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Water education (WET) for Alabama’s black belt: A hands-on field experience for middle school students and teachers

By
Ming-Kuo Lee
Ming-Kuo Lee
Department of Geology and Geography, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama 36849, USA
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Lorraine Wolf
Lorraine Wolf
Department of Geology and Geography, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama 36849, USA
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Kelli Hardesty
Kelli Hardesty
Department of Geology and Geography, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama 36849, USA
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Lee Beasley
Lee Beasley
Department of Geology and Geography, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama 36849, USA
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Jena Smith
Jena Smith
Department of Curriculum and Teaching, College of Education, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama 36849, USA
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Lara Adams
Lara Adams
Department of Curriculum and Teaching, College of Education, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama 36849, USA
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Kay Stone
Kay Stone
Environmental Institute, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama 36849, USA
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Dennis Block
Dennis Block
Environmental Institute, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama 36849, USA
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Published:
December 01, 2009

Water education (WET) for Alabama’s black belt is an outreach project that provides off-campus environmental and water-education activities to middle school teachers and children from predominantly African-American families in some of Alabama’s poorest counties. Its main goal is to help students and teachers from resource-poor schools become knowledgeable about surface water and groundwater so they can identify and sustain “safe” aquifer zones, where clean water resources are available for long-term use and economic development. Activities are conducted at two field sites, Auburn University’s E.V. Smith Center in Macon County and the Robert G. Wehle Nature Center in Bullock County. Children from rural schools that lack scientific facilities and equipment are introduced to standard methods for assessing water quality and instrumentation for testing water quality at the field sites. Both hosting centers have easy access to surface water (ponds, wetlands, streams) for data collection. The E.V. Smith site also has access to groundwater through nested wells. Educational activities focus on determining groundwater flow, the interaction of groundwater and surface water, and the hydrologic properties (porosity and permeability) of different aquifer materials (sands, gravels, and clays). The project also incorporates simple laboratory exercises that reinforce learning objectives specified by the state of Alabama science curriculum for grades 6–8. Results of the project suggest that by partnering with local universities, low-resource rural school systems can provide their students with access to state-of-the-art equipment and to scientific expertise. However, schools may be less likely to participate if they must bear the costs of transportation and materials for the field experience themselves.

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Contents

GSA Special Papers

Field Geology Education: Historical Perspectives and Modern Approaches

Steven J. Whitmeyer
Steven J. Whitmeyer
Department of Geology and Environmental Science, James Madison University, USA
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David W. Mogk
David W. Mogk
Department of Earth Sciences, Montana State University, USA
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Eric J. Pyle
Eric J. Pyle
Department of Geology and Environmental Science, James Madison University, USA
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Geological Society of America
Volume
461
ISBN print:
9780813724614
Publication date:
December 01, 2009

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