The new watershed education website provides a variety of resources for both students and teachers alike.
The new watershed education website provides a variety of resources for both students and teachers alike.

New interactive watershed website launched by the Voinovich School offers educational opportunities for students and teachers

Daniel Kington
June 7, 2018

The Energy and Environment team at Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, with funding from the American Electric Power Foundation, recently launched a website to serve as a resource for watershed education in middle and high schools throughout southeastern Ohio.

The watershed education website offers lesson plans for teachers that follow the 5E instruction model, engaging the learner, exploring the concept, explaining the concept and defining terms, elaborating or expanding upon the concept and evaluating students’ understanding of the concept. To maximize student participation and engagement, the lesson plans are interactive, utilizing virtual reality goggles, to provide immersion with real world environments on topics such as seasonal lake turnover, graphing trends in environmental data and more.

The watershed education program provides teachers the resources needed to make such interactive lessons possible. Virtual reality goggles, water quality measurement tools and other needed, physical resources are available for loan from the Voinovich School.

Interactive resources are also available on the watershed education website to supplement available lesson plans. Both teachers and students may access features such as “Virtual Field Trips,” which offers a collection of 360-degree photographs of aquatic ecosystems that can be explored using virtual reality goggles, phones or computers. Jen Bowman, the director of environmental programs at the Voinovich School, identified the interactive use of technology as an important component of this feature.

“Whether positive or not, students today have cell phones at school, so integrating this technology into the classroom is a positive way to allow students to use their devices in a learning environment,” Bowman said.

The platform also features a participation-based mapping program called “My Backyard Stream.” Using the program’s tools, students will be able to explore local streams in their communities and take pictures, collect water quality samples and write descriptions of what they see. Student photographs, observations and measurements are then submitted to Voinovich School personnel and published .

“My Backyard Stream” has less to do with hard science than with fostering awareness of watershed ecosystems as a whole and helping students make a deeper connection with their place in the watershed, Bowman said.

“Students are empowered to go out and make their everyday environments the subject of inquiry,” she said. “Students can then go online and see what different streams look like in different parts of the region. They’re going to see that connectivity, how upstream is connected to downstream and differences across the region.”

The educational programming available on the watershed education website is based on more than two decades of Appalachian Watershed Research Group investigation into watershed research and the impacts of acid mine drainage and other water quality threats. With past funding from AEP foundation, the group has helped 10 regional watershed groups, mentored university students conducting water quality assessment and restoration projects and worked with regional community and agency partners to restore 82 stream miles to meet biological targets. The watershed education website brings the group’s wealth of educational resources and experiences to middle and high school students in the region.

While the website and watershed education resources are complete and available for use, the Energy and Environment team at the Voinovich School will be adding additional content to the website 2018-2019 and optimize existing content according to teacher feedback.

“We want these materials to be as useful as possible for teachers in the area, and that’s why we’re seeking teacher input,” Bowman said. “Teachers who look at and use these materials will be best able to see if it’s appropriate for the given grade level, if it’s engaging students and if it’s impactful in student education.”

To learn more about how to participate in the watershed education program, area teachers may visit http://watersheddata.com/Education/Participate.aspx or contact Bowman at 740.597.3101 or bowmanj2@ohio.edu.