ms. Groover's class not only located all their watershed addresses, they made graphs of the class's population distribution. Our webkeeper, Susie Coobs, was on site to support Mary, and made suggestions for how to brighten up the drawings for the scanner. The children were so enthusiastic they completed these revisions on their free time.
Karst and Nonpoint Source Pollution
"Don't have cows on a creek!" Kelsey, fifth grader
"A lot of stuff is under the ground."Daniel Farr, fifth grader
The project got a quick start when we found illustrator Mark Giles right here in our own back yard. He created a Flash movie on karst and NPS for us. The movie opens with an animated Ozarks landscape; subsequent "clicks" add a cutaway to show the underground components of karst, and then potential sources of NPS common to our area. Clickable "push pins" reveal the text. His exceptional design work is a sophisticated addition that is most appreciated by the kids.
As adjunct materials for the movie, we created the Karst Movie Teacher Guide, a complete lesson plan with an accompanying student worksheet.

Drawing by Ethan, Ava Middle School

  The supporting text for the movie created a whole new section for the Atlas called Environmental Education. This section contains the content on the definition of nonpoint source pollution and the interaction of karst and NPS.

What to Do about NPS includes multiple links to information and examples of Best Management Practices. Pete added a dramatic story when he photographed silting from a recently cleared pasture on a rainy day.

Mary set up and conducted sessions for all the Ava fifth graders to see the movie in the computer lab. The students read and discussed print versions of the material from this section in preparation for viewing the movie. After the sessions, we reviewed 120 evaluations from the students.

  • Those answering the question "Record two things you learned" split their responses pretty evenly between learning about karst features and learning about pollution sources.
  • More than 10% specifically mentioned that they did not know cows caused pollution in creeks, a significant problem locally.
  • As expected the kids liked the travelling log truck and mooing cows. But we were pleasantly surprised that nearly as many kids named how the push pins worked to reveal the specific text as their favorite part of the movie. Many also mentioned the cutaway.
"I learned that when you put trash on sinkholes, it just goes down and does not stay there." 
Ashley King, fifth grader
"Students were able to see through the cutaway what happens underground to the waterflow."
Mary Kay Davidson, teacher
Drawing by Rex, Ava Middle School
One teacher took her class through the third lesson, Down By the River, and only used the classroom activity, not the research assignment. She reported that the procedure, which has the children act out gathering pollution along the river's path, worked for her kids. She thought it was a worthwhile activity for them. 

Interestingly, in January our webkeeper reported that the What to Do About NPS article has been linked to a page called What is a watershed? on a site currently under construction by the Prince William Environmental Network (Prince William County, Virginia). 

We anticipated creating twelve printable pages of lesson plans; the total is actually twenty-one. Teachers' responses to all the lessons were very positive. Every teacher stated her intention to use the lessons again next year in this same Earth Science unit. They liked the interactive components, and how engaged the students were by them. They commented on the motivation provided by the local content. Most of all they valued the time Mary spent with them to demonstrate the lessons. 

Collaborative relationships
The movie and its supporting lesson plans were up and running in time for the Missouri Department of Conservation training on karst in the early part of August.  More than 35 educators were introduced to the movie and the guides for classroom use at that training. Print materials from the Project, including the Karst Movie Guide, are permanent parts of the five karst trunks, which Melanie Cardin Jensen reports are staying "rented" better then 50% of the time. At Mary’s suggestion, Ava teachers had a trunk in the school during the time of the pilot project, and used the materials.

Click to see the map
  Mike Dickerson at the Bull Shoals Field Station created the Local Watersheds map to our specifications. However, we realized when we compared our School Districts Map to the Local Watersheds Map that a few watersheds included in some school districts are not covered by our new map. Mike is working with us to add those other watersheds.
BWP consultants provided technical assistance to the MoWIN Director, Tabitha Madzura, last fall as she wrote a grant proposal  for a three year project to build websites in five watersheds around the state, using the Atlas as a model. The Middle School Watershed Awareness Project definitely will serve as a template for others to follow in how to introduce the use of those websites to the stakeholders.
Barriers in the instructional use of technology
Since the fully operational site went up 18 months ago, we have been on a steep learning curve as we work with teachers in seven local districts to get the Atlas in use. We are becoming quite familiar with some of the barriers to classroom technology use, and having some success in getting over them. Principal barriers we've identified include: 
1. Teacher work overload. 
2. Lack of actual practice using hardware--computers and digital projection equipment. 
3. Lack of practice using Internet browsers and online resources. 
4. Assumptions that online resources are not standards-relevant.
As a result, local usage of the Atlas was marginal. This project gave us the chance to try several strategies in response: 
  • We created lively and interesting material about familiar local places.
  • We built lesson plans that are standards-aligned and curriculum relevant. 
  • We sent resource people into classrooms to work directly with teachers and students. 
  • This combination of efforts appears to have been quite successful in this school district. Mary worked extensively with the teacher group as well as the librarian and computer teacher to prepare for these lessons. She strategized with them about the technology available to them, and how to use it. 

    In a preliminary visit, Susie noted that the Flash plug-in necessary to watch the movie was not installed on the computers. When she found that the computer support person was unfamiliar with the Flash plug-in, Susie completed the installations herself. The value of the initial hands-on aid Mary and Susie provided cannot be underestimated. 

    For many of the students and teachers this was the first time they had used the lab this school year. About 25% of the students said they had not visited a website before that day. Several of the teachers were won over by the experience, and new relationships were built with the computer resource teacher. The pilot effort in December was directly associated with an upsurge in website page hits of more than of more than 47,000, to a total of 111,332. Since then, Ava Middle School students have continued to use the lab, visiting the Atlas one or two hours a week. Led by Ava, local school districts accounted for 30% of all hits in January without the presence of Project consultants. This is an increase of more than 25% over the first quarter of last year. 

    Future use: This model for the introduction of new material will be replicated by the Project in the future as we develop other topics. Broad dissemination of this set of content and curriculum is the basis for a larger EPA Environmental Education grant now under consideration by the Regional Office. A followup session has been scheduled with the teachers involved in the pilot. Finally, we hope to build sequels to the Karst/NPS Flash movie, showing details of the various sources and effects of NPS.

    This project was a fertile field for BWP. We introduced a new level of interactive technology to the Atlas. We succeeded in designing a sequence of marketing and demonstration that produced a significant change in the participating teachers. We are pleased to meet and exceed so many of our goals and to learn from the challenges that came up. Our young people, and our creeks, are the genuine beneficiaries.

    "You got to check it out. It is so cool. It might be about pollution, but pollution is not cool. The website is."
    Nicole King, fifth grader
    Drawing by Kelsea, Ava Elementary School
    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region VII, through the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, has provided partial funding for this project under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act. Further funding provided by our Community Partners.
    Written by Lois Reborne
    BWP Program Development.