Teaching Environmental Sustainability: MMW

The Teaching Environmental Sustainability: Model My Watershed project teaches a systems approach to problem solving through modeling and hands-on activities based on local watershed data and issues. Middle and high school students will act in their communities while engaging in solving problems they find interesting.

The project goal is to promote geospatial literacy and systems thinking. Instructional materials include a new GIS-based web application to analyze real data on environmental impacts related to land use, water quantity/quality and local socioeconomic impacts. The curriculum takes a systems approach to problem solving through hands-on activities based on local data and issues.

The new Model My Watershed app (MMW v2) will be updated to bring new environmental datasets and geospatial capabilities into the classroom. The Teaching Environmental Sustainability curriculum provides a cloud-based learning and analysis portal accessible from a web browser on any computer or mobile device, thus overcoming the cost and technical obstacles to integrating GIS technology in middle and high school education. Students will also use a low-cost Watershed Tracker device to record data about their local watershed. This new low-cost environmental sensor allows students to collect and upload their own data and compare them to data visualized on the new MMW v2 within the five activities (see High School Environmental Science).

We are working with partners across the U.S. Research, curriculum development and teacher professional development will take place in CA, IA, KS, PA and VA, ensuring that project outcomes reach urban and rural populations.

Project Partners

California - Central Valley 
   Science Project
Iowa - Heartland Area 
   Education Agency 
Kansas - UKanTeach
Pennsylvania - Connestoga Valley 
   School District 
Virginia - Longwood University

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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DRL-1417722. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

The goal of the TES: MMW project is to provide students and teachers with access to scientifically valid and easy-to-use watershed tools to accurately examine their own neighborhoods, to define local environmental problems or challenges, and to develop solutions to improve their environment. Effectiveness of the project will be measured by the curriculum’s ability to promote critical incidents for students in terms of their engagement with watershed ideas and concepts both inside the classroom and outside the classroom in their personal lives.

What are critical incidents?

Specific events, situations or influences that lead people to certain educational and career paths or prompt other changes in behavior.

Curriculum designed as a vehicle towards a critical incident will empower users with the tools necessary to:

  • learn about watershed science
  • explore their local watershed
  • evaluate local watershed conditions
  • design and test solutions to current watershed challenges
  • engage in watershed activities/groups/causes in their neighborhood

Our research is guided by four questions:

  1. Are resource, models and tools (RMTs) designed with a local, problem-solving emphasis, using real data and authentic analytical tools effective in teaching watershed content?
  2. What role does the local emphasis of instructional materials have in promoting interest in STEM careers?
  3. Do authentic RMTs designed with a local, problem-solving emphasis encourage students to engage with watershed ideas and concepts outside the classroom in their personal lives? (Can a curriculum be purposefully designed to be a critical incident?)
  4. What aspects of the RMT serve as critical incidents for students leading to a personal interest in watershed sustainability?

Data collection will include a pre-post content knowledge assessment, a modified version of the Relevance of Science Education (ROSE) survey, a data log of students’ online interaction with the watershed model and curriculum, and a critical incident exploratory survey with a sample of follow-up interviews.

In 2015, the project recruited 75 teachers from five states: California, Iowa, Kansas, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Teacher training will begin in summer 2015 and classroom implementation will start in the fall of 2015. Over 5,500 students will use the six-hour TES-MMW curriculum unit during the first year alone.

Five state centers, administered by center directors, will offer the project’s professional development to local teachers.

Teacher Commitment

  • First summer three-day face-to-face training
  • Teaching six-hour unit to their students
  • Two five-week online courses during the school year
  • Second summer two-day face-to-face meeting

Teachers will:

  • Work with scientists from the Stroud Water Research Center and the Concord Consortium to learn content knowledge necessary to modify curricula based on exemplars.
  • Review state scenarios and identify additional areas where students can seek to improve the hydrology while minimizing social disruption and economic impact.
  • Customize an instructional unit from their activities, developing appropriate place-based and problem-based activities that fit within their curricula.
  • Improve their scenario-based activity by further customizing it throughout the academic year.
  • Collect student data and use the results to revise their activities.

Participating teachers will have access to teacher guides for the activities, and be part of an online community for sharing news, ideas, problems and successes.


Using Place-Based Education to Promote STEM Learning & Watershed Citizenship

Download a PowerPoint presentation from NSTA 2017 and learn about Teaching Environmental Sustainability: MMW's exciting free online modeling application that gives anyone (age 8+) the ability to use STEM practices to explore their local watershed.

Download PowerPoint Presentation

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