This page provides information and updates on different outreach projects that I am currently working on or have recently completed. These projects are primarily outreach projects or collaborations with primary and secondary education teachers/classes. Many of these projects aim to help improve current teaching methods and/or bringing students into field and allowing them to learn science through experimentation and exploration, rather than through a powerpoint presentation and lecture.

Columbus HS Stream Team (Columbus, MS) - (Ongoing)

A group of Columbus High School students and their teacher recently attended a Water Quality and Stream Health training workshop through the University of Maine. The workshop exposed students to the methods of collecting and analyzing data, as well as thinking about the “big picture” of how pollution can have far-reaching negative effects.

I was approached by the teacher to help provide additional assistance to the group in areas such as macroinvertebrate (“aquatic bugs”, essentially) community sampling and analysis. Groups of macroinvertebrates vary in their tolerance to pollution; so if we identify which groups are present in the stream, we can gain some insight to the level of pollution within the stream. Groups such as the Stoneflies (Plecoptera), Mayflies (Ephemeroptera), and Caddisflies (Trichoptera) are very sensitive to changes in habitat and water quality; thus, the presence, or absences, of these groups can provide key information about the health of the stream.

The students, many of which are experiencing a stream for the first time in their lives, are gaining firsthand experience using skills such as scientific inquiry, problem solving, exploration, and sampling techniques. These skills are crucial for future scientific learning but also help to better prepare the students for their day-to-day lives, no matter what academic field their pursue.

The students are also experiencing a side of science that many primary and secondary students miss out on, field-based inquiry. Most scientific lessons take place in the classroom, or lab, and are built as a “cookie cutter” lesson where the outcome is already known, at minimum, by the teacher. These lessons instill a sense of rigidity and often a boring view of science for many students. By taking the lesson out into the field, a setting where anything can happen, students can experience the sense of wonder and surprise that is so important to creating an atmosphere of fun and a desire to learn and solve the problem.